Close the books in bookkeeping: The basics and quick guide

An Accountant's Guide on Bookkeeping Closing The Books


Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Navigating the financial landscape of a business requires meticulous attention to detail, especially when it comes to bookkeeping. One of the most crucial aspects of this process is “bookkeeping closing the books“. This guide delves into the basics of how to close books in bookkeeping, the steps involved, and common mistakes to avoid. Whether you’re an experienced business owner or just starting out, understanding how to effectively close your books is necessary to ensure your business’s financial health.

Key takeaways:

  • “Close the books” refers to finalizing financial records for a specific period, ensuring all transactions are accurately recorded.
  • Once closed, no further adjustments or entries are made for that period.
  • Businesses can choose to close their books monthly, quarterly, or annually, with year-end closure being crucial for tax and financial preparations.

What does it mean to “close books”?

“Close the books” is an accounting term that refers to the process of finalizing financial records for a specific period, ensuring that all financial transactions within that period are accurately recorded and accounted for. Once the books are closed for a particular period, typically a month, quarter, or year, no further adjustments or entries are typically made to that period’s records.

What does close books mean?

Why do you have to close the book?

Bookkeeping closing the books is not just a routine task; it’s a basis of financial management:

  • Accuracy & Integrity: It ensures that financial records are free from errors, providing a true representation of a business’s financial status.
  • Reliable Reporting: Stakeholders, including investors, creditors, and management, rely on closed books to receive accurate financial statements.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Properly closed books ensure that businesses adhere to tax laws and other financial regulations.
  • Performance Evaluation: It allows businesses to assess their financial health, profitability, and areas of improvement.

When should you close the books?

Different businesses choose to close books in bookkeeping at different times throughout the year. It’s possible to check your records monthly, quarterly, or annually. Many small companies have distinct methods for closing the book at different periods

For instance, a business might verify its monthly earnings and expenditures and then perform a quarterly assessment before an important meeting with the board or investors.

When should you close the books

At the end of the year, the firm’s accountants would close the book to get ready for tax and financial preparations.

Typically, an accountant uses professional bookkeeping and accounting software to prepare the books, which are then examined by a business owner or CEO. Once approved for their accuracy, the books are deemed closed. This procedure ensures security and verification checks, confirming the books are accurate and organized.

>>Read more: Double Entry Bookkeeping: A Method to Keep Your Books Balanced and Perfect

How to close books in bookkeeping?

Bookkeeping closing the books is as simple as gathering the appropriate financial data within a specified timeframe, entering appropriate journal entries and financial information into the general ledger, and summing all ledger accounts. Before creating your final report, generate a trial balance, and if things are not adding up, check your work and enter adjusting entries until you are ready to create the final financial statement.

Your accountant often does these steps or uses professional bookkeeping and accounting software to reduce errors.

Review of all financial transactions

The very first step in bookkeeping closing the books process is to carefully review all financial transactions that occurred during the time period. Ensure that each transaction is correctly dated, categorized, and documented. This foundational step sets the tone for the entire process.

>>Read more: What Is a Bank Reconciliation Statement, and How Is It Done?

Transfer the journal entries to the general ledger

This is the phase where individual transaction data gets organized under respective financial accounts, providing a structured view of all financial activities.

Merge the general ledger accounts

Each account in the ledger is tallied to derive a consolidated figure, representing the total value of transactions for that account during the period.

Create an unadjusted trial balance

This is a preliminary check to ensure that the financial books are balanced. Any discrepancy here warrants a review of previous steps.

Create an unadjusted trial balance

Prepare adjusting journal entries

Some financial events might not be captured in regular transactions. These adjustments could be for interest, depreciation, or even errors. They are essential for accuracy.

Generate an adjusted trial balance

Post adjustments, the trial balance is recalculated. This step ensures that the books remain balanced after considering all financial events.

Prepare financial statements

With a balanced trial balance in hand, the next step is to draft the financial statements. These documents, including the Profit & Loss statement, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow statement, provide a comprehensive view of financial health.

>>Read more: Understanding Cash Flow Statements in Bookkeeping

Prepare closing entries

To reset revenue and expense accounts for the upcoming period, their balances are transferred to permanent equity accounts, ensuring they start the next period with a zero balance.

Finalize a post-closing trial balance

As the bookkeeping closing the books process comes to an end, this is the final check to ensure all accounts are correctly reset and the books are primed for the next accounting cycle.

Common mistakes to avoid

Here are a list of common mistakes you should keep in mind when starting to close books in bookkeeping:

  • Not reconciling accounts: Failing to reconcile accounts, especially critical ones like bank accounts, can lead to significant discrepancies in the financial statements. This mistake can result in undetected fraud, missed transactions, or double entries, all of which can distort the true financial position of the company.
  • Overlooking accruals: Not accounting for all accruals can lead to revenue or expenses being reported in the wrong period. This can impact profitability metrics, tax liabilities, and mislead stakeholders about the company’s financial performance.
  • Ignoring adjusting entries: Overlooking necessary adjusting entries, such as those for depreciation, amortization, or prepaid expenses, can lead to assets and liabilities being misstated. This not only affects the balance sheet but can also distort the income statement.
  • Not reviewing intercompany transactions: For businesses with multiple entities or subsidiaries, failing to correctly record or eliminate intercompany transactions can result in double-counting of revenue or expenses. This can significantly misrepresent the consolidated financial statements, leading to incorrect decision-making by stakeholders.
  • Reopening closed periods: Once the books for a specific period are closed, they should remain closed. Making changes to a closed period can create discrepancies between reports, lead to restatements, and undermine the credibility of the company’s financial reporting.

The bottom line

In conclusion, bookkeeping closing the books is an integral part of a business’s financial management process. It not only ensures accuracy and compliance but also provides valuable insights into the company’s financial health and performance. By understanding the importance of each step and being aware of common mistakes, businesses can maintain a robust financial foundation. If ever in doubt, it’s always wise to consult with a professional CPA, as their expertise can be crucial in guiding businesses through the complexities of your bookkeeping.


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