Size – Set up your chart to have enough accounts to record transactions properly, but don’t go over board. The more accounts you have, the more difficult it will be consolidate them into financial statements and reports. Also, it’s important to periodically look through the chart and consolidate duplicate accounts.

However, in a managerial-focused environment, fixed costs are often kept out of gross margin, to keep it from being distorted by swings in sales. On one hand, keeping the number of accounts to a minimum will make the accounting system more straightforward to use. Update the COA at least annually or when significant changes occur, such as business expansion, diversification, or changes in accounting regulations. Income accounts are instrumental in assessing the profitability and operational efficiency of a business. Over 1.8 million professionals use CFI to learn accounting, financial analysis, modeling and more. Start with a free account to explore 20+ always-free courses and hundreds of finance templates and cheat sheets.

Back when we did everything on paper, you used to have to pick and organize these numbers yourself. But because most accounting software these days will generate these for you automatically, you don’t have to worry about selecting reference numbers. Companies in different lines of business will have different looking charts of accounts. The chart of accounts for a major airline will have a lot more references to “aircraft parts” than your local cat cafe. Equity, a fundamental part of a company’s financial structure, represents the ownership interest of its shareholders.

Each of the accounts in the chart of accounts corresponds to the two main financial statements, i.e., the balance sheet and income statement. 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.

The exact layout of the accounting chart of accounts is a matter of choice depending on the exact reporting requirements of the business. The important point to remember is not to over complicate the chart of accounts. This sample chart of accounts structure allows the business to easily identify accounts and account codes enabling transactions to be posted and the trial balance and financial statements lifo liquidation to be prepared. Understanding a company’s financial health goes beyond just analyzing its assets. Liabilities, the financial obligations a company owes to external parties, provide a comprehensive view of its financial standing. In financial statements, liabilities are broadly categorized into current and non-current, each displaying various aspects of the company’s financial commitments.

  1. A chart of accounts lists all of the account names in a company’s general ledger.
  2. It is quite common for financial reports to fall short of executives’ expectations.
  3. The accounting software then aggregates the information into an entity’s financial statements.
  4. Say you have a checking account, a savings account, and a certificate of deposit (CD) at the same bank.
  5. While the numbering scheme may vary with the size and complexity of the business, it generally follows a logical sequence aligned with account categories.

In order to keep the number of accounts down to a manageable level, you may periodically review the list and close any accounts that are not fully utilized. If you start off with only a handful of accounts and then keep expanding the list as your business grows, it may become increasingly challenging to compare financial results against the previous years. And even within the manufacturing line of business, a manufacturer in the aerospace sector will have a much different looking chart of accounts than one that produces computer hardware or even clothing apparel. Nevertheless, the exact structure of the chart of accounts is the reflection on the individual needs of each entity. Take note, however, that the chart of accounts vary from company to company.

Can the chart of accounts influence the audit process, and if so, how can it be designed to facilitate audits?

Double-entry bookkeeping introduced the concept of recording transactions with corresponding debits and credits, enhancing the accuracy of financial records. While Pacioli’s work laid the foundation for modern accounting, a standardized chart of accounts had yet to emerge. For example, a company may decide to code assets from 100 to 199, liabilities from 200 to 299, equity from 300 to 399, and so forth. Those could then be broken down further into, e.g., current assets ( ) and current liabilities ( ). The number of figures used depends on the size and complexity of a company and its transactions. A systematic numbering system is used to efficiently organize all the financial accounts.

Just be sure to make it easy for them by incorporating any special accounts they need into your remodeled chart accounts. Some accountants recommend sticking with a GAAP-oriented chart of accounts and generating management-oriented financials through custom reports. These custom reports cobble together numbers from various sections of the chart of accounts to get the financial statement layout management is looking for. That level is managerial accounting, and it’s where you create financial reports with the information you want to see.

Groups of numbers are assigned to each of the five main categories, while blank numbers are left at the end to allow for additional accounts to be added in the future. Also, the numbering should be consistent to make it easier for management to roll up information of the company from one period to the next. The Gains and losses account in the chart of accounts is where a company records any profits (gains) or losses it experiences. This account is like a financial record of the good and not-so-good financial events. Gains are positive changes that bring in more money, while losses are negative changes that mean the company has lost money. By tracking gains and losses, a company can understand how well it’s doing financially and make informed decisions about its business.

We believe everyone should be able to make financial decisions with confidence. With NetSuite, you go live in a predictable timeframe — smart, stepped implementations begin with sales and span the entire customer lifecycle, so there’s continuity from sales to services to support. The numbering system may be tailored to accommodate the requirements and inclinations of each organization.

Take advantage of accounting software

You might also notice that there are specificities of the business that might affect the structure of the chart of accounts. Non-operating expenses are costs not directly tied to a company’s core business activities. Understanding these expenses is crucial for assessing the broader financial impact on the organization. To understand the chart of accounts, you might want tot figure out what are accounts in your books.


Unfortunately, using a pre-fabricated chart of accounts is like trying to build a dream house on a one-size-fits-all concrete foundation. The house would end up very different from the dream, and not be very functional. For standardization purposes, many industry associations publish recommended charts of accounts for their respective sectors. In addition to the universal general accounts that are prevalent in most entities, each entity will include certain accounts that are particular to its industry sector. Instead, each entity has the flexibility to customize its accounts chart to fit the specific individual needs of the business. For bigger companies, the accounts may be divided into several sub-accounts.

Account Numbering System: A Key Aspect of the COA’s Structure

FreshBooks will help you stay organized with a user-friendly interface that keeps things simple. Balance sheet accounts like assets, liabilities, and shareholder’s equity are shown first, and then come income statement accounts like revenue and expenses, in the order they appear on your financial statements. You may also wish to break down your business’ COA according to product line, company division, or business function, depending on your unique needs. Setting up a chart of accounts can provide a helpful tool that enables a company’s management to easily record transactions, prepare financial statements, and review revenues and expenses in detail.

How can a chart of accounts be used in financial reporting?

In accounting, each transaction you record is categorized according to its account and subaccount to help keep your books organized. These accounts and subaccounts are located in the COA, along with their balances. But experience has shown that the most common format organizes information by individual account and assigns each account a code and description.

However, they also must respect the guidelines set out by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). To make it easy for readers to locate specific accounts or to know what they’re looking at instantly, each COA typically contains identification codes, names, and brief descriptions for accounts. But the final structure and look will depend on the type of business and its size. Your chart of accounts is a living document for your business and because of that, accounts will inevitably need to be added or removed over time. The general rule for adding or removing accounts is to add accounts as they come in, but wait until the end of the year or quarter to remove any old accounts.

By doing so, you can easily understand what products or services are generating the most revenue in your business. If you create too many categories in your chart of account, you can make your entire financial reports difficult to read and analyze. At its core, a chart of accounts is a list of all the individual financial accounts a business uses. The first three are assets, liabilities, and equity, which flow into the balance sheet.