1. Accounting Basics: Introduction
  2. Accounting Basics: History Of Accounting
  3. Accounting Basics: Branches Of Accounting
  4. Accounting Basics: The Basics
  5. Accounting Basics: The Accounting Process
  6. Accounting Basics: Financial Statements
  7. Accounting Basics: Financial Reporting

By Bob Schneider

As implied earlier, today's electronic accounting systems tend to obscure the traditional forms of the accounting cycle. Nevertheless, the same basic process that bookkeepers and accountants used to perform by hand are present in today's accounting software. Here are the steps in the accounting cycle:

(1) Identify the transaction from source documents, like purchase orders, loan agreements, invoices, etc.

(2) Record the transaction as a journal entry (see the Double-Entry Bookkeeping Section above).

(3) Post the entry in the individual accounts in ledgers. Traditionally, the accounts have been represented as Ts, or so-called T-accounts, with debits on the left and credits on the right.



(4) At the end of the reporting period (usually the end of the month), create a preliminary trial balance of all the accounts by (a) netting all the debits and credits in each account to calculate their balances and (b) totaling all the left-side (i.e, debit) balances and right-side (i.e., credit) balances. The two columns should be equal.

(5) Make additional adjusting entries that are not generated through specific source documents. For example, depreciation expense is periodically recorded for items like equipment to account for the use of the asset and the loss of its value over time.

(6) Create an adjusted trial balance of the accounts. Once again, the left-side and right-side entries - i.e. debits and credits - must total to the same amount. (To learn more see, Fundamental Analysis: The Balance Sheet.)

(7) Combine the sums in the various accounts and present them in financial statements created for both internal and external use.

(8) Close the books for the current month by recording the necessary reversing entries to start fresh in the new period (usually the next month).

Nearly all companies create end-of-year financial reports, and a new set of books is begun each year. Depending on the nature of the company and its size, financial reports can be prepared at much more frequent (even daily) intervals. The SEC requires public companies to file financial reports on both a quarterly and yearly basis.
Accounting Basics: Financial Statements

Related Articles
  1. Investing

    What Does Debit Mean?

    Debit is an accounting term used to refer to the left side of an accounting journal entry. Each debit must be offset by an equal credit entry.
  2. Investing

    Understanding the Accounting Cycle

    An accounting cycle consists of the traditional procedures performed to record business events and transactions in a company’s accounting records.
  3. Investing

    What's a Trial Balance?

    A trial balance is a worksheet listing the debit or credit balances of all the ledger accounts for an entity. Under accounting theory, the total of all the debits must equal the total of all ...
  4. Personal Finance

    Accountant: Job Description & Average Salary

    Discover what the job description of an accountant entails, along with education and training, salary and skills necessary for success.
  5. Personal Finance

    Career Advice: Accounting Vs. Bookkeeping

    Learn the nuances that separate the similar careers of accounting and bookkeeping, and identify which is better for you based on your skills and career goals.
  6. Investing

    What is Accounting?

    Accounting is the recording of financial transactions of a business or organization. It also includes the process of summarizing, analyzing and reporting these transactions in financial statements.
  7. Investing

    How to Make a Closing Entry

    Observe the following procedure for making closing entries.
  8. Investing

    What is a Contra Account?

    A contra account is an offset that reduces the value of a related account.
  9. Personal Finance

    Do I Need A Personal Accountant?

    You know you need to keep your personal finances better organized. Should you hire professional help, and if so what kind?
  10. Investing

    What Is A Trading Account?

    A trading account enables an investor to buy and sell securities.
Frequently Asked Questions
  1. What is the difference between yield and return?

    While both terms are often used to describe the performance of an investment, yield and return are not one and the same ...
  2. What are the Differences Among a Real Estate Agent, a broker and a Realtor?

    Learn how agents, realtors, and brokers are often considered the same, but in reality, these real estate positions have different ...
  3. What is the difference between amortization and depreciation?

    Because very few assets last forever, one of the main principles of accrual accounting requires that an asset's cost be proportionally ...
  4. Which is better, a fixed or variable rate loan?

    A variable interest rate loan is a loan in which the interest rate charged on the outstanding balance varies as market interest ...
Trading Center