What is the difference between a general ledger and a general journal?


During his time working in investment banking, tech startups, and industry-leading companies he gained extensive knowledge in using different software tools to optimize business processes. A general ledger compartmentalizes transactions into different categories. These categories define the nature of transactions recorded under them and this proves to be very useful. Income statement accounts are temporary accounts whose balances are usually refreshed at the end of each month. The next month begins with a zero balance as it contains temporary transactional activities that occur repeatedly within a month. Equity is the difference between your total assets and total liabilities.

It provides a basis for computing rates of return and evaluating the company’s capital structure. This financial statement provides a snapshot of what a company owns and owes, as well as the amount invested by shareholders. The balance sheet and the profit and loss (P&L) statement are two of the three financial statements companies issue regularly. Sub-ledgers within each account provide details behind the entries documented in account ledgers, such as if they are debited or credited by cash, accounts payable, accounts receivable, etc. “As transactions in your business occur, they are noted in the general ledger under each account using double-entry accounting.

  • The money your business earns and spends is organized into subsidiary ledgers (also called sub-ledgers, or general ledger accounts).
  • A balance sheet considers a specific point in time, while a P&L statement is concerned with a set period of time.
  • A Control Account is nothing but a General Ledger Account where you record only the summarized information regarding a specific account.
  • The corresponding debit entry is made to a tax receivable or deferred tax liability account.

Thus, you as a business owner cannot evaluate your company’s liquidity, profitability, and overall financial position. A General Ledger is one of the important records in the system of accounting. It is prepared after you pass journal entries in the Books of Original Entry (Journal). Say you own a publishing a guide to financial leverage house Martin & Co. and purchased 20 kg paper on cash at $20 per kg on December 1, 2020. Therefore, the following is the journal and ledger that you need to record into books for such a transaction. Then, the balance of each of the General Ledger Accounts is posted in your Trial Balance Sheet.

Examples of Using the General Journal

This is because the details recorded in your ledger accounts provide sufficient details to file your tax returns. General Ledger Accounts help you to record details of transactions that your business undertakes over an accounting period. Thus, you get an understanding of your company’s position with regards to debtors, creditors, expenses, revenues, incomes, etc. For example, the outstanding payments against suppliers, payments to be collected from customers, etc. So, preparing such financial statements becomes challenging if you do not prepare General Ledger.

  • If a GL account includes sub-ledgers, they are called controlling accounts.
  • Every external stakeholder has access to records that give them an accurate picture of your business’s finances.
  • Harold Averkamp (CPA, MBA) has worked as a university accounting instructor, accountant, and consultant for more than 25 years.

Thus, you need to check the balances for balance sheet accounts like assets, liabilities, and stockholder’s equity. A general ledger records all the accounting transactions of a company and this transaction data is used to construct the balance sheet and income statement. The categories of accounts stay in place regardless of a company’s accounting method, but the balance sheet and income statements make use of differing categories.

When you sell off your assets for cash value and pay off all your liabilities, equity is the amount of cash value you are left with. If you’re recording a large number of transactions every month, keeping your ledger organized can get tricky. As a supplement to the general ledger, your chart of accounts lists the account names and purposes of all your sub-ledgers. A tech savvy accounting and bookkeeping firm serving small and midsized businesses, we focus on building scalable accounting department for our clients.

Further, these transactions are recorded based on the Duality Principle of Accounting. For example, say you purchase raw material from your vendor William Paper Mill throughout the year. Accordingly, all the cash or credit purchase transactions entered into with William Paper Mill would be recorded under the account of William Paper Mill. With this, you steer clear of bigger problems that may arise from inaccurate financial reports such as reduced creditworthiness, regulatory penalties, and inaccurate tax filings. Every external stakeholder has access to records that give them an accurate picture of your business’s finances.

Balance Sheet vs. P&L Statement

If the figures are not the same, something has been missed or miscalculated and the books are not balanced. Your trial balance is an accounting report that contains your general ledger account balances in debit and credit columns. Use your trial balance to make sure that credits and debits are equal in each account.

When a company receives payment from a client for the sale of a product, the cash received is tabulated in net sales along with the receipts from other sales and returns. The cost of sales is subtracted from that sum to yield the gross profit for that reporting period. Think of your accounting journal as the first record of each transaction. If you look at the information that’s recorded in an accounting journal and an accounting ledger, a lot of it would look the same. One way to avoid errors is to use a POS system like Lightspeed Retail, which connects with accounting software to automatically sync data. To learn more about what Lightspeed Retail can do for your business, talk to an expert today.

Main Function of the General Ledger

Well, your trial balance is like the memo that summarizes the data in your filing cabinet. You primarily use your trial balance as an overview and summary of your general ledger. Ready to dive in and learn the difference between general ledger vs. trial balance?

Resources for Your Growing Business

Most accounting software will compile some of these ledgers while still letting you view them independently. Depending on the size of your business and what your business does, you might not need to use all of them. One key difference between a journal and a ledger is that the ledger is where double-entry bookkeeping takes place. That’s why there are two sides to a ledger, one for debits and one for credits. These are typically recorded in the general ledger as they are incurred.

The general ledger sometimes displays additional columns for particulars such as transaction description, date, and serial number. A general ledger account, or GL account, is one of the basic elements of financial accounting. It indicates specific groups of financial activity, including assets, liabilities, and revenue/expenses. This is more like the God of all ledgers because it has been part of accounting for decades now. This is where you keep an eye on transactions manually, entering debits and credits by hand or simple computer programs.

In addition, they include detailed information about each transaction, such as the date, description, amount, and may also include some descriptive information on what the transaction was. This may happen when a debit entry is entered on the credit side or when a company is acquired but that transaction is not recorded. Similarly, a credit ticket may be entered into the general ledger when a deposit is made, but it needs an offsetting debit ticket, either at the same time or soon after, to balance the books. Because these have the opposite effect on the complementary accounts, ultimately the credits and debits equal one another and demonstrate that the accounts are balanced. Every transaction can be described using the debit/credit format, and books must be kept in balance so that every debit is matched with a corresponding credit.