For those not inclined to be organized, the idea of doing your own accounting beyond balancing your checkbook may make you a little queasy. However, you’ve managed to keep your lunch this far, and guess what? You’re almost done! Over the past three weeks, we’ve discussed balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements; today, we will be discussing the linchpin that allows the financial statements to communicate in a clear and logical manner… the chart of accounts.
Week 4: Do You Have the Right Chart of Accounts?
Well if you don’t, then you should, and hopefully after this, you will. Your business life has the chance to become incredibly more coherent once you implement the right one. In layman’s terms, a chart of accounts (COA) is just that — a chart, made by you, listing each of your General Ledger account names that describe the nature of the account; all your financial transactions get recorded by coding the transaction following the COA . SmallBusiness.com refers to it as “an accounting term that describes a list of common ways money is used by a business so that its owners and managers can organize revenues, costs, and assets into categories.” It is, for any business, an invaluable tool. Remember, the coherency of financial statements is all in the coding.
Below is a basic format for setting up the COA.
|Income Tax Expense||900-999||9000-9999|
The 3-digit coding can accommodate two product lines; if you have more than two, use 4-digit coding which considerably expands the coding universe. Please note that service lines may be substituted for product lines.
Direct Costs may be defined as costs directly associated with the cost to manufacture, warehouse, distribute, deliver, or to consult, for a “line of business”. Direct Costs exclude selling, general and administrative expenses. These are Operating Expenses, or Overhead.
A chart of accounts is made to be adaptable to each business’ unique needs, so go ahead and tailor it! This is a system made to make your life and the running of your business easier, not to add more stress. Keep it simple. That is the best way to keep it focused, and keeping yourself focused means that you allow yourself more time to explore opportunities that will grow your business profitably by having coherent financial statements.