Trial Balance Definition, Explanation, Method, Preparation, Example

definition of a trial balance

It is usually released to the public, rather than just being used internally, and requires the signature of an auditor to be regarded as trustworthy. Bookkeepers and accountants or small business owners use different types of trial balance, depending on the stage of the accounting cycle close. Some small businesses less efficiently use Google Sheets or Excel worksheets or templates for preparing their trial balance documents. The primary purpose of a trial balance is to identify errors and ensure the equality of debits and credits.

A trial balance is a list of all accounts in the general ledger that have nonzero balances. A trial balance is an important step in the accounting process, because it helps identify any computational errors throughout the first three steps in the cycle. A trial balance can help a company detect some types of errors and make adjustments to the trial balance and accounting ledgers before the books are closed for the accounting period and financial statements are prepared.

All three of these types have exactly the same format but slightly different uses. The unadjusted trial balance is prepared on the fly, before adjusting journal entries are completed. It is a record of day-to-day transactions and can be used to balance a ledger by adjusting entries. Today, credit balances and debit balances are checked automatically, mostly eliminating the need to create trial balance documents.

The Difference Between a Trial Balance and a General Ledger

The adjusted trial balance is typically printed and stored in the year-end book, which is then archived. Finally, after the period has been closed, the report is called the post-closing trial balance. This post-closing trial balance the historical cost principle requires that when assets are acquired contains the beginning balances for the next year’s accounting activities. A trial balance is a worksheet with two columns, one for debits and one for credits, that ensures a company’s bookkeeping is mathematically correct.

Preparing a trial balance for a company serves to detect any mathematical errors that have occurred in the double entry accounting system. If the total debits equal the total credits, the trial balance is considered to be balanced, and there should be no mathematical errors in the ledgers. However, this does not mean that there are no errors in a company’s accounting system. For example, transactions classified improperly or those simply missing from the system still could be material accounting errors that would not be detected by the trial balance procedure. In addition to error detection, the trial balance is prepared to make the necessary adjusting entries to the general ledger. It is prepared again after the adjusting entries are posted to ensure that the total debits and credits are still balanced.

  1. The general purpose of producing a trial balance is to ensure that the entries in a company’s bookkeeping system are mathematically correct.
  2. Adjusted trial balances are a type of trial balance issued after the initial trial balance is prepared.
  3. They are beneficial in specific ways, but it’s essential to understand their limitations.
  4. This is used as a first check by auditors to ensure there are no mathematical errors before moving on to more detailed and in-depth investigations, even though it does not give a thorough audit of the accounts.
  5. Alternatively, the parent company may require all of its subsidiaries to use the same accounting system, so that all subsidiary results can be automatically rolled up into consolidated financial statements.

Thereafter, a list of all the accounts is prepared in a separate sheet of paper with two «amount» columns on the right hand side. The total of debit side and credit side of each account is then placed on «debit amount» column and «credit amount» column respectively of the list. Finally the two columns are added separately to see whether they agree of not. Under this method, the ledger accounts’ debit and credit account balances are directly transferred to the TB. Even when the debit and credit totals stated on the trial balance equal each other, it does not mean that there are no errors in the accounts listed in the trial balance.

What’s the Role of a Trial Balance in Accounting?

The adjusted trial balance accounts for information that is missing or misrepresented in the general ledger and can correct for errors identified in the initial report. A vital auditing technique used to ensure whether the total debit equals the total credit in the general ledger accounts, which plays a crucial role in creating financial statements. Debits and credits of a trial balance must tally to ensure that there are no mathematical errors. A trial balance can be used to assess the financial position of a company between full annual audits.

Hence, the trial balance is less important for bookkeeping purposes since it is almost certain that the general ledger and the trial balance will have the debits equal to the credits. It is mainly an internal report that is/was useful in a manual accounting system. If the trial balance did not “balance” it signaled an error somewhere between the journal and the trial balance. Often the cause of the difference was a miscalculation of an account balance, posting a debit amount as a credit (or vice versa), transposing digits within an amount when posting or preparing the trial balance, etc.

We note below several ways in which errors could occur and yet not be spotted by reviewing the trial balance. As part of your review process, ensure that all trial balance accounts are posted to the general ledger. When you migrate to new accounting software systems, errors can occur without proper field mapping during the software conversion process. Bookkeepers or accountants will prepare a trial balance before issuing formal financial statements. Business owners can also use them as a summary of account performance during an accounting period. Business owners may also choose to prepare a trial balance in the middle of a standard reporting period to assess financial position and ensure that accounting systems are on track.

Requirements for a Trial Balance

Accelerate your company’s accounting close by using automated batch payment reconciliation in Tipalti AP automation software. Read the white paper to learn more about holistic AP automation in accounting. It gives a snip of the company’s financial summary and transparency in identifying errors or discrepancies. This displays the balances before the adjustments, the actual adjusting entries made, and the balances after the adjustments have been incorporated. It is not distributed elsewhere within an organization, and it is not read by outside parties, other than the auditors.

Trial balance

Accounts Payable ($500), Unearned Revenue ($4,000), Common Stock ($20,000) and Service Revenue ($9,500) all have credit final balances in their T-accounts. These credit balances would transfer to the credit column on the unadjusted trial balance. The main user of the trial balance is the general ledger accountant (or the bookkeeper in a smaller business). This person uses it as part of the month-end and year-end closing process, to ensure that the debit and credit totals match. Adjusted trial balances can also remove advanced payments or take into account liabilities that have not been incurred during the accounting period but should be factored into financial reports. These types of adjustments don’t necessarily correct for errors in the unadjusted balance, but they can result in more accurate reporting by identifying and accounting for assets and liabilities not reflected in the general ledger.