The trial balance is a list of all the accounts a company uses with the balances in debit and credit columns. There are three types of trial balances: the unadjusted trial balance, the adjusted trial balance and the post- closing trial balance. All three have exactly the same format.
The unadjusted trial balance is prepared before adjusting journal entries are completed. This trial balance reflects all the activity recorded from day-to-day transactions and is used to analyze accounts when preparing adjusting entries. For example, if you know that the remaining balance in prepaid insurance should be $600, you can look at the unadjusted trial balance to see how much is currently in the account.
The post-closing trial balance shows the balances after the closing entries have been completed. This is your starting trial balance for the next year. We will discuss the post-closing trial balance in the post regarding closing entries.
Accounts in the trial balance are listed in a specific order to aid in the preparation of the financial statements. Accounts should be listed in the following order:
Assets and liabilities should be listed in order from most liquid to least liquid. Liquidity refers to how quickly an asset could be converted to cash and how quickly a liability will be paid off with cash. The most liquid asset is cash, because it has already been converted to cash (who knew?). Typically, the next most liquid asset is accounts receivable because most companies collect their receivables within 30 days.
You can also think of assets and liabilities in terms of current and long-term. A current asset is one that will most likely be used up in less than 12 months. A current liability is one that will be paid off in less than 12 months. Long-term assets and liabilities are those that will be on the trial balance for more than 12 months.
Using the Adjusted Trial Balance
Here is a sample adjusted trial balance. Notice the accounts are listed in the order described above. You might be wondering why it is such a big deal to organize the trial balance in this manner. The purpose of the trial balance is to make your life easier when preparing financial statements. Look what happens when we divide the trial balance by statement.
This is the same trial balance but I have color coded it. The orange section is for the accounts that will be used on the balance sheet, the blue is the statement of retained earnings and the green is the income statement. Because we took the time to organize the accounts, the preparation of the financial statements will be so much easier.
Creating Financial Statements
Journal entries are probably the most important part of any financial accounting class. They are the language of accounting.
This is a journal entry. It describes a transaction. The entry above tells us that on January 17, the company purchased land worth $100,000 and a building worth $225,000. The company put down $125,000 cash and took out a note with the bank for $200,000. Once you understand how journal entries are constructed, you will be able to read and write them yourself.
Debits and Credits
Debits and credits are the heart of the journal entry because they tell us if we are acquiring something or giving something up. Depending on the type of account, it will increase or decrease when it is debited or credited.
Remember the accounting equation? Assets = Liabilities + Equity. Just as we need to keep the accounting equation in balance, we must keep our debits and credit in balance. Each journal entry must contain equal debits and credits. Notice the entry above: $325,000 in debits and $325,000 in credits. In order for that to occur, each journal entry must have at least two accounts. You can never have a one line journal entry because it would not balance.
In accounting, we frequently refer to the normal balance in the account. The normal balance is a positive balance or what would need to be done to increase the balance.
Because the accounting equation tells us that assets must equal liabilities and equity, it makes sense that the normal balance for assets is a debit and the normal balance for liabilities and equity is a credit. Remember that normal balance means positive or increasing balance. What do you do to decrease the balance of an asset? If a debit increases the balance, than a credit to the account would decrease the balance. As we saw in the example entry above when we wanted to decrease cash, we credited the account.
What about revenue and expenses? Why is revenue’s normal balance a credit while expense’s is a debit? First, let’s discuss the relation these two accounts have to equity. Retained Earnings is a major component of equity. What causes retained earnings to increase? Profit. What causes profit to increase? Revenue. If revenue increases equity, then it should act the same way that equity does. Therefore, revenue has a credit balance. Since expenses decrease profit and equity, it makes sense that the normal balance is a debit.
If you still are not sure, put revenue or expenses in a journal entry with cash. Most people who study accounting quickly learn how cash behaves in most situations. If you know how cash will behave, you can figure out the other account. When a company does work and gets paid, cash increases so we debit cash. The other account, revenue, would be the credit. When a company pays for its rent, cash decreases so we credit Cash. To balance the entry, we debit Rent Expense.
Steps for Completing Journal Entries
- Read the transaction to get a feel for what is happening. Do you understand what happened? Try to put it into your own words.
- Identify the accounts you will put in your journal entry. Identify the type of account for each account used.
