What Is A General Ledger, And Why Do You Need One?

Regularly a company’s accountants or accounting software post transactions from the general journal to the general ledger. When they post transactions, the accountants assign the transactions to one of the accounts in the ledger. General ledgers also serve as a useful tool for accountants to make sure the company’s books are balanced. Accountants can use the general ledger to find a trial balance, summing the debits and credits in each ledger.

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Critical in this method is that ensuring two columns are maintained for each account every account is analyzed to ascertain accuracy. In general ledger accounting, a business’s small business bookkeeping transactions are typically recorded using the double-entry bookkeeping method. Debits are offset by credits, assets are offset by liabilities, and losses are offset by income.

These accounts are arranged in the general ledger with the balance sheet accounts appearing first followed by the income statement accounts. In the case of certain types of accounting errors, it becomes necessary to go back to the general ledger and dig into the detail of each recorded transaction to locate the issue. At times, this can involve reviewing dozens of journal entries, but it is imperative to maintain reliably error-free and credible company financial normal balance statements. This helps accountants, company management, analysts, investors, and other stakeholders assess the company’s performance on an ongoing basis. In the past, general ledgers were physical books containing the transactions affecting the company’s assets, liabilities, owner’s equity, revenues and expenses. Today, most large companies use software applications such as Enterprise Resource Planning tools to manage and store this information.

The general ledger contains multiple accounts that track things like assets, liabilities, revenue, owners’ equity, expenses, and revenue. You can further divide each account into multiple subledgers covering things like cash or accounts payable. Double-entry transactions are posted in two columns, with debit postings on the left and credit entries on the right, and the total of all debit and credit entries must balance. In practice, the information found within the general ledger is used to produce various documents that depict a company’s current financial state and track changes over time.


Moreover, the general ledger itself can be used to provide insight when it seems that other, more specific documents aren’t giving you all of the information you need. The trial balance lists every general ledger account along with their balances. This makes it easier for an accountant to locate any errors and make adjustments. A trial balance is a report that lists the balances of all general ledger accounts of a company at a certain point in time.

In double-entry accounting, every transaction is listed in two places. In one account, the transaction is a credit, and it is listed in a second account as a debit. For example, a product sale increases the company’s cash or receivables but decreases its inventory by the same value. This method is useful in identifying entry and mathematical errors. Because entries are always noted as both debits and credits, the sum of debits must always equal the sum of credits. Before the age of technology, the general ledger was manually kept by a bookkeeper in a large book that took an even larger amount of manual work to keep up.

Each of these subledgers includes information about the company’s assets and liabilities. General ledgers use the double-entry bookkeeping system, bookkeeping services so every debit must have a corresponding credit and vice versa. This helps accountants determine whether a general ledger is balanced.

What’s A Subsidiary Ledger?

When a debit or credit is posted to the ledger, a reference number is recorded alongside, or assigned to, the corresponding journal entry. This process provides the accounting department with a tracking mechanism to ensure all journal entries are eventually posted to the company’s general ledger. Subsidiary ledgers, also known as sub-ledgers, are frequently used to store information at a more granular level. For example, there may be a sub-ledger for accounts receivable or revenues. As part of the accounting cycle, transactions are posted to the general ledger using a double-entry approach; which involves both a debit and credit for each entry. General ledgers features double-entry accounting, which is a bookkeeping method first devised in the late 1400s.

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  • Business owners kept any accounting records in large binders with reams of paper files.
  • Although there are tools that automatically categorize these transactions, it’s still important to know the basic components of general ledger accounts.
  • Knowing the components means you can spot potential issues in your financial data.
  • Before computers and software, we did all of our accounting by hand.
  • In financial accounting, a company’s main accounting record is its general ledger.
  • Fortunately, accounting has gone digital, and as a small business owner, you can automate your financial transactions with accounting software like QuickBooks.

The Definition Of General Ledger Accounting

The accountant would enter this transaction into the accounting ledger by posting a $500 debit to accounts receivable and a $500 credit to revenue, which is an income statement account. Debits and credits both increase by $500, and the totals stay in balance.

