Accounting is not a Mystery: Short Version


Imagine that you own a business that you are looking at it from across the street one morning before it opens for business. Ask yourself, "What is it that this business has? The answer will start with the things you can see:

  1. Land

  2. Building

  3. Fixtures

  4. Equipment

  5. Inventory (also called "Stock in Trade")

  6. You also know that the business has

    1. checking account(s)
    2. savings account(s)
    3. cash for making change

All of these things that the business has are called its "Assets."


The business may have these Assets, but it does not own them. Instead it owes the Assets to:

  1. The banks and other creditors and

  2. the owners.

Amounts owed to the banks and other creditors are called the business' "Liabilities."

Any amount left over after subtracting the Liabilities from the Assets is called the "Capital." To make the meaning clearer, it is also called "Owner's Equity."The obvious formula is:


But this is traditionally written in this form:


The Busy-ness of Accounting

Now imagine that in is the end of the day. You know that during the day sales were $1,000 but of that amount, expenses of $400 were paid. So the amount of profit remaining at the end of the day is $600. The business has the $600 by depositing it in the checking account but the business naturally owes the same money to the owner.

Both sides of the equation go up by $600:

(Assets + $600) = Liabilities + (Capital + $600)

The busiest accounting activity for most businesses is checking the change each day in this equation by keeping records of daily Sales and Expenses.