Sample of part to test in the book that comes with the course:
The first questions asked when introduced to any new topic are often:
• What is it?
• Why do I need to know it?
We will address the second question first: why do I need to know accounting?
Answer: Because it’s fun. Because accounting is fun is likely not the first thing that popped into your mind, but we want to start off with this concept, the idea of thinking of accounting as a kind of game, a sort of puzzle, something we can figure out. Thinking of accounting as a game will make learning accounting much more enjoyable.
Accounting can be defined as an “information and measurement system that identifies, records, and communicates relevant information about a company’s business activities” (John J. Wild, 2015).
The process of accounting includes the accumulation of data into a relevant form, which can be used for practical decision making.
Data is often identified using forms and documents such as bills, invoices, and timesheets. Once identified information is input into an accounting system, often an electronic one. The end goal of financial accounting is the creation of financial statements including a balance sheet, income statement, and statement of equity. The financial statements are used to make relevant decisions.
There are many reasons to learn accounting concepts, other than it being fun, although we always want to keep the fun factor in mind. Some of the most obvious reasons for learning accounting include:
· Accounting provides a format to understand business whether we are in the accounting department or not. Accounting is the language of business, a way of communicating business objectives and performance. All areas and departments benefit from understanding accounting because it provides a way to communicate between departments and communication is critical to business success.
· Accounting concepts apply to our personal finances. We all need to deal with our personal finances and learning basic accounting concepts and recording techniques helps ease our mind when dealing with our financial tasks.
Other reasons for learning accounting, which are not so obvious, include that accounting is a great tool to help develop critical thinking skills. Accounting requires reasoning to work through problems, and the practice of accounting will refine reasoning abilities and help us approach problems in a more systematic way, a more efficient way.
Accounting can also provide the same sense of satisfaction we receive when completing a puzzle, when mastering a new musical pattern, or when playing a game skillfully. Accounting can provide the same shot of dopamine when we figure out a problem, discern how something works and can claim that the double entry accounting system is in balance.
Accounting can be compared to a game of checkers
For example, the game of checkers starts with setting up pieces on a board, a spreadsheet, following a set of rules. To set up the board, we need to have memorized the rules for doing so. Memorizing rules is not the fun aspect of checkers but is a necessary one to receiving the enjoyment of playing the game. Once the board is set up the game of checkers is played by moving pieces according to a set of rules to achieve a certain objective, the elimination of opponent’s pieces.
Accounting is similar in that we will start off by learning how to set up the board, the accounting board being a T account or ledger. As with checkers, we will need to memorize where the pieces fit on the board, which side of the T account pieces will line up on. Accounting pieces are the accounts and account types which have a normal balance lining up on the left or right side of the board, of the T account or ledger.
Once we know the normal balance of accounts, we will play the accounting game by applying debits and credits to the accounts following a set of rules which have a particular objective, the creation of relevant information, the creation of financial statements.
The major obstacles for learning accounting are the same as those for learning music.
The primary obstacle to learning accounting concepts is the memorization of rules, a simple task, but one most do not find very enjoyable.
Memorizing rules is the same obstacle holding people back from learning many fulfilling activities, activities like learning music, or a new language. Rules of some kind must be learned to play music. The idea of rules, of structure, of constraints, seems counter-intuitive to the concept of creativity we associate with creating and playing music, but rules, structure, and limitations are often requirements for creativity. For example, writing and especially poetry, requires adherence to strict rules and many great writers have done their best work while constrained by deadlines and editors.
Whether it be notes, chords, or songs rote memorization is required before these learned concepts can be used to create something new, to create or play music, the structure critically contributing to the creation process. Creating, of course, is the fun part, the fulfilling part, the area to look forward to but memorization is a necessary part, a critical part, and a part well worth the effort.
Confidence in the system is required to learn accounting
Education is all about asking questions, testing theories, and being skeptical of claims given without a convincing argument, without supporting facts. Accounting is no different. Questioning is essential to setting up an efficient accounting system, but the tradition of questioning can also be used as a crutch, as an excuse for not moving forward and finding our mistakes.
I recommend accounting students start out having faith that the double entry accounting system works, in a similar way that we have faith that a 1,000 piece puzzle will contain all the pieces required and can be constructed to match the picture on box, because without this confidence we will lose the motivation to move forward, to complete the task, and therefore miss out on the enjoyment of completing the project.
Confidence in the double entry accounting system is necessary when first learning accounting concepts because doubting the system restricts us from moving forward to complete the necessary steps and look for the mistakes we have made. It is much easier to claim that the system does not work then look for the more likely problem, our own errors.
Having faith in a system does not mean we should not question a system. Questions are always encouraged, at all times, but it is best to give the concepts the benefit of the doubt and not allow our questioning of the system to be an excuse, a crutch, for not completing a task or figuring out a problem.
The double entry accounting system has been around for a long time, at least since the Franciscan monk Luca Pacioli around 1494, and while this does not prove its correctness it does show that it has been a useful tool to many in the past, and will therefore likely be a useful tool to many in the future.
Accounting is divided into two major groups; Financial Accounting & Managerial Accounting.
Assets – Liabilities = Equity
The format of the accounting equation above is useful because it emphasizes that equity is the book value of the company, the amount left over after subtracting liabilities from assets, an amount which can also be called net assets. To understand the meaning of equity we can consider the liquidation of a company, the selling of assets for cash, the payment of liabilities owed, and the leftover cash which would then be available to the owner, this amount being equal to equity if assets were sold at book value. Note that all assets will not be sold for the exact amount reported when a business is sold. For example, an asset of equipment valued at $50,000 may not be sold for $50,000 in a free market, possibly being sold for something less like $40,000 or something more like $60,000. We will discuss this more at a later time. For now, remember that equity represents net assets on a book value basis, assets minus liabilities.
