The Question Is: What Is Accounting?

what is accounting

What Is Accounting?

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.

What Is 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 Is Accounting? – 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.

What Is Accounting? – 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.

An Introduction to Accounting



If everyone involved in the process of accounting followed their own system, or no system at all, there’s be no way to truly tell whether a company was profitable or not. Most companies follow what are called generally accepted principles, or GAAP, and there are huge tomes in libraries and bookstores devoted to just this one topic. Unless a company states otherwise, anyone reading a financial statement can make the assumption that company has used GAAP.

If GAAP are not the principles used for preparing financial statements, then a business needs to make clear which other form of accounting they’re used and are bound to avoid using titles in its financial statements that could mislead the person examining it.

GAAP are the gold standard for preparing financial statement. Not disclosing that it has used principles other than GAAP makes a company legally liable for any misleading or misunderstood data. These principles have been fine-tuned over decades and have effectively governed accounting methods and the financial reporting systems of businesses. Different principles have been established for different types of business entities, such for-profit and not-for-profit companies, governments and other enterprises.

GAAP are not cut and dried, however. They’re guidelines and as such are often open to interpretation. Estimates have to be made at times, and they require good faith efforts towards accuracy. You’ve surely heard the phrase “creative accounting” and this is when a company pushes the envelope a little (or a lot) to make their business look more profitable than it might actually be. This is also called massaging the numbers. This can get out of control and quickly turn into accounting fraud, which is also called cooking the books. The results of these practices can be devastating and ruin hundreds and thousands of lives, as in the cases of Enron, Rite Aid and others.

The history of it is thousands of years old and can be traced to ancient civilizations. The early development of accounting dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, and is closely related to developments in writing, counting and money; there is also evidence for early forms of bookkeeping in ancient Iran, and early auditing systems by the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians. By the time of the Emperor Augustus, the Roman government had access to detailed financial information.

Double-entry bookkeeping developed in medieval Europe, and accounting split into financial accounting and management accounting with the development of joint-stock companies. The first work on a double-entry bookkeeping system was published in Italy, by Luca Pacioli. It began to transition into an organized profession in the nineteenth century, with local professional bodies in England merging to form the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales in 1880.

The Basics Behind Accounting Principles

accounting principles

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; and 2) communicating the results of this process to interested parties.”

Accounting Principles – 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.

Accounting Principles – 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.

Accounting Principles – 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!

How Important is Bookkeeping



So what goes on the accounting and bookkeeping departments? What do these people do on a daily basis?

Well, one thing they do that’s terribly important to everyone working there is Payroll. All the salaries and taxes earned and paid by every employee every pay period have to be recorded. The payroll department has to ensure that the appropriate federal, state and local taxes are being deducted. The pay stub attached to your paycheck records these taxes. They usually include income tax, social security taxes pous employment taxes that have to be paid to federal and state government. Other deductions include personal ones, such as for retirement, vacation, sick pay or medical benefits. It’s a critical function. Some companies have their own payroll departments; others outsource it to specialists.

The accounting department receives and records any payments or cash received from customers or clients of the business or service. The accounting department has to make sure that the money is sourced accurately and deposited in the appropriate accounts. They also manage where the money goes; how much of it is kept on-hand for areas such as payroll, or how much of it goes out to pay what the company owes its banks, vendors and other obligations. Some should also be invested.

Bookkeeping – The other side of the receivables business is the payables area, or cash disbursements. A company writes a lot of checks during the course of year to pay for purchases, supplies, salaries, taxes, loans and services. The accounting department prepares all these checks and records to whom they were disbursed, how much and for what. Accounting departments also keep track of purchase orders placed for inventory, such as products that will be sold to customers or clients. They also keep track of assets such as a business’s property and equipment. This can include the office building, furniture, computers, even the smallest items such as pencils and pens.

