Chart of Accounts: Definition, Guide and Examples

Chart of Accounts: A Simple Guide

Making duplicate categories or accidentally filing an expense in the wrong category are common bookkeeping mistakes. Next, you’ll need to give each of your five main categories account numbers. For Chart of Accounts: A Simple Guide example, if depreciation is $50 per month and sales are $500 per month, depreciation is 10% of sales. If sales spike to $1,000 one month, depreciation is still $50 and is now only 5% of sales.

Chart of Accounts: A Simple Guide

You can then print selected reports that include all of your receivable accounts. Define the last balance sheet account as the account for year-to-date net income or loss. Balance sheet accounts must precede income statement accounts. For example, if revenues begin at 5000, define object 4999 as the net income account. The system calculates the net income amount on your balance sheet.

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It lists specific types of accounts, describes each account, and includes account numbers. A chart of accounts typically lists asset accounts first, followed by liability and capital accounts, and then by revenue and expense accounts. A chart of accounts is a list of all your organization’s accounts together in a single place. If the account is used to record transactions on the general ledger, it is on this list. It gives you an overview of every area of the business that spins or makes money. The main account types include revenue, expenses, assets, liabilities, and equity. While the chart of accounts can be similar across businesses in similar industries, you should create a chart of accounts that is unique to your individual business.

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Your chart of accounts helps you understand the past and look toward the future. A chart of accounts should keep your business accounting error-free and straightforward. This will allow you to quickly determine your financial health so that you can make intelligent decisions moving forward. Accounting systems, by definition, have a general ledger in which your asset accounts match your liability accounts . An account in bookkeeping is a record of financial transactions of a certain type (e.g., credit sales to the ABC Corp). The Chart of Accounts organizes the General Ledger accounts in a logical way that provides easy reference. But since the accounts collect information on one type of transaction, the COA can become a tool of analysis.

Categories on the Chart of Accounts

These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in oureditorial policy. As mentioned before, you can assign numbers to these accounts for a proper structure. You can referto the following example to understand how you can do this. Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us.

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The following is a partial listing of a sample chart of accounts. Some of the sub-categories that may be included under the revenue account include sales discounts account, sales returns account, interest income account, etc. Groups of numbers are assigned to each of the five main categories, while blank numbers are left at the end to allow for additional accounts to be added in the future.


Many companies also assign numbers to the accounts, to be used for coding charges. If your company is using a computerized system, the computer automatically assigns the account number. There are a couple of ways you can successfully use your chart of accounts. You want each account to be a few numbers apart from each other (ex. 1010 cash, 1020 petty cash, 1030 checkings, 1040 savings). This way, you can go back and add more accounts as your company grows without losing the effective organization of preexisting accounts. Within each category, line items will distinguish the specific accounts. A liability is a debt or obligation owed by a business to some individual or entity , which is to be paid in cash, goods, or services.

  • Three or four categories are usually sufficient for a small or medium-size business , or even just one might be enough.
  • The general ledger is used to track the financial transactions of the business.
  • Managing your chart of accounts is much easier when using accounting software.
  • The chart makes information processing much more accessible, which you can then use to assess the company’s financial performance for a given period.
  • In addition, QuickBooks Online offers good reporting options, including standard financial statements and reports designed for your accountant or CPA.
  • Liabilities can, for example, include accounts payable, notes payable, taxes payable, and accrued liabilities.

As you’ve seen, we released TrulySmall Accounting earlier this year after incorporating feedback from our customers. Our latest release with Auto-Posting offers our clients a new way to get all of your financial information organized without having to do any of the heavy lifting. The four main account types that make up the chart of accounts are Revenue, Expenses, Assets, Liabilities, and Equity. All account names should have a clear title so everyone in the accounting department understands what each account is for, which helps to easily and correctly classify company transactions.


Expert advice and resources for today’s accounting professionals. When readers purchase services discussed on our site, we often earn affiliate commissions that support our work. Jane is a freelance editor for The Balance with more than 30 years of experience editing and writing about personal finance and other financial and economic subjects. GoCardless is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority under the Payment Services Regulations 2017, registration number , for the provision of payment services.

Chart of Accounts: A Simple Guide

Many industry associations publish recommended charts of accounts for their respective industries in order to establish a consistent standard of comparison among firms in their industry. Accounting software packages often come with a selection of predefined account charts for various types of businesses.

