T Accounts Guide

A guide to understanding T Accounts

What are T Accounts?

If you want a career in accounting, T Accounts will be your new best friend. A T Account is a visual representation of individual accounts that looks like a “T” so that all additions and subtractions to the account can be easily tracked.

Each separate account will have its own individual T-Account. Typical T-Account looks like the following:

t accounts

 

Debits and Credits for T Accounts

When most people hear the term debits and credits, they think of debit cards and credit cards. Debit cards refer to straight up cash payments while credit cards are a form of borrowing. In accounting, however, debits and credits refer to completely different things.

Debits and Credits are simply accounting jargon traced back hundreds of years that are still used in today’s double-entry accounting system. A double-entry accounting system means that every transaction that a company makes is recorded in at least two accounts where one account will get a “debit” entry while another account will get a “credit” entry.

These entries are recorded as journal entries in the company’s books. For more on journal entries, please click on the journal entries link below.

Debits and credits can mean either increasing or decreasing for different accounts, but their T-Account representations look the same in terms of left and right positioning.

 

T-Accounts Explained

The left side of the T-Account is always the debit side and the right side is always the credit side no matter what the account is. For different accounts, debits and credits can mean either an increase or a decrease, but in a T-Account, the debit is always the left side by convention. Let’s take a more in-depth look at the T-accounts for different accounts namely, assets, liabilities, and shareholder’s equity, the major components of the Balance Sheet, or Statement of Financial Position.

 

t accounts balancing

 

For asset accounts, which include cash, accounts receivable, inventory, PP&E, and others, the left side of the T-Account (debit side) is always an increase to the account. The right side (credit side) is conversely, a decrease to the asset account. For liabilities and equity accounts, the debit and credit sides of the T-Account are the same however, the debit side signifies a decrease to the account and the credit side signifies an increase to the account.

 

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T-Accounts for Income Statement Accounts

T-Accounts are also used for income statements accounts as well which include revenues, expenses, gains, and losses.

 

t accounts revenues expenses

 

Once again, debits to revenue/gain decrease the account while credits increase the account. The contrary is true for expenses and losses. Putting all the accounts together, we can examine the following.

 

t accounts example

 

Using T-Accounts, tracking multiple journal entries within a certain period of time becomes much more feasible. Every journal entry is posted to its respective T-Accounts on the correct side by the correct amount. For example, if a company issued shares for $500,000, the journal entry would compose of a Debit to Cash and a Credit to Common Shares.

 

t accounts common shares

 

More resources

At CFI our mission is to help you advance your career.  We have many more additional resources that will help you on your way to becoming a world class financial analyst.

More helpful resources include:

  • Journal entries
  • Balance sheet
  • Income statement
  • Interactive career map