How to Outline Your Financial Records

Definition of ‘Outline’ (

  • An outline is a plan for--or a summary of--a writing project or speech.
  • An outline is usually in the form of a list divided into headings and subheadings that distinguish main points from supporting points

Definition of C'hart of Accounts'

  • A listing of each account a company owns, along with the account type and account balance, shown in the order the accounts appear in the company’s financial statements.
  • “Chart of accounts” is the official accounting term for the display of this information, which includes both balance-sheet accounts and income-statement accounts.
  • The chart of accounts shows assets, liabilities, equity, revenues and expenses, all in one place and broken down into subcategories.
  • Each account in the list is assigned a multidigit number to help identify the account type (e.g. all asset accounts might start with the number 1).

Every transaction made in your veterinary business eventually arrives in accounting software, probably QuickBooks in all but the truly giant practices.  When your book keeper begins to enter a transaction, the first decision is what account (category) to use.  There will be a drop-down menu where a few letters or numbers are typed and the software shows you the choices.  One account (category) is selected and the transaction is entered.  The outline for all that financial input work is YOUR chart of accounts. 

Where Do I Get a Chart of Accounts?

Your chart of accounts may have come with the software and was designed to be used by contractors, farmers, charter airline companies, trucking companies and hundreds or thousands of other types of businesses.  After all it would be too expensive to create a custom category for each type of business.   Using these generic charts of accounts lead to a lot of confusion because almost none of the language used to build these generic accounts (categories) has anything to do with your veterinary business. 

There are some very good Veterinary Charts of Accounts.  A good, veterinary specific, chart of accounts should come with in depth definitions and explanations of how the numbering system works and EXACTLY what transaction goes in each account (category).  

  • Dr Marsha Heinke, DVM, EA, CPA, CVPM, has created QuickBooks ready Charts of Accounts for Companion Animal, Mixed Animal and Equine Practices. 
  • The American Animal Hospital Association has also created a Companion Animal Chart of Accounts.

Why would I care?

The veterinarians I know who have taken the time to learn about their chart of accounts and followed up by incrementally improving categorization, uniformly feel like they understand their finances better and are more confident in the management of their veterinary businesses. 

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