- For each account, determine if the balance is increasing or decreasing. Then determine if that increase or decrease is a debit or credit.
- Determine the amount that each account is changing.
On January 4, Lisa decides to start a bookkeeping business and invests $10,000 cash and $5,000 worth of computer equipment in exchange for stock in the company.
- The company received cash and computer equipment in exchange for stock.
- Cash (asset), Computer Equipment (asset) and Common Stock (equity).
- Cash – increasing, debit. Computer Equipment – increasing, debit. Common Stock – Increasing, credit.
- Cash – $10,000. Computer Equipment – $5,000. Common Stock – $15,000
This may seem like a lot of steps but when you are first learning how to do journal entries, it really helps to go through each of the steps as you write the entry. You don’t need to write out the answers to each of the steps as I did above, but you should do it mentally as you figure out the entry. I have had many students who will put the abbreviation for the account type next to the account name.
If you are going to do that, I recommend using Eq for equity and Ex for expense.
When learning to do journal entries, take your time and go through the steps. Make sure to learn the accounts and what type each account is. You may want to make flash cards with the name of the account on one side and the type of account on the other. You should also learn when to use a particular account, for example, when to use Unearned Revenue instead of Revenue or Prepaid Insurance rather than Insurance Expense.
This may seem difficult at first, but if you learn the terminology and practice, you will get better at it. For most students, a lightbulb goes off in their minds somewhere in the first six weeks of the course; everything clicks and they no longer need to use the steps above. Until you have your lightbulb moment, make sure to use the steps outlined above.
Basic Journal Entries Part 1
Basic Journal Entries Part 2
What are adjusting journal entries?
The matching principle states expenses must be matched with the revenue generated during the period. The purpose of adjusting entries is to ensure that all revenue and expenses from the period are recorded. Many adjusting entries deal with balances from the balance sheet, typically assets and liabilities, that must be adjusted. In addition to ensuring that all revenue and expenses are recorded, we are also making sure that all asset and liability accounts have the proper balances. Adjusting entries are dated for the last day of the period.
When analyzing adjusting entry transactions involving assets and liabilities, remember that you are recording the change in the balance, not the new balance in the account. Ask yourself “what must I do to the account to get the adjusting balance?”
As a business goes through the normal day-to-day operations, many transactions are recorded. When work is done and the company is paid, revenue is recorded. Revenue is also recorded when invoices (accounts receivable) are created. Expenses are recorded when bills (accounts payable) are received. If the company has already recorded all those things, then what could possibly be left to do? You would be surprised!
NOTE: Cash should never appear in an adjusting entry. Most adjusting entries are done after year end and backdated to the end of the year. When cash is spent, the transactions are recorded immediately. With electronic banking, we can instantly check cash transactions. There is no reason why a business shouldn’t know about transactions affecting its cash accounts. Cash is never an account in an adjusting entry.
If a business has done work for a client but has not yet created an invoice, there is unrecorded revenue that must be recorded. Maybe the business just hasn’t gotten around to completing the invoice yet, or maybe the work is partially done but not completely finished. This entry looks exactly like an entry to record work that has been completed but have not yet been paid for.
On December 31, KLI Video Production had completed $3,000 worth of work for clients which has not yet been billed.
Another type of unrecorded revenue deals with work the business was paid for before the work was completed (unearned revenue) which was completed by the end of the period. Transactions of this type can be written two different ways. We could be told how much revenue has been earned or we could be told the remaining balance in unearned revenue. Let’s look at how these transactions could be written so you can see the differences and identify which method to use.
Unearned revenue has an unadjusted balance of $4,000. An analysis of the account shows that $2,500 of the balance has been earned.
When looking at transactions like this one, we need to determine what we are being given. You want to ask yourself if the transaction is giving you the amount of the adjustment (revenue or expense to be recorded) or the adjusted (correct) balance in the asset or liability account. T-accounts are really helpful when doing adjusting entries because you can visualize what is happening. Here is the T-Account for unearned revenue.
We are told the account has an unadjusted balance of $4,000. Unearned revenue is a liability account and therefore the normal balance is a credit. We are told that $2,500 has been earned. Is that the new balance in the account? No, the $2,500 is the amount we need to remove from the account because it is no longer unearned. So if $2,500 is not the balance, then what is the balance? If the business has earned $2,500 of the $4,000, then the new balance is $1,500.
