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Portrait of the Italian Luca Pacioli, painted by Jacopo de' Barbari, 1495, (Museo di Capodimonte). Pacioli is regarded as the Father of Accounting. Pacioli.jpg
Portrait of the Italian Luca Pacioli , painted by Jacopo de' Barbari, 1495, (Museo di Capodimonte). Pacioli is regarded as the Father of Accounting.

Bookkeeping is the recording of financial transactions, and is part of the process of accounting in business and other organisations. [1] It involves preparing source documents for all transactions, operations, and other events of a business. Transactions include purchases, sales, receipts and payments by an individual person or an organization/corporation. There are several standard methods of bookkeeping, including the single-entry and double-entry bookkeeping systems. While these may be viewed as "real" bookkeeping, any process for recording financial transactions is a bookkeeping process.


The person in an organisation who is employed to perform bookkeeping functions is usually called the bookkeeper (or book-keeper). They usually write the daybooks (which contain records of sales, purchases, receipts, and payments), and document each financial transaction, whether cash or credit, into the correct daybook—that is, petty cash book, suppliers ledger, customer ledger, etc.—and the general ledger. Thereafter, an accountant can create financial reports from the information recorded by the bookkeeper. The bookkeeper brings the books to the trial balance stage, from which an accountant may prepare financial reports for the organisation, such as the income statement and balance sheet.


The origin of book-keeping is lost in obscurity, but recent research indicates that methods of keeping accounts have existed from the remotest times of human life in cities. Babylonian records written with styli on small slabs of clay have been found dating to 2600 BCE. [2] The term "waste book" was used in colonial America, referring to the documenting of daily transactions of receipts and expenditures. Records were made in chronological order, and for temporary use only. Daily records were then transferred to a daybook or account ledger to balance the accounts and to create a permanent journal; then the waste book could be discarded, hence the name. [3]


The primary purpose of bookkeeping is to record the financial effects of transactions. An important difference between a manual and an electronic accounting system is the former's latency between the recording of a financial transaction and its posting in the relevant account. This delay, which is absent in electronic accounting systems due to nearly instantaneous posting to relevant accounts, is characteristic of manual systems, and gave rise to the primary books of accounts—cash book, purchase book, sales book, etc.—for immediately documenting a financial transaction.

In the normal course of business, a document is produced each time a transaction occurs. Sales and purchases usually have invoices or receipts. Deposit slips are produced when lodgements (deposits) are made to a bank account. Checks (spelled "cheques" in the UK and several other countries) are written to pay money out of the account. Bookkeeping first involves recording the details of all of these source documents into multi-column journals (also known as books of first entry or daybooks). For example, all credit sales are recorded in the sales journal; all cash payments are recorded in the cash payments journal. Each column in a journal normally corresponds to an account. In the single entry system, each transaction is recorded only once. Most individuals who balance their check-book each month are using such a system, and most personal-finance software follows this approach.

After a certain period, typically a month, each column in each journal is totalled to give a summary for that period. Using the rules of double-entry, these journal summaries are then transferred to their respective accounts in the ledger, or account book. For example, the entries in the Sales Journal are taken and a debit entry is made in each customer's account (showing that the customer now owes us money), and a credit entry might be made in the account for "Sale of class 2 widgets" (showing that this activity has generated revenue for us). This process of transferring summaries or individual transactions to the ledger is called posting. Once the posting process is complete, accounts kept using the "T" format undergo balancing, which is simply a process to arrive at the balance of the account.

As a partial check that the posting process was done correctly, a working document called an unadjusted trial balance is created. In its simplest form, this is a three-column list. Column One contains the names of those accounts in the ledger which have a non-zero balance. If an account has a debit balance, the balance amount is copied into Column Two (the debit column); if an account has a credit balance, the amount is copied into Column Three (the credit column). The debit column is then totalled, and then the credit column is totalled. The two totals must agree—which is not by chance—because under the double-entry rules, whenever there is a posting, the debits of the posting equal the credits of the posting. If the two totals do not agree, an error has been made, either in the journals or during the posting process. The error must be located and rectified, and the totals of the debit column and the credit column recalculated to check for agreement before any further processing can take place.

Once the accounts balance, the accountant makes a number of adjustments and changes the balance amounts of some of the accounts. These adjustments must still obey the double-entry rule: for example, the inventory account and asset account might be changed to bring them into line with the actual numbers counted during a stocktake. At the same time, the expense account associated with usage of inventory is adjusted by an equal and opposite amount. Other adjustments such as posting depreciation and prepayments are also done at this time. This results in a listing called the adjusted trial balance. It is the accounts in this list, and their corresponding debit or credit balances, that are used to prepare the financial statements.

Finally financial statements are drawn from the trial balance, which may include:

Single-entry system

The primary bookkeeping record in single-entry bookkeeping is the cash book, which is similar to a checking account register (in UK: cheque account, current account), except all entries are allocated among several categories of income and expense accounts. Separate account records are maintained for petty cash, accounts payable and accounts receivable, and other relevant transactions such as inventory and travel expenses. To save time and avoid the errors of manual calculations, single-entry bookkeeping can be done today with do-it-yourself bookkeeping software.

