Accounting Concepts and Principles

Accounting Concepts and Principles

There are many accounting concepts and principles used with preparation and presentation of financial information. When you understand these, you will be able to read financial statements and make better decisions as an investor and/or owner of a company.  

There are over 100 principles with accounting. Some are intuitive, others are argumentative but are set in place in order to have consistency throughout the profession and application. 

The following articles are educational in nature and designed to teach the fundamentals of accounting. They are written assuming the reader is a novice as it relates to accounting. Please take your time and read to gain a better understanding of the accounting concepts and principles.

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  • Accounting Principles

    Accounting Principles
    Simply stated, accounting is the measurement of economic activity. Its primary principle is to report information to the user so that (s)he can make informed decisions. The primary reporting format is in the form of dollars. There are two important reports used by pretty much 99% of all business operations to determine the status of the business ...
  • Depreciation – This is Weird Accounting

    Depreciation - This is Weird Accounting
    In the world of accounting, there are two types of expenses on the reports widely misunderstood. They are depreciation and amortization. I will try to help the novice gain an understanding of depreciation in this article.
  • What is ‘Cost of Goods Sold’?

    What is 'Cost of Goods Sold'?
    Simply put, ‘cost of goods sold’ equals the direct costs of materials, human resources, and equipment needed to produce the item sold. However, this can be confusing because there are many marginal cost items that affect the real cost of producing and selling the item.
  • Small Business Tax Depreciation – Section 179

    Small Business Tax Depreciation – Section 179
    The Internal Revenue Service sets the depreciation allowance based on the Code as promulgated by Congress. The most commonly referenced section is 179. This is a form of accelerated depreciation allowing the small business owner the opportunity to take a large expense deduction and reduce their tax obligation immediately. 
  • The Definition of Fixed Assets

    The Definition of Fixed Assets
    Any tangible item not consumed within one accounting cycle (typically a year) and providing long term utility is referred to as a Fixed Asset. Traditional images include manufacturing equipment, tools, transportation vehicles, buildings and utility related systems (sewage systems, power grids, power plants and dams). In accounting, these assets are recorded to the balance sheet as ‘Fixed ...
  • Liquidity – What Does This Mean?

    Liquidity – What Does This Mean?
    In business, liquidity is defined as the period of time it takes to turn assets into cash. It takes 20 minutes to turn the balance in the checking account into cash. You head on down to the bank and present a check. You get cash. But most businesses run on just more than the cash in the bank ...
  • What is Amortization?

    What is Amortization?
    Non-physical assets are expensed to the income statement or profit and loss statement via a method called amortization. It is most commonly used in the mortgage industry to refer to the monthly payment made to pay interest and the principal (the amortizable portion) on a debt instrument. 
  • Cash Flow – A Basic Definition

    Cash Flow – A Basic Definition
    Cash flow is the ability of a business to turn its product or service into cash. It is generally measured in dollars or in dollars against a time period. The simplest example I can think of is a child selling lemonade.
  • What is Accrual Accounting?

    What is Accrual Accounting?
    Accrual accounting is the preferred method of accounting for all business operations. Any publicly traded company must comply with the principles of accrual accounting. Small business operations can choose between cash and accrual accounting for their records. Although cash accounting is the easiest to work with as a small business operation, accrual accounting will provide a more ...
  • How is Cost of Goods Sold in Retail Determined?

    How is Cost of Goods Sold in Retail Determined?
    Each industry is different in determining costs of goods sold or cost of services rendered.  Retail uses two distinct methods to calculate costs of goods sold. The first is called ‘Specific Identification’ whereby each item sold is specifically identified to its recorded cost. The second method is referred to as ‘Inventory Adjustment’ format. In this method, ...
  • The Various Forms of Depreciation

    The Various Forms of Depreciation
    There are various forms of depreciation used in the small business world. In general, depreciation is not required but it is advisable. A small business owner should understand depreciation and the various forms of how to calculate the deduction. 
  • Format of the Profit and Loss Statement for Service Related Businesses

    Format of the Profit and Loss Statement for Service Related Businesses
    Service related businesses require a different format than the traditional profit and loss statement AKA the income statement. The traditional profit and loss focuses on sales of products and a corresponding cost of goods sold section to help the reader evaluate the gross margin. But in service, the owner needs a profit and loss statement ...
  • An Explanation of Goodwill – Part I – Generating Goodwill

    An Explanation of Goodwill – Part I – Generating Goodwill
    The closest definition of Goodwill is devotion. Customers become devoted due to the way the small business treated them. It was worth paying a little more or going out of your way to go to the business that treated you well. How does a business generate goodwill?  What is it worth? 
  • Definition of Contribution Margin

    Definition of Contribution Margin
    Contribution margin is a core business concept and is often used in cost accounting to identify the amount of financial contribution a sold product provides to the company.  Simply put, contribution margin is the sales price less the direct costs (sometimes referred to as variable costs). 
  • Revenue and Sales – What is the Difference?