Now we can see the beginning balance and the ending balance in the T-account. Now, we have to determine how to get there. If we have a $4,000 credit balance and then have a $1,500 credit balance, the balance decreased by $2,500. How do we decrease an account with a credit balance? We debit the account. The $2,500 was given in the transaction, but now we know what to do with it. If you can predict what the balance should be in the account, you can do a T-account to make sure your entry will actually do what you predicted.
The credit in the entry is fees earned (revenue) because we were told that $2,500 had been earned. When you see earned, you should always think revenue unless the transaction states the money has not yet been earned. That statement should make you think of unearned revenue because it has not been earned.
The company had an unadjusted balance in unearned revenue of $4,000. An analysis of the account shows $1,500 is still unearned.
This transaction is worded a bit differently than the last. This transaction tells you what the ending balance in the account should be. Using a T-account in this scenario is a smart idea.
Notice, this example is exactly the same as Example #2. In order to get the balance from $4,000 credit to $1,500 credit, we need to debit unearned revenue $2,500.
Make sure to watch the wording in all adjusting entry transactions to ensure you understand what information you have.
Typically, when we are looking for unrecorded expenses, we look to the balance sheet. There are two types of unrecorded expenses: those that are related to assets that have been used up or need to be adjusted and those related to unrecorded liabilities.
Assets and Expenses
The definition of an asset is something the company owns or has the right to which it can use to generate revenue. When we were recorded journal entries, we recorded transactions to various asset accounts that when used up, will generate an expense. Some of those accounts were supplies, prepaid expenses and long-term asset accounts, like equipment and buildings.
Supplies are initially recorded as an asset, but they get used up over time. Rather than record an entry every time a ream of paper or a bag of mulch is removed from storage, we do an adjusting entry at the end of the period to record the amount of supplies that have been used up. Recording an entry every time something is removed from the stockroom or garage would violate the cost-benefit constraint. At the end of the period, the company counts up what is left for supplies. The difference between the balance in the account (unadjusted) and the amount that is left (adjusted) is the value used in the journal entry.
The balance in the supplies account at the end of the year was $5,600. A count of supplies shows that $1,400 worth of supplies are still on hand.
What does this transaction tell us? The unadjusted supplies balance is $5,600 but the adjusted balance should be $1,400. The transaction does not tell us the amount of the adjustment. That is something we will need to figure out. You may want to draw up a quick T-account to visualize the transaction.
To decrease the account balance, which is a debit balance, we need to credit the account. How much will we need to credit the account? What amount will bring the balance from $5,600 to $1,400? The difference is $4,200. So we need to credit the supplies account $4,200.
Where did the supplies go? They were used it. We call this supplies expense. Now we can write the journal entry.
Use the same methodology when doing entries involving prepaid expenses. Draw a T-account to help visualize what is happening.
Long-term assets and Expenses
When a company purchases a long-term asset, such as a vehicle to use in its business, we record the entire value of the purchase as an asset. That vehicle is used to generate revenue so shouldn’t that vehicle somehow be expensed? Yes, it should be. We call the expensing of a long-term asset depreciation. Do not confuse depreciation in accounting with how the term is used outside of accounting. Typically, we think of depreciation as a decline in market value. For example, I have heard it said many time that when you purchase a new car, it depreciates or loses 20% of its value when you drive off the lot. Depreciation in accounting has nothing to do with market value. Depreciation represents the using up of an asset to generate revenue.
The cost principle states that we must record assets at cost. In order to maintain that principle, when we record depreciation expense (which is a debit in the journal entry), we do not credit the asset directly. Instead we will use a contra account. A contra account is an account linked to another account but which has a normal balance opposite to the account it is linked to. A contra asset account would be linked to a specific asset account but would have a credit balance. For the vehicle described above, we would have a contra asset account called accumulated depreciation. This account would be linked to the vehicles account and would have a credit balance.
Some companies have one accumulated depreciation account used for all long-term assets and others have a separate accumulated depreciation account for each long-term asset account. In the next example, we will assume there is one accumulated depreciation account.
The company calculates that the current year depreciation is $12,000.
As with all adjusting entries, we need to determine if we are being given an account balance (asset or liability) or the amount of the expense. In this case, as with all depreciation entries, we are given the amount of the expense. Therefore, there is nothing to calculate here. No T-account is needed.
