Bookkeeping – Debits and Credits in Expense Accounts (Lesson 8)
Expense accounts rarely have credit entries posted to them.
Expense types of accounts are the easiest to understand with bookkeeping. In general, only debits are entered in expense types of accounts.
Before delving into the debits and credits for expense accounts, there is some accounting terminology to understand. Terminology related to expense types of accounts. There are several different terms used to describe this section of the income statement (profit and loss statement).
Expense Accounts – Common Names
The following is a short list of the different names used to say expense accounts:
- General and Administrative
- Operating Expenses
In more than 90% of all business operations, the most expensive overhead item is the cost of the management team. This is referring to their compensation which includes salaries, benefits, payroll taxes etc. In addition, the front office administration costs are also included, even the wages paid to the bookkeeper. The second most expensive line item with expenses is facility costs. Facility costs comprise rent, maintenance, real estate taxes and others. Other forms of expenses include:
- Sales and Marketing
- Insurance – general liability, auto, property, umbrella etc.
- Transportation – often this expense is a function of cost of sales
- Communications – phone, cell phones, internet, radio, GPS systems
- Office – supplies, office technology, software
- Utilities – water, sewer, electricity, gas (sometimes theses expenses are included with facilities)
- Professional Fees – legal, outside accounting, consulting
- Taxes – property, revenue, licenses
- Depreciation – sometimes depreciation is included in cost of sales types of accounts depending on the nature of the business
- Other – banking, meals and entertainment, travel, training & miscellaneous
The goal for the reader is to understand that these expenses can be grouped under the various terms described above. Now let’s get back to debits and credits.
Expense Accounts – Debits and Credits
As explained in Lesson 2, the dual entry system used in bookkeeping uses debits and credits to ensure balance in the books. Expense accounts receive their debits mostly from two respective journals. If you are unsure of what this is referring to here, then please read Lesson 3 explaining ledgers and journals. From above, the primary expense in the overhead section (expense types of accounts) is management payroll. Therefore, the payroll journal is one of the primary sources of the debits that are posted to the expense ledgers. The secondary journal is of course the purchases journal. For those of you following this series of lessons, you should immediately realize that journals can feed information to different types of accounts. For example, the purchases journal feeds information to Cost of Sales and to Expenses.
JOURNALS ARE USED TO RECORD ECONOMIC TRANSACTIONS IN CHRONOLOGICAL DATE ORDER. THE JOURNALS RECORD BOTH THE DEBIT AND THE CREDIT. BOTH SIDES OF THE ENTRY ARE THEN TRANSFERRED TO THE RESPECTIVE LEDGER (ACCOUNT) FOR FINAL POSTING. JOURNALS ACT AS SOURCES OF INFORMATION AND FEED DEBITS AND CREDITS TO MORE THAN ONE TYPE OF AN ACCOUNT. AS AN EXAMPLE, THE PAYROLL JOURNAL FEEDS ENTRIES TO COST OF SALES, EXPENSES, LIABILITIES, AND TO THE ASSET TYPE OF ACCOUNTS.
With regard to expense accounts, they will always end in debit balances. It is rare, very rare for even a credit entry to be posted to an expense account. Credits do happen and are most often a function of some type of purchase return to a supplier or a vendor providing a credit related to services rendered. The following are some examples of credits posted to expense accounts:
1) Often banks will subtract or take back a fee charged to their client for relationship purposes. In this case the cash account increases via a debit and the expense account – banking fees – is issued a credit reducing the overall total bank fees.
2) Another common credit posted to expense accounts are refunded over-payments for different types of expenses. A good example of this are tax over-payments. The government returns the over-payment to the business and just as in the banking example above, cash is debited for the value and the respective tax expense is decreased via a credit to that account.
3) A third, and also common credit for expense accounts, is a simple error made in recording the original transaction. Most bookkeepers use a credit entry to fix the problem.
In summation, if there is any concern or possibility of having an ending credit balance for an expense type of account, the answer is ‘YES’ it can happen. This is an advanced bookkeeping function which is covered in future lessons. For now, you want to think that expense accounts should only have debit ending balances. This is still in the early stages of learning about bookkeeping so for you it is still straight forward – Expense Accounts Should Have Debit Balances and Entries, Credit Entries Can Exist; But, Are Rare. ACT ON KNOWLEDGE.
© 2015 – 2022, David J Hoare MSA. All rights reserved.