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Breaking Down General Ledger in Construction Business

In the world of the construction business, a general ledger (GL) is like your financial journal. It keeps track of every penny flowing in and out. You can view the general ledger as your company's financial storybook.


We will get into the specifics of a general ledger in this post, discussing its importance, how it works, and why the construction industry needs one.


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What is Inside a General Ledger?

A general ledger is like a diary of your finances. It has:

  • Transaction dates

  • What account the transaction affected

  • How much money was involved

  • Whether it was a debit (money coming in) or credit (money going out)

  • A brief note about the transaction

Imagine the general ledger as a big book of your company's financial life. It tracks all the money that comes in and goes out. It's like a super-organized filing cabinet where similar transactions are grouped together, making it easier to summarize financial reports.


This 'financial book' is divided into different sections called accounts, much like chapters in a storybook. Think of these accounts as special pockets or folders where we collect and keep track of financial details. At the end of a certain period, we tally up the totals in each folder.


Accounting works on a 'double-entry' rule. This means each transaction impacts at least two ledger accounts. For example, if you buy a hammer for your construction business, your cash account decreases but your equipment account increases. This keeps everything in balance.

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We use 'debits' and 'credits' to adjust the amounts in each account. If money is coming in or an asset is increasing, we 'debit' it. If money is going out or liability is increasing, we 'credit' it.


The way we arrange these accounts in the general ledger helps shape the company’s financial statements. Usually, the order starts with the balance sheet accounts (like assets and liabilities), then moves to the income statement accounts (like revenue and expenses). This neat structure makes it easier to see the financial story of your business.


Why Bother with a General Ledger?

The general ledger is crucial because it:

  • Provides an accurate financial snapshot of your business.

  • Ensures compliance with financial regulations.

  • Informs data-driven business decisions.

  • Facilitates the creation of important financial reports.

As your business scales, managing the GL can become complex. That's where CCA's construction bookkeeping services step in. We handle your financial records, freeing up your time to focus on what you do best - building.


Debits and Credits in the GL

In your ledger, debits (left column) increase your assets or reduce liabilities, and credits (right column) decrease assets or increase liabilities. Each transaction's debits and credits must balance out.


How Construction Businesses Use a General Ledger

In the construction world, a general ledger is a vital tool. It is like a central hub for all money matters. It captures all financial activities. Transactions from accounts payable (money you owe), accounts receivable (money owed to you), and payroll (employee wages) are recorded here as they occur.


Just like in our hammer buying example, each transaction impacts at least two accounts and must be balanced in terms of debits and credits. This 'double-entry' system feeds the general ledger, keeping it up-to-date with every financial move your business makes.


But in construction, there's often another level of detail. Many construction businesses use a technique called job costing. Here, every transaction isn’t just recorded in the general ledger; it’s also tagged by project, phase, or cost code. So, if you bought materials for Project A, this purchase is not only recorded as a debit in your materials account and a credit in your cash account but is also marked under Project A.


This way, you can track exactly how much you're spending on each project.

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Sometimes, you might need to move amounts from one account to another. Maybe there was an error, or perhaps you need to record internal transactions that don’t involve accounts payable, accounts receivable, or payroll. These movements are called 'journal entries.' And just like regular transactions, they follow the same double-entry rule. They keep your ledger accurate and reflective of your real-world financial situation.


The Journey of a Transaction in the GL

Constructing a building requires countless transactions. Each purchase of cement, every worker's wage, and all your project sales have a place in your financial story. Here's how a transaction travels in the general ledger of a construction business:

  1. Record the details of each transaction in a journal as it happens.

  2. Categorize each transaction under a relevant account like equipment, labor, or project sales.

  3. Regularly review and correct the information inside these accounts.

  4. Transfer these refined journal entries to the general ledger.

This process ensures every financial action in your construction business is accounted for, maintaining financial order and accuracy.


Making Sure the GL is Correct

Your general ledger is the financial backbone of your construction business. Keeping it accurate is essential. Here's the process to make sure your general ledger is correct, also known as reconciliation:

  1. Gather all the information for each account you're reviewing.

  2. Check any adjustments or journal entries made to correct errors.

  3. Compare the balances in the general ledger with external financial data, like bank statements.

  4. If there are any discrepancies, investigate to find unusual transactions or errors.

This routine check-up ensures your construction financials are correct and trustworthy, which is essential for sound business decisions.


The GL Code - A Filing System for Your Finances

In the hustle and bustle of a construction site, efficiency is key. GL codes are tools that help speed up your data entry and better organize your accounts. Here's how you can utilize GL codes in your construction business:

  1. Assign a numerical name to each account. For example, labor costs might be account #105, and equipment purchases might be account #203.

  2. Use this system to group related accounts. For instance, all labor-related accounts might start with #1, while all equipment accounts start with #2.

  3. Use these GL codes as an index for rapid data entry and effective organization.

Remember, GL codes are not substitutes for account names. They're more like zip codes, helping you locate the right financial 'address' quickly and easily.


In Conclusion

Understanding and managing a general ledger can seem daunting, especially when you're busy building the world around you. But with a clear grasp of the processes and a robust system in place, it becomes an invaluable tool for your construction business.


A well-kept general ledger not only helps you keep a precise record of your financial activities but also gives you insights to make smarter, more profitable decisions. It's the financial compass that helps you navigate toward your business goals.


However, if the world of debits, credits, and GL codes feels overwhelming, remember that you don't have to do it alone. At CCA, we specialize in construction bookkeeping services and are committed to helping you simplify and streamline your accounting processes.

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Want to make your general ledger work for you? Ready to build a stronger financial foundation for your construction business? Don't hesitate to book a consultation with us. Let's build your financial success together.



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