What is posting in accounting?

Posting in accounting is when the balances in subledgers and the general journal are shifted into the general ledger. Posting only transfers the total balance in a subledger into the general ledger, not the individual transactions in the subledger. An accounting manager may elect to engage in posting relatively infrequently, such as once a month, or perhaps as frequently as once a day.

Subledgers are only used when there is a large volume of transaction activity in a certain accounting area, such as inventory, accounts payable, or sales. Thus, posting only applies to these larger-volume situations. For low-volume transaction situations, entries are made directly into the general ledger, so there are no subledgers and therefore no need for posting.

For example, ABC International issues 20 invoices to its customers over a one-week period, for which the totals in the sales subledger are for sales of $300,000. ABC's controller creates a posting entry to move the total of these sales into the general ledger with a $300,000 debit to the accounts receivable account and a $300,000 credit to the revenue account.

Posting is also used when a parent company maintains separate sets of books for each of its subsidiary companies. In this case, the accounting records for each subsidiary are essentially the same as subledgers, so the account totals from the subsidiaries are posted into those of the parent company. This may also be handled on a separate spreadsheet through a manual consolidation process.

Posting has been eliminated in some accounting systems, where subledgers are not used. Instead, all information is directly stored in the accounts listed in the general ledger.

When posting is employed, someone researching information in the general ledger must "drill down" from the account totals posted into the relevant general ledger accounts, and search in the detailed records listed in the relevant subledgers. This can entail a significant amount of additional research work.

From the perspective of closing the books, posting is one of the key procedural steps required before financial statements can be created. In this process, all adjusting entries to the various subledgers and general journal must be made, after which their contents are posted to the general ledger. It is customary at this point to set a lock-out flag in the accounting software, so that no additional changes to the subledgers and journals can be made for the accounting period being closed. Access to the subledgers and journals is then opened for the next accounting period.

If posting accidentally does not occur as part of the closing process, the totals in the general ledger will not be accurate, nor will the financial statements that are compiled from the general ledger.