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Bookkeeping Basics

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Most people probably think of bookkeeping and accounting as the same thing, but bookkeeping is really one function of accounting, while accounting encompasses many functions involved in managing the financial affairs of a business. Accountants prepare reports based, in part, on the work of bookkeepers. Today we see just the bookkeeping basics of this accounting phenomenon

Bookkeepers perform all manner of record-keeping tasks. Some of them include the following:

-They prepare what are referred to as source documents for all the operations of a business – the buying, selling, transferring, paying and collecting. The documents include papers such as purchase orders, invoices, credit card slips, time cards, time sheets and expense reports. Bookkeepers also determine and enter in the source documents what are called the financial effects of the transactions and other business events. Those include paying the employees, making sales, borrowing money or buying products or raw materials for production.

-Bookkeepers also make entries of the financial effects into journals and accounts. These are two different things. A journal is the record of transactions in chronological order. An accounts is a separate record, or page for each asset and each liability. One transaction can affect several accounts.

-Bookkeepers prepare reports at the end of specific period of time, such as daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually. To do this, all the accounts need to be up to date. Inventory records must be updated and the reports checked and double-checked to ensure that they’re as error-free as possible.

-The bookkeepers also compile complete listings of all accounts. This is called the adjusted trial balance. While a small business may have a hundred or so accounts, very large businesses can have more than 10,000 accounts.

-The final step is for the bookkeeper to close the books, which means bringing all the bookkeeping for a fiscal year to a close and summarized.

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Personal Accounting

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If you have a checking account, of course you balance it periodically to account for any differences between what’s in your statement and what you wrote down for checks and deposits. Many people do it once a month when their statement is mailed to them, but with the advent of online banking, you can do it daily if you’re the sort whose banking tends to get away from them.

You balance your checkbook to note any charges in your checking account that you haven’t recorded in your checkbook. Some of these can include ATM fees, overdraft fees, special transaction fees or low balance fees, if you’re required to keep a minimum balance in your account. You also balance your checkbook to record any credits that you haven’t noted previously. They might include automatic deposits, or refunds or other electronic deposits. Your checking account might be an interest-bearing account and you want to record any interest that it’s earned.

You also need to discover if you’ve made any errors in your record keeping or if the bank has made any errors.

Another form of personal accounting that we all dread is the filing of annual federal income tax returns. Many people use a CPA to do their returns; others do it themselves. Most forms include the following items:

Income – any money you’ve earned from working or owning assets, unless there are specific exemptions from income tax.

Personal exemptions – this is a certain amount of income that is excused from tax.

Standard deduction – some personal expenditures or business expenses can be deducted from your income to reduce the taxable amount of income. These expenses include items such as interest paid on your home mortgage, charitable contributions and property taxes.

Taxable income – This is the balance of income that’s subject to taxes after personal exemptions and deductions are factored in.

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Basic Accounting Principles

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Basic Accounting Principles

Accounting has been defined as, by Professor of Accounting at the University of Michigan William A Paton as having one basic function: “facilitating the administration of economic activity. This function has two closely related phases:
1) measuring and arraying economic data;
2) communicating the results of this process to interested parties.”

As an example, a company’s accountants periodically measure the profit and loss for a month, a quarter or a fiscal year and publish these results in a statement of profit and loss that’s called an income statement. These statements include elements such as accounts receivable (what’s owed to the company) and accounts payable (what the company owes). It can also get pretty complicated with subjects like retained earnings and accelerated depreciation. This at the higher levels of accounting and in the organization.

Much of accounting though, is also concerned with basic bookkeeping. This is the process that records every transaction; every bill paid, every dime owed, every dollar and cent spent and accumulated.

But the owners of the company, which can be individual owners or millions of shareholders are most concerned with the summaries of these transactions, contained in the financial statement. The financial statement summarizes a company’s assets. A value of an asset is what it cost when it was first acquired. The financial statement also records what the sources of the assets were. Some assets are in the form of loans that have to be paid back. Profits are also an asset of the business.

In what’s called double-entry bookkeeping, the liabilities are also summarized. Obviously, a company wants to show a higher amount of assets to offset the liabilities and show a profit. The management of these two elements is the essence of accounting.

There is a system for doing this; not every company or individual can devise their own systems for accounting; the result would be chaos!

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What Is Accounting Anyway?

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Anyone who’s worked in an office at some point or another has had to go to accounting. They’re the people who pay and send out the bills that keep the business running. They do a lot more than that, though. Sometimes referred to as “bean counters” they also keep their eye on profits, costs and losses. Unless you’re running your own business and acting as your own accountant, you’d have no way of knowing just how profitable – or not – your business is without some form of accounting.

No matter what business you’re in, even if all you do is balance a checkbook, that’s still accounting. It’s part of even a kid’s life. Saving an allowance, spending it all at once – these are accounting principles.

What are some other businesses where accounting is critical? Well, farmers need to follow careful accounting procedures. Many of them run their farms year to year by taking loans to plant the crops. If it’s a good year, a profitable one, then they can pay off their loan; if not, they might have to carry the loan over, and accrue more interest charges.

Every business and every individual needs to have some kind of accounting system in their lives. Otherwise, the finances can get away from them, they don’t know what they’ve spent, or whether they can expect a profit or a loss from their business. Staying on top of accounting, whether it’s for a multi-billion dollar business or for a personal checking account is a necessary activity on a daily basis if you’re smart. Not doing so can mean anything from a bounced check or posting a loss to a company’s shareholders. Both scenarios can be equally devastating.

Accounting is basically information, and this information is published periodically in business as a profit and loss statement, or an income statement.

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