Accounting Cycle

Financial Accounting Cycle

The accounting cycle is a series of steps setting out the procedures required for a typical small business to collect, record, and process its financial information.

The accounting cycle will vary from business to business and the procedures involved may change, for example, the accounting cycle for a service business might differ from the accounting cycle of a manufacturing business, the but the general steps to explain the accounting cycle remain the same.

The accounting cycle has ten basic steps, which can be seen in the illustration shown below. A PDF version of this diagram is available at the bottom of the page.

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The Accounting Cycle Preview

Flow Chart of Accounting Cycle

To explain the accounting cycle we have set out the ten steps involved in the flow chart diagram below.

The Complete Accounting Cycle
Step 1 Identify and analyze transactions
Step 2 Journal entries for transactions
Step 3 Post journals to ledgers
Step 4 Prepare an unadjusted trial balance
Step 5 Prepare worksheet
Step 6 Record adjusting journal entries
Step 7 Adjusted trial balance
Step 8 Prepare financial statements
Step 9 Closing entries
Step 10 Post closing trial balance

Steps in Accounting Cycle

Step 1: Identify and Analyze Transactions

The accounting cycle starts by identifying the transactions which relate to the business. The business is a separate entity to the owner, so only business transactions should be included.

Having identified the transactions, each one now needs to be analyzed to determine which accounts in the bookkeeping records are affected. Each transaction must be supported by a relevant accounting source document such as an invoice, petty cash voucher, payroll report etc.

Step 2: Journal Entries for Transactions

The journal entries are recorded in a journal (a book) supported by journal vouchers if necessary. Accounting transactions are recorded using the double entry bookkeeping system, so all journal entries must balance with the debits being equal to the credits.

The journals are also known as the books of original entry as they are the first time the transactions are recorded and entered into the accounting system.

Step 3: Post journals to ledgers

The journals are posted to the general ledger (sometimes referred to as the book of final entry). The general ledger has an account for each type of transaction e.g. rent expense, accounts receivable control, fixed assets etc. The general ledger is sometimes divided into the nominal ledger for income and expenses, and the private ledger for assets and liabilities.

Step 4: Prepare an unadjusted trial balance

At the end of each accounting period, the balances on the accounts of the general ledger are listed to produce a trial balance. At this stage the total debits on the trial balance should equal the total credits.

This unadjusted trial balance is used solely to check the total of the debit and credit entries, to ensure the accounting records balance. If the trial balance does not balance correcting entries should be made in the ledgers until it does.

Step 5: Prepare worksheet

A 10 column worksheet is prepared and the unadjusted trial balance is transferred to the first two columns.

Step 6: Record adjusting journal entries

Adjusting entries such as accruals, prepayments, and depreciation entries are prepared to ensure that income and expenditure is allocated to the correct accounting period, this means that the accounting records are completed on an accruals basis and are in compliance with the matching principle.The adjusting entries are entered in the next two columns of the worksheet and at this stage, are not entered into the accounting records.

Step 7: Adjusted trial balance

When all adjusting entries have been completed an adjusted trial balance is prepared in the next two columns of the worksheet.

Step 8: Prepare financial statements

The financial statements can now be prepared from the adjusted trial balance. Items relating to the income statement are transferred to the next two columns and items relating to the balance sheet are transferred to the final two columns.

Step 9: Closing entries

Closing entries are carried out in the accounting ledgers. Closing entries are posted and temporary income and expenditure accounts are closed and their balances transferred to an income and expenditure summary account.

The summary account is in turn closed to transfer the profit or loss for the period to the balance sheet retained profits account. Balance sheet or permanent accounts are not closed, but the balance is carried forward to the next accounting period.

Step 10: Post closing trial balance

A post closing trial balance is drawn up to ensure that the debits and credits balance for the start of the new accounting period.

The post closing trial balance is a list of balances after the closing entries have been made. At this stage the temporary income and expenditure accounts have been closed and set to zero, so only the balance sheet accounts are listed on the post closing trial balance. The accounting cycle starts again with the new opening balance sheet account balances.

The accounting cycle diagram is available for download in PDF format by following the link below.

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