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Chart Of Accounts
by Bean Counter's Dave Marshall

Lesson 1
Using Codes

Introduction Lesson 1 Lesson 2 Lesson 3 Lesson 4 Lesson 5
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How Codes Are Used in Conjunction with Building The Chart Of Accounts ?

As coding applies to bookkeeping and accounting we just mean that we assign a name, number (or both), description, and group or category identifiers to each unique account.

What is used to identify what groups or categories an account belongs to and define an account ?
The account numbering system itself or assigning groups or category identifiers.

What groups or categories are the accounts assigned to using account numbering (blocks of numbers) and/or account identifiers ?

As a minimum, the Chart of Accounts is customarily assigned to and arranged in the group / category that we discussed earlier. This group known as the Type Of Account is comprised of Assets, Liabilities, Owners' Equity, Revenue, and Expense accounts.

Account Numbering System

A simple or elaborate numbering system composed of numbers, alphabetic characters, or a combination of both (alphanumeric) is often used in setting up a chart accounts. Digits in the account number are used to indicate the type of account, a location of the company, a division of the company, a department of the company, etc. The account number could end up to be quite lengthy and composed of many digits representing the type of account, location, division, department, etc.

In other words we define accounts using ranges (blocks) of numbers. These number ranges (blocks) are used to define major account categories and sub-categories by assigning these numbers to each account that belongs to a unique group or category range.

Block codes used with numbers is one of the most frequent coding methods used when setting up a manual or computerized charts of accounts. Let's take a look at a simple example to help clarify what we're talking about.

Example of a Simple Account Numbering System Using Block Coding with Numbers

Eight Blocks of Numbers have been used to assign account groups based on the types of accounts in the following example.

Block Assigned Type of Account
100-199 Assets
200-299 Liabilities
300-399 Owner's Equity
400-499 Revenues
500-599 Costs of Goods Sold
600-699 Expenses
700-799 Other Revenue
800-899 Other Expenses

By separating each account number by several numbers, room is provided for adding additional new accounts.

Each of our blocks allow a maximum of 100 accounts.

The first digit (number) represents the type of account (asset, liability, etc.). If the first digit (number) is a 1 this account is an asset. If the first digit (number) is a 2 it is a liability and so on.

The block assigned for the type of account is used to assign account numbers to the individual accounts.

Examples Using the 3 digit numbers code structure:

  • The account Cash which is an asset account would be assigned a number using the block 100-199.
    100 - Cash
  • The account Accounts Payable which is a liability account would be assigned a number using the block 200-299.
    200 - Accounts Payable
  • The account Sales which is a revenue account would be assigned a number using the block 400-499.
    400 - Retail Sales

We would continue this process for all the individual accounts that are needed or required for recording and reporting your business transactions.

Account Identifiers or Attributes

Using Account Identifiers or Attributes is another method of coding that may be used for developing your chart of accounts.

Account Identifiers or Attributes are unique building blocks or pieces of information used to design and set up the chart of accounts. Each block or piece attaches additional identifying information to the account. Accounts are defined by assigning identifiers such as a division code, department code, type of account code (asset, liability, equity, revenue, expense), account group code (current asset, current liability, etc.) sequence code (order the account appears in financial reports), etc. that are used to group and report on different segments or activities of the business and provide information for formatting reports.

Commonly Used Account Groups and Categories
What are some common groups and categories that are often incorporated into the account number using blocks of numbers or that are assigned as building blocks using identifiers ?

  • Common Groups or Categories
  • Major Types of Accounts
    • Assets
    • Liabilities
    • Capital (Equity)
    • Revenue
    • Expenses
  • Balance Sheet Account Categories (Classifications)
    • Current Assets
    • Investments
    • Fixed Assets (Property, Plant, & Equipment)
    • Other Assets
    • Current Liabilities
    • Long Term Liabilities
    • Other Liabilities
    • Equity (Capital)
  • Income Statement Account Categories
    • Revenue Categories
      • Operating Revenue
        • Product Revenue
        • Service Revenue
      • Non-Operating Revenue
        • Investment Income
          • Interest Revenue
          • Dividend Income
        • Rental Income
        • Other Income
    • Expense Categories
      • Cost Of Sales
        • Cost Of Products
        • Cost Of Services
      • Operating Expenses
        • Marketing & Selling Expenses
        • General & Administrative Expenses (G&A)
      • Non-Operating Expenses
        • Research & Development Expenses (R&D)
        • Financing Expenses
  • Organizational Units (Responsibility / Cost Centers)
    • Locations
    • Divisions
    • Plants
    • Departments
    • Project, Process or Job
  • Special Use Account Categories
    • Control Accounts
      • Accounts Receivable Control
      • Inventory Control
      • Fixed Assets Control
      • Accounts Payable Control
    • Summary / Detail
    • Actual / Budgeted
    • Types Of Costs / Expenses
      • Fixed
      • Variable
      • Semi-Fixed
      • Semi-Variable
      • Direct / Indirect
      • Allocated / Distributed
      • Manufacturing Costs (manufacturing companies)
        • Direct Labor
        • Direct Material
        • Contracted Work
        • Manufacturing Overhead - Actual
        • Manufacturing Overhead - Applied

