Bookkeeping is the recording of financial transactions, and is part of the process of accounting in business. Transactions include purchases, sales, receipts, and payments by an individual person or an organization/corporation. There are several standard methods of bookkeeping, such as the single-entry bookkeeping system and the double-entry bookkeeping system, but, while they may be thought of as “real” bookkeeping, any process that involves the recording of financial transactions is a bookkeeping process. Bookkeeping is usually performed by a bookkeeper. A bookkeeper is a person who records the day-to-day financial transactions of a business. He or she is usually responsible for writing the daybooks, which contain records of purchases, sales, receipts, and payments. The bookkeeper is responsible for ensuring that all transactions whether it is cash transaction or credit transaction are recorded in the correct daybook, supplier’s ledger, customer ledger, and general ledger; an accountant can then create reports from the information concerning the financial transactions recorded by the bookkeeper. The bookkeeper brings the books to the trial balance stage: an accountant may prepare the income statement and balance sheetusing the trial balance and ledgers prepared by the bookkeeper.

A daybook is a descriptive and chronological record of day-to-day financial transactions also called a book of original entry. The daybook’s details must be entered formally into journals to enable posting to ledgers. Daybooks include:

  • Sales daybook, for recording all the sales invoices.
  • Sales credits daybook, for recording all the sales credit notes.
  • Purchases daybook, for recording all the purchase invoices.
  • Purchases Debits daybook, for recording all the purchase Debit notes.
  • Cash daybook, usually known as the cash book, for recording all money received as well as money paid out. It may be split into two daybooks: receipts daybook for money received in, and payments daybook for money paid out.
  • General Journal daybook, for recording journals.

The bookkeeping process primarily records the financial effects of transactions. The difference between a manual and any electronic accounting system results from the former’slatency between the recording of a financial transaction and its posting in the relevant account. This delay—absent in electronic accounting systems due to nearly instantaneous posting into relevant accounts—is a basic characteristic of manual systems, thus giving rise to primary books of accounts such as Cash Book, Bank Book, Purchase Book, and Sales Book for recording the immediate effect of a financial transaction.

In the normal course of business, a document is produced each time a transaction occurs. Sales and purchases usually have invoices or receipts. Deposit slips are produced when lodgements (deposits) are made to a bank account. Checks (spelled “cheques” in the UK and several other countries) are written to pay money out of the account. Bookkeeping first involves recording the details of all of these source documents into multi-column journals (also known as books of first entry or daybooks). For example, all credit sales are recorded in the sales journal; all cash payments are recorded in the cash payments journal. Each column in a journal normally corresponds to an account. In thesingle entry system, each transaction is recorded only once. Most individuals who balance their check-book each month are using such a system, and most personal-finance software follows this approach.

As a partial check that the posting process was done correctly, a working document called an unadjusted trial balance is created. In its simplest form, this is a three-column list. Column One contains the names of those accounts in the ledger which have a non-zero balance. If an account has a debit balance, the balance amount is copied into Column Two (the debit column); if an account has a credit balance, the amount is copied into Column Three (the credit column). The debit column is then totalled, and then the credit column is totalled. The two totals must agree—which is not by chance—because under the double-entry rules, whenever there is a posting, the debits of the posting equal the credits of the posting. If the two totals do not agree, an error has been made, either in the journals or during the posting process. The error must be located and rectified, and the totals of the debit column and the credit column recalculated to check for agreement before any further processing can take place.

Once the accounts balance, the accountant makes a number of adjustments and changes the balance amounts of some of the accounts. These adjustments must still obey the double-entry rule: for example, the inventory account and asset account might be changed to bring them into line with the actual numbers counted during a stocktake. At the same time, the expense account associated with usage of inventory is adjusted by an equal and opposite amount. Other adjustments such as posting depreciation and prepayments are also done at this time. This results in a listing called the adjusted trial balance. It is the accounts in this list, and their corresponding debit or credit balances, that are used to prepare the financial statements.

Finally financial statements are drawn from the trial balance, which may include:

  • the income statement, also known as the statement of financial results, profit and loss account, or P&L
  • the balance sheet, also known as the statement of financial position
  • the cash flow statement
  • the Statement of changes in equity, also known as the statement of total recognised gains and losses