Introduction to Accounting:
Accounting is the language of business. It is the system of recording, summarizing, and analyzing an economic entity's financial transactions. Effectively communicating this information is key to the success of every business. Those who rely on financial information include internal users, such as a company's managers and employees, and external users, such as banks, investors, governmental agencies, financial analysts, and labor unions. These users depend upon data supplied by accountants to answer the following types of questions:
- Is the company profitable?
- Is there enough cash to meet payroll needs?
- How much debt does the company have?
- How does the company's net income compare to its budget?
- What is the balance owed by customers?
- Has the company consistently paid cash dividends?
- How much income does each division generate?
- Should the company invest money to expand?
Accountants must present an organization's financial information in clear, concise reports that help make questions like these easy to answer. The most common accounting reports are called financial statements.
Understanding Financial Statements:The financial statements shown on the next several pages are for a sole proprietorship, which is a business owned by an individual. Corporate financial statements are slightly different. The four basic financial statements are the income statement, statement of owner's equity, balance sheet, and statement of cash flows. The income statement, statement of owner's equity, and statement of cash flows report activity for a specific period of time, usually a month, quarter, or year. The balance sheet reports balances of certain elements at a specific time. All four statements have a three-line heading in the following format:
The income statement, which is sometimes called the statement of earnings or statement of operations, is prepared first. It lists revenues and expenses and calculates the company's net income or net loss for a period of time. Net income means total revenues are greater than total expenses.Net loss means total expenses are greater than total revenues. The specific items that appear in financial statements are explained later.
|The Greener Landscape Group Income Statement For the Month Ended April 30, 20X2|
Statement of owner's equity:
The statement of owner's equity is prepared after the income statement. It shows the beginning and ending owner's equity balances and the items affecting owner's equity during the period. These items include investments, the net income or loss from the income statement, and withdrawals. Because the specific revenue and expense categories that determine net income or loss appear on the income statement, the statement of owner's equity shows only the total net income or loss. Balances enclosed by parentheses are subtracted from unenclosed balances.
|The Greener Landscape Group Statement of Owner's Equity For the Month Ended April 30, 20X2|
The balance sheet shows the balance, at a particular time, of each asset, each liability, and owner's equity. It proves that the accounting equation(Assets = Liabilities + Owner's Equity) is in balance. The ending balance on the statement of owner's equity is used to report owner's equity on the balance sheet.
|The Greener Landscape Group Balance Sheet April 30, 20X2|
Statement of cash flows:
The statement of cash flows tracks the movement of cash during a specific accounting period. It assigns all cash exchanges to one of three categories—operating, investing, or financing—to calculate the net change in cash and then reconciles the accounting period's beginning and ending cash balances. As its name implies, the statement of cash flows includes items that affect cash. Although not part of the statement's main body, significant non-cash items must also be disclosed.
According to current accounting standards, operating cash flows may be disclosed using either the direct or the indirect method. The direct method simply lists the net cash flow by type of cash receipt and payment category. For purposes of illustration, the direct method appears below.
|The Greener Landscape Group Statement of Cash Flows For the Month Ended April 30, 20X2|
Financial Reporting Objectives:
Financial statements are prepared according to agreed upon guidelines. In order to understand these guidelines, it helps to understand the objectives of financial reporting. The objectives of financial reporting, as discussed in the Financial Accounting standards Board (FASB) Statement of Financial Accounting Concepts No. 1, are to provide information that
- is useful to existing and potential investors and creditors and other users in making rational investment, credit, and similar decisions;
- helps existing and potential investors and creditors and other usear to assess the amounts, timing, and uncertainty of pro spective net cash inflows to the enterprise;
- identifies the economic resources of an enterprise, the claims to those resources, and the effects that transactions, events, and circumstances have on those resource.
Generally Accepted Accounting Principles:
Accountants use generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) to guide them in recording and reporting financial information. GAAP comprises a broad set of principles that have been developed by the accounting profession and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Two laws, the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, give the SEC authority to establish reporting and disclosure requirements. However, the SEC usually operates in an oversight capacity, allowing the FASB and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) to establish these requirements. The GASB develops accounting standards for state and local governments.
