Understanding the Basics: What Is a General Ledger?

You do this as a result of balancing the debit and the credit sides of such accounts. Furthermore, the information recorded in General Ledger is divided based on the type of accounts. Thus, a purchase ledger helps you to keep a track of the purchases your business entity makes.

  • One way to avoid errors is to use a POS system like Lightspeed Retail, which connects with accounting software to automatically sync data.
  • In this example, the transaction is for a cash payment from a client account to ABCDEFGH Software.
  • Thus, you as a business owner cannot evaluate your company’s liquidity, profitability, and overall financial position.
  • In contrast, the accounts that feed into the balance sheet are permanent accounts used to track the ongoing financial health of the business.
  • Whereas, the sales details of various debtors like Jack & Co., Mayers, and John can be found in the related subsidiary ledger.

If your business is busy, and you find it hard to keep your books organized with this template, it may be time to consider double-entry bookkeeping. Other GL accounts summarize transactions for asset categories, such as physical plants and equipment, and liabilities, such as accounts payable, notes or loans. In this guide we’ll walk you through the financial statements every small business owner should understand and explain the accounting formulas you should know. When a company receives payment from a client for the sale of a product, the cash received is tabulated in net sales along with the receipts from other sales and returns. The cost of sales is subtracted from that sum to yield the gross profit for that reporting period. Furthermore, unlike journal where transactions are recorded in chronological order as they occur.

General Ledger Defined: What It Is & Why You Need One

Once the Journal is complete, these transactions are then posted to individual accounts contained in General Ledger. Thus, accounts that get Debited or Credited are used to denote the give and take involved in every transaction. So such a system of debit and credit helps in finding out the final position of every item at the end of the given accounting period. For one, they provide a way to track and categorize financial transactions. This can be extremely helpful in large organizations with complex financial operations.

The general ledger also contains information used to calculate the financial performance of an organization. Understanding an organization’s finances is essential for creating budgets and business strategies, as well as for assessing the financial health of a business. The general ledger should include the date, description and balance or total amount for each account.

Posting: Transferring Information from Journals to the GL

Here, a Subsidiary Ledger is a ledger recording detailed information of the related Control Account. Accounts Receivable is most commonly used as a General Ledger Control Account. Furthermore, you can refer back to the details with regards to the sales made in case you need to do so in the future.


The controlling area-specific data is only needed for Secondary Costs and Primary Costs or Revenue accounts. In the controlling area-specific data, you assign a Cost Element category. This category determines which account can be used for which business transaction in CO. You can control which account numbers are permissible for cash accounts, expense accounts, and so on, through the number ranges.

Examples of General Ledger Accounts

Further, this could become a cause of concern for you as a business entity. Now, it becomes challenging for you to identify this transaction if the Ledger Accounts are not prepared. This is because there are a number of transactions that occur during an accounting period. Furthermore, General Ledger Accounting also helps you to spot material misstatements with regard to various accounts.

What worked well in the past might not serve the business needs of the future. With its focus on past transactions, the information in a general ledger often reflects a point in time (month-end, quarter-end, or year-end). For instance, the purchase of a $2,000 computer would increase the business’s assets by $2,000 while decreasing its cash position by the same amount.

Where do small businesses go wrong with general ledgers?

However, a separate ledger for the company’s accounts receivable will reflect a credit reduction for the same amount, because ABCDEFGH Software no longer has that amount receivable from its client. For example, a CPA might use a T-account — named because of its physical layout in the shape of a T — to track just the debits and credits in a particular general ledger account. A company may opt to store its general ledger using blockchain technology, which can prevent fraudulent accounting transactions and preserve the ledger’s data integrity. For example, the GL code for an accounts receivable might be account #105. GL codes aren’t substitutes for descriptive account names, but they’re a useful tool for rapid data entry and effective organization. For example, you need to record the rent expense every month if you take computers on rent and decide to prepay the rent in January for the next twelve months.

Besides this, you can refer back to the purchase details in case you need to so in the future. Therefore, a General Ledger helps you to know the ultimate result of all the transactions that take place with regards dry chemical agents to specific accounts on a given date. 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.

All of these transactions are then assigned a specific code, which is used to track and report on the activity. If you’re a business owner, chances are you’ve heard of the term “GL account.” But what is it exactly? GL stands for General Ledger and this account is essentially a system of accounting that helps businesses track financial transactions. It’s an extremely valuable tool for any business, as it allows them to keep track of their finances in a simple and organized way.

Likewise, Sales Ledger also helps you to keep track of payments received and yet to be received from your customers. For a step-by-step introduction, see our (relatively painless) guide to double-entry accounting. The advent of machine learning, automation, and the Workday Enterprise Management Cloud suggests the era of a continuous close for financial reporting is within reach. Our Chief Accounting Officer and Vice President Philippa Lawrence explains how we’ll get there. As businesses attempt to keep pace with the speed of change, the general ledger is of limited use when providing forward-looking insight and business strategies. Luke O’Neill writes for growing businesses in fintech, legal SaaS, and education.

The latter is less common and suited to smaller, simpler businesses without many monthly transactions. General Ledger Codes are nothing but the numeric codes that you assign to different General Ledger Accounts. These accounts help you in organizing the General Ledger Accounts properly and recording transactions quickly.