How Double-Entry Bookkeeping Works in a General Ledger

A commonly used report, called the “trial balance,” lists every account in the general ledger that has any activity. In double-entry bookkeeping, debits and credits are terms used to describe the 2 how to estimate your 2021 tax refund sides of every transaction. Debits are increases to an account, and credits are decreases to an account. A double entry accounting system requires a thorough understanding of debits and credits.

  • The balance sheet is based on the double-entry accounting system where the total assets of a company are equal to the total liabilities and shareholder equity.
  • You can also connect your business bank account to make recording transactions easier.
  • In simple words, the double-entry concept means for every entry into one account, there must be an equal and corresponding entry into another.
  • The  origins of the debit and credit system dates back to the late fifteenth century.
  • Assets include all of the items that a company owns, such as inventory, cash, machinery, buildings, and even intangible items such as patents.

It means there will be at least one debit and one credit entry for each transaction recorded. There is no limit to the maximum number of accounts under double-entry accounting. However, each transaction must have at least entries in two accounts. The balance sheet is one of the three most important financial documents for any business owner. Alongside your income statement and cash flow statement, it gives you, your accountant, and your financial investors a well-rounded snapshot of your business’s financial health.


While having a record of these transactions is a good first step toward better managing your cash flow, this type of recording doesn’t make clear the impact each transaction has on your business. While this may have been sufficient in the beginning, if you plan on growing your business, you should probably move to using accounting software and double-entry accounting. If you’re a freelancer, sole entrepreneur, or contractor, chances are you’ve been using single-entry accounting, especially if you aren’t using accounting software.

  • This style of accounting is ideal for low-volume businesses wanting an easy system.
  • Many popular accounting software applications such as QuickBooks Online, FreshBooks, and Xero offer a downloadable demo you can try.
  • This means that on their balance sheet, their assets would be debited, and their revenue, or sales, would be credited.
  • Start with a free account to explore 20+ always-free courses and hundreds of finance templates and cheat sheets.

This is reflected in the books by debiting inventory and crediting accounts payable. Small businesses with more than one employee or looking to apply for a loan should use double-entry accounting. This system is a more accurate and complete way to keep track of the company’s financial health and how fast it’s growing.

What Is an Example of Double Entry?

You simply use the software for your day-to-day invoicing and payments and connect your bank to import expenses directly. The necessary debit and credit entries are created for you, and you can run a trial balance report at the click of a button to see where your books are not balancing. Whether you realize it or not, your business has a chart of accounts. Your accountant or bookkeeper can talk you through it and handle the trickiest details themselves, or you can use accounting software that makes balancing your books as painless as possible. Per our example above, selling your fabric increases your revenue and decreases your inventory amount. So to record the sale, you would enter the amount as a debit under an asset account and a credit under an expense account.

Using Accounting Software

That’s it—each financial transaction has just one line, and you don’t make multiple entries in multiple accounts. It is recommended to use a double-entry bookkeeping system because it allows for checks and balances on all transactions and the overall financial statement. This ensures that all financial statements are in good order and it can also help detect and prevent fraud within the business. There are several different types of accounts that are used widely in accounting – the most common ones being asset, liability, capital, expense, and income accounts. To understand how double-entry bookkeeping works, let’s go over a simple example to solidify our understanding.

A Comprehensive Guide to Double-Entry Accounting

Most modern accounting software, like QuickBooks Online, Xero and FreshBooks, is based on the double-entry accounting system. Now, you can look back and see that the bank loan created $20,000 in liabilities. Money flowing through your business has a clear source and destination. The double-entry system began to propagate for practice in Italian merchant cities during the 14th century.

Assume that Alpha Company buys $5,000 worth of furniture for its office and pays immediately in cash. In such a case, one of Alpha’s asset accounts needs to be increased by $5,000 – most likely Furniture or Equipment – while Cash would need to be decreased by $5,000. Double entry refers to a system of bookkeeping that, while quite simple to understand, is one of the most important foundational concepts in accounting. Basically, double-entry bookkeeping means that for every entry into an account, there needs to be a corresponding and opposite entry into a different account. It will result in a debit entry in one or more accounts and a corresponding credit entry in one or more accounts. Businesses that meet any of these criteria need the complete financial picture double-entry bookkeeping delivers.

Get a More Complete Picture of Your Financial Transactions

As always, we recommend that you go directly to your own accountant, CPA, bookkeeper, business banker, or tax advisor. For instance, your CPA can advise you on which accounts to include in your general ledger. They can also explain how double-entry accounting benefits your business, not just businesses generally. Chatting with your trusted financial professional is always the best way to get specific advice on growing your own business. The trial balance labels all of the accounts that have a normal debit balance and those with a normal credit balance.

Example 2: Buying raw materials on supplier credit

In other words, if a company has $100 in assets and $50 in liabilities, then its equity must be $50. If a company has $100 in assets and $110 in liabilities, then its equity would be -$10. If the accounts are imbalanced, then there is a problem in the spreadsheet. Many companies, regardless of their size or industry, use double-entry accounting for their bookkeeping needs because it provides a more accurate depiction of their financial health. This bookkeeping method also complies with the US generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), the official practice and rules for double-entry accounting.

If you’re searching for accounting software that’s user-friendly, full of smart features, and scales with your business, Quickbooks is a great option. The Credit Card Due sub-ledger would include a record of the other half of the entry, a credit for $5,000. The general ledger would have two lines added to it, showing both the debit and credit for $5,000 each. Liabilities represent everything the company owes to someone else, such as short-term accounts payable owed to suppliers or long-term notes payable owed to a bank. Equity may include any contributions the owners have made to the company, plus the company’s profits or minus the company’s losses. Double-entry bookkeeping has been in use for at least hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

For instance, if a business takes a loan from a financial entity like a bank, the borrowed money will raise the company’s assets and the loan liability will also rise by an equivalent amount. If a business buys raw materials by paying cash, it will lead to an increase in the inventory (asset) while reducing cash capital (another asset). Because there are two or more accounts affected by every transaction carried out by a company, the accounting system is referred to as double-entry accounting. The duality principle states that every financial transaction has two parts – a debit and a credit. It means that when there is a debit in one account, there is credit in another account, and vice versa.