Chart Of Accounts: Definition, Types And How it Works

Because the chart of accounts is a list of every account found in the business’s accounting system, it can provide insight into all of the different financial transactions that take place within the company. It helps to categorize all transactions, working as a simple, at-a-glance reference point. A chart of accounts gives you great insight into your business’s revenue beyond just telling you how much money you earn. It shows peaks and valleys in your income, how much cash flow is at your disposal, and how long it should last you given your average monthly business expenses. The chart of accounts allows you to organize your business’s complex financial data and distill it into clear, logical account types.

Yes, it is a good idea to customize your chart of accounts to suit your unique business. If you’re using accounting software and want to set up a customized chart of accounts, you can add or edit parent and sub-accounts to the existing default chart of accounts. Doing this will help you stay organized and better understand how your business is doing financially.

chart of accounts numbering

A chart of accounts is a list of all of your company’s accounts together in one place. Similar to a filing cabinet for your company’s accounting system, it’s used to organize transactions into groups. This is one of the many concepts discussed in our Accounting 101 article.

It includes money invested by the owner of the business plus the profits of the business since its inception. If you subtract the money taken out of the business by the owner and money owed to others, you’ll be left with the owner’s equity amount. Assets are resources your business owns that can be converted into cash and therefore have a monetary value. Examples of assets include your accounts receivable and physical assets like vehicles, property, and equipment. Create a chart of accounts that doesn’t change much year over year.


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If you want to take your company and yourself to the next level, then click here to learn more about the premier financial leadership development platform. Expenses refer to the costs you incur while running your business. This would include your office rent, utilities, and office supplies. At the end of the year, review all of your accounts and see if there’s an opportunity for consolidation.

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chart of accounts numbering

Many small businesses opt to utilize online bookkeeping services, not only for invoicing and expense tracking but also for organizing accounts and ensuring tax season goes smoothly. FreshBooks accounting software is an affordable and reliable option for online bookkeeping services that will help you stay on track and grow your business. Similar to a chart of accounts, an accounting template can give you a clear picture of your business’s financial information at a glance. Utilizing accounting tools like these will ensure a better workflow, helping you grow your company. FreshBooks offers a wide variety of accounting tools, like accounting software, that make it easier to stay organized. In accounting, each transaction you record is categorized according to its account and sub-account to help keep your books organized.


You can also use a numbering system to group similar accounts and provide further detail with classification. Depending on the size of the company, the chart of accounts may include either few dozen accounts or a few thousand accounts. Whereas, if a company is more sophisticated, then the chart of accounts can be either paper-based or computer-based.

  • You can customize your COA so that the structure reflects the specific needs of your business.
  • Tim is a Certified QuickBooks Time (formerly TSheets) Pro, QuickBooks ProAdvisor, and CPA with 25 years of experience.
  • Furthermore, a standard chart of accounts is organized according to a numerical system.
  • A chart of accounts is an important organizational tool in the form of a list of all the names of the accounts a company has included in its general ledger.
  • Whereas, if liabilities accounts are classified by numbers starting with the digit 2, then accounts payable might be labeled 201, short-term debt might be labeled 202, and so on.

A company’s chart of accounts might include the five primary accounts, plus a range of sub-accounts for each. The more complex a business, the more accounts it likely has. The video below shows how to categorize transactions in QuickBooks Online and navigate the chart of accounts. Most charts of accounts will look structurally similar to the one shown.

Chart of accounts example

In the interest of not messing up your books, it’s best to wait until the end of the year to delete old accounts. Merging or renaming accounts can create headaches come tax season. A small business accounting software comes with a default chart of accounts.

chart of accounts numbering

We believe everyone should be able to make financial decisions with confidence. A gap between account numbers allows for adding accounts in the future. The following is a partial listing of a sample chart of accounts.

Why Is a Chart of Accounts Important?

Liabilities are all the debts that your company owes to someone else. This would include your accounts payable, any taxes you owe the government, or loans you have to repay. This may influence which products we review and write about (and where those products appear on the site), but it in no way affects our recommendations or advice, which are grounded in thousands of hours of research. Our partners cannot pay us to guarantee favorable reviews of their products or services. A chart of accounts will likely be as large and as complex as the company itself.

An added bonus of having a properly organized chart of accounts is that it simplifies tax season. The COA tracks your business income and expenses, which you’ll need to report on your income tax return every year. Each account in the chart of accounts is typically assigned a name and a unique number by which it can be identified. They also don’t have a retained earnings account as net income at the end of the year is distributed to the capital accounts. Liabilities are what a company owes or has borrowed, usually a sum of money.

  • This list will usually also include a short description of each account and a unique identification code number.
  • She has owned Check Yourself, a bookkeeping and payroll service that specializes in small business, for over twenty years.
  • For example, the expense of office supplies might be assigned the code 5600, or a credit card liability the code 2200.
  • A chart of accounts is a list of all of your company’s accounts together in one place.

Read our best small business accounting software guide for more information. Division code – This is typically a two-digit code that identifies a specific company division within a multi-division company. The code can be expanded to three digits if there are more than 99 subsidiaries. It’s not always fun seeing a straightforward list of everything you spend your hard-earned money on, but the chart of accounts can give you an important view of your spending habits.

These accounts and sub-accounts are located in the chart of accounts, along with their balances. An expense account balance, for example, shows how much money has been spent to operate your business, whereas a liabilities account balance shows how much money your business still owes. The chart of accounts is designed to be a map of your business and its various financial parts. A well-designed chart of accounts should separate out all of the company’s most important accounts and make it easy to determine which transactions should be recorded in which account.

The role of equity differs in the COA based on whether your business is set up as a sole proprietorship, LLC, or corporation. This would include Owner’s Equity or Shareholder’s Equity, depending on your business’s structure. The basic equation for determining equity is a company’s assets minus its liabilities. Charts of accounts are an index, or list, of the various financial accounts that can be found in your company’s general ledger. These accounts are separated into different categories, including revenue, liabilities, assets, and expenditures.

The Accounting Gap Between Large and Small Companies

They can include a future service owed to others or a previous transaction that created an unsettled obligation. Similar to assets, liabilities are classified as current and noncurrent. Current liabilities are expected to be concluded within 12 months or less while noncurrent liabilities are long-term or greater than 12 months.

Please see our example below for a better understanding of what’s included in a sole proprietorship’s chart of accounts. Danielle is a writer for the Finance division of Fit Small Business. She has owned a bookkeeping and payroll service that specializes in small business, for over twenty years. If you want to take your business to the next level, then download our three most powerful tools. [box]Strategic CFO Lab Member Extra
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To create a COA for your own business, you will want to begin with the assets, labeling them with their own unique number, starting with a 1 and putting all entries in list form. The balance sheet accounts (asset, liability, and equity) come first, followed by the income statement accounts (revenue and expense accounts). Small businesses use the COA to organize all the intricate details of their company finances into an accessible format. It’s the first step in setting up your business’s accounting system. The chart of accounts clearly separates your earnings, expenditures, assets, and liabilities to give an accurate overview of your business’s financial performance.

It also lays the foundation for all your business’s important financial reports. This refers to expenses that are outside of your normal operating activity. An account you should include is the loss on a sale of an asset. While it’s helpful to understand the different components of a chart of accounts, you may want to consider hiring a bookkeeper to help you set it up and customize it to your business. Check out our guide on what bookkeeping is for more information about the tasks that bookkeepers perform. Business owners who keep a chart of accounts handy will have an advantage when it comes to accounting.