Double-entry system

A double-entry bookkeeping system is a set of rules for recording financial information in a financial accounting system in which every transaction or event changes at least two different nominal ledger accounts.


A daybook is a descriptive and chronological (diary-like) record of day-to-day financial transactions; it is also called a book of original entry. The daybook's details must be transcribed formally into journals to enable posting to ledgers. Daybooks include:

Petty cash book

A petty cash book is a record of small-value purchases before they are later transferred to the ledger and final accounts; it is maintained by a petty or junior cashier. This type of cash book usually uses the imprest system: a certain amount of money is provided to the petty cashier by the senior cashier. This money is to cater for minor expenditures (hospitality, minor stationery, casual postage, and so on) and is reimbursed periodically on satisfactory explanation of how it was spent. And also the balance of petty cash book is Asset.


Journals are recorded in the general journal daybook. A journal is a formal and chronological record of financial transactions before their values are accounted for in the general ledger as debits and credits. A company can maintain one journal for all transactions, or keep several journals based on similar activity (e.g., sales, cash receipts, revenue, etc.), making transactions easier to summarize and reference later. For every debit journal entry recorded, there must be an equivalent credit journal entry to maintain a balanced accounting equation. [4]


A ledger is a record of accounts. The ledger is a permanent summary of all amounts entered in supporting Journals which list individual transactions by date. These accounts are recorded separately, showing their beginning/ending balance. A journal lists financial transactions in chronological order, without showing their balance but showing how much is going to be charged in each account. A ledger takes each financial transaction from the journal and records it into the corresponding account for every transaction listed. The ledger also sums up the total of every account, which is transferred into the balance sheet and the income statement. There are three different kinds of ledgers that deal with book-keeping:

Abbreviations used in bookkeeping

Chart of accounts

A chart of accounts is a list of the accounts codes that can be identified with numeric, alphabetical, or alphanumeric codes allowing the account to be located in the general ledger. The equity section of the chart of accounts is based on the fact that the legal structure of the entity is of a particular legal type. Possibilities include sole trader, partnership, trust, and company. [5]

Computerized bookkeeping

Computerized bookkeeping removes many of the paper "books" that are used to record the financial transactions of a business entity; instead, relational databases are used today, but typically, these still enforce the norms of bookkeeping including the single-entry and double-entry bookkeeping systems. CPAs supervise the internal controls for computerized bookkeeping systems, which serve to minimize errors in documenting the numerous activities a business entity may initiate or complete over an accounting period.

See also

Related Research Articles

Double-entry bookkeeping, in accounting, is a system of book keeping where every entry to an account requires a corresponding and opposite entry to a different account. The double-entry system has two equal and corresponding sides known as debit and credit. The left-hand side is debit and the right-hand side is credit. In a normally debited account, such as an asset account or an expense account, a debit increases the total quantity of money or financial value, and a credit decreases the amount or value. On the other hand, for an account that is normally credited, such as a liability account or a revenue account, credits increase the account's value and debits decrease that value. In double-entry bookkeeping, a transaction always affects at least two accounts, always includes at least one debit and one credit, and always has total debits and total credits that are equal. This is to keep the accounting equation in balance. For example, if a business takes out a bank loan for $10,000, recording the transaction would require a debit of $10,000 to an asset account called "Cash", as well as a credit of $10,000 to a liability account called "Notes Payable".

This page is an index of accounting topics.

In accounting, book value is the value of an asset according to its balance sheet account balance. For assets, the value is based on the original cost of the asset less any depreciation, amortization or impairment costs made against the asset. Traditionally, a company's book value is its total assets minus intangible assets and liabilities. However, in practice, depending on the source of the calculation, book value may variably include goodwill, intangible assets, or both. The value inherent in its workforce, part of the intellectual capital of a company, is always ignored. When intangible assets and goodwill are explicitly excluded, the metric is often specified to be "tangible book value".

Debits and credits

In double entry bookkeeping, debits and credits are entries made in account ledgers to record changes in value resulting from business transactions. A debit entry in an account represents a transfer of value to that account, and a credit entry represents a transfer from the account. Each transaction transfers value from credited accounts to debited accounts. For example, a tenant who writes a rent cheque to a landlord would enter a credit for the bank account on which the cheque is drawn, and a debit in a rent expense account. Similarly, the landlord would enter a credit in the rent income account associated with the tenant and a debit for the bank account where the cheque is deposited.

Financial accounting

Financial accounting is the field of accounting concerned with the summary, analysis and reporting of financial transactions related to a business. This involves the preparation of financial statements available for public use. Stockholders, suppliers, banks, employees, government agencies, business owners, and other stakeholders are examples of people interested in receiving such information for decision making purposes.

