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The general ledger serves as the central repository for all of a company’s financial transactions. Each account listed in the chart of accounts (COA) has a corresponding ledger account in the general ledger. Financial transactions are recorded in the appropriate ledger account, as dictated by the COA’s categorization, ensuring that transactions are organized and tracked systematically. Although most decent accounting software packages will generate and maintain these identifying numbers for you, it’s still a good idea to have a solid understanding of the underlying system.

When you are satisfied with your answers, click either the green Save and Close button or the drop-down arrow next to it and select Save and New to add another account. First, click on the gear icon on the upper right-hand side of your QuickBooks dashboard, and then select Chart of accounts from the pop-up window, as shown below. But ultimately, how effective it is in informing your decision-makers and ensuring an efficient record-to-report process is up to you.

  1. You also include accounts for discounts from suppliers, costs of shipping, and miscellaneous sales costs.
  2. Traditionally, each account in the COA is numbered, and accountants can quickly identify its type by the first digit.
  3. Liability accounts also follow the traditional balance sheet format by starting with the current liabilities, followed by long-term liabilities.
  4. For a small business it is important not to over complicate the chart of accounts.

Here’s an example of what a chart of accounts might look like with a numbering system in place. The double-entry system displays two columns for these entries, called debits and credits. This allows you to track money coming into your business and money going out of it.

QuickBooks Online

Start with broader categories at the beginning of the range and get more specific as you move up. Equity accounts will vary significantly based on the structure of the business. For instance, whether it’s a corporation, partnership, or sole proprietorship. Long-term liabilities are financial obligations that are due after more than one year. Financing through long-term liabilities allows a business to manage its immediate cash flow needs while planning for its long-term strategy. But experience has shown that the most common format organizes information by individual account and assigns each account a code and description.

Examples include factory supervisor wages, incidental supplies (e.g., tape, glue, screws), machinery repairs, shop building insurance, etc. Expenses such as tax preparation fees, marketing, and legal expenses would not be considered indirect costs, but rather operating or general/admin expenses. Follow these seven steps to address these points, turbocharge your chart of accounts, and provide the financial visibility your company needs. My technology client had one big “room” for all Sales, with no bins and shelves.

In your liability accounts, you’ll see all your short, medium, and long-term loans, and interest payable on those loans. Your company’s liabilities will also include invoices payable (also known as accounts payable). And if you have any employees, your chart of accounts lets you know setting up a chart of accounts for a small business what your business owes for wages payable. A chart of accounts offers a clear picture of the overall financial health of your business and gives insights into all of the company’s financial transactions. You can use that information to improve your business process in the future.

Why should I customize my chart of accounts?

Revenue, the lifeblood of any business, is a general metric for evaluating its financial performance. It encompasses various sources of income that contribute to the overall growth and sustainability of the organization. When we speak of a chart in the accounting context, we usually mean the arrangement or layout of different accounts within a general ledger. Update the COA at least annually or when significant changes occur, such as business expansion, diversification, or changes in accounting regulations.

In the meantime, start building your store with a free 3-day trial of Shopify. Further information on the use of debits and credits can be found in our bookkeeping basics tutorials. AccountEdge Pro has a one-time fee of $399 for the on-premise application, while Priority Zoom, the cloud application, is $50/month, with both plans supporting up to five users. The cost is $199/year, or $19.99/month, with no extra charge for additional users or features. At the end of the year, review all of your accounts and see if there’s an opportunity for consolidation. Here’s how to categorize transactions in QuickBooks Online and navigate the COA.


If sales spike to $1,000 one month, depreciation is still $50 and is now only 5% of sales. In that situation, sales—not production efficiency or better estimating—has changed gross margin. That can be misleading, especially if production supervisors are compensated on margin metrics. For example, under GAAP, a fixed cost like equipment depreciation would be a direct cost for a manufacturer. However, in a managerial-focused environment, fixed costs are often kept out of gross margin, to keep it from being distorted by swings in sales.

How to set up a chart of accounts for a small or medium business

Investment in non-current assets reflects a commitment to future business sustainability and efficiency, as they are used in the production of goods, supply of services, or for rental to others. For example, under the asset category, businesses may have subcategories such as cash, investments, inventory, accounts receivable, etc. Likewise, under the expense category, there may be subcategories for operating expenses, cost of goods sold, etc. The specific accounts and subcategories will vary depending on the business type and industry. The chart of accounts serves as the backbone for accurate financial reporting, compliance with accounting standards, and efficient financial management. By categorizing every transaction a business undertakes, the COA ensures that financial statements accurately reflect the company’s true financial position.

Organize each of the sub-accounts you create into the relevant parent account type. So, for example, cash and accounts receivable would both fall under Asset accounts, and sales revenue and interest income would fall under Revenue accounts. Now, let’s explore a couple of examples of the chart of accounts for businesses in various industries – online retail, manufacturing, and service businesses. We presume they accept online payments via payment platforms (for example, Stripe, Paypal, or Square).

A chart of accounts is a way to keep track of, organize, and record all your business’s finances. It’s a list in your company’s general ledger of your business’s accounts, divided into the categories of Asset Accounts, Liability Accounts, Equity Accounts, Revenue Accounts, and Expense Accounts. Your business’s chart of accounts provides a snapshot of your company’s financial standing. The chart of accounts is a tool that lists all the financial accounts included in the financial statements of a company. It provides a way to categorize all of the financial transactions that a company conducted during a specific accounting period.