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What is Chart of Accounts in Accounting and How to Map One?


That’s why you have to think carefully about what exactly to include in cost of revenue compared to OpEx when building your CoA structure. The best chart of accounts structure is the one that perfectly aligns with how your business operates and how you want to analyze it. Following best practices for high-level account numbering is a good starting point. But you have to go a step further and decide what level of granularity is necessary in each account category.

  • The chart of accounts is a listing of all accounts used in the general ledger of an organization.
  • You can clean up your general ledger by taking the single account approach to department tagging as long as you have a software solution that can automate the process and help you slice the data as needed.
  • She has also held editing roles at LearnVest, a personal finance startup, and its parent company, Northwestern Mutual.
  • For example, when using accounting software to write a check, the software automatically reduces the asset account cash and prompts you to designate the other account such as Rent Expense, Advertising Expense Etc.
  • If necessary, you may include additional categories that are relevant to your business.

For example, the expense of office supplies might be assigned the code 5600, or a credit card liability the code 2200. Please see our example below for a better understanding of what’s included in a sole proprietorship’s chart of accounts. Accruals and deferrals are used to allocate expenses and income over time, so that only those expenses and income that actually relate to each financial year are allocated to it. On the other hand, organizing the chart with a higher level of detail from the beginning allows for more flexibility in categorizing financial transactions and more consistent historical comparisons over time. Instead, each entity has the flexibility to customize its accounts chart to fit the specific individual needs of the business. A firm is a business organization—such as a corporation, limited liability company, or partnership—that sells goods or services to make a profit.

Metadata, or “data about data.” The Chart of accounts is in itself Metadata. It’s a classification scheme that enables aggregation of individual financial transactions into coherent, and hopefully informative, financial statements. Losses are decreases in equity from transactions and other events and circumstances affecting an entity except those that result from expenses or distributions to owners .

Reliance on any information provided on this site or courses is solely at your own risk. Based on the sophistication of the company, the chart of accounts can be paper-based or computer based. It is important to initially plan ahead and create a chart of accounts that is unlikely to change for several years, so that you can compare the results in the same account over a multi-year periods.

Chart Of Accounts Example

But your goal isn’t necessary to follow the accounting status quo. You can clean up your general ledger by taking the single account approach to department tagging as long as you have a software solution that can automate the process and help you slice the data as needed. Map your Facilities and Related category down to office expenses, rent, repairs, and utilities—but don’t make your gas and water bills separate accounts. Regulation S-X, Regulation S-K and Proxy statement In the U.S. the Securities and Exchange Commission prescribes and requires numerous quarterly and annual financial statement disclosures.

Accounts are usually listed in order of their appearance in the financial statements, starting with the balance sheet and continuing with the income statement. Thus, the chart of accounts begins with cash, proceeds through liabilities and shareholders’ equity, and then continues with accounts for revenues and then expenses. These account types are also classified in the chart of accounts list under two financial statements – the balance sheet and income statement.

The general ledger—and by extension, CoA—tells you where to record each transaction and makes lookup and access easy. Harold Averkamp has worked as a university accounting instructor, accountant, and consultant for more than 25 years. He is the sole author of all the materials on AccountingCoach.com. Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page.


This article explains how the chart of accounts is organized and includes an example of possible account numbering in the chart of accounts. You can think of this like a rolodex of accounts that the bookkeeper and the accounting software can use to record transactions, make reports, and prepare financial statements throughout the year. How you map cost of revenue and operating expenses in your chart of accounts impacts your gross margin and gross profit.

The Accounting Gap Between Large and Small Companies

Your third and final column should be dedicated to the chart of accounts expense categories. There are 4 primary account types that these account names get assigned to. Your chart of accounts list is the best place to gain visibility over where your money is coming from and its particulars. It makes keeping track of sales easy and also helps determine how much of your assets are easily liquidatable. The chart of accounts is a numbered list of all accounts used to record and summarize business transactions. Although the chart of accounts is considered a complete listing, it changes over time as you add new account numbers.

  • You can customize your COA so that the structure reflects the specific needs of your business.
  • You want to make it easy to compare the performance of different accounts over time.
  • The balance sheet accounts are listed first, followed by the accounts in the income statement.
  • The remaining two are income or revenue and expenses, which flow into the income statement.
  • Deleting old accounts in the middle of the year can harm your bookkeeping process.
  • It only includes revenues related to the core functions of the business and excludes revenues that are unrelated to the main activities of the business.

The terms equity or net assets [not-for-profit enterprise] represent the residual interest in the assets of an entity that remains after deducting its liabilities . Equity accounts include common stock, paid-in capital, and retained earnings. Equity accounts can vary depending where an entity is domiciled as some jurisdictions require entities to keep various sub-classifications of equity in separate accounts. If you’ve worked on a general ledger before, you’ll notice the accounts for the ledger are the same as the ones found in a chart of accounts.Keeping your books organized does not need to be a chore. 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.

