Your Guide to QBO’s Chart of Accounts

four people learning the chart of accounts

Running a successful business involves effective financial management, and QuickBooks Online (QBO) is your trusty companion, making financial control a walk in the park. 

Now, let’s talk about a key player in the financial game: the Chart of Accounts. Don’t be intimidated; we’re here to break it down for non-accountants. 

Let’s explore what it is, why it’s crucial, and how to set it up in QuickBooks Online.

Demystifying the Chart of Accounts

Before we dive into the how-to, let’s get cozy with the idea of a Chart of Accounts. Imagine it as a map of your financial world—a list of accounts where your business logs transactions. 

Think income, expenses, assets, liabilities, and equity, all neatly organized.

Why It Matters?

  1. Stay Organized:
    • Think of it as a digital filing cabinet. It keeps your financial info tidy, making it a breeze to find what you need.
  2. Get it Right:
    • Categorized accounts ensure transactions are correctly sorted, leading to accurate financial reports and fewer boo-boos.
  3. Make it Yours:
    • Your Chart of Accounts can be customized to fit your business vibe, reflecting your goals and industry.
  4. Efficiency Boost:
    • With a well-organized Chart of Accounts, tracking and managing finances become a cakewalk, saving you time and headaches.

Now, let’s get hands-on with setting up your Chart of Accounts in QuickBooks Online.

Step 1: Finding the Chart of Accounts

Log into QuickBooks Online and follow these easy steps:

  1. Click on the “Accounting” tab—usually on the left. This takes you to the accounting section of QBO.
  2. Look for “Chart of Accounts” under the same section and click on it to access your financial accounts.

Step 2: Adding Your Accounts

Creating new accounts is the heart of the operation. Here’s a simplified breakdown:

  1. Find the “New” button (usually in the upper right corner) and click to start a new account.
  2. A window will pop up—pick the account type from the menu, like “Bank,” “Expense,” “Income,” and so on. 
  3. Now, provide the essential details:
  • Account Name: Choose a clear name.
  • Account Number (optional): Give it a unique number.
  • Description: Write a quick reminder of what the account is about.
  1. Specify the “Detail Type” that fits your account’s purpose (like “Office Supplies” for office expenses).
  2. If you’re switching from another system, enter an opening balance. Click “Save and Close” when you’re done.

Now, let’s break down the common account types you’ll meet in QBO.

  1. Assets:
  • Bank:
    • Your chequing and savings accounts.
  • Accounts Receivable:
    • Money owed to you by customers.
  • Other Current Assets:
    • Things turning into cash within a year, like prepaid rent.
  1. Liabilities:
  • Accounts Payable:
    • The money you owe to suppliers.
  • Credit Card:
    • Track credit card balances.
  • Other Current Liabilities:
    • Short-term obligations to settle within a year.
  1. Equity:
  • Owner’s Equity:
    • The owner’s investment in the business.
  • Retained Earnings:
    • Profits reinvested in the business.
  • Common Stock:
    • The value of shares issued.
  1. Income:
  • Service Income:
    • Money from services provided.
  • Sales of Product Income:
    • Money from selling products.
  • Interest Income:
    • Money earned from interest.
  • Other Income:
    • Random income like rent or royalties.
  1. Cost of Goods Sold (COGS):
  • Cost of Goods Sold:
    • Direct costs of producing goods.
  1. Expenses:
  • Advertising and Promotion:
    • Expenses for marketing efforts.
  • Rent or Lease Expenses:
    • Costs for renting stuff.
  • Utilities:
    • Expenses for electricity, water, and gas.
  • Insurance Expenses:
    • Costs for insurance.

Step 3: Organizing Your Chart of Accounts

Keep it smooth with these tips:

  1. Reorder accounts: Drag and drop to create a logical sequence.
  2. Use sub-accounts: Group related accounts under one—like having “Utilities” with sub-accounts for electricity and water.
  3. Assign account numbers: Optional but useful for larger businesses.

Step 4: Editing and Deleting Accounts

Adjustments happen. Here’s the lowdown:

  1. To edit an account:
  • Find it, click on the dropdown menu, and hit “Edit” to make changes.
  1. To delete an account:
  • Choose “Delete” from the same menu. Be cautious deleting affects your history. If unsure, seek advice.

Avoiding Slip-Ups

Setting up a Chart of Accounts in QuickBooks Online is a big deal. Steer clear of these blunders:

  1. Customize it:
    • Tailor it to your business, beyond the default QBO offers.
  2. Don’t Overcomplicate:
    • Keep it simple. Too many accounts can get confusing.
  3. Don’t Skimp:
    • Too few accounts mean less detail in reports. Create separate accounts for clarity.
  4. Subaccounts are Friends:
    • Use them for a neat hierarchy. Don’t clutter your chart.
  5. Classify Right:
    • Put transactions where they belong. Wrong classifications lead to messy statements.
  6. Description Clarity:
    • Be crystal clear in your account descriptions.
  7. Regular Check-ups:
    • Your chart should grow with your business. Don’t let it gather dust.
  8. Knowledge is Power:
    • Train your team well. Knowing QBO avoids bloopers.
  9. Seek Advice:
    • If in doubt, ask a certified pro for help.
  10. Naming Consistency:
    • Stick to a consistent naming style. No surprises, no confusion.

There you go! Setting up a Chart of Accounts in QuickBooks Online is your ticket to a smooth financial ride. Remember, it’s your guide, adapting as your business evolves. Follow these steps, and you’ll have a Chart of Accounts tailored to your business’s unique needs, keeping you organized, accurate, and empowered to make savvy financial decisions. Happy accounting! 


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