General Ledger

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DEFINITION of 'General Ledger'

A company's main accounting records. A general ledger is a complete record of financial transactions over the life of a company. The ledger holds account information that is needed to prepare financial statements, and includes accounts for assets, liabilities, owners' equity, revenues and expenses.

A general ledger is typically used by businesses that employ the double-entry bookkeeping method - where each financial transaction is posted twice, as both a debit and a credit, and where each account has two columns. Because a debit in one account is offset by a credit in a different account, the sum of all debits will be equal to the sum of all credits.

BREAKING DOWN 'General Ledger'

A company's general ledger can either be a physical book into which credits and debits are posted, or an accounting computer program where the various credits and debits are entered. The general ledger's double-entry bookkeeping requires that each transaction will be entered on the left side, or debit side, of one account and simultaneously on the right side, or credit side, of another account. A general ledger is used to prepare financial statements directly from the accounts, and as a means to identify errors and/or instances of fraud.

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