General Ledger in Accounting Software
Before we start on the specific elements of general ledger software, and where all the pieces fit, you need to understand the basics of financial statement and how you can read them.
There are two main parts to your business’s financial statement –
The accounting software will produce a Profit and Loss, which shows your day to day income reflected against your expenses and therefore shows what your profit, or loss, is.
The accounting software will also produce a Balance Sheet, which shows your business assets against liabilities and the accumulated earnings of your business over the years.
Lets first look at how these reports are arrived at –
You must first understand, or accept the first main principle of double entry bookkeeping before we start and that is –
For every entry made there must be an equal and opposite entry made somewhere else and when you have finished making your entries they must all add up to zero. Don’t worry most accounting software packages will make most of these day to day entries for you.
Sounds weird – not really. The whole principal is logical and goes back to the days when all books where done manually, because accounting software didn’t exist, and by making all of the entries add up to zero we knew we had correctly entered our numbers. We may not have entered them into the right slot but at least we had created the basis of being on the right track. And even though your accounting software will, in most cases, make most of the entries for you, you must understand the principle behind it.
Even if you enter something in the wrong ‘slot’ it is nearly always a simple process to move it where it should be later on.
A Profit and Loss report has five main elements
Cost of Sales
Net Profit (or loss) – sometimes called the Bottom Line
The Net Profit line is also known as The Bottom Line. You sometimes hear the expression that if we did this or that it would go straight to the bottom line. In plain talk what this expression means is that, say for example, we were able to do away with motor expenses in the above Profit and Loss report and incurred no other alternative expense in its place then the $3000.00 motor expenses would go straight to the bottom line and increase our net profit by $3000.00
A balance sheet, in very simplistic terms, has two main elements –
(please note that assets and liabilities are nearly always broken up into sub sections – typically those that are current – within 1 year – and those that are not current – longer than a year – we are not going into that depth – leave that to your accountant and worry about it when you have mastered everything else)
( Note – the trade debtors account is only money that is owed to us as a result of selling goods on account to customers of ours. Other monies owed to the business such as staff loans etc would be shown separately. The same with Trade Creditors. This is money that we owe to people that we purchase from on an ongoing basis for example – people that we buy goods for resale from, telephone account, petrol account and so on. People that we owe money to on a longer term basis i.e. a bank loan are shown separately)
Regarding the bank account – assuming that your bank account mostly has money in it, and, therefore, it falls under Assets (the money is an asset belonging to your business). If the account is mostly in overdraft then typically it would fall under the Liabilities section (the money is a loan from the bank and a business liability).
If it fluctuates between the two simply pick where it mostly is. It’s not a major issue. Let’s say for example you put it under assets and then it went into overdraft all that would happen is that it would be shown with brackets around it.
Things to regularly check –
(like at least once a month – more when you are starting out and going through the learning curve) –
Your customer’s age trial balance (a list of how much your customers owe you from the receivables module) must always equal the Trade Debtors account in the Ledger.
Logical isn’t it when you think about it. The Receivables module is telling us that the customers owe x amount of money. This amount must be the same as the Ledger is telling us that the customers owe.
Your suppliers age trial balance (a list of how much you owe your suppliers from the Payables module) must always equal the Trade Creditors account in the Ledger
Your Stock Value report from the Products module should always equal the Stock on Hand account in the Ledger
Your bank statement should regularly be reconciled back to the balance that the Bank account shows in the ledger.
Why should you check these balances regularly – because things can go wrong and if you only pick it up several months later you are only making it harder for yourself to find out why they don’t balance. At least if you do it often you may remember if something unusual happened.
If you find something doesn’t balance – find out why as soon as possible and fix it. If you need help get it – ask your accountant, software trainer or some other knowledgeable person