Chart of Accounts: A Small Business Guide

The structure of the COA also promotes financial transparency and accountability, fostering trust among stakeholders. Understanding the fundamentals of COA can revolutionize how you manage business finances, leading to improved financial decisions and strategic planning. You can customize your chart of accounts by adding the specific accounts that your business needs and removing those you don’t need.

Even if you know that city fairly well, without a GPS or map to direct you, you’re either going to spend an awfully long time finding that address or not find it at all. To learn more about the role of bookkeepers and accountants, visit our topic Accounting Careers. Everyone agrees that direct labor and direct materials are always direct costs. These are familiar sentiments to anyone who has sat through a few financial meetings. The discussion flows and inevitably someone says “It would be nice if we could see…” The CFO gets an exasperated expression on their face and writes the request on their notepad.

They also support compliance efforts by keeping up with the latest accounting standards and tax laws. By ensuring it is well-organized, logically structured, and fully integrated with accounting software that supports real-time data processing and analysis. Incorporate your newly setting up a chart of accounts for a small business created COA into your accounting software or manual accounting system. This might involve setting up each account within the software and ensuring that it aligns with your COA structure. Run a series of transactions through your COA to test its functionality and practicality.

Often frustration with financial reporting can be fixed by remodeling the chart of accounts, rather than going through the very painful process of migrating to new software. Using accounting software can simplify this by encouraging you to file individual accounts by account type. You might, for example, have an account labeled “Credit card operating expenses” filed under liabilities. A standard chart of accounts contains multiple accounts under each category. Your company might have an account for cash on hand, a separate one for accounts receivable, and a third for real estate holdings, all three of which are categorized as asset accounts. A chart of accounts helps you keep track of your transactions by breaking them down into five main categories.

In addition, you can add sub-accounts for more in-depth tracking capability. QuickBooks Online is well suited to a variety of small businesses, from the one-person operation to the growing business. QuickBooks Online offers a customizable chart of accounts structure and online banking, expense management, sales, and invoicing.

  1. Financing through long-term liabilities allows a business to manage its immediate cash flow needs while planning for its long-term strategy.
  2. In a chart of accounts, your accounts are shown in the same order they appear on your financial statements and are usually broken down into five main categories.
  3. If the amount of the journal entry is mixed in with the regular wage expense accounts, it can be difficult to see how much of the wage expense relates to cash payments and how much is accrued.
  4. At that point, further detail may be more harm than help and lead to inaccurate accounting.

As an aside, for companies subject to US tax regulations, Meals is an example where you’ll want an easy way to give your tax accountant a stand-alone total amount at year-end. If you choose to spread Meals across relevant categories, you’ll want to still keep them in discrete accounts within each category. In certain industries such as advertising, farming, or consulting, most of the costs run together under the broad category of operating expenses. 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. Some accountants recommend sticking with a GAAP-oriented chart of accounts and generating management-oriented financials through custom reports.

Accounting software

These custom reports cobble together numbers from various sections of the chart of accounts to get the financial statement layout management is looking for. That level is managerial accounting, and it’s where you create financial reports with the information you want to see. Tax and audit CPAs adjust your reports to fit their purposes anyway, so go ahead and make a complete break.

Example of a chart of accounts

Therefore, always consult with accounting and tax professionals for assistance with your specific circumstances. The chart of accounts lists the accounts that are available for recording transactions. In keeping with the double-entry system of accounting, a minimum of two accounts is needed for every transaction—at least one account is debited and at least one account is credited. Chart of accounts functionality is probably the most important attribute of accounting software and financial reporting. Entry level software with robust COA functionality can be made to work for many years.

The chart of accounts is a comprehensive list of all the financial accounts used by a company to record and organize its financial transactions. It includes all the balance sheet and income statement items, such as assets, liabilities, equity, revenue, expenses, gains, and losses. Charts of accounts use a numbering system to aid with recordkeeping, and are divided into asset, liability, equity, revenue, and expense accounts. A chart of accounts keeps your accounts organized based on how they appear on your balance sheet and income statement. It includes the asset accounts your company owns, the liabilities your company owes others, equity accounts, revenue accounts, and expense accounts. Asset, liability and equity accounts are generally listed first in a COA.

Best Accounting Software for Small Businesses

The numbering follows the traditional format of the balance sheet by starting with the current assets, followed by the fixed assets. Typically, when listing accounts in the chart of accounts, you should use a numbering system for easy identification. Small businesses commonly use three-digit numbers, while large businesses use four-digit numbers to allow room for additional numbers as the business grows. Sales revenue is the first account on the chart of accounts related to the income statement.

The table below reflects how a COA typically orders these main account types. It also includes account type definitions along with examples of the types of transactions or subaccounts each may include. Small businesses may record hundreds or even thousands of transactions each year.

From the new account setup form, you can choose from the account type on top, such as income, expenses, banks, and assets. Of the many things to consider during a business transaction and integration, the GL accounting systems and charts of accounts should be near the top of the list. Ideally, the enterprises involved will adopt a standardized COA to streamline the integration, booking revenue and expenses to similar accounts. Upping the ante even more, we’re also including a COA template to provide you with a handy jumpstart to your own chart of accounts.

If the amount of the journal entry is mixed in with the regular wage expense accounts, it can be difficult to see how much of the wage expense relates to cash payments and how much is accrued. The same is true for complex journal entries that adjust work in progress (WIP) values, or over/under billings entries at companies that work with multi-month projects. 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.

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