Trial balance

A trial balance is a list of all the general ledger accounts contained in the ledger of a business. This list will contain the name of each nominal ledger account and the value of that nominal ledger balance. Each nominal ledger account will hold either a debit balance or a credit balance. The debit balance values will be listed in the debit column of the trial balance and the credit value balance will be listed in the credit column. The trading profit and loss statement and balance sheet and other financial reports can then be produced using the ledger accounts listed on the same balance.

Account (bookkeeping)

In bookkeeping, an account refers to assets, liabilities, income, expenses, and equity, as represented by individual ledger pages, to which changes in value are chronologically recorded with debit and credit entries. These entries, referred to as postings, become part of a book of final entry or ledger. Examples of common financial accounts are sales, accounts receivable, mortgages, loans, PP&E, common stock, sales, services, wages and payroll.

General ledger

In bookkeeping, a general ledger, also known as a nominal ledger, is a bookkeeping ledger in which accounting data is posted from journals and from subledgers, such as accounts payable, accounts receivable, cash management, fixed assets, purchasing and projects. A ledger account is created for each account in the chart of accounts for an organization, are classified into account categories, such as income, expense, assets, liabilities and equity, and the collection of all these accounts is known as the general ledger. The general ledger holds financial and non-financial data for an organization. Each account in the general ledger consists of one or more pages. An organization's statement of financial position and the income statement are both derived from income and expense account categories in the general ledger.

General journal Type of daybook or subsidiary journal

A general journal is a daybook or subsidiary journal in which transactions relating to adjustment entries, opening stock, depreciation, accounting errors etc. are recorded. The source documents for general journal entries may be journal vouchers, copies of management reports and invoices. Journals are prime entry books, and may also be referred to as books of original entry, from when transactions were written in a journal before they were manually posted to accounts in the general ledger or a subsidiary ledger.

The fundamental accounting equation, also called the balance sheet equation, represents the relationship between the assets, liabilities, and owner's equity of a person or business. It is the foundation for the double-entry bookkeeping system. For each transaction, the total debits equal the total credits. It can be expressed as furthermore:

Ledger a book that keeps track of individual account transactions

A ledger is a book or collection of accounts in which account transactions are recorded. Each account has an opening or carry-forward balance, would record transactions as either a debit or credit in separate columns and the ending or closing balance.

Single-entry bookkeeping or single-entry accounting is a method of bookkeeping that relies on a one sided accounting entry to maintain financial information. The primary bookkeeping record in single-entry bookkeeping is the cash book, which is similar to a checking account register, except all entries are allocated among several categories of income and expense accounts. Separate account records are maintained for petty cash, accounts payable and receivable, and other relevant transactions such as inventory and travel expenses. To save time and avoid the errors of manual calculations, single-entry bookkeeping can be done today with do-it-yourself bookkeeping software.

A journal entry is the act of keeping or making records of any transactions either economic or non-economic.

In bookkeeping, accounting, and financial accounting, net sales are operating revenues earned by a company for selling its products or rendering its services. Also referred to as revenue, they are reported directly on the income statement as Sales or Net sales.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to accounting:

Special journals Specialized lists of financial transaction records

Special journals are specialized lists of financial transaction records which accountants call journal entries. In contrast to a general journal, each special journal records transactions of a specific type, such as sales or purchases. For example, when a company purchases merchandise from a vendor, and then in turn sells the merchandise to a customer, the purchase is recorded in one journal and the sale is recorded in another.

Liability (financial accounting)

In financial accounting, a liability is defined as the future sacrifices of economic benefits that the entity is obliged to make to other entities as a result of past transactions or other past events, the settlement of which may result in the transfer or use of assets, provision of services or other yielding of economic benefits in the future.

History of accounting

The history of accounting or accountancy can be traced to ancient civilizations.

A purchase returns journal is a prime entry book or a daybook which is used to record purchase returns. In other words, it is the journal which is used to record the goods which are returned to the suppliers. The source document which is used as an evidence in recording transactions into purchase returns journal is the Debit note.

Desi Namu Accounting system

Desi Nama or Vahi Padhati is the traditional accounting system developed and used in the Indian subcontinent. Early forms of this system were reportedly used in India before the double entry book keeping system was developed in Europe.


  1. Weygandt; Kieso; Kimmel (2003). Financial Accounting. Susan Elbe. p. 6. ISBN   0-471-07241-9.
  2. Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Book-Keeping"  . Encyclopædia Britannica . 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 225.
  3. "Pittsburgh Waste Book and Fort Pitt Trading Post Papers". Guides to Archives and Manuscript Collections at the University of Pittsburgh Library System. Retrieved 2015-09-04.
  4. Haber, Jeffry (2004). Accounting Demystified . New York: AMACOM. p.  15. ISBN   0-8144-0790-0.
  5. Marsden,Stephen (2008). Australian Master Bookkeepers Guide. Sydney: CCH ISBN   978-1-921593-57-4