The current set of principles that accountants use rests upon some underlying assumptions. The basic assumptions and principles presented on the next several pages are considered GAAP and apply to most financial statements. In addition to these concepts, there are other, more technical standards accountants must follow when preparing financial statements. Some of these are discussed later in this book, but other are left for more advanced study.
Economic entity assumption. Financial records must be separately maintained for each economic entity. Economic entities include businesses, governments, school districts, churches, and other social organizations. Although accounting information from many different entities may be combined for financial reporting purposes, every economic event must be associated with and recorded by a specific entity. In addition, business records must not include the personal assets or liabilities of the owners.
Monetary unit assumption. An economic entity's accounting records include only quantifiable transactions. Certain economic events that affect a company, such as hiring a new chief executive officer or introducing a new product, cannot be easily quantified in monetary units and, therefore, do not appear in the company's accounting records. Furthermore, accounting records must be recorded using a stable currency. Businesses in the United States usually use U.S. dollars for this purpose.
Full disclosure principle. Financial statements normally provide information about a company's past performance. However, pending lawsuits, incomplete transactions, or other conditions may have imminent and significant effects on the company's financial status. The full disclosure principle requires that financial statements include disclosure of such information. Footnotes supplement financial statements to convey this information and to describe the policies the company uses to record and report business transactions.
Time period assumption. Most businesses exist for long periods of time, so artificial time periods must be used to report the results of business activity. Depending on the type of report, the time period may be a day, a month, a year, or another arbitrary period. Using artificial time periods leads to questions about when certain transactions should be recorded. For example, how should an accountant report the cost of equipment expected to last five years? Reporting the entire expense during the year of purchase might make the company seem unprofitable that year and unreasonably profitable in subsequent years. Once the time period has been established, accountants use GAAP to record and report that accounting period's transactions.
Accrual basis accounting. In most cases, GAAP requires the use of accrual basis accounting rather than cash basis accounting. Accrual basis accounting, which adheres to the revenue recognition, matching, and cost principles discussed below, captures the financial aspects of each economic event in the accounting period in which it occurs, regardless of when the cash changes hands. Under cash basis accounting, revenues are recognized only when the company receives cash or its equivalent, and expenses are recognized only when the company pays with cash or its equivalent.
Revenue recognition principle. Revenue is earned and recognized upon product delivery or service completion, without regard to the timing of cash flow. Suppose a store orders five hundred compact discs from a wholesaler in March, receives them in April, and pays for them in May. The wholesaler recognizes the sales revenue in April when delivery occurs, not in March when the deal is struck or in May when the cash is received. Similarly, if an attorney receives a $100 retainer from a client, the attorney doesn't recognize the money as revenue until he or she actually performs $100 in services for the client.
Matching principle. The costs of doing business are recorded in the same period as the revenue they help to generate. Examples of such costs include the cost of goods sold, salaries and commissions earned, insurance premiums, supplies used, and estimates for potential warranty work on the merchandise sold. Consider the wholesaler who delivered five hundred CDs to a store in April. These CDs change from an asset (inventory) to an expense (cost of goods sold) when the revenue is recognized so that the profit from the sale can be determined.
Cost principle. Assets are recorded at cost, which equals the value exchanged at the time of their acquisition. In the United States, even if assets such as land or buildings appreciate in value over time, they are not revalued for financial reporting purposes.
Going concern principle. Unless otherwise noted, financial statements are prepared under the assumption that the company will remain in business indefinitely. Therefore, assets do not need to be sold at fire-sale values, and debt does not need to be paid off before maturity. This principle results in the classification of assets and liabilities as short-term (current) and long-term. Long-term assets are expected to be held for more than one year. Long-term liabilitiesare not due for more than one year.