For more information about long-term assets and depreciation, see the posts on long-term assets and calculating depreciation.
Adjusting Entries Involving Liabilities
Some adjusting entries involve expenses that have not yet been paid for nor has the obligation been recorded. However, in these cases an expense has been generated. Examples include unrecorded bills and unpaid wages, interest, and taxes. This is not an exhaustive list but it does cover most of the transactions you will see. These entries require the recording of an expense and a liability.
The company received a bill for December’s utilities on January 5. The bill was for $235.
Although the bill was received in January, the utilities were used in December to generate revenue in December. The matching principle tells us that we must record the utilities expense in December.
The company pays its employees every two weeks. On December 31, the employees had worked four days for which they had not been paid. The amount due to the employees was $4,300.
Are you thinking matching principle here? Our employees help us generate revenue. The wages that we pay them must be matched to the revenue they are creating. Therefore, the $4,300 must be recorded in December. The wages have not been paid so we must show a liability. The liability used in this case will be wages payable.
Note: Accounts payable should only be used for routine bills (utilities, supply and inventory purchases). Other short-term payables should be named based on the expense they are related to. That is why wages payable was used in this case.
The company has a long-term note payable with Ginormic National Bank. As of December 31, $670 of interest had accrued on the loan but had not yet been paid.
Why do we have to record this? First, the interest is an expense for December even though it has not yet been paid. Second, to be accurate in our financial statements, the balance owed to the bank on December 31 includes not only the balance on the loan but also the unpaid interest. If we contact Ginormic National Bank to payoff the loan on December 31, we would need to pay the principal owed plus the $670 of interest. The interest is considered a separate payable and should not be added to the note payable.
The company estimates its profit to be $42,000 for the year and is in a 35% tax bracket.
When reading this transaction, it doesn’t even sound like something we would need to record. It just sounds like a statement, but the matching principle should set off an alarm. Why are we paying income taxes? The company had a profit for the year of $42,000. Income taxes are an expense of doing business. Should the expense fall in the year that is completed or the year we are currently in? The expense is related to the year that is completed and, therefore, must be recorded as an adjusting entry.
To figure out how much to record for taxes, we need to calculate 35% of the profit, which would be $14,700 ($42,000 x 0.35). Now we can record the entry.
Things to Remember
Treat adjusting entries just like you would treat normal entries. Use these steps when completing adjusting journal entries.
- Read the transaction to determine what is going on. Is an entry required?
- Identify the accounts you will use in your entry. Remember, cash is never used in adjusting entries!
- Determine the amount. Did the transaction give you the amount to use or do you need to calculate it? T-accounts are helpful here.
- Determine which account(s) to debit and which account(s) to credit.
Accounting is all about balance. Each time we engage in a transaction, there are at least two things that are happening. Usually, we give up something to receive something we need. For example, when you purchase supplies for school, you give up cash in order to get the supplies. When you take out a loan, you get cash today (or tuition or a car) by giving up the right to cash you will receive in the future so you can make your loan payments. Accounting principles work for individuals as well as businesses.
Note: As you progress through the course, think about transactions in your daily life and try to relate them to what you are doing in the course. Analyzing transactions in your own life will make the course easier to relate to and increase your understanding of the topic.
Because of this give and take, accounting is based on a double entry system. Whenever a transaction is recorded, at least two accounts must be effected. This allows us to remain in balance.
The accounting equation is the basis for all of accounting. The accounting equation states:
Assets = Liabilities + Equity
When recording transactions, the accounting equation must stay balanced.
An asset is something the business owns or has a right to, which can be used to generate future income. Examples of assets include cash, supplies, inventory, vehicles, machinery, equipment, and buildings. This is by no means an exhaustive list and you will spend most of any introductory financial accounting course studying assets.
A liability is an obligation that a business has to another person or entity. Typically, we think of liabilities as loans but there are many different types of liabilities a business can incur. For example, when the electric bill comes and the business has 30 days to pay it, that becomes a liability because the business used the electricity and is obligated to pay for it. If a business agrees to do work for a client and the client pays a deposit (puts money down) for work to be completed at a later date, the business has an obligation to complete the work or refund the money.
Equity is one of the most difficult concepts for most students to understand in accounting. Equity is the business’ worth to the owners. Let’s rearrange the accounting equation:
Assets – Liabilities = Equity
Now the equation tells us that what we own less what we owe others is equity. This is the value of the business to the owners, also called a business’s net worth. Equity has two main components: contributed capital and retained earnings.
