Bookkeeping is a process of recording and organizing all the business transactions that have occurred in the course of the business. Bookkeeping is an integral part of accounting and largely focuses on recording day-to-day financial transaction of the business.
All the financial transactions such as sales earned revenue, payment of taxes, earned interest, payroll and other operational expenses, loans investments etc. are recorded in books of accounts.
The way the bookkeeping is managed determines the accuracy of the overall accounting process that is been followed by the business. Thus, bookkeeping ensures that the record of financial transactions are up-to-date and more importantly, accurate.
Just like to prepare a report, you need a source of data, bookkeeping is a source that gets summarized into the financial statements or any other accounting report that you see. With bookkeeping tracks and records all the financial transactions, it becomes the starting point of accounting. No bookkeeping = No accounting.
Thus, it becomes important for businesses, small or big to have bookkeeping in place.The following are the importance of bookkeeping:
With the definition of bookkeeping, it’s clear that the bookkeeping task involves all that is required to track, record and organize all the financial transaction that has occurred in the business.
The person is responsible for managing bookkeeping usually entrusted with the responsibility of tracking all the transaction related to business. The following are the bookkeeping tasks examples:
The accounting period that a business entity chooses for its business becomes part of its bookkeeping system and is used to open and close the financial books. The accounting period affects all aspects of the company’s finances, including taxes and analysis of your financial history.
In most of the countries, the accounting period is the financial year which starts from 1st April and ends on 31st March of every year. In some countries like the Middle East (UAE, Saudi, Bahrain etc) the calendar year is used as an accounting period i.e. 1st January to 31st December.
Business entities choose from two types of bookkeeping systems, although some entities use a combination of both.
The single-entry system of bookkeeping requires recording one entry for each financial activity or transaction. The single-entry bookkeeping system is a basic system that a company might use to record daily receipts or generate a daily or weekly report of cash flow.
The double-entry system of bookkeeping requires a double entry for each financial transaction. The double entry system provides checks and balances by recording corresponding credit entry for each debit entry. The double-entry system of bookkeeping is not cash-based. Transactions are entered when a debt is incurred or revenue is earned.
The cash-based system of accounting records financial transactions when payment is made or received. This system recognizes revenue or income in the accounting period in which it is received and expenses in the period in which they are paid.
The accrual basis method, which is favoured under the generally accepted principals of accounting, record income in the accounting period in which it is earned and records expenses in the period incurred.
To ensure the all the transactions are recorded and organized systematically, bookkeeping principles are applied. The following are the bookkeeping principle
All Financial transactions undertaken by a business entity are posted in ledgers using the information from receipts and other documentation. Ledgers summarize the transactions recorded. Most bookkeeping software automates the posting of transaction details to respective ledgers and reports.
Most entities post financial transactions daily, while others post in batches or outsource the posting activity to accounting professionals. Posting entries regularly helps in generating on-time financial statements or reports.
Financial transactions documentation is an important element of a company’s bookkeeping system. It requires maintaining files of receipts and other documents. The duration period for maintaining documentation records depends on your company policy and legal or tax requirements.
A business entity can create more comprehensive bookkeeping system when it includes accounts for each area of financial transactions. Financial accounts are grouped or categorized based on the nature of accounts or impact on the financial statements. This usually includes balance sheet accounts and income statement accounts.
Before you begin bookkeeping, your business must decide what method you are going to follow. When choosing, consider the volume of daily transactions your business has and the amount of revenue you earn. If you are a small business, a complex bookkeeping method designed for enterprises may cause unnecessary complications. Conversely, less robust methods of bookkeeping will not suffice for large corporations.
With this in mind, let’s break these methods down so you can find the right one for your business.
Single-entry bookkeeping is a straightforward method where one entry is made for each transaction in your books. These transactions are usually maintained in a cash book to track incoming revenue and outgoing expenses. You do not need formal accounting training for the single-entry system. The single-entry method will suit small private companies and sole proprietorships that do not buy or sell on credit, own little to no physical assets, and hold small amounts of inventory.
Double-entry bookkeeping is more robust. It follows the principle that every transaction affects at least two accounts, and they are recorded as debits and credits. For example, if you make a sale for $10, your cash account will be debited for $10 and your sales account will be credited by the same amount. In the double-entry system, the total credits must always equal the total debits. When this happens, your books are “balanced.”
Using the double-entry method for bookkeeping makes more sense if your business is large, public, or buys and sells on credit. Enterprises often choose the double-entry system because it leaves less room for error. In a way, it ‘double-checks’ your books because each transaction is recorded as two matching but offsetting accounts.
The next step is choosing between a cash or accrual basis for your bookkeeping. This decision will depend on when your business recognizes its revenue and expenses.
In cash-based, you recognize revenue when you receive cash into your business. Expenses are recognized when they are paid for. In other words, any time cash enters or exits your accounts, they are recognized in the books. This means that purchases or sales made on credit will not go into your books until the cash exchanges.
