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What is a general ledger?

A general ledger is a grouping of perhaps hundreds of accounts that are used to sort and store information from a company's business transactions. The general ledger is organized as follows:

  • balance sheet accounts (assets, liabilities, equity), and
  • income statement accounts (revenues, expenses, gains, losses)

Under the double entry system of accounting and bookkeeping, every business transaction will have the amount of debits equal to the amount of credits. Hence, the general ledger is expected to have its debit amounts equal to its credit amounts.

In a manual accounting or bookkeeping system, the general ledger was a "book" with a separate page or ledger sheet for each account. (When a significant amount of detailed information was needed for an account such as Accounts Receivable, a subsidiary ledger was used.)

In a computerized system, the general ledger will be an electronic file of all the needed accounts. This also allows for the electronic preparation of the company's financial statements.