Chart of Accounts: The Ultimate Guide with examples

chart of accounts list

It appears as the owner’s or shareholders’ equity on the corporate balance sheet’s liability side. Fixed AssetsFixed assets are assets that are held for the long term and are not expected to be converted into cash in a short period of time. Plant and machinery, land and buildings, furniture, computers, copyright, and vehicles are all examples.

  • For example, a well-designed chart of accounts makes it easy for bookkeepers and accountants to figure out which financial transactions should be recorded into which general ledger account.
  • For example, we often suggest our clients break down their sales by revenue stream rather than just lumping all sales in a Revenue category.
  • Emilie is a Certified Accountant and Banker with Master’s in Business and 15 years of experience in finance and accounting from large corporates and banks, as well as fast-growing start-ups.
  • A chart of accounts is an index of all the financial accounts in a company’s general ledger .
  • 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.

A separate term for the aggregation of expenses and losses does not exist. She would then make an adjusting entry to move all of the plaster expenses she already had recorded in the “Lab Supplies” expenses account into the new “Plaster” expenses account. To do this, she would first chart of accounts add the new account—“Plaster”—to the chart of accounts. Instead of recording it in the “Lab Supplies” expenses account, Doris might decide to create a new account for the plaster. Back when we did everything on paper, you used to have to pick and organize these numbers yourself.

Explanation: What Is a Chart of Accounts?

A chart of accounts stores important information regarding company expense breakups. It can help you determine the exact amount of profit you owe to stakeholders. Every time you do this, you credit the cash asset account because that cash is no longer in the business. And every time you do that, you also debit your expense account for rent. The Payroll Liability account is a current liability account that QuickBooks automatically adds to your chart of account when you turn on payroll. The Payroll Liabilities account tracks taxes that you deduct from employee’s paychecks and hold temporarily until you turn them over to the government. These include federal and state income withholding taxes, local taxes, and the employee-paid portion of taxes such as Social Security and Medicare.

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The chart of accounts is simply the organized list of all the bins and shelves. The number of digits used to construct a chart of accounts matches the complexity and organization of the business. In very small businesses, a chart of accounts may be built with a three-digit numbering pattern.

Standard Chart of Accounts

Changes to a COA in the short term can make it challenging to analyze the difference in a company’s financial health over the long term. A chart of accounts will likely be as large and as complex as a company itself. An international corporation with several divisions may need thousands of accounts, whereas a small local retailer may need as few as one hundred accounts. For ease of use, a COA contains the list of accounts’ names, brief descriptions, account type, account balance and account codes for each sub-account. Cost of Goods Sold, or COGS, represents the total expense to produce a product or service. It normally includes direct costs such as parts, materials, and labor, but does not take into consideration indirect costs such as distribution.

If the firm wants to include all the expenses to provide a complete understanding of where it is spending the finances, it can customize its COA. However, the chart should be in line with the standard accounting norms. Modern accounting software lets you make journal entries as and when you need them, so you can manage your chart of accounts to meet the business’s changing needs.


Often frustration with financial reporting can be fixed by remodeling the chart of accounts, rather than going through the very painful process of migrating to new software. While it sounds great in theory, in practice financial statements are what get faithfully generated and reviewed by management each month. Detailed reporting from the various modules often requires some effort to make sure it ties to the financials, and because of that , it doesn’t consistently get done. Building some level of detail into the chart of accounts is a practical way to ensure key information is always in the face of the management team.

Why do small businesses need a chart of accounts?

A chart of accounts helps small business owners keep their financial transactions organized, and it provides a snapshot of the company’s financial standing.

Whether or not its leaders are familiar with financial principles, any small business ready to grow to the next level will find a chart of accounts a necessary tool. Unlike some foundational problems, a chart of accounts can be optimized relatively quickly. A well-executed remodel can generally be implemented within a month and have a noticeable effect on financial reporting immediately. Good month-end financial reports are made accurate with large non-cash journal entries. For example, if wages earned from October are paid on November 7, a journal entry must be posted to move that November 7 cash expense to October 31, to make October financials accurate.

Deleting old accounts in the middle of the year can harm your bookkeeping process. SaaS platforms, like Volopay, are able to complete such automatable tasks within minutes. When pitching to an investor or lender, you must ensure that you have all of your documentation accurately prepared—including your chart of accounts.

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