Bookkeeping and Accounting for Small Business

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When you first get started in a small business, you'll hear the terms bookkeeping and accounting bantered about almost interchangeably. However, these terms do not mean the same thing. Small businesses have both bookkeeping and accounting functions, and they are synergistic.

Bookkeeping is the practice of recording your business transactions in your general ledger, the book or software that you record them into. Accounting is the practice of analyzing the information in the ledgers, developing insights into a business' financial actions.

Bookkeeping

Bookkeeping is the process of the daily record-keeping of all of a company's financial transactions. Bookkeepers record the sales, expenses, cash and bank transactions of the business in a general ledger.

One of the important habits you should develop when you start a business is recording transactions in your journal and ledger. The ledger and its accuracy are central to your company's finances.

Recording these transactions is referred to as posting. A bookkeeper may also generate invoices and/or complete payroll. The complexity of the bookkeeping process depends on the size of your business and the number of transactions conducted daily, weekly, and monthly.

Bookkeeping Methods

The two methods of bookkeeping are single-entry and double-entry. Most businesses use the double-entry bookkeeping system in which every entry to an account requires a corresponding and opposite entry to a different account.

For instance, a $10 cash sale would require posting two entries: a debit entry of $10 to an account called "Cash" and a $10 credit entry to an account called "Revenue."

Bookkeeping can be done on a spreadsheet or a lined piece of paper. However, much of the bookkeeping process today is automated, and the software used also intertwines some components of the accounting process. 

The key attributes of a good bookkeeper are being a stickler for accuracy and completeness. Because even the most thorough bookkeeper can make mistakes, a bookkeeper usually works under the direction of an accountant.

Accounting

Accounting has been called the language of business. It is the process of measuring, processing, and communicating financial information. Accounting provides the business owner with information about the company's resources, finances, and the results the business achieves through their use.

The function of accounting is to prepare a record of the company's financial affairs. Accounting includes the interpretation of the numbers prepared by the bookkeeper to determine the financial health of the business.

It also includes the presentation of the financial health of a company, which involves preparing financial statements, and indicators that can be derived from them. Furthermore, a function of accounting is the preparation of tax and other required financial materials.

Accounting Methods

There are two different methods of accounting. One is based on the cash you have, and the cash you have received. The other is accrual basis accounting. If you have an inventory or a possibility of being audited, you are required to use accrual basis accounting under the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), established by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)

Cash-based accounting is much simpler than accrual basis accounting. In cash-based accounting, you record revenue when you receive it, and record payments when they are made. This method is usually limited to small businesses in the service industry that has no inventory.

The accrual basis accounting method is based on when revenues are earned, rather than received. This can be thought of a value being transferred between accounts. If you purchase a point of sale terminal, you transfer value from your cash account to your equipment account.

Credit is recorded to the cash account, and debit is recorded to the equipment account. A chart of accounts can help you decide when to credit or debit accounts.

The accounting function can also be outsourced to a private entity. In some small businesses, the bookkeeping and accounting functions are both outsourced. If you outsource your bookkeeping and accounting, you'll still want to be familiar with them both to understand the reports you'll receive.