Introduction to Accounting Systems

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What is Accounting

The purpose of accounting is to track the financial condition of a company, by recording and analyzing the following conditions:

  • How much money do customers owe our company?
  • How much do we owe other people (vendors, employees, etc.)?
  • How much of our product did we sell?
  • How much did the products cost us?
  • Did we make or lose money?
  • How much "cash" do we have left?

Careful record keeping and data analysis is critical to determining the health of the company, making adjustments throughout the business, and future planning. See wikipedia for additional information.


Bookkeeping is the practice of recording every financial transaction of a person or company. There are some basic bookkeeping terms that are standard in accounting and used by the Financials application:

  • Ledgers - All transactions are recorded in a ledger, which derives its name from the physical books that were used before computers.
  • GL (General Ledger) - The General Ledger is a consolidated ledger that applies to everything in the company.
  • Subledgers - A Subledger tracks only transactions in a certain category or area of the business (for example: the "Payroll Ledger"). Please note that Opentaps only uses a General Ledger.
  • GL Accounts - General Ledger, or GL Accounts, are used to track transactions and balances for a particular type of activity.
    • Each GL account is, by convention, referred to by a code and a name (for example, 120000 Accounts Receivable).
    • A GL account can track something general (for example, “Sales”), or specific (for example, Accounts Receivable AMEX).
    • Typically, GL accounts follow a hierarchy, and are assigned a code accordingly (for example: 122000 All Accounts Receivable, 122100 Accounts Receivable Credit Card Processors, 122200 Accounts Receivable AMEX).
  • Chart of Accounts – This refers to all the GL Accounts used by a company to track transactions.

Every transaction points to a GL Account, and is either a "Debit" or a "Credit" to that account. By convention a debit is thought of as on the left and a credit is the on right. For each transaction the sum of the debits must be equal to the sum of the credits (for example, a credit on the Payroll account will be a debit from the account employee checks are paid out from).

See wikipedia for additional information.

How are Transactions Posted?

All transactions recorded in the general ledger must have two components: a debit from one account and a credit to another. The sum of the debit must equal the sum of the credit for the transaction to be posted.