The origin of book-keeping is lost in obscurity, but recent researches would appear to show that some method of keeping accounts has existed from the remotest times. Babylonian records have been found dating back as far as 2600 B.C., written with a stylus on small slabs of clay. The term “waste book” was used in colonial America referring to bookkeeping. The purpose was to document daily transactions including receipts and expenditures. This was recorded in chronological order, and the purpose was for temporary use only. The daily transactions would then be recorded in a daybook or account ledger in order to balance the accounts. The name “waste book” comes from the fact that once the waste book’s data were transferred to the actual journal, the waste book could be discarded.

The Many Different Careers in Accounting

careers in accounting

Careers in Accounting

There are many different careers in the field of accounting ranging from entry-level bookkeeping to the Chief Financial Officer of a company. To achieve positions with more responsibility and higher salaries, it’s necessary to have a degree in accounting as well as achieve various professional designations.

One of the primary milestones in any accountant’s career is to become a Certified Public Accountant or CPA. To become a CPA you have to go to college with a major in accounting. You also have to pass a national CPA exam. There’s also some employment experience required in a CPA firm. This is generally one to two years, although this varies from state to state. Once you satisfy all those requirements, you get a certificate that designates you as a CPA and you’re allowed to offer your services to the public.

Careers in Accounting – Many CPAs consider this just one stepping stone to their careers. The chief accountant in many offices is called the controller. The controller is in charge of managing the entire accounting system in a business stays on top of accounting and tax laws to keep the company legal and is responsible for preparing the financial statements.

Careers in Accounting – The controller is also in charge of financial planning and budgeting. Some companies have only one accounting professional who’s essentially the chief cook and bottle washer and does everything. As a business grows in size and complexity, then additional layers of personnel are required to handle the volume of work that comes from growth. Other areas in the company are also impacted by growth, and it’s part of the controller’s job to determine just how many more salaries the company can pay for additional people without negatively impacting growth and profits.

Careers in Accounting – The controller also is responsible for preparing tax returns for the business; a much more involved and complex task than completing personal income tax forms! In larger organizations, the controller can report to a vice president of finance who reports to the chief financial officer, who is responsible for the broad objectives for growth and profit and implementing the appropriate strategies to achieve the objectives.

What Exactly is Profit and Loss

profit and loss

Profit and Loss

It might seem like a no-brainer to define just exactly what profit and loss are. But of course these have definitions like everything else. Profit can be called different things, for a start. It’s sometimes called net income or net earnings. Businesses that sell products and services generate profit from the sales of those products or services and from controlling the attendant costs of running the business. Profit can also be referred to as Return on Investment, or ROI. While some definitions limit ROI to profit on investments in such securities as stocks or bonds, many companies use this term to refer to short-term and long-term business results. Profit is also sometimes called taxable income.

Profit and Loss – It’s the job of the accounting and finance professionals to assess the profits and losses of a company. They have to know what created both and what the results of both sides of the business equation are. They determine what the net worth of a company is. Net worth is the resulting dollar amount from deducting a company’s liabilities from its assets. In a privately held company, this is also called owner’s equity, since anything that’s left over after all the bills are paid, to put it simply, belongs to the owners. In a publicly held company, this profit is returned to the shareholders in the form of dividends. In other words, all liabilities have the first claim on any money the company makes. Anything that’s left over is profit. It’s not derived from one element or another. Net worth is determined after all the liabilities are deducted from all the assets, including cash and property.

Profit and Loss – Showing a profit, or a positive figure on the balance sheet, is of course the aim of every business. It’s what our economy and society are built on. It doesn’t always work out that way. Economic trends and consumer behaviors change and it’s not always possible to predict these and what income they’ll have on a company’s performance.

Bookkeeping Basics – A Function of Accounting

bookkeeping basics

Bookkeeping Basics

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.

Bookkeeping Basics – 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. Bookkeeping Basics – 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 in Bookkeeping Basics is for the bookkeeper to close the books, which means bringing all the bookkeeping for a fiscal year to a close and summarized.