An international corporation with several divisions may need thousands of accounts, whereas a small local retailer may need as few as one hundred accounts. 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. The money your business brings in from the sale of its goods or services. Most charts of accounts will look structurally similar to the one shown.

Best chart of accounts software

FreshBooks accounting software is an affordable and reliable option for online bookkeeping services that will help you stay on track and grow your business. A chart of accounts is a small business accounting tool that organizes the essential accounts that comprise your business’s financial statements. Your COA is a useful document that lets you present all the financial information about your business in one place, giving you a clear picture of your company’s financial health. Through the financial reports created from the chart of accounts, you can evaluate your company’s performance during a particular period of time. You can also conduct a comparative review of company performance with historical data during a different period of time.


Looking at the personal accountant will help you determine whether all aspects of your business are as effective as they could be. If you keep your COA format the same over time, it will be easier to compare results through several years’ worth of information. This acts as a company financial health report that is useful not only to business owner, but also investors and shareholders. The owner’s equity accounts to include vary based on the entity type of the business.

While in most jurisdictions and industries it is entirely up to each entity to design the chart of accounts according to its specific requirements, others provide general guidelines or are even regulated by law. Even for a small business, however, more digits allow the flexibility to add new accounts as the business grows in the future, while maintaining the logical order of the coding system. Nevertheless, the exact structure of the chart of accounts is the reflection on the individual needs of each entity. Essentially, if you placed the statements of financial position and performance on top of each other, you would come up with the chart of accounts. Accruals are revenues earned or expenses incurred which impact a company’s net income, although cash has not yet exchanged hands. Capitalization is an accounting method in which a cost is included in the value of an asset and expensed over the useful life of that asset.

SAP Business One

As a startup, your focus should be growing your business and making it more efficient. One of the essential tools you need to manage your finances is accounting software. It’s inevitable that you will need to add accounts to your chart in the future, but don’t drastically change the numbering structure and total number of accounts in the future. A big change will make it difficult to compare accounting record between these years.

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Balance sheet accounts consist of assets, liabilities and equity; which are arranged by liquidity, with the most liquid assets listed at the top. Examples of expense accounts include the cost of goods sold ,depreciation expense, utility expense, and wages expense. Lastly, a well-structured and up-to-date chart of accounts can be your best friend during tax time. It can give you quick access to transaction details of all particulars that are taxable for your business. Alongside sales and dues, chart of accounts mapping also tracks where and what your money is being spent on.


The chart of accounts clearly separates your earnings, expenditures, assets, and liabilities to give an accurate overview of your business’s financial performance. The chart of accounts is a listing of all accounts used in the general ledger of an organization. The chart is used by the accounting software to aggregate information into an entity’s financial statements. The chart is usually sorted in order by account number, to ease the task of locating specific accounts. The accounts are usually numeric, but can also be alphabetic or alphanumeric. The main components of the income statement accounts include the revenue accounts and expense accounts.

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The following numbering system would be similar to that of a small to mid sized business. Revenue Accounts – Revenue Accounts keep track of the money coming into the Business. The Chart of accounts is divided into two parts – The Balance Sheet Accounts followed by the Income Statement Accounts. The amount of detail that the company management would need to prepare internal reports. The right level of granularity comes down to how you answer the one main question—how do you want to view your business?

This classic go-to software for FP&A and strategic finance professionals is still widely used today. NetSuite also integrates with Cube, so you can keep your accounting and FP&A separate. This keeps you from creating too many specific accounts and spares you from a painful cleanup process at the end of the year. Now you have a birds-eye view of a company’s daily operations and how it’s spending and making money.

Expenses are all the non-debt money that you need to spend in order to keep your business running. Income or revenue account numbers usually begin with reference number 4. CoA replaces the filing cabinets of yore where back offices had intricate paper indexing systems for their transactions. It’s a best practice to never delete accounts in your CoA until the end of the year.

It doesn’t include any other information about each account like balances, debits, and credits like atrial balancedoes. After you are done with the list of accounts, make sure to distribute the list to any employees that may use it. Even employees that are not involved in the bookkeeping function my need a copy of the chart of accounts if they code invoices or other transactions. The parent/child approach organizes your financial statements but comes with limitations.

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In the chart of accounts balance sheet, you have your Assets, Liabilities, and Equity while in your Income or P&L statement you have Income, cost of goods sold , expenses, etc. These sub-types will decide which account in the corresponding financial statement the transaction will be classified under. When setting up a chart of accounts, typically, the accounts that are listed will depend on the nature of the business. For example, a taxi business will include certain accounts that are specific to the taxi business, in addition to the general accounts that are common to all businesses. Within the accounts of the income statement, revenues and expenses could be broken into operating revenues, operating expenses, non-operating revenues, and non-operating losses.

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