A third way to write the accounting equation is:
Assets – Equity = Liabilities
This format of the accounting equation is not as useful but is another way the accounting equation can be expressed algebraically.
Account types include assets, liabilities, equity, revenue, and expenses. Recognize that account types are not the same thing as actual accounts, each account type having multiple accounts falling into the category. Understanding account types and the accounts that fall into each account type category is essential to the accounting process.
Assets are resources owned by the business. The most common asset is cash, but assets also include accounts receivable, prepayments, land, building, and equipment. Assets are items that have not yet been consumed, resources planned to be used in the future to achieve business goals, to help generate revenue.
Liabilities are claims by creditors. Liabilities come about from a transaction that happens in the past which obligates the company for some form of future payment. Purchasing something on a credit card is an example of how a liability can be created, the transaction creating a future obligation to pay cash. Liability accounts include accounts payable, notes payable, and bonds payable.
Equity is the owner’s claim to assets. Equity is equal to assets minus liabilities. Equity is often the most confusing section of the accounting equation, in part, because different organization types will organize the equity section differently and because the equity section is involved in the closing process of temporary accounts.
The equity section represents what is owed to the owner on a book basis. This is best illustrated by imagining we liquidate or close a business, selling the assets for cash, and then paying off the liabilities. The money left over would be equal to the equity section if all sales were made on a book value basis.
The equity section for a sole proprietor will be called owner’s equity and consist of one capital account. The equity section of a partnership will be called partnership equity and consist of two or more owners and therefore two or more capital accounts. The equity section of a corporation will be called shareholder’s equity, shareholders being the owners of a corporation, and will included capital stock and retained earnings. Although the format changes the equity section taken as a whole can still be thought of as what is owed to the owner or owners in each case.
When thinking about the accounting equation, the equity section includes all temporary accounts, including revenue accounts and expense accounts.
Revenue – is income generated from performing work. Revenue is not the same thing as cash. Cash is a form of payment while revenue represents the creation of value and the earning of compensation. Revenue is a timing account, needing to be measured over a time frame, a starting and ending point. For example, when somebody says they earn $100,000 the concept has no meaning unless we assign a time frame, most people naturally attributing a year as the time frame when hearing a number like $100,000. A different time frame would have a much different meaning. For example, revenue of $100,000 a month is much different than revenue of $100,000 a year.
We can contrast temporary accounts, like revenue and expense accounts, with permanent accounts like cash. Saying we have $100,000 cash does not require a time frame to define what we mean because cash is a permanent account, representing a position at a point in time.
Expense is the using of assets or incurrence of liabilities as part of operations to generate revenue. Expenses are what a business needs to consume to achieve the goal of revenue generation. Expenses are also temporary accounts needing a beginning and ending time.
There are usually many more expense accounts then revenue accounts, but we hope the revenue accounts add up to a greater dollar amount. The reason there are more expense accounts then revenue accounts is because of specialization, companies focusing on earning money by doing what they do best and paying for their other needs.
Before we demonstrate common transactions and how they are analyzed using the accounting equating we will cover transaction rules. Applying a process for recording transactions will reduce the likelihood of making bad assumptions and learning rules that do not apply in all cases.
It is possible to learn rules that apply in only some cases, requiring the unlearning of these rules when we move to cases where they do not apply. Learning rules that do not apply in all cases should be avoided because unlearning rules in cases where a bad rule does not apply is tough.
Learning and applying the steps below for recording transactions helps avoid problems, eliminating the need to unlearn false concepts in the future. These same rules will apply when we move to learning debits and credits at which time we will build on these rules, applying more concepts to the balancing ideas developed here.
· Every transaction will affect at least two accounts.
· Every transaction will keep the accounting equation in balance.
Transaction thought process
When first learning transactions we will repeat this thought process for each transaction, the thought process being designed to make the recording of transactions as easy as possible, and avoid learning rules that are not always applicable. This process will make more sense as we work through transactions. Working transactions is the only way to understand the double entry accounting system fully.
We will now go through common financial transactions, transactions needed by most any business, and analyze them using the accounting equation and our set of rules and thought processes.
We will start off looking at transactions involving cash, cash being the most common account affected. Understanding how cash is affected will act like an add, or crutch, when considering the other account or accounts effected in the transaction.
First, imagine a situation where the cash goes up because the company received cash, and consider possibilities for the other account affected.
We know that at least one other account will be effect and that the accounting equation must remain in balance. If there is only one other account effected we are left with just three possibilities to keep the accounting equation in balance. Either the liabilities went up, equity went up, or another asset account also went down. Below are examples of each.
If cash went up because of a business receiving a bank loan, then liabilities would also go up, keeping the accounting equation in balance.
If cash went goes up do to collecting cash for work the company did then revenue or income would also go up, revenue being part of equity.
If cash went up because we are receiving money for work done in the past we would also reduce the accounts receivable account, an asset account representing money owed to the company for past work completed.
It is possible to use an expanded accounting equation, listing all accounts under each account type, forming a kind of trial balance which can be used to create the financial statements. We will not be using this format here because it is not an efficient way to generate financial statements and gives the impression that debits and credits are not needed, which is not a good impression to give.
To understand double entry accounting and how financial statements are created, the accounting equation is not sufficient, and debits and credit will be needed. We will introduce how debits and credits work later, but the concepts will build on the concepts we learn here working with the accounting equation.