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Starting a Business and Keeping Records

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Bookkeeping System

You must decide whether to use a single- or a double-entry bookkeeping system. The single-entry system of bookkeeping is the simplest to maintain, but it may not be suitable for everyone. You may find the double-entry system better because it has built-in checks and balances to assure accuracy and control.

Single-entry. A single-entry system is based on the income statement (profit or loss statement). It can be a simple and practical system if you are starting a small business. The system records the flow of income and expenses through the use of:

  1. A daily summary of cash receipts, and
  2. Monthly summaries of cash receipts and disbursements.

Double-entry. A double-entry bookkeeping system uses journals and ledgers. Transactions are first entered in a journal and then posted to ledger accounts. These accounts show income, expenses, assets (property a business owns), liabilities (debts of a business), and net worth (excess of assets over liabilities). You close income and expense accounts at the end of each tax year. You keep asset, liability, and net worth accounts open on a permanent basis.

In the double-entry system, each account has a left side for debits and a right side for credits. It is self-balancing because you record every transaction as a debit entry in one account and as a credit entry in another.

Under this system, the total debits must equal the total credits after you post the journal entries to the ledger accounts. If the amounts do not balance, you have made an error and you must find and correct it.

An example of a journal entry showing a payment of rent in October is shown next.

General Journal

Date Description of Entry Debit Credit
Oct. 5 Rent expense 780.00  
    Cash   760.00

Computerized System

There are computer software packages you can use for record keeping. They can be purchased in many retail stores. These packages are very useful and relatively easy to use; they require very little knowledge of bookkeeping and accounting.

If you use a computerized system, you must be able to produce sufficient legible records to support and verify entries made on your return and determine your correct tax liability. To meet this qualification, the machine-sensible records must reconcile with your books and return. These records must provide enough detail to identify the underlying source documents.

You must also keep all machine-sensible records and a complete description of the computerized portion of your record keeping system. This documentation must be sufficiently detailed to show all of the following items:

  • Functions being performed as the data flows through the system.
  • Controls used to ensure accurate and reliable processing.
  • Controls used to prevent the unauthorized addition, alteration, or deletion of retained records.
  • Charts of accounts and detailed account descriptions.

See Revenue Procedure 98-25 in Cumulative Bulletin 1998-1 for more information.


Microfilm and microfiche reproductions of general books of accounts, such as cash books, journals, voucher registers, and ledgers, are accepted for record keeping purposes if they comply with Revenue Procedure 81-46 in Cumulative Bulletin 1981-2.

Electronic Storage System

Records maintained in an electronic storage system are accepted for record keeping purposes if the system complies with Revenue Procedure 97-22 in Cumulative Bulletin 1997-1.

An electronic storage system is one that either images hardcopy (paper) books and records or transfers computerized books and records to an electronic storage media, such as an optical disk.

Tax laws are subject to change at any time. Please contact us for the latest information.

Please Note: This information is provided to you by Accounting and Tax Center, Inc., for use as general guidance, and is not rendering specific legal, tax, or accounting advice. Only a qualified tax professional with all the facts at his or her disposal can determine the appropriateness of the application of any law to a given set of facts.

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If you are in the Roanoke area and need a tax preparer or someone to represent you before the IRS, we can help.

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