Relevance, reliability, and consistency. To be useful, financial information must be relevant, reliable, and prepared in a consistent manner. Relevant information helps a decision maker understand a company's past performance, present condition, and future outlook so that informed decisions can be made in a timely manner. Of course, the information needs of individual users may differ, requiring that the information be presented in different formats. Internal users often need more detailed information than external users, who may need to know only the company's value or its ability to repay loans. Reliable information is verifiable and objective. Consistent information is prepared using the same methods each accounting period, which allows meaningful comparisons to be made between different accounting periods and between the financial statements of different companies that use the same methods.
Principle of conservatism. Accountants must use their judgment to record transactions that require estimation. The number of years that equipment will remain productive and the portion of accounts receivable that will never be paid are examples of items that require estimation. In reporting financial data, accountants follow the principle of conservatism, which requires that the less optimistic estimate be chosen when two estimates are judged to be equally likely. For example, suppose a manufacturing company's Warranty Repair Department has documented a three-percent return rate for product X during the past two years, but the company's Engineering Department insists this return rate is just a statistical anomaly and less than one percent of product X will require service during the coming year. Unless the Engineering Department provides compelling evidence to support its estimate, the company's accountant must follow the principle of conservatism and plan for a three-percent return rate. Losses and costs—such as warranty repairs—are recorded when they are probable and reasonably estimated. Gains are recorded when realized.
Materiality principle. Accountants follow the materiality principle, which states that the requirements of any accounting principle may be ignored when there is no effect on the users of financial information. Certainly, tracking individual paper clips or pieces of paper is immaterial and excessively burdensome to any company's accounting department. Although there is no definitive measure of materiality, the accountant's judgment on such matters must be sound. Several thousand dollars may not be material to an entity such as General Motors, but that same figure is quite material to a small, family-owned business.
Internal Control :
Internal control is the process designed to ensure reliable financial reporting, effective and efficient operations, and compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Safeguarding assets against theft and unauthorized use, acquisition, or disposal is also part of internal control.
Control environment. The management style and the expectations of upper-level managers, particularly their control policies, determine the control environment. An effective control environment helps ensure that established policies and procedures are followed. The control environment includes independent oversight provided by a board of directors and, in publicly held companies, by an audit committee; management's integrity, ethical values, and philosophy; a defined organizational structure with competent and trustworthy employees; and the assignment of authority and responsibility.
Control activities. Control activities are the specific policies and procedures management uses to achieve its objectives. The most important control activities involve segregation of duties, proper authorization of transactions and activities, adequate documents and records, physical control over assets and records, and independent checks on performance. A short description of each of these control activities appears below.
- Segregation of duties requires that different individuals be assigned responsibility for different elements of related activities, particularly those involving authorization, custody, or recordkeeping. For example, the same person who is responsible for an asset's recordkeeping should not be respon sible for physical control of that asset Having different indi viduals perform these functions creates a system of checks and balances.
- Proper authorization of transactions and activities helps ensure that all company activities adhere to established guide lines unless responsible managers authorize another course of action. For example, a fixed price list may serve as an official authorization of price for a large sales staff. In addition, there may be a control to allow a sales manager to authorize reason able deviations from the price list.
- Adequate documents and records provide evidence that financial statements are accurate. Controls designed to ensure adequate recordkeeping include the creation of invoices and other documents that are easy to use and sufficiently informa tive; the use of prenumbered, consecutive documents; and the timely preparation of documents.
- Physical control over assets and records helps protect the company's assets. These control activities may include elec tronic or mechanical controls (such as a safe, employee ID cards, fences, cash registers, fireproof files, and locks) or computer-related controls dealing with access privileges or established backup and recovery procedures.
- Independent checks on performance, which are carried out by employees who did not do the work being checked, help ensure the reliability of accounting information and the efficiency of operations. For example, a supervisor verifies the accuracy of a retail clerk's cash drawer at the end of the day. Internal auditors may also verity that the supervisor performed the check of the cash drawer.
In order to identify and establish effective controls, management must continually assess the risk, monitor control implementation, and modify controls as needed. Top managers of publicly held companies must sign a statement of responsibility for internal controls and include this statement in their annual report to stockholders.