Contributed capital is the value that the owners have contributed to the business. If you started a business tomorrow and put $1,000 cash plus a computer worth $500, the contributed capital in the business would be $1,500 because that is the amount the owner (you) have contributed.
Retained earnings is the amount of profit (earnings) the business has kept (retained) over the years. How is profit generated? When a business sells a product or service, the business generates revenue. When a business incurs costs associated with providing the product or service, the business generates an expense.
Revenue – Expenses = Profit
Once profits are generated the business can either keep those profits within the company to grow the business or protect against future downturns. The business can also choose to pay those profits out to the owners in the form of dividends or distributions. The profits that the business keeps are added to retained earnings.
Using the accounting equation to stay in balance
Let’s go back to the example we used above for contributed capital. You start a business by contributing $1,000 cash and a computer worth $500. Think about the exchange that is happening here. What is the business receiving? $1,000 cash and a computer. What are these? They are assets. The business is receiving $1,500 worth of assets. What is the business giving in exchange for these assets? It is giving you (the owner) $1,500 worth of capital (ownership) in the business. This value is considered contributed capital.
Our accounting equation is in balance. The business currently has $1,500 worth of assets and $1,500 worth of equity. There are currently no liabilities.
Let’s look at another transaction. The business takes out a loan for $10,000 to provide cash to purchase equipment and start operations. What is the business receiving? $10,000 cash. What is the business exchanging for that cash? The business is giving the bank a promise to pay in the future with assets generated from operations. This is a liability. A loan from the bank is more specifically called a note payable. Let’s add this to our existing balances.
The business now has $11,500 in assets, $10,000 in liabilities and $1,500 in equity. The equation still balances.
Let’s look at one more transaction. The business purchases a piece of equipment for $4,000 cash. Analyze the transaction to see what the business is receiving and exchanging. The business is receiving a piece of equipment worth $4,000 in exchange for $4,000 cash. Notice that both of these items are assets, therefore, we have one asset increasing and other decreasing.
*In accounting, a number in parenthesis indicates a negative number or a number that should be subtracted from the numbers around it. You will see this notation frequently.
Notice that the balances in our equation did not change. What did change was the makeup of the assets held by the business. In this part of the course, it is important to understand that the equation must be in balance at all times. As we progress through the course, we will look in greater detail at the individual accounts that make up total assets, liabilities, and equity.
You will also notice that we have not yet dealt with revenue or expenses. Let’s look at the effect those transactions will have on the equation. The business does $1,000 worth of work for a client and gets paid when the work is complete. Again, analyze the transaction and determine how the accounting equation will be affected. The business got paid. What does that mean? The business received cash. It does not matter if the business was paid by check, credit card or cash; the payment will end up in the business bank account and the cash can be spent to generate future revenue. Why did the business receive cash? Because it provided a service for a client. Providing goods or services for a customer is called revenue. You will see many different titles for revenue accounts. Because this revenue was generated because a service was provided, you might call it service revenue or fees earned. As you progress through the course, learn the terminology used in your course but also make sure to realize that other terminology can be used.
Let’s add this transaction to the equation. Clearly, an asset (cash) is increasing. How does the revenue effect the equation? We stated previously that profit increases equity. Profit is revenue less expenses, which means revenue increases profit and expenses decrease profit. Another way to look at the problem is to ask yourself if the revenue is increasing or decreasing the value of the business. Revenue coming in is good for the business and helps to increase its value. Therefore, revenue increases equity.
Still in balance! One more transaction to complete the lesson. We have looked at all the accounts except expenses. An expense is a cost of generating revenue. If the business rents an office, the cost of that office is an expense. How would we record the following transaction?
The business pays $400 cash for the current month’s office rent.
Analyze the transaction to determine the exchange. The business receives use of the office in exchange for $400 cash.
In this case, both sides of the equation decrease. An expense decreases equity because we are using up resources in the business which decreases the value of the business.
You’ll notice that we used three categories here because the accounting equation only has three: assets, liabilities, and equity. I tell my students to think as if there are five categories, the three above, plus revenue and expenses. Revenue makes equity go up and expenses make equity go down. As we start to discuss journal entries, it is important to think of revenue and expenses as separate categories.