Double Entry Overview, History, How It Works, Example

double entry accounting definition

If the fleet owner would have bought the trucks in cash, then a credit entry has to be made in cash account and a debit entry to the inventory account. Debits and Credits are essentials to enter data in a double entry system of accounting and book-keeping. While posting an accounting entry, an entry on the left side of the account ledger is a debit entry and right side entry is a credit entry. So, let’s consider an example in order to understand how this accounting equation remains balanced despite various business transactions having their impact. Double-entry accounting is a system where every transaction affects two accounts.

If you were using single-entry accounting, you would simply reduce your bank account balance by $500. If you’d only entered the $200 as a deposit, your bank account balance would be accurate, but your utility expense would be too high. If you’re not sure which accounting software application is right for your business, be sure to check out The Ascent’s in-depth accounting software reviews. This shows the same transaction recorded using double-entry accounting. While your ledger gives you an idea of how much money is in your account, it does nothing to help you track your expenses, or know how much money your customers owe you. The closest example of this basic accounting is the bank account ledger you use to keep track of your spending.

Double-Entry Accounting Examples

Some thinkers have argued that double-entry accounting was a key calculative technology responsible for the birth of capitalism. When a company pays a six-month insurance premium, the company’s asset Cash is decreased and its asset Prepaid Insurance is increased. Each month, one-sixth of the premium Role of Financial Management in Law Firm Success is recorded as Insurance Expense and the balance in Prepaid Insurance is reduced. While you can certainly create a chart of accounts manually, accounting software applications typically do this for you. Once you have your chart of accounts in place, you can start using double-entry accounting.

It’s similar to maintaining a checkbook register, where you record events in a sequential fashion. This is commonly illustrated using T-accounts, especially when teaching the concept in foundational-level accounting classes. However, T- accounts are also used by more experienced professionals as well, as it gives a visual depiction of the movement of figures from one account to another.

Double-Entry Accounting

This pairing ensures that every aspect of a business is properly accounted for. When you’re thinking about how to balance your books, you might be trying to decide between double-entry or single-entry accounting. These two hallmark approaches to business finances help document every financial transaction. If you’re not sure whether your accounting system is double-entry, a good rule of thumb is to look for a balance sheet. If you can produce a balance sheet from your accounting software without having to input anything other than the date for the report, you are using a double-entry accounting system. For example, when you take out a business loan, you increase (credit) your liabilities account because you’ll need to pay your lender back in the future.

If you’re a freelancer, sole entrepreneur, or contractor, chances are you’ve been using single-entry accounting, especially if you aren’t using accounting software. By using double-entry accounting, you can be sure all of your transactions are following the rules of the accounting equation. For comparison, a single-entry system would only decrease the cash or main account by $1,000. This imbalance makes it difficult to understand the business’s overall value. This style of accounting is ideal for low-volume businesses wanting an easy system. In particular, sole proprietors are ideal candidates for single-entry accounting since you’re the only person who needs to understand the books.


Once all the transactions are complete, the financial statements are produced. The total amount of the transactions in each case must balance out, ensuring that all dollars are accounted for. This then gives you and your investors or bank manager a good picture of the financial health of your business. Nonprofit Accounting: A Guide to Basics and Best Practices The best way to get started with double-entry accounting is by using accounting software. Many popular accounting software applications such as QuickBooks Online, FreshBooks, and Xero offer a downloadable demo you can try. Double-entry accounting allows you to better manage business-related expenses.

  • Ultimately, the inclusion of a complete balance sheet is a good idea, as it helps accurately track finances and avoid errors.
  • With AccountEdge, business owners can organize, process, and report on their financial information so they can focus on their business.
  • This declaration is called a “chart of accounts.” Some examples might include cash, rent and supply accounts.
  • The 15th-century Franciscan Friar Luca Pacioli is often credited with being the first to write about modern accounting methods like double-entry accounting.
  • There are two different ways to record the effects of debits and credits on accounts in the double-entry system of bookkeeping.
  • This complexity may feel challenging for beginners or small business owners who do not have a strong accounting background.

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