      Assigning Attributes To Accounts

      Let's take a look at a couple of possible account structures assigning the attribute department to our accounts.

      For our illustration, we're going to use the following accounts:

      • 5010 Wages
      • 5015 Fringe Benefits
      • 5020 Materials & Supplies

      For our department (attribute) we're going to use the following three manufacturing departments:

      • 01 - Machining Department
      • 02 - Assembly Department
      • 03 - Inspection Department

      Instead of building just one account structure, we're going to illustrate two possibilities.

      Our Two Possible Account Structures

      Structure 1
      Account Department
      Wages -01
        Machining Dept
        Assembly Dept
        Inspection Dept
      Fringe Benefits -01
        Machining Dept
        Assembly Dept
        Inspection Dept
      Structure 2
      Department Account
      Machining Dept -5010
        Fringe Benefits
      & Supplies

      Both structures present a parent and child relationship and a summary and detail relationship.
      Account 5010-01 is Wages for the Machining Department using Structure 1.
      Account 01-5010 is Wages for the Machining Department using Structure 2.
      Can you tell me what's the difference between the two account structures ?

      Structure 1 uses the account portion 5010 as the parent portion of the complete account and the 01 (department) as the child.
      Structure 1 provides us with a summary of all our expenditures by account expense identifier such as wages, fringe benefits, etc. by summing the amounts charged to each department.

      Structure 2 is set up using the 01 (department) as the parent portion of the complete account and the 5010 as the child.
      Structure 2 provides us with a summary of the total charges for each of our departments by summing the individual charges (expense identifiers) such as wages, fringe benefits, etc. and groups all the expenses by department.

      If I want to know the total that my company spends for each expense category (wages, fringe benefits, etc.) what structure would I favor ? Hopefully, you answered Structure 1.

      What structure would I favor if I was mainly concerned with controlling my individual expenses by departments ? Did you say Structure 2 ? I hope so.

      Can I have it both ways ? Both structures provide you with the capability to prepare a Departmental Report with all the expenses listed for each department or to prepare a summary report of your expenses by type such as total wages, total fringe benefits, etc. You would, however, have to perform an analysis depending on the structure that you chose.

      What do I mean ?
      Assuming we chose Structure 1 that groups the accounts by expenses type how would I prepare a departmental report ?

      How about if we made a worksheet that listed each expense category vertically down our page and listed our departments horizontally across our page ? Would this do the trick ?

      Expense Departments
        Total Department 1 Department 2 Department 3
      Wages xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx
      Fringe Benefits xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx
      Materials & Supplies xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx xxxxx

      If we had chosen Structure 2, we could prepare a similar table that would summarize our expenses categories.

      Note:Report Generators are provided with good accounting software programs that would allow us to prepare reports such as the above automatically instead of having to perform a manual analysis of our financial information.

      Just to see if you're on your toes. What if I wanted to include budgeted amounts in my account structure. Can we accomplish this ? We could accomplish this by assigning an additional attribute to our chart of accounts that identified an account as a budget account or an actual account. Let's use an A to identify our actual accounts and a B to identify our budgeted accounts.

      A sample of our new chart of accounts
      5010-01-A Actual Wages Department 1
      5010-01-B Budgeted Wages Department 1
      5010-02-A Actual Wages Department 2
      5010-02-B Budgeted Wages Department 2
      5010-03-A Actual Wages Department 3
      5010-03-B Budgeted Wages Department 3

      Hopefully, you now see that assigning attributes and identifiers provides us with an excellent method for identifying financial information when used to prepare a chart of accounts.

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