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The Importance of a Financial Paper Trail

Accounting for a company's finances is all about creating an accurate paper trail. You want to track of all your company's financial transactions so if a question comes up at a later date, you can turn to the books to figure out what went wrong.

An accurate paper trail is the only way to track your financial successes and review your financial failures, a task that's vitally important in order to grow your business. You need to know what works successfully so you can repeat it in the future and build on your success. On the other hand, you need to know what failed so you can correct it and avoid making the same mistake again.

All your business's financial transactions are summarized in the General Ledger, and journals keep track of the tiniest details of each transaction. You can make your information gathering more effective by using a computerized accounting system, which gives you access to your financial information in many different formats. Controlling who enters this financial information into your books and who can access it afterwards is smart business and involves critical planning on your part.

Maintaining a ledger

The granddaddy of your bookkeeping system is the General Ledger. In this ledger, you keep a summary of all your accounts and the financial activities that took place involving those accounts throughout the year.

You draw upon the General Ledger's account summaries to develop your financial reports on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis. You can also use these account summaries to develop internal reports that help you make key business decisions.

Keeping journals

Small companies conduct hundreds, if not thousands, of transactions each year. If every transaction were kept in the General Ledger, that record would become unwieldy and difficult to use. Instead, most companies keep a series of journals that detail activity in their most active accounts.

For example, almost every company has a Cash Receipts Journal in which to keep the detail for all incoming cash and a Cash Disbursements Journal in which to keep the detail for all outgoing cash. Other journals can detail sales, purchases, customer accounts, vendor accounts, and any other key accounts that see significant activity.

You decide which accounts you want to create journals for based on your business operation and your need for information about key financial transactions.

Consider computerizing

Many companies today use computerized accounting systems to keep their books. You should consider using one of these systems rather than trying to keep your books on paper. You'll find your bookkeeping takes less time and is probably more accurate with a computerized system.

In addition to increasing accuracy and cutting the time it takes to do your bookkeeping, computerized accounting also makes designing reports easier. These reports can then be used to help make business decisions. Your computerized accounting system stores detailed information about every transaction, so you can group that detail in any way that may assist your decision making.

Instituting internal controls

Every business owner needs to be concerned with keeping tight controls on company cash and how it's used. One way to institute this control is by placing internal restrictions on who has access to enter information into your books and who has access necessary to use that information.

You also need to carefully control who has the ability to accept cash receipts and who has the ability to disburse your business's cash. Separating duties appropriately helps you protect your business's assets from error, theft, and fraud.

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