Introduction to Chart of Accounts

A chart of accounts is a listing of the names of the accounts that a company has identified and made available for recording transactions in its general ledger. A company has the flexibility to tailor its chart of accounts to best suit its needs, including adding accounts as needed.

Within the chart of accounts you will find that the accounts are typically listed in the following order:


Within the categories of operating revenues and operating expenses, accounts might be further organized by business function (such as producing, selling, administrative, financing) and/or by company divisions, product lines, etc.

A company's organization chart can serve as the outline for its accounting chart of accounts. For example, if a company divides its business into ten departments (production, marketing, human resources, etc.), each department will likely be accountable for its own expenses (salaries, supplies, phone, etc.). Each department will have its own phone expense account, its own salaries expense, etc.

A chart of accounts will likely be as large and as complex as the company itself. An international corporation with several divisions may need thousands of accounts, whereas a small local retailer may need as few as one hundred accounts.

Sample Chart of Accounts For a Large Corporation

Each account in the chart of accounts is typically assigned a name and a unique number by which it can be identified. (Software for some small businesses may not require account numbers.) Account numbers are often five or more digits in length with each digit representing a division of the company, the department, the type of account, etc.

As you will see, the first digit might signify if the account is an asset, liability, etc. For example, if the first digit is a "1" it is an asset. If the first digit is a "5" it is an operating expense.

A gap between account numbers allows for adding accounts in the future. The following is a partial listing of a sample chart of accounts.

Current Assets (account numbers 10000 - 16999)
10100 Cash - Regular Checking
10200 Cash - Payroll Checking
10600 Petty Cash Fund
12100 Accounts Receivable
12500 Allowance for Doubtful Accounts
13100 Inventory
14100 Supplies
15300 Prepaid Insurance

Property, Plant, and Equipment (account numbers 17000 - 18999)
17000 Land
17100 Buildings
17300 Equipment
17800 Vehicles
18100 Accumulated Depreciation - Buildings
18300 Accumulated Depreciation - Equipment
18800 Accumulated Depreciation - Vehicles

Current Liabilities (account numbers 20030 - 24999)
20130 Notes Payable - Credit Line #1
20230 Notes Payable - Credit Line #2
21000 Accounts Payable
22100 Wages Payable
23100 Interest Payable
24500 Unearned Revenues

Long-term Liabilities (account numbers 25000 - 26999)
25100 Mortgage Loan Payable
25600 Bonds Payable
25650 Discount on Bonds Payable

Stockholders' Equity (account numbers 27000 - 29999)
27100 Common Stock, No Par
27500 Retained Earnings
29500 Treasury Stock

Operating Revenues (account numbers 30000 - 39999)
31010 Sales - Division #1, Product Line 010
31022 Sales - Division #1, Product Line 022
32018 Sales - Division #2, Product Line 015
33110 Sales - Division #3, Product Line 110

Cost of Goods Sold (account numbers 40000 - 49999)
41010 COGS - Division #1, Product Line 010
41022 COGS - Division #1, Product Line 022
42018 COGS - Division #2, Product Line 015
43110 COGS - Division #3, Product Line 110

Marketing Expenses (account numbers 50000 - 50999)
50100 Marketing Dept. Salaries
50150 Marketing Dept. Payroll Taxes
50200 Marketing Dept. Supplies
50600 Marketing Dept. Telephone

Payroll Dept. Expenses (account numbers 59000 - 59999)
59100 Payroll Dept. Salaries
59150 Payroll Dept. Payroll Taxes
59200 Payroll Dept. Supplies
59600 Payroll Dept. Telephone

Other (account numbers 90000 - 99999)
91800 Gain on Sale of Assets
96100 Loss on Sale of Assets