Chart of Accounts Definition, How to Set Up, Categories

chart of accounts numbering

Accounting standards dictate that a company should only record contingent liabilities if the liability is probable and if it’s possible to reasonably estimate the amount. Examples of contingent liabilities include lawsuits and product warranties. The best way to think of an asset is as something that might in future generate cash flow for the company, reduce its expenses, or increase sales. Its length will naturally depend on the company’s size, with larger companies having a larger and more complex chart of accounts compared to smaller companies. Since it is a flexible financial organization tool, there is no standard length of a chart of accounts. There are many different ways to structure a chart of accounts, but the important thing to remember is that simplicity is key. The more accounts are added to the chart and the more complex the numbering system is, the more difficult it will be to keep track of them and actually use the accounting system.

Each department will have its own phone expense account, its own salaries expense, etc. To make it easier for readers to locate specific accounts, each chart of accounts typically contains a name, brief description, and an identification code. Each chart in the list is assigned a multi-digit number; all asset accounts generally start with the number 1, for example. A chart of accounts is an index of all the financial accounts in thegeneral ledgerof a company.


For example, a taxi business will include certain accounts that are specific to the taxi business, in addition to the general accounts that are common to all businesses. When conducting chart of accounts mapping, within these main types of accounts you will also find subtypes of accounts. In the chart of accounts balance sheet, you have your Assets, Liabilities, and Equity while in your Income or P&L statement you have Income, cost of goods sold , expenses, etc.

chart of accounts numbering

Distinguish between different kinds of deferred credits on the balance sheet. Your business is always changing, and as it does, so do your accounting needs. By reviewing your chart of accounts annually, you can ensure that it still accurately reflects your business. This will help you catch any errors or omissions, chart of accounts numbering and make any necessary changes. When you have a large number of assets, it can be difficult to keep track of them all and properly depreciate each one. However, if you create an asset class structure, you can more easily manage your depreciation. It’s best to use a maximum of five digits for your account numbers.

Give careful thought to indirect costs.

These sub-types will decide which account in the corresponding financial statement the transaction will be classified under. The terms equity or net assets [not-for-profit enterprise] represent the residual interest in the assets of an entity that remains after deducting its liabilities . Equity accounts include common stock, paid-in capital, and retained earnings. Equity accounts can vary depending where an entity is domiciled as some jurisdictions require entities to keep various sub-classifications of equity in separate accounts. Within the accounts of the income statement, revenues and expenses could be broken into operating revenues, operating expenses, non-operating revenues, and non-operating losses. In addition, the operating revenues and operating expenses accounts might be further organized by business function and/or by company divisions.

  • So, when you’re assigning numbers to your accounts, make sure to group similar types of accounts together.
  • The purpose is to organize the accounts and group similar ones together.
  • The accounting equation for owner’s equity is, therefore, the difference between a company’s assets and debt liabilities.
  • This account will have a beginning balance for the current year and will be updated each time you close the year.

Gross margin is the profit after subtracting direct costs from sales. Everyone agrees that direct labor and direct materials are always direct costs. Unfortunately, using a pre-fabricated chart of accounts is like trying to build a dream house on a one-size-fits-all concrete foundation. The house would end up very different from the dream, and not be very functional. If you are considering designing a new chart of accounts, the following are some helpful guidelines. Because the GL module allows up to 20 characters for the account code, you should be able to use your existing account code structure, if desired. Use Logical Account NumberingBest practices is Asset accounts start with 1, Liabilities start with 2, Equity accounts start with 3, etc.

Do the Mystery Accountant Test

On a related note, some experts recommend having only a few accounts in the chart of accounts and instead using the detailed reports in the various modules in your accounting software. That approach can work as long as you have custom reporting capability. In the absence of that, tax and audit CPAs have the custom reporting software to easily convert your management-oriented chart of accounts into their format. Just be sure to make it easy for them by incorporating any special accounts they need into your remodeled chart accounts. “I don’t think I’ve ever looked at that,” he told me as we looked over his accounts. I could see the light bulbs going on as I showed him how his sales invoice lines were all configured to flow to a single sales account in his chart of accounts. With such a simplistic account structure, his financials were unable to provide detail about his five distinct revenue streams.

Why is a chart of accounts important?

The chart of accounts structure determines the level of detail available for financial reporting. The chart of accounts is therefore the foundation of the financial statements.

If a company has subsidiaries, then it should make them follow the same pattern for the chart of accounts. This makes it easier to consolidate the results of all companies.

Example: Standard Chart of Accounts List

Discover the chart of accounts and ledger accounting definitions. Learn about the different ledgers and account types, as well as the chart of accounts numbering system.

  • Equity capital, unlike debt capital, is not repaid to stockholders/investors in the normal course of business.
  • A liability is, to put it simply, what the company owes to some other party .
  • Complex businesses may require a chart of accounts with accounts numbered using more than five digits.
  • In practice, changes in the market value of assets or liabilities are recognized as gains while, for example, interest, dividends, rent or royalties received are recognized as other revenue.
  • Equity can be called shareholders’ equity in a corporation or owner’s equity in a sole proprietorship.
  • If you are considering designing a new chart of accounts, the following are some helpful guidelines.
  • Using sub-accounts is not required, but it can be a helpful way to organize your chart of accounts.

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. Here are the steps to take to address each one of these points and turbocharge your chart of accounts to gain the financial visibility your company needs. My technology client had one big “room” for all Sales, with no bins and shelves. His month-end income statement could get no more detailed than that one account. At a glance, he had no idea which revenue streams were contributing to that bulk monthly number.