What is a T-account?
A T-account is a visual aid used to depict an account in a general ledger. Above the top portion of the T would be the account title. On the left-side of the base of the T would be any debit amounts; on the right-side would be the credit amounts.
The T-account can be helpful in determining the proper balance for an account or to determine the amount to be entered in order to arrive at a desired balance. I always use two (or more) T-accounts when determining how to adjust an account balance. Drawing two T-accounts reminds us that every transaction or adjustment will have to involve at least two accounts because of double-entry accounting.
A common use of T-accounts is in preparing adjusting entries (accruals and deferrals). I begin by drawing two T-accounts. Next, I note that one of the T-accounts will affect a balance sheet account. The other T-account is noted as affecting an income statement account.
As a young accountant I had to determine the effect of a new FASB standard on my employer’s financial statements. I reported on the impact on the company’s expenses in great detail. I thought I was done until the controller drew two T-accounts on a piece of paper and said, “What about the other account? You told me about the expense account, but what other account or accounts are affected. You know we have double-entry accounting!”
You might get in the habit of using two T-accounts each time you attempt to determine the proper accounting entry. It will help you see the proper amounts and the proper accounts.
See the use of T-accounts at Debits and Credits.
About the Author: Harold Averkamp (CPA) has worked as an accountant, consultant, and university accounting instructor for more than 25 years. He is the creator and author of all the content found on AccountingCoach.com. You can read 1,500 testimonials praising his ability to explain accounting in a way that anybody can understand.
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