Bookkeeping records are kept in columnar form, using separate columns for the date of transaction, an explanation of the nature of the transaction, and its value. Other columns may be added. In general, two sets of columns are used, assets being placed in one set of columns and liabilities in the other set (a money value having been assigned to all assets and all liabilities of the business). Such an arrangement is called double entry. A balance sheet may be compiled at any time by totaling each column and subtracting the smaller total from the greater to give either a surplus or a deficit. The result is called the net worth, and it gives an indication of the financial state of a firm. A detailed balance for a period between two balance sheets is called a profit and loss statement.
The process of deciding whether to enter items into one set of columns or the other, i.e., into the debit side or the credit side, is called journalizing, since the analyzed items are placed in a journal, or daybook, soon after the transactions occur. Separate accounts of persons or sections are kept in a book called a ledger; the ledger is now often a computer file (created in "spreadsheet" software) rather than a physical book. The transfer of items from the journal to the ledger is called posting. In large businesses, the journal is broken into many sections, each concerning a separate function of the business, such as sales, purchases, accounts receivable, accounts payable, sales return, purchases return, and cash on hand. The journal also has sections for invoices, inventory, orders, cash, sales, bills, and checks.
Single-entry bookkeeping enters all debits and credits in a single set of columns in a journal and labels each entry Dr. (debit) or Cr. (credit). Thus in a single entry only one element of a transaction is entered. Single-entry bookkeeping fails to give detailed information as to the sources of gain or loss.
There are two main methods of accounting for money in a business. The cash method reports income in the year it is received and deducts expenses in the year they are paid. The accrual method reports income when it is earned and deducts expenses as they are incurred, regardless of whether the money has actually entered or left the business yet.
Any bookkeeping system must also account for all canceled checks, paid bills, duplicate deposit slips from banks, and other records of transactions. These records act as proof of the posted entries; they are usually organized chronologically or by type and are kept in filing cabinets. Bookkeeping machines, ranging from the simple adding machine to the computer, help in maintaining properly organized books. Computers revolutionized bookkeeping and accounting systems, both for entering ledger items and for such operations as year-end profit-and-loss calculations.
The Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans kept business records. Double entry seems to have been first developed by the people of N Italy during the great commercial expansion of the 14th and 15th cents. and has consequently been called the Italian method. The system then spread to the Netherlands, England, and elsewhere. Single entry developed later.
Recording of the money values of business transactions. Bookkeeping provides the information from which accounts are prepared but is distinct from accounting. Bookkeeping offers information on both the current value, or equity, of an enterprise and on its change in value (due to profit or loss) over a given time period. Managers require such information to examine the results of operations and budget for the future; investors need it to make decisions about buying or selling securities; and credit grantors use it to determine whether to grant a loan. Financial records were kept in Babylon and in ancient Greece and Rome. The double-entry method of bookkeeping began with the development of the Italian commercial republics of the 15th century. The Industrial Revolution stimulated the spread of bookkeeping, and 20th-century taxation and government regulations made it a necessity. Two types of records continue to be used in bookkeeping—journals and ledgers. They can be recorded by hand or entered into a computer. The journal contains daily transactions (sales, purchases, etc.), while the ledger contains the record of individual accounts. Each month an income statement and a balance sheet are posted in the ledger.
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Individual and family bookkeeping involves keeping track of income and expenses in a cash account record, checking account register, or savings account passbook. Individuals who borrow or lend money track how much they owe to others or are owed from others.
Sample checking account register (United States, 2003)
|¤AD-Automatic Deposit ¤AP-Automatic Payment ¤ATM-Teller Machine ¤DC-Debit Card|
|DATE||TRANSACTION DESCRIPTION||PAYMENT AMOUNT||/||FEE||DEPOSIT AMOUNT||BALANCE|
Sample revenue and expense journal for single-entry bookkeeping
|No.||Date||Description||Revenue||Expense||Sales||Sales Tax||Services||Inventory||Advert.||Freight||Office Suppl||Misc|
|1041||7/13||Printer- Advert flyers||450.00||450.00|
|1042||7/13||Wholesaler - inventory||380.00||380.00|
|- Taxable sales||400.00||32.00|
|- Out-of-state sales||165.00|
|- Service sales||265.00|