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Learn about the chart of accounts in QuickBooks

The chart of accounts is a list of all your company's accounts and their balances. In QuickBooks, you use these accounts to categorise your transactions on everything from sales forms to reports to tax forms. Each account has a transaction history and breaks down how much money you have (or owe).

Here's what you need to know to get started.

What account types are on the chart of accounts

When you open your chart of accounts, you'll see a long list of accounts. These are known as account histories. Each account has its own account history. Simply go to the account history to review its transaction history and current balance.

Your chart of accounts gives you different account types to categorise transactions into:

  • Assets: Records of purchases for things like vehicles, equipment, buildings, and other assets used for business.
  • Liabilities: Records of money you owe but haven't yet paid.
  • Income: Transactions and payments you get from your normal day to day business, such as sales revenue or income for services rendered.
  • Expenses: Transactions of money you spend on expenses related to normal business operations, such as advertising and promotion, office supplies, and rent.

Open your chart of accounts

In QuickBooks Online

Select Settings ⚙ and then Chart of accounts.

In QuickBooks Desktop

Select the CompanyLists, or Accountant menu and then Chart of accounts.

When you create a new company file in QuickBooks, you tell us what type of business you have.

Everyone gets the same set of standards accounts. QuickBooks adds additional accounts automatically based on your industry. You don't see an account you need, you can always create it manually.

AccountWhat it isAutomatically added by QuickBooks when you...
Accounts Payable (A/P)Record of the outstanding bills of the business. If your business uses multiple A/P accounts, QuickBooks will let you choose the account you want to use when you enter and pay bills.Create a bill for the first time.
Accounts Receivable (A/R)List of transactions related to customers who owe you money. If you need to use more than one A/R account, the program will let you choose the A/R account that you want to use when you create an invoice or receive a payment.Create an invoice for the first time.
Opening Balance EquityEnsures that you get a correct balance sheet for your company, even before you've entered all your company's assets and liabilities.Enter the opening balance for a balance sheet account.
Payroll ExpenseTracks payroll items (expense) for the company, including salaries, wages, bonuses, commissions, employer contributions such as company paid health plan and company paid portion of taxes .Turn on payroll for the first time.
Payroll LiabilitiesTracks taxes you deduct from your employees' salary until you turn them over to the government, including federal and state income withholding taxes, local taxes and the employee paid taxes .Turn on payroll for the first time.
Purchase OrdersNon-posting account that does not affect your balance sheet.Create a purchase order for the first time.
Retained EarningsTracks profits from earlier periods that have not yet been distributed to owners. At the beginning of the financial year, QuickBooks automatically transfers net income into your retained earnings account.Set up a new company file.
VAT PayableTracks all VAT you collect and pay.Turn on VAT.
Uncategorised ExpenseEnter an opening balance for a supplier.
Uncategorised IncomeEnter an opening balance for a customer.
Undeposited FundsHolds the payments collected until you deposit them to the bank.
Stock AssetTracks the current value of your stock.Add an stock part or assembly for the first time.
Reconciliation DiscrepancyTracks reconciliation adjustments.Enter an adjustment to reconcile discrepancies.

QuickBooks automatically sets up your chart of accounts for you. If you need to add additional accounts:

In QuickBooks Online

Here's how to add a new account to your chart of accounts in QuickBooks Online.

In QuickBooks Desktop

Here’s how to add a new account to your chart of accounts in QuickBooks Desktop for Windows.

Although you're not required to use account numbers, your accountant may recommend them. QuickBooks automatically adds account numbers before account names in the chart of accounts. Default account numbers are based on Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). You can change an account number at any time:

In QuickBooks Online

Here’s how to turn on account numbers in QuickBooks Online.

In QuickBooks Desktop

Here’s how to set up account numbers in QuickBooks Desktop for Windows or Mac.

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