Why it’s Important for Your Business—Large or Small

Following these three tips will help you set up your chart of accounts correctly the first time, saving you time, money, and frustration. Click the button to download our full chart of accounts template to follow along. In order to use your chart of accounts efficiently, it is advisable to pick accounts that will not change for a couple of years. You can also streamline your chart of accounts by taking out those that hold data of little importance. This stops your chart from becoming too large and unmanageable. Depending on the sector your company operates in, your chart of accounts is likely to look different. Read our guide to what a chart of accounts is, how it works, its different parts, and why it is useful.

  • Your assets could include a car, cash, a house, stocks, or anything else that has convertible value.
  • A well-designed chart of accounts should clearly separate every important account that makes up your business, and make it simple to navigate which transactions get recorded in which account.
  • The chart of accounts needs to give anyone who is looking at it a decent idea of the nature of your business by listing all of the accounts involved in your organization’s day-to-day operations.
  • Each staff reviewer at Merchant Maverick is a subject matter expert with experience researching, testing, and evaluating small business software and services.

Subledgers and subsidiary accounting both provide detailed accounting activity. Subsidiary accounts are a subdivision of your object account.

Why Bank Reconciliation Is Important For Your Business And How You Can Do It

Except for occasional journal entries, all transaction forms in Manager determine which accounts to debit and credit based on context. And remember the rule that debits increase debit accounts and credits increase credit accounts. Asset accounts represent the value of what you own, including cash, inventory, fixed assets, and other things. Create a chart of accounts that doesn’t change too much over time, so you can compare performance of accounts over time. We hope that these tips will give you the knowledge and confidence to successfully tackle your chart of accounts and conquer one of the most difficult accounting concepts with ease. One of the main purposes of a chart of accounts is to break down where your money is coming from.

  • It also gives you a clear picture of how much you owe to its various stakeholders, along with your business’ profits.
  • Larger companies with several divisions or locations need more complex charts of accounts than smaller ones.
  • An account in bookkeeping is a record of financial transactions of a certain type (e.g., credit sales to the ABC Corp).
  • That is the equivalent of building a house for someone without asking how they want it built.
  • As one final tip, I recommend you spend some time looking at existing templates and examples of a good chart of accounts.
  • Think of a computer hardware company that receives a constant stream of desktops, laptops, and printers.

My technology client had one big “room” for all Sales, with no bins and shelves. His month-end income statement could get no more detailed than that one account. At a glance, he had no idea which revenue streams were contributing to that bulk monthly number. A gap between account numbers allows for adding accounts in the future.


The best way for you or your bookkeeper to manage your chart of accounts is by using accounting software tailored for your business type. If you’re interested in a better accounting software solution for your business, check out The Ascent’s accounting software reviews. AccountEdge Pro gives you the option to upload your own chart of accounts. Although you are limited to 250 accounts, that should be sufficient for most small businesses.

Chart of Accounts: A Simple Guide

The chart of accounts is therefore the foundation of the financial statements. While it sounds great in theory, in practice financial statements are what get faithfully generated and reviewed by management each month.

How To Set Up A Chart Of Accounts For Your Small Business

In that environment, it may not be necessary to separate costs between direct/indirect and operating, and there will be no gross margin on the financials. That approach can work as long as you have custom reporting capability. In the absence of that, tax and audit CPAs have the custom reporting software to easily convert your management-oriented chart of accounts into their format. Just be sure to make it easy for them by incorporating any special accounts they need into your remodeled chart accounts. Most small businesses initially set up their accounting to suit their tax accountant.

As you will see, the first digit might signify if the account is an asset, liability, etc. Financial statements are written records that convey the business activities and the financial performance of a company. COAs can differ and be tailored to reflect a company’s operations. However, they also must respect the guidelines set out by the Financial Accounting Standards Board and generally accepted accounting principles . Janet Berry-Johnson is a CPA with 10 years of experience in public accounting and writes about income taxes and small business accounting. The chart makes information processing much more accessible, which you can then use to assess the company’s financial performance for a given period.

The other two, revenue and expenses, together amount to the income statement, or statement of financial activity. Below are examples of what types of transactions fit in each account. When looking at a chart of accounts, the accounts will typically be shown in the same order they appear on a company’s financial statements. Balance sheet accounts, including assets, liabilities, and shareholders’ equity, are usually listed first. This is followed by income statements – revenues and expenses.