Accounting is integral to the success of any business, regardless of size. And integral to accounting is a process known as the accounting cycle. The accounting cycle is a standardized process for recording the accounting events of a business. This 8-step cycle is set in motion the moment a transaction occurs and culminates the moment the transaction is included in financial statements.
The purpose of the accounting cycle is to ensure that all money that changes hands during a transaction is properly accounted for and accurately reported in a business’s financial statements. This is important because banks and outside lenders will ask to see your business’s financial statements before they approve any loans. Additionally, investors will be able to use these statements to gauge your company’s financial health. It is also worth noting that having accountants well-versed in small business taxes can find potential tax savings for your business. In a similar vein, if the IRS asks for your financial statements in the event of an audit, having proper statements can save time, money — and perhaps, your business.
As previously mentioned, the accounting cycle consists of eight steps, the first of which occurs at the moment a transaction occurs while the eighth and final step occurs with the recording of the transaction in financial statements. Here are the accounting cycle steps in order:
Now let’s go into a little more detail:
The first step in the accounting cycle entails consolidating all the information you have on each transaction that occurred during a specific period. Consider the accounting method your business uses; if you are using the accrual method of accounting, you will record transactions the moment they occur, regardless of whether the cash is on hand or not. If you are using the cash method of accounting, you will record transactions the moment cash changes hands.
Ideally, a professional bookkeeper will be on top of this throughout the reporting period or you may find yourself scrambling to gather your receipts hours before the reporting deadline.
In the olden days, you would have to record each transaction as both a credit and a debit in the appropriate journals. This is called double-entry accounting, and thanks to technology, this is now more or less automatic, as long as you properly classify the transaction in your accounting software.
Once a transaction is recorded in the journals, it will post an account in the general ledger. The general ledger breaks down accounting activities on an account-by-account basis. The purpose of a general ledger is to give your bookkeeper a better picture of how much cash is currently on hand per account.
Once the accounting period ends, a trial balance is calculated. The purpose of this is to show the unadjusted balances per account and to provide a basis for the fifth step.
The purpose of this step is to use a worksheet to ensure that the total credit balance equals the total debit balance. If there is a discrepancy, you can utilize the table to find out where they occur.
If your business utilizes accrual accounting, adjusting entries may be necessary to match your revenue with your expenses, which brings us to step six:
Your bookkeeper will make adjustments as needed. These adjustments are recorded as journal entries.
The penultimate step of the accounting cycle is where the income statement, balance sheet, and, usually, the cash flow statement is generated. These financial statements are crucial indicators of your business’s financial health and outlook.
The eighth and final step of the accounting cycle entails closing out temporary accounts, such as revenue and expenses, and folding them into permanent accounts (e.g. retained earnings). Once this step is finalized, you can sit back and relax — but not for too long, of course. The next accounting cycle starts once the previous one ends.
Adhering to the accounting cycle is conducive to impeccable financial statements, which can make your business more attractive to investors or help you get approved for loans. Additionally, during the process, your accountants may be able to find ways to save on your taxes. And as previously mentioned, if the IRS audits your business, utilizing this standard method for accounting will simplify the audit-defense process and help your business avoid any trouble.
Most small business owners started their companies because they were experts in providing a good or a service — not at balancing a book. Nevertheless, good accounting and bookkeeping are imperative to manage any company’s financial health, guide decisions for growth initiatives, and ultimately ensure your business is in good standing with its tax obligations throughout the year. However, it can also be tedious, complicated, and time-consuming — especially for those who own smaller businesses or sole proprietorships. Additionally, the IRS can be unforgiving when it comes to mistakes — for instance, filing your payroll taxes just one day past the deadline incurs a 2% penalty. To make matters worse, these penalties can add up to a hefty 15% of the initial amount owed.
There is good news, however; outsourcing accounting and bookkeeping to an outside firm is a simple and rewarding process that allows business owners to spend less time worrying over books and more time, well, running their businesses. Every day, more and more businesses make the switch to outsourced bookkeeping and accounting with FinancePal.
Contact us today to learn more about your free trial!
By entering your phone number and clicking the "Get Custom Quote" button, you provide your electronic signature and consent for FinancePal to contact you with information and offers at the phone number provided using an automated system, pre-recorded messages, and/or text messages. Consent is not required as a condition of purchase. Message and data rates may apply.
By entering your phone number and clicking the “Get Started” button, you provide your electronic signature and consent for FinancePal to contact you with information and offers at the phone number provided using an automated system, pre-recorded messages, and/or text messages. Consent is not required as a condition of purchase. Message and data rates may apply.