    Revenue and Sales – What is the Difference?
    Sales are a component of revenue. Revenue encompasses several sources of income including sales. Other sources of revenue include interest, trust monies, royalties, and fees. In effect, revenue includes all sources of income, realized and unrealized. Sales are divided into two levels, gross sales are all sales at the regular price; net sales are gross sales less ...
  • Deferred (Unearned) Revenue – Definition and Accounting Procedures

    Deferred (Unearned) Revenue – Definition and Accounting Procedures
    Deferred or unearned revenue is an advance payment made by a customer for a product or service that has not yet been rendered (delivered). 
  • Fixed Costs – Explanation and Examples

    Fixed Costs – Explanation and Examples
    ‘Fixed costs’ is a business term used mostly in cost accounting. It has several meanings based on its usage. The most common definition associated with fixed costs is expenses that must be paid regardless of production or sales volume. The best example is rent for a company. It doesn’t matter whether you produce or sell one widget ...
  • Various Sets of Accounting Books

    Various Sets of Accounting Books
    Accounting’s primary purpose is to measure economic activity. There are several different methods to determine the economic value generated in your business each year. In accounting this is referred to as sets of books. There are four basic sets of accounting books. Each has a different purpose and end goal.
  • Cost of Sales – Various Formats

    Cost of Sales – Various Formats
    Many business owners misunderstand the use of term ‘Cost of Sales’ by restricting it to just simply ‘Cost of Goods Sold’. Basically, most business entrepreneurs and even accountants don’t realize that it has several different names and presentation formats. But it is essentially costs of sales.
  • Treasury Stock – Fundamentals of Stock

    Treasury Stock - Fundamentals of Stock
    Those corporations doing well and flush with cash sometimes buy back stock from their investors. Once purchased back by the company the stock is called treasury stock. However, in small business, buying back stock can significantly alter the entire corporate control ownership and impact the long term outcome and direction of the company.
  • Break-Even Analysis – Fundamentals

    Break-Even Analysis - Fundamentals
    Breakeven analysis is a managerial (cost) accounting tool used to examine the relationship of price to cost of a product. It also considers various sales volumes and the effect on profit given the different relationships of price to cost. The breakeven analysis is an essential tool in maximizing profit with the least amount of resources.
  • Amortization of Financing Costs

    Amortization of Financing Costs
    When a business acquires a loan there are typically closing costs involved. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) require these financing costs to be amortized (allocated) over the life of the loan. There are several principles the reader needs to understand to properly calculate and assign these costs to the financial statements. This lesson explains the basic business ...
  • Gross and Net Sales

    Gross and Net Sales
    Many of the business performance standards are measured against a baseline. For the bulk of production and operation performance tools the baseline is net sales. The key to an accurate performance standard is having an exact sales figure.
  • Working Trial Balance

    Working Trial Balance
    The accounting profession uses various tools to generate accurate accounting information at the close of accounting cycles (monthly, quarterly and annually). The primary document is the working trial balance. It is very similar to the traditional trial balance except there are additional columns used to identify various adjustments and the corresponding source documents (work papers).
  • Cash Flow From Operations – Basic Formula

    Cash Flow From Operations - Basic Formula
    n a pure cash only operation, the profit as reported on the income statement would also be cash flow from operations. But modern-day business is not pure in how it is conducted. Companies agree to pay suppliers at a later time, payroll is weekly or monthly, benefits that are paid in the future are offered to ...
  • Cash Flow From Operations – Understanding Cash Flow (Part II)

    Cash Flow From Operations - Understanding Cash Flow (Part II)
    To understand the cash situation, the cash flows statement is an additional report included in financial statements to basically convert the accrual basis balance sheet and income statement into a cash basis report. This way, management gets the best attributes of both accrual and cash basis accounting.
  • Pooling of Costs – Basic Understanding

    Pooling of Costs - Basic Understanding
    Pooling of costs is an accounting trick used to facilitate better matching of costs against the respective revenue stream or predicted cost for the respective product or function.
  • Insolvency – Detection

    Insolvency - Detection
    Insolvency refers to the ability to pay bills in a timely manner. It does not mean bankruptcy but long-term insolvency is a underlying factor of bankruptcy. Many owners and/or managers of small business have no idea of how to determine if the company is insolvent or headed towards the inability to meet their day to day obligations.

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