The bookkeeping process primarily records the financial effects of transactions. The difference between a manual and any electronic accounting system results from the former’s latency (engineering) between the recording of a financial transaction and its posting in the relevant account. This delay—absent in electronic accounting systems due to nearly instantaneous posting into relevant accounts—is a basic characteristic of manual systems, thus giving rise to primary books of accounts such as Cash Book, Bank Book, Purchase Book, and Sales Book for recording the immediate effect of a financial transaction.

The Simple Guide to Personal Accounting

personal accounting

Personal Accounting

If you have a bank 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 Personal Accounting items 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.

when it comes to Personal Accounting you also need to discover if you’ve made any errors in your recordkeeping or if the bank has made any errors.

Another form of 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 Personal Accounting income that’s subject to taxes after personal exemptions and deductions are factored in.

Easy Tips on Making a Profit

making a profit

Making a Profit

Accountants are responsible for preparing three primary types of financial statements for a business. The income statement reports the profit-making activities of the business and the bottom-line profit or loss for a specified period. The balance sheets reports the financial position of the business at a specific point in time, ofteh the last day of the period. and the statement of cash flows reports how much cash was generated from profit what the business did with this money.

Everyone knows profit is a good thing. It’s what our economy is founded on. It doesn’t sound like such a big deal. Make more money than you spend to sell or manufacture products. But of course nothing’s ever really simple, is it? A profit report, or net income statement first identifies the business and the time period that is being summarized in the report.

Making a Profit – You read an income statement from the top line to the bottom line. Every step of the income statement reports the deduction of an expense. The income statement also reports changes in assets and liabilities as well, so that if there’s a revenue increase, it’s either because there’s been an increase in assets or a decrease in a company’s liabilities. If there’s been an increase in the expense line, it’s because there’s been either a decrease in assets or an increase in liabilities.

Profit, in accounting, is an income distributed to the owner in a profitable market production process (business). Profit is a measure of profitability which is the owner’s major interest in income formation process of market production. There are several profit measures in common use.

Making a Profit – These shifts in assets and liabilities are important to owners and executives of a business because it’s their responsibility to manage and control such changes. In a business involves several variable, not just increasing the amount of cash that flows through a company, but management of other assets as well.

Making a Profit – Optimum profit is a theoretical measure and denotes the “right” level of profit a business can achieve. In the business, this figure takes account of marketing strategy, market position, and other methods of increasing returns above the competitive rate.

Accounting profits should include economic profits, which are also called economic rents. For instance, a monopoly can have very high economic profits, and those profits might include a rent on some natural resource that a firm owns, whereby that resource cannot be easily duplicated by other firms.

Accounting Basics – Investing and Financing

investing and financing

Investing and Financing

Another portion of the statement of cash flows reports the investment that the company took during the reporting year. New investments are signs of growing or upgrading the production and distribution facilities and capacity of the business. Disposing of long-term assets or divesting itself of a major part of its business can be good or bad news, depending on what’s driving those activities.

Investing and Financing – A business generally disposes of some of its fixed assets every year because they reached the end of their useful lives and will not be used any longer. These fixed assets are disposed of or sold or traded in on new fixed assets. The value of a fixed asset at the end of its useful life is called its salvage value. The proceeds from selling fixed assets are reported as a source of cash in the investing activities section of the statement of cash flows. Usually these are very small amounts.

Investing and Financing – Like individuals, companies at times have to finance its acquisitions when its internal cash flow isn’t enough to finance business growth. financing refers to a business raising capital from debt and quity sources, by borrowing money from banks and other sources willing to loan money to the business and by its owners putting additional money in the business. The term also includes the other side, making payments on debt and returning capital to owners. it includes cash distributions by the business from profit to its owners.

Investing and Financing – Most business borrow money for both short terms and long terms. Most cash flow statements report only the net increase or decrease in short-term debt, not the total amounts borrowed and total payments on the debt. When reporting long-term debt, however, both the total amounts and the repayments on long-term debt during a year are generally reported in the statement of cash flows. These are reported as gross figures, rather than net.