Chart of accounts definition

chart of accounts example

An account might simply be named “insurance offset.” What does that mean? The bookkeeper would be able to tell the difference by the account number. An asset would have the prefix of 1 and an expense would have a prefix of 5. This structure can avoid confusion in the bookkeeper process and ensure the proper account is selected when recording transactions. The chart of accounts lists the accounts that are available for recording transactions.

  • It normally includes direct costs such as parts, materials, and labor, but does not take into consideration indirect costs such as distribution.
  • Good month-end financial reports are made accurate with large non-cash journal entries.
  • Firstly, identify the structure of your business, whether it is a sole trading business, partnership, or corporation.
  • A well-designed chart of accounts should separate out all the company’s most important accounts, and make it easy to figure out which transactions get recorded in which account.
  • They are customized to provide the information required for needed visibility, reporting, and compliance.
  • Doing so ensures that accurate comparisons of the company’s finances can be made over time.

A chart of accounts is a list of all your company’s “accounts,” together in one place. It provides you with a birds eye view of every area of your business that spends or makes money. The main account types include Revenue, Expenses, Assets, Liabilities, and Equity.

establishing and leveraging a COA?

Assets, for example, can have subcategories like prepaid expenses, accounts receivable, inventory, marketable securities, and allowance for doubtful accounts. Liabilities can, for example, include accounts payable, notes payable, taxes payable, and accrued liabilities. Your chart of accounts is an evolving table of contents of your business accounts. Once you understand the basic mechanics of a chart of accounts and which financial records you need to manage your business, you can start making your chart of accounts work better for you. Indirect costs are overhead expenses that relate directly to sales yet cannot be traced directly to a specific product or job. Examples include factory supervisor wages, incidental supplies (e.g., tape, glue, screws), machinery repairs, shop building insurance, etc.

  • Follow these tips to set up the best account structure for your business.
  • In the end, the chart of accounts, the budget, and management preferences all must align in an effective accounting system.
  • Needless to say, that isn’t very clear and a situation you want to avoid at all costs.
  • An accountant or bookkeeper can help you create a customized CoA or rework your existing CoA.
  • You can organize your chart of accounts with sub-accounts based on your business needs.

The chart of accounts is best for businesses that need simple and easier ways to manage documents. An important purpose of a COA is to segregate expenditures, revenue, assets and liabilities so viewers can quickly get a sense of a company’s financial health. A well-designed COA not only meets the information needs of management, it also helps a business to comply with financial reporting standards.


Entry level software with robust COA functionality can be made to work for many years. 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.

What is the difference between CoA and GL?

The general ledger (G/L) stores your financial data, and the chart of accounts (COA) shows the accounts all general ledger entries are posted to. Business Central includes a standard chart of accounts that is ready to support your business.

Also, ensure that you don’t have extra accounts, as this will cost a lot of time when preparing financial statements and can also reduce the accuracy of the accounts. Each account in an accounting chart is assigned a number based on how it is displayed on the financial statements. The accounts which are usually presented first are the balance sheet accounts, which are followed by the income statement accounts.


If so, and if this information is not needed for special reports, shut down these accounts and roll the stored information into a larger account. Doing this periodically keeps the number of accounts down to a manageable level. Indirect costing applies to project-oriented companies, particularly manufacturers and construction contractors. Companies that are not project-oriented, such as retailers and restaurants, typically would not incorporate indirect costing into their accounting structure.

Edit your own chart of accounts with the accounts and structure that fits best for you. Now that we’ve gone over how to generate a simple chart of accounts let’s look at some examples in action. The truth is, you can organize your chart of accounts however you’d like. Below, we’ll take you through 3 basic steps and provide multiple examples and templates that will give you a better idea of how to put together your own chart of accounts. For example, if you’re a property manager, investor, or landlord, you can download our free property management chart of accounts template.

Unlike true wage expense, the $3,000 is a project costing entry that is not paid out in cash. Accordingly, the offset will not be cash, but rather a -$3,000 entry to an Indirect Expenses-Applied account. Cost of Goods Sold, or COGS, represents the total expense to produce a product or service. It normally includes direct costs such as parts, materials, and labor, but does not take into consideration indirect costs such as distribution. Sample Chart of Accounts are readily available for uploadfrom the Internet, or you can establish your own usingstandard default numbers and customized sub-designationsfor account types.

The organization of accounts within the COA varies from company to company. It usually consists of the accounts that a company has identified and made available for recording transactions in its general ledger. Before there was accounting software, accountants used this coded method to organize the chart of accounts on paper. Some charts of accounts use four digits instead of three, but the first digit remains the same.

The chart of accounts includes the account name, the account type, and the account number. Assets accounts, liability accounts, and equity accounts are balance sheet accounts, while expense accounts and revenue accounts show up on your profit and loss statements. A chart of accounts showcases all accounts according to the order they follow in the financial statements. So it starts with assets, liabilities, and equity for balance sheet accounts, followed by revenue and expenses for the income statement accounts. 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.

chart of accounts example

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