Chart of Accounts: Structure, Benefits, and Examples
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Chart of Accounts

Chart of Accounts: Structure, Benefits, and Examples

03 May, 2024        1081 views

Every business that operates successfully, and maintains its financial transactions accurately paves a strong foundation for its growth. This foundation relies on accurate and organized financial records and that organization’s chart of accounts (COA).

Are you confused with the term charts of account in accounting? Yes for, most business owners, especially small businesses, the chart of accounts might seem like a complex accounting term. But if you have an idea about COA, it is incredibly beneficial.

So, we are here with a complete guide to the charts of accounts in accounting that equips you with the knowledge to master your COA. Let’s explore what exactly COA means, how it works, COA structure, and many more things.

What Is a Chart of Accounts?

All the financial accounts that a company uses come under the chart of accounts (COA). Let us consider this as an index of financial data that separate income, expenses, assets, liabilities, and equity for clear organization and reporting.

For a better understanding, let us see an example.

Let us consider the fact that you are running a bakery shop. You wouldn’t throw all your receipts and invoices into one single box. Instead of that, you will create separate folders for “flour,” “sugar,” “rent,” “employee wages,” and “sales.”. Similarly, a chart of accounts functions, ensuring clear organization of your financial data.

How a Chart of Accounts Works

Whenever a company does any financial transactions, they are saved in two or more different accounts within the COA system. This means COA follows the fundamental principle of double entry in the accounting system. This function assures that every transaction has a corresponding effect on at least two accounts.

Let us understand the working concept of charts of accounts in accounting with an example. Following the previous example of a bakery shop, you purchased flour for your bakery. Once you complete the purchase, it reflects your debit (increase) the “Flour Inventory” account and credit (decrease) the “Cash” account. This simple entry demonstrates using cash to acquire an asset (flour).

I hope you now have some basic idea of the charts of accounts in accounting. If you are interested in learning about many more insightful articles on accounting then visit here:

COA Structure

Depending on your accounting software and business types, the COA structure may vary. But the standard COA structure that every business follows is mentioned below:

  • Balance Sheet Accounts: The balance sheet shows the financial position of your business at a specific point in time. They include three different finances:
    • Assets: Whatever a company owns, such as cash, inventory, equipment, and property, comes under the category of assets.
    • Liabilities: The second category consists of all those amounts that a business owes, like loans, accounts payable, and accrued expenses.
    • Equity: The last one is equity, which defines the owner’s investment in the business. This includes retained earnings and owner contributions.
  • Income Statement Accounts: These accounts maintain a record of all the income and expenses that a business has completed over a specific period. This may include:
    • Revenues: This signifies the income generated by your company through different activities, like sales of goods or services.
    • Expenses: The costs that a company bears to operate their business, like rent, salaries, and utilities.
  • Memorandum Accounts: These accounts represent temporary holding places for certain transactions before they are moved to other permanent accounts.

Account Identifiers

Every account within the chart of accounts will have a unique identifier-simply a code. These codes can be anything from numbers (e.g., 100 for Cash, 400 for Revenue) to alphanumeric combinations. This coding system helps to easily identify and categorize accounts during data entry and reporting.

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Benefits of a Chart of Accounts

A well-structured chart of accounts will help small businesses in many ways to operate successfully in terms of finances. Simply it improves the financial health of a company:

  • Improved Financial Accuracy: A well-maintained chart of accounts in accounting reduces errors in recording transactions and also categorizes income and expenses properly.
  • Enhanced Reporting: If your business uses charts of accounts accurately, then it can generate informative financial reports. You can use these reports to create valuable insights into your business performance.
  • Simplified Budgeting & Forecasting: COA helps in analyzing income and expense trends that can be utilized for informed decision-making about future financial projections.
  • Streamlined Tax Preparation: If your business has maintained the simplified charts of accounts in the accounting process, then use them during tax filing. This saves you a lot of time gathering the records and even reduces errors.
  • Stronger Financial Management: Having a clear understanding of charts of accounts allows you to make data-driven decisions about resource allocation and cost control. All these ultimately improve the financial health of your business.

Chart of Accounts Example

To analyze the concept of charts of account in accounting more clearly, explore the given example of a bakery shop. The bakery shop owner presented information on assets, liabilities, equity, and more in their COA structure.

Account Type Account Name Account Code
Assets Cash 100
Assets Inventory 120
Assets Equipment 130
Liabilities Accounts Payable 200
Liabilities Loan Payable 210
Equity Owner’s Equity 300
Revenue Sales 400
Expenses Flour Inventory 501
Expenses Sugar Inventory 502
Expenses Rent Expense 510
Expenses Salary Expense 520

This is a simple example, your specific COA will depend on your business type. You may create separate accounts for different types of flour, specific equipment categories, or additional expense categories like utilities and marketing.

How to Adjust Your Chart of Accounts

As the business grows and evolves with time, your chart of accounts might need adjustments. The following points need to be considered:

  • Review Regularly: Continuously review your COA to ensure it accurately reflects your current business activities.
  • Merge or Inactivate Accounts: If you are not using any accounts, either inactivate them or merge them with existing ones.
  • Maintain Consistency: Frequent changes in a chart of accounts structure are not recommended to ensure historical data remains comparable.
  • Consult a Professional: For complex adjustments or creating a COA from scratch, consider seeking guidance from an accountant or financial advisor.


A chart of accounts may not be the most prominent aspect of running a small business, but it plays an important role in maintaining financial clarity and control. A clear and transparent COA structure will ensure your company’s financial health will remain stable.

By understanding and utilizing your COA effectively, you can gain valuable insights into your business performance, make informed decisions, and ultimately pave the way for sustainable financial success.

ICA Edu Skills Team
Disclaimer: The content posted in this weblog is intended for general information purposes only and does not include any professional accounting, tax, legal or financial advice. We strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information based on laws, regulations, and best practices which may vary by jurisdiction, industry, and individual circumstances.

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