Debits are listed as losses in the same accounts in which credits are gains (liability, owner’s equity and revenue). However, debits are actually listed as gains in the other accounts . All transactions in a general ledger must be listed as a debit entry and a credit entry for the books to conform to double-entry accounting. Debits and credits either increase or decrease a particular account based on the nature of that account. In the case of recording debits and credits to the right account, the diagram below gives a great explanation. As a record for all of your transactions, the general ledger helps you create other accounting reports. These reports, from the profit and loss statement to the balance sheet, can be used to perform additional calculations that can be useful to determine the state of your business’s financial health.

general ledger accounting definition

Sub-ledgers are used when a particular account has a lot of activity. On January 31, after all of the cash journal entries posts, the general ledger lists the ending cash balance. Every transaction impacts two different accounts in the chart of accounts because every debit must have a corresponding credit, and every credit needs a related debit. Most businesses track accounts such as assets, liabilities, and owners’ equity, but the subaccounts within those accounts can vary.

The general ledger is a summary of every business transaction at the account level. Entries made in the general journal usually have a short description to describe what happened.

A general ledger is the central repository of a company’s financial transactions and accounts. It keeps track of every dollar that a company spends and every dollar it brings in. bookkeeping It also tracks the movement of assets and debts within the company. The general ledger contains subledgers, like accounts receivable, accounts payable, cash, and inventory.

No matter which accounting method you use for your business, keep this equation top of mind. It tells you everything you need to know about what healthy books look like. For a step-by-step introduction, see our guide https://marketbusinessnews.com/bookkeeping-pains-law-firms/ to double-entry accounting. Here’s a very simple example of a general ledger, using the single entry bookkeeping system . The general ledger summarizes all the financial information you have about your business.


A company’s general ledger is the basis of its financial reporting and the source of the information used therein. Transactions are noted from a source document, such as an invoice or bill, and tracked in the general journal. Periodically, all transactions made within a company are posted to the general ledger.

In other words, credit sales are purchases made by customers who do not render payment in full, in cash, at the time of purchase. Sage Fixed Assets Track and manage your business assets at every stage. Sage Intacct Advanced financial management platform for professionals with a growing business. In such systems, the GL serves as a central repository for the accounting data.

The information contained in the general ledger is extracted to produce a trial balance. Once a series of adjustments have been made to these accounts, it’s possible to produce the company’s financial statements. In practice, a journal is used to record and store transactions prior to posting in a ledger account.

It contains all the accounts that make up a business’ financial statements. The simplest general ledger is referred to as a “T-Account” since its depiction resembles an upper case “T.” The account name appears at the top of a sheet that is then divided into two columns. Debits always appear in the left column while credits always appear on the right side. Some general ledgers include a third column to the far right used for keeping track of the company’s balance in much the same way you do in your own checkbook register.

general ledger accounting definition

All investments involve risk, including the possible loss of capital. Before making decisions with legal, tax, or accounting effects, you should consult appropriate professionals. Information is from sources bookkeeping deemed reliable on the date of publication, but Robinhood does not guarantee its accuracy. The general ledger should hold all of the information a business needs to assess its financial situation.

What are the three golden rules of accounting?

Take a look at the three main rules of accounting:Debit the receiver and credit the giver.
Debit what comes in and credit what goes out.
Debit expenses and losses, credit income and gains.

The remaining four accounts on the list above are what you’ll find on your profit and loss or income statement. Unlike your balance sheet, these reports include temporary accounts, as they will be closed at the end of the year. You’ll begin the next year with no balance in all of these categories. Below is an example of a journal entry for the cash sub-ledger for a startup. This journal entry contains data from six days out of March 2019.

In the context of a general ledger, an equity is a net amount found by subtracting the amount of money a business owner has invested in a business from their total earnings. Alternatively, equity is found by subtracting the total amount of liabilities a business has incurred from the value of that business’ assets. Since each account contains financial data, it may occupy one or more pages in a general ledger.

general ledger accounting definition

When a company borrows funds, the cash balance increases, and the debt balance increases by the same amount. Transactions post from source documents like receipts and invoices. Are you interested in automating your accounting and having a better way to keep up with your business’ general ledger?

The value of an asset may appear in a balance sheet if the business acquired that asset. At the end of a specific period , an accountant will separate transaction data by type . The accountant will then close out those accounts and summarize them in the general ledger. Under this method, each transaction affects at least two accounts; one account is debited, while another is credited.

What is another word for transaction?

Synonyms foraffair.

The total debit amount must always be equal to the total credit amount. ● Making a general ledger begins with creating a journal or log with the details of every business transaction, as each transaction occurs. Companies use a general ledger reconciliation process to find and correct such errors in the accounting records. For example, an accountant might use a T-account — so named because of its T shape — to track just the debits and credits in a particular general ledger account. Other GL accounts summarize transactions for asset categories, such as plant and equipment, and liabilities, such as accounts payable and notes, or loans.

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