Assets, Liabilities, Equity, Revenue, and Expenses

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This Accounting Basics tutorial discusses the five account types in the Chart of Accounts. We define each account type and discuss its unique characteristics.

The five account types are:

  1. Assets
  2. Liabilities
  3. Equity
  4. Revenue (or Income)
  5. Expenses

The Account Types: Assets, Liabilities, Equity, Revenue, and Expenses

To fully understand how to post transactions and read financial reports, we must understand these five account types. Let's define them briefly and then look at each one in detail:

  • Assets: tangible and intangible items that the company owns that have value (e.g. cash, computer systems, patents)
  • Liabilities: money that the company owes to others (e.g. mortgages, vehicle loans)
  • Equity: that portion of the total assets that the owners or stockholders of the company fully own; have paid for outright
  • Revenue or Income: money the company earns from its sales of products or services, and interest and dividends earned from marketable securities
  • Expenses: money the company spends to produce the goods or services that it sells (e.g. office supplies, utilities, advertising)

Assets

Assets can be defined as objects or entities, whether tangible or intangible, that the company owns that have economic value.

Tangible assets are physical entities that the business owns such as land, buildings, vehicles, equipment, and inventory. Intangible assets are things that represent money or value; things such as Accounts Receivables, patents, contracts, and certificates of deposit (CDs)..

Assets are also grouped according to either their life span or liquidity - the speed at which they can be converted into cash. Current assets are items that are completely consumed, sold, or converted into cash in 12 months or less. Fixed assets are tangible assets with a life span of at least one year and usually longer. Fixed assets might include machinery, buildings, and vehicles. Fixed assets are typically not very liquid. And the costs of more expensive fixed assets such as machinery and computer systems are not expensed, but depreciated, or expensed or "written off," over a number of years according to one of several depreciation schedules.

Liabilities

Liabilities are the debts, or financial obligations of a business - the money the business owes to others. Liabilities are classified as current or long-term. Current liabilities are debts that are paid in 12 months or less, and consist mainly of monthly operating debts. Current liabilities are usually paid with current assets; i.e. the money in the company's checking account. A company's working capital is the difference between its current assets and current liabilities. Managing short-term debt and having adequate working capital is vital to a company's long-term success.

Long-term liabilities are typically mortgages or loans used to purchase or maintain fixed assets, and are paid off in years instead of months.

Author: Keynote Support

Equity

Equity is of utmost importance to the business owner because it is the owner's financial share of the company. Worded another way, Equity is that portion of the total assets of the company that the owner fully owns. Equity may be in assets such as buildings and equipment, or cash. Equity is also referred to as Net Worth.

For example, if you purchase a $30,000 vehicle with a $25,000 loan and $5,000 in cash, you have acquired an asset of $30,000, but have only $5,000 of equity. The Balance Sheet equation, discussed in Accounting Basics: the Income Statement and Balance Sheet, is:

Assets = Liabilities + Owner's Equity

We can see how this equation works with our example: $30,000 Asset = $25,000 Liability + $5,000 Owner Equity.


. . . . . . . . Types of Equity Accounts and Their Various Names . . . . . . . .

There are three types of Equity accounts that will meet the needs of most small businesses. These accounts have different names depending on the company structure, so we list the different account names in the chart below.

Contribution (Money Invested): There are times when company owners must invest their own money into the company. It may be start-up capital or a later infusion of cash. When this occurs, a Capital or Investment account is credited. See the first row in the table below.

Distribution or Draw (Money Withdrawn): If a business is profitable, the owners often want some of the profit returned to them. To track this activity, a Draw or Distribution account is debited. This is the only Equity account (non-contra) that receives debits. See the second row in the table below.

Accumulation from Prior Years: To tracks a company's Net Income as it accumulates over the years, Retained Earnings or Owner's Equity is credited. On the first day of the fiscal year, most accounting programs automatically credit this account with the previous year's Net Income. See the third row of the table below.

NOTE: Most single-owner companies enter journal entries to "close out" the Contribution and Draw accounts to Retained Earnings on the last day of the fiscal year. Partnerships, however, may choose not to close out these accounts so that a permanent record of partner activity is maintained.

 Sole ProprietorshipPartnershipSubchapter S Corporation
Money invested:Owner's Investment - or -
Capital Contribution
Partner A Capital Contribution
Partner B Capital Contribution, etc.
Paid in Capital - or -
Capital Contribution
Money withdrawn:Owner's DrawPartner A Draw
Partner B Draw, etc.
Distribution
Accumulation prior years: Owner's Equity - or -
Owner's Capital
Partner A Equity
Partner B Equity, etc.
Retained Earnings

Income or Revenue

Income is money the business earns from selling a product or service, or from interest and dividends on marketable securities. Other names for income are revenue, gross income, turnover, and the "top line."

Net income is revenue less expenses. Other names for net income are profit, net profit, and the "bottom line."

Income is "realized" differently depending on the accounting method used. Accrual basis accounting counts the revenue as soon as an invoice is entered into the accounting system. Cash basis accounting does not count the revenue until the invoice is paid.

Income accounts are temporary or nominal accounts because their balance is reset to zero at the beginner of each new accounting period, usually a fiscal year. Most accounting programs perform this task automatically.

Author: Keynote Support

Expenses

Expenses are expenditures, often monthly, that allow a company to operate. Examples of expenses are office supplies, utilities, rent, entertainment, and travel.

Like revenue accounts, expense accounts are temporary accounts that collect data for one accounting period and are reset to zero at the beginning of the next accounting period. Most accounting programs perform this task automatically.

A unique type of Expense account, Depreciation Expense, is used when purchasing Fixed Assets. Costly items, such as vehicles, equipment, and computer systems, are not expensed, but are depreciated or written off over the life expectancy of the item. A contra-account, Accumulated Depreciation, is used to offset the Asset account for the item. Please see your Accountant for help with the depreciation of Assets.


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We hope this article has been helpful. Cheers!

Disclaimer:: Keynote Support is providing general information in a highly readable format as a service to the visitor. We have made every effort to provide information accurate as to the date of this article. Every customer environment and each transaction is unique, so please use the information and examples in this article only as a guide. In addition, the reader cannot infer from this article that Keynote Support is providing financial or accounting advice. Consult with a financial or accounting professional for assistance with your unique requirements.

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