What is a Single Entry System?

Single Entry System

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Single Entry System

The single entry system is one of the simplest methods of maintaining financial records, especially suited for small businesses. Unlike the double entry system, which records each transaction twice (as a debit in one account and a credit in another), the single entry system records each transaction only once.

Features of the Single Entry System:

  • Simplicity: It is straightforward and doesn’t require knowledge of complex accounting principles. As such, it’s often used by sole proprietors or small businesses that don’t have numerous transactions.
  • Incomplete Records: This system does not provide a complete record of all transactions because it typically focuses on the recording of cash, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and personal withdrawals.
  • No Fixed Format: There isn’t a standardized method for maintaining records in the single entry system. Some businesses might keep a simple cash book, while others might maintain ledgers for receivables and payables.
  • Lacks a Comprehensive View: As it doesn’t record both aspects of a transaction (debit and credit), it’s difficult to have a comprehensive view of the financial position of a business.

Example of a Single Entry System

Let’s delve deeper into the single entry system with a practical example.

Scenario: Tom owns a small food stall, “Tom’s Tasty Tacos.” He doesn’t have many business transactions and finds the double entry system too complicated for his needs. Instead, Tom uses the single entry system to record his cash inflows and outflows.

Tom’s Tasty Tacos – Monthly Cash Book (Single Entry System):

DateDescriptionCash In ($)Cash Out ($)Balance ($)
March 1Opening Balance1,000
March 3Sale of tacos2001,200
March 5Bought Ingredients1001,100
March 6Sale of tacos2501,350
March 10Paid for Stall Rent3001,050
March 12Sale of tacos2201,270
March 15Bought New Cooking Equipment2701,000
March 20Sale of tacos2801,280
March 30Sale of tacos2201,500


  • Tom only records cash transactions. He does not account for any credit sales or purchases, if any.
  • There’s a single column for cash inflow (Cash In) and another for cash outflow (Cash Out). The balance is updated after each transaction.
  • Tom can determine his cash balance at the end of the month by looking at the final balance amount.
  • This record doesn’t provide any insights into assets Tom might own, loans he might have taken, or his overall profitability. It’s merely a record of cash coming in and going out.

This example illustrates the simplicity of the single entry system. It’s ideal for Tom because his operations are small and he’s primarily concerned with his cash position. However, if Tom’s Tasty Tacos starts expanding, taking on more inventory, or accruing more liabilities, he might find the single entry system insufficient and may need to shift to a double entry system.

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