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What is the Purpose of a Trial Balance?

Purpose of a Trial Balance

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Purpose of a Trial Balance

The main purpose of a trial balance is to check the mathematical accuracy of a company’s bookkeeping system. A trial balance is a statement of all debits and credits in a double-entry accounting system with the totals of each side calculated at the bottom of the report. The sum of all debit entries should be equal to the sum of all credit entries.

Here are the key purposes of a trial balance:

  • Verify Accuracy: By ensuring that the total debits equal the total credits, the trial balance provides a basic check for numerical errors in the ledger accounts. If the totals do not match, there’s likely an error somewhere in the recording of the transactions.
  • Prepare Financial Statements: The trial balance serves as a base for preparing financial statements. The balances of all ledger accounts are used to prepare the income statement, balance sheet, and statement of cash flows.
  • Identify Errors: If there are discrepancies, the trial balance can help identify errors in the journalizing and posting process of transactions. These might include errors such as double posting, single posting, or incorrect amounts posted.
  • Provide an Overview: A trial balance gives a summarized view of all the financial transactions recorded by a business during a particular period. It’s a useful tool for accountants and business owners to review the financial activities of the business.

It’s important to note that while a trial balance is a useful tool in identifying mathematical errors, it may not detect other types of errors. For instance, it won’t catch a transaction that was not recorded at all, or a transaction that was recorded in the wrong accounts, as long as the debits and credits still balance. These types of errors require additional controls and checks to identify.

Example of the Purpose of a Trial Balance

Here’s a simplified example of a trial balance:

Let’s consider a small business named “Bright Lights”, which deals in selling lighting fixtures. At the end of their accounting period, they want to prepare a trial balance.

The ledger accounts and their respective balances might look something like this:

Account TitleDebit ($)Credit ($)
Cash25,000
Accounts Receivable10,000
Inventory15,000
Equipment50,000
Accounts Payable8,000
Sales Revenue75,000
Purchases30,000
Rent5,000
Salaries12,000
Interest Expense1,000
Owner’s Equity50,000
Loan Payable15,000

Adding up all the debit and credit entries:

Total Debits = Cash + Accounts Receivable + Inventory + Equipment + Purchases + Rent + Salaries + Interest Expense = $25,000 + $10,000 + $15,000 + $50,000 + $30,000 + $5,000 + $12,000 + $1,000 = $148,000

Total Credits = Accounts Payable + Sales Revenue + Owner’s Equity + Loan Payable = $8,000 + $75,000 + $50,000 + $15,000 = $148,000

In this case, the total debits equal the total credits ($148,000 = $148,000), so the trial balance is in balance, indicating there are likely no mathematical errors in the ledger accounts.

Keep in mind, this is a very simplified example and a real-world trial balance would include many more accounts and would also likely involve larger sums. It’s also important to remember that while this trial balance is balanced, it doesn’t guarantee that there are no errors. For example, a transaction could be recorded in the wrong accounts, or a transaction could be missing entirely, and the trial balance could still balance.

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