Accounting is the recording of financial transactions along with storing, sorting, retrieving, summarizing, and presenting the results in various reports and analyses. Accounting is also a field of study and profession dedicated to carrying out those tasks.
Accounting is one of the key functions for almost any business. It may be handled by a bookkeeper or an accountant at a small firm, or by sizable finance departments with dozens of employees at larger companies. The reports generated by various streams of accounting, such as cost accounting and managerial accounting, are invaluable in helping management make informed business decisions.
- Regardless of the size of a business, accounting is a necessary function for decision making, cost planning, and measurement of economic performance measurement.
- A bookkeeper can handle basic accounting needs, but a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) should be utilized for larger or more advanced accounting tasks.
- Two important types of accounting for businesses are managerial accounting and cost accounting. Managerial accounting helps management teams make business decisions, while cost accounting helps business owners decide how much a product should cost.
- Professional accountants follow a set of standards known as the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) when preparing financial statements.
The financial statements that summarize a large company’s operations, financial position and cash flows over a particular period are concise and consolidated reports based on thousands of individual financial transactions. As a result, all accounting designations are the culmination of years of study and rigorous examinations combined with a minimum number of years of practical accounting experience.
Types of Accounting
Financial accounting refers to the processes used to generate interim and annual financial statements. The results of all financial transactions that occur during an accounting period are summarized into the balance sheet, income statement and cash flow statement. The financial statements of most companies are audited annually by an external CPA firm. For some, such as publicly traded companies, audits are a legal requirement. However, lenders also typically require the results of an external audit annually as part of their debt covenants. Therefore, most companies will have annual audits for one reason or another.
Managerial accounting uses much of the same data as financial accounting, but it organizes and utilizes information in different ways. Namely, in managerial accounting, an accountant generates monthly or quarterly reports that a business’s management team can use to make decisions about how the business operates. Managerial accounting also encompasses many other facets of accounting, including budgeting, forecasting and various financial analysis tools. Essentially, any information that may be useful to management falls underneath this umbrella.
Just as managerial accounting helps businesses make decisions about management, cost accounting helps businesses make decisions about costing. Essentially, cost accounting considers all of the costs related to producing a product. Analysts, managers, business owners and accountants use this information to determine what their products should costs. In cost accounting, money is cast as an economic factor in production, whereas in financial accounting, money is considered to be a measure of a company’s economic performance.
Example of Accounting
To illustrate double-entry accounting, imagine a business sends an invoice to one of its clients. An accountant using the double-entry method records a debit to accounts receivables, which flows through to the balance sheet, and a credit to sales revenue, which flows through to the income statement.
When the client pays the invoice, the accountant credits accounts receivables and debits cash. Double-entry accounting is also called balancing the books, as all of the accounting entries are balanced against each other. If the entries aren’t balanced, the accountant knows there must be a mistake somewhere in the general ledger.