The records that are kept for the individual asset, liability, equity, revenue, expense, and dividend components are known as accounts. In other words, a business would maintain an accounts for cash, another account for inventory, and so forth for every other financial statement element. All accounts, collectively, are said to comprise a firm's general ledger. In a manual processing system, you could imagine the general ledger as nothing more than a notebook, with a separate page for every account. Thus, you could thumb through the notebook to see the "ins" and "outs" of every account, as well as existing balances. An accounts could be as simple as the following:
This account reveals that cash has a balance of $63,000 as of January 12. By examining the account, you can see the varioustransactions that caused increases and decreases to the $50,000 beggining of month cash balance.In many respects, this Cash account resembles the "register" you might keep for a wallet style check book. If you were to prepare a balance sheet on January 12, you would include cash for the indicated amount (and, so forth for each of the other accounts comprising the financial statements).
DEBITS AND CREDITS
Without a doubt, you have heard or seen a reference to debits and credits; perhaps, you have had someone "credit" your account or maybe you have used a "debit" card to buy something. Debits (abbreviated "dr") and credits (abbreviated "cr") are unique accounting tools to describe the change in a particular account that is necessitated by a transaction. In other words, instead of saying that cash is "increased" or "decreased", we say that cash is "debited" or "credited". This method is again traced to Pacioli, the Franciscan monk who is given credit for the development of our enduring accounting model. Why add this complexity -- why not just use plus and minus? You will soon discover that there is an ingenious answer to this question!
Understanding the answer to this question begins by taking note of two very important observations (the observations are linked to a pop-up window that includes additional explanatory material that may aid your understanding):
THE FALLACY OF A "+/-" NOMENCLATURE: The second observation above would not be true for an increase/decrease system. For example, if services are provided to customers for cash, both cash and revenues would increase (a "+/+" outcome). On the other hand, paying an account payable causes a decrease in cash and a decrease in accounts payable (a "-/-" outcome). Finally, some transactions are a mixture of increase/decrease effects; using cash to buy land causes cash to decrease and land to increase (a "-/+" outcome).
THE DEBIT/CREDIT RULES: At first, it is natural for the debit/credit rules to seem confusing. However, the debit/credit rules are inherently logical (the logic is explained at the linked material). But, memorization usually precedes comprehension. So, you are well advised to memorize the "debit/credit" rules now. If you will thoroughly memorize these rules first, your life will be much easier as you press forward with your studies of accounting.
ASSETS/EXPENSES/DIVIDENDS: As shown in the illustration below, these three types of accounts follow the same set of debit/credit rules. Debits increase these accounts and credits decrease these accounts. These accounts normally carry a debit balance. To aid your recall, you might rely on this slightly off-color mnemonic: D-E-A-D = debits increase expenses, assets, and dividends.
LIABILITIES/REVENUES/EQUITY: These three types of accounts follow rules that are the opposite of those just described. Credits increase liabilities, revenues, and equity, while debits result in decreases. These accounts normally carry a credit balance.
ANALYSIS OF TRANSACTIONS AND
now know that transactions and events can be expressed in
"debit/credit" terminology. In essence, accountants have
own unique shorthand to portray the financial statement consequence for
every recordable event. This means that as transactions
is necessary to perform an analysis to determine (a) what accounts are
impacted and (b) how they are impacted (increased or
Then, debits and credits are applied to the accounts, utilizing the
rules set forth in the preceding paragraphs.
Usually, a recordable transaction will be evidenced by some "source documents" that supports the underlying transaction. A cash disbursement will be supported by the issuance of a check. A sale might be supported by an invoice issued to a customer. Receipts may be retained to show the reason for a particular expenditure. A time report may support payroll costs. A tax statement may document the amount paid for taxes. A cash register tape may show cash sales. A bank deposit slip may show collections of customer receivables. Suffice it to say, there are many potential source documents, and this is just a small sample. Source documents usually serve as the trigger for initiating the recording of a transaction. The source documents are analyzed to determine the nature of a transaction and what accounts are impacted. Source documents should be retained (perhaps in electronic form) as an important part of the records supporting the various debits and credits that are entered into the accounting records.
A properly designed accounting system will have controls to make sure that all transactions are fully captured. It would not do for transactions to slip through the cracks and go unrecorded. There are many such safeguards that can be put in place, including use of prenumbered documents and regular reconciliations. For example, you likely maintain a checkbook where you record your cash disbursements. Hopefully, you keep up with all of the checks (by check number) and perform a monthly reconciliation to make sure that your checkbook accounting system has correctly reflected all of your disbursements. A business must engage in similar activities to make sure that all transactions and events are recorded correctly. Good controls are essential to business success.
COMMON MISUNDERSTANDING ABOUT CREDITS: Some people wrongly assume that credits always reduce an account balance. However, a quick review of the debit/credit rules reveals that this is not true. Where does this notion come from? Probably because of the common phrase "we will credit your account." This wording is often used when you return goods purchased on credit; but, carefully consider that your account (with the store) is on the store's books as an asset account (specifically, an account receivable from you). Thus, the store is reducing its accounts receivable asset account (with a credit) when it agrees to "credit your account."
On the other hand, some may assume that a credit always increases an account. This incorrect notion may originate with common banking terminology. Assume that Matthew made a deposit in his checking account at Monalo Bank. Monalo's balance sheet would include an obligation ("liability") to Matthew for the amount of money on deposit. This liability would be credited each time Matthew adds to his account. Thus, Matthew is told that his account is being "credited" when he makes a deposit. On your books you would debit (decrease) a payable account (liability).
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