In the accrual method, revenue is recognized when it is earned. Similarly, expenses are recorded when they are incurred, usually along with corresponding revenues. The actual cash does not have to enter or exit for the transaction to be recorded. You can mark your sales and purchases made on credit right away.
Both a cash and accrual basis can work with single- or double-entry bookkeeping. In general however, the single-entry method is the foundation for cash-based bookkeeping. Transactions are recorded as single entries which are either cash coming in or going out. The accrual basis works better with the double-entry system.
Generating financial statements like balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements helps you understand where your business stands and gauge its performance. For these reports to portray your business accurately, you must have properly documented records of your transactions. Keeping these records as current as possible is also helpful when reconciling your accounts.
Recording transactions begins with source documents like purchase and sales orders, bills, invoices, and cash register tapes. Once you gather these documents, you can record the transactions using journals, ledgers, and the trial balance. If you are a very small company, you may only need a cash register. The information can then be consolidated and turned into financial statements.
A cash register is an electronic machine that is used to calculate and register transactions. Usually, cash registers are used to record cash flow in stores. The cashier collects the cash for a sale and returns a balance amount to the customer. Both the collected cash and balance returned are recorded in the register as single-entry cash accounts. Cash registers also store transaction receipts, so you can easily record them in your sales journal.
Cash registers are commonly found in businesses of all sizes. However, they aren’t usually the primary method of recording transactions because they use the single-entry, cash-based system of bookkeeping. This makes them convenient for very small businesses but too simplistic for enterprises.
The journal is called the book of original entry. It is the place where a business chronologically records its transactions for the first time. A journal can be either physical (in the form of a book or diary), or digital (stored as spreadsheets, or data in accounting software). It specifies the date of each transaction, the accounts credited or debited, and the amount involved. While the journal is not usually checked for balance at the end of the fiscal year, each journal entry affects the ledger. As we’ll learn, it is imperative that the ledger is balanced, so keeping an accurate journal is a good habit to keep. This form is useful for double-entry bookkeeping.
A ledger is a book or a compilation of accounts. It is also called the book of second entry. After you enter transactions in a journal, they are classified into separate accounts and then transferred into the ledger. These records are transcribed by accounts in the order: assets, liabilities, equity, income, and expenses. Like the journal, the ledger can also be physical or electronic spreadsheets.
A ledger contains a chart of accounts, which is a list of all the names and number of accounts in the ledger. The chart usually occurs in the same order of accounts as the transcribed records.
Unlike the journal, ledgers are investigated by auditors, so they must always be balanced at the end of the fiscal year. If the total debits are more than the total credits, it’s called a debit balance. If the total credits outweigh the total debits, there is a credit balance. The ledger is important in double-entry bookkeeping where each transaction changes at least two sub-ledger accounts.
The trial balance is produced from the compiled and summarized ledger entries. The trial balance is like a test to see if your books are balanced. It lists the accounts exactly in the following order: assets, liabilities, equity, income, and expenses with the ending account balance.
An accountant usually generates the trial balance to see where your business stands and how well your books are balanced. This can then be cross-checked against ledgers and journals. Imbalances between debits and credits are easy to spot on the trial balance. It is not always error-free, though. Any miscalculated or wrongly-transcribed journal entry in the ledger can cause an incorrect trial balance. It is best to look out for errors early, and correct them on the ledger instead of waiting for the trial balance at the end of the fiscal year.
The next, and probably the most important, step in bookkeeping is to generate financial statements. These statements are prepared by consolidating information from the entries you have recorded on a day-to-day basis. They provide insight into your company’s performance over time, revealing the areas you need to improve on. The three major financial reports that every business must know and understand are the cash flow statement, balance sheet, and income statement.
The cash flow statement is exactly what its name suggests. It is a financial report that tracks incoming and outgoing cash in your business. It allows you (and investors) to understand how well your company handles debt and expenses. By summarizing this data, you can see if you are making enough cash to run a sustainable, profitable business.
The balance sheet
The balance sheet reports a business’ assets, liabilities, and shareholder’s equity at a given point in time. In simple words, it tells you what your business owns, owes, and the amount invested by shareholders. However, the balance sheet is only a snapshot of a business’ financial position for a particular date. It must be compared with balance sheets of other periods as well. The balance sheet allows you to understand the liquidity and financial structure of your business through analytics like current ratio, asset turnover ratio, inventory turnover ratio, and debt-to-equity ratio.
The income statement, also called the profit and loss statement, focuses on the revenue gained and expenses incurred by a business over time. There are two parts in a typical income statement. The upper half lists operating income while the lower half lists expenditures. The statement tracks these over a period, such as the last quarter of the fiscal year. It shows how the net revenue of your business is converted into net earnings which result in either profit or loss. The income statement does not focus on receipts or cash details.
Bank reconciliation is the process of finding congruence between the transactions in your bank account and the transactions in your bookkeeping records. Reconciling your bank accounts is an imperative step in bookkeeping because, after everything else is logged, it is the last step to finding discrepancies in your books. Bank reconciliation helps you ensure that there is nothing amiss when it comes to your money.
Bank reconciliation is a must because it: