There are a number of differences between the general ledger and trial balance, which are as follows:
- Amount of information. The general ledger contains the detailed transactions comprising all accounts, while the trial balance only contains the ending balance in each of those accounts. Thus, the general ledger may be several hundred pages long, while the trial balance covers only a few pages.
- Usage. The general ledger is used as the main source of information by financial accountants when they are investigating accounts. The trial balance has a much more limited use, where the totals of all debits and credits are compared to verify that the books are in balance.
- Auditor usage. The auditors request a copy of the trial balance as part of their year-end audit, so that they have final balances for all accounts. They use the general ledger for a different purpose, which is to trace balances back to individual transactions.
- Nature of information. The general ledger is considered to be a database of information about accounting transactions, while the trial balance is really just a report that is derived from the general ledger.