Examples of key journal entries

Journal entries are used to record business transactions. The following journal entry examples provide an outline of the more common entries encountered. It is impossible to provide a complete set of journal entries that address every variation on every situation, since there are thousands of possible entries. Each example journal entry states the topic, the relevant debit and credit, and additional comments as needed.

Example revenue journal entries:

  • Sales entry. When goods or services are sold on credit, debit accounts receivable and credit sales. If a sale is for cash, then the debit is to the cash account instead of the accounts receivable account.

  • Allowance for doubtful accounts entry. When setting up or adjusting a bad debt reserve, debit bad debt expense and credit the allowance for doubtful accounts. When specific bad debts are identified, you then debit the allowance for doubtful accounts and credit the accounts receivable account.

Example expense journal entries:

  • Accounts payable entry. When recording an account payable, debit the asset or expense account to which a purchase relates and credit the accounts payable account. When an account payable is paid, debit accounts payable and credit cash.

  • Payroll entry. When recognizing payroll expenses, debit the wages expense and payroll tax expense accounts, and credit the cash account. There may be additional credits to account for deductions from benefit expense accounts, if employees have permitted deductions for benefits to be taken from their pay.

  • Accrued expense entry. To accrue an incurred expense, debit the applicable expense and credit accrued expenses. This entry is usually reversed automatically in the following period.

  • Depreciation entry. To recognize depreciation expense, debit depreciation expense and credit accumulated depreciation. These accounts may be categorized by type of fixed asset.

  • Petty cash entry. When petty cash is to be replenished, debit the expenses to be charged, as stated on received vouchers, and credit the cash account for the amount of cash to be used to replenish the petty cash box.

Example asset journal entries:

  • Cash reconciliation entry. This entry can take many forms, but there is usually a debit to the bank fees account to recognize charges made by the bank, with a credit to the cash account. There may also be a debit to office supplies expense for any check supplies purchased and paid for through the bank account.

  • Prepaid expense adjustment entry. When recognizing prepaid expenses as expenses, debit the applicable expense account and credit the prepaid expense account.

  • Obsolete inventory entry. When creating a reserve for obsolete inventory, debit cost of goods sold and credit the reserve for obsolete inventory. When inventory is actually disposed of, debit the reserve and credit inventory.

  • Fixed asset addition entry. When adding a fixed asset to the accounting records, debit the applicable fixed asset account and credit accounts payable.

  • Fixed asset derecognition entry. When removing a fixed asset from the accounting records, debit accumulated depreciation and credit the applicable fixed asset account. There may also be a gain or loss on the derecognition.

Example liability journal entries:

  • See the preceding accounts payable and accrued expense entries.

Example equity journal entries:

  • Dividend declaration. When establishing the existence of a liability to pay dividends, debit the retained earnings account and credit the dividends payable account. Once dividends are paid, this is a debit to the dividends payable account and a credit to the cash account.

  • Stock repurchase. When shares in a business are repurchased, debit treasury stock and credit cash. There are alternative methods for recording treasury stock.

These journal entries are intended to provide an overview of the general types and formats of accounting entries. For more complex journal entries, it is best to obtain the advice of the company's auditors or a CPA.

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