Adjusting Entries and the Accounting Cycle

Adjusting entries are made at the end of a period to update accounts. An adjusting entry affects an income statement and balance sheet account.


This is lesson 3 in our financial accounting series. These lessons cover the topics in a typical financial accounting course or principles of accounting 1 course.

For all the lessons, see The Ultimate Guide to Learn Financial Accounting.


The accounting period

Companies prepare financial statements for months, quarters, and years. An annual financial statement is called an annual report.

Companies can select their accounting years or fiscal years. So, Walmart has a year ending on January 31 rather than December 31.

Cash basis vs. accrual basis

Business transactions are recorded using journal entries. There are two methods to record transactions in accounting:

  1. Cash basis acconting
  2. Accrual basis accounting

Cash basis accounting

Cash basis accounting records revenue when cash is received from customers. Expenses are recorded when cash is paid. Cash basis net income is cash revenues minus cash expenses.

The benefit of cash basis is that it is simpler and easier to understand. Cash basis is only appropriate for small businesses. In the United States, C corporations cannot use cash basis and must use accrual basis.

Accrual basis accounting

Accrual basis accounting records revenue when products and services are delivered to customers. Expenses are recorded when they are incurred. The expenses are matched with the revenues that they produce. This is called the matching principle.

Accrual accounting better shows the performance of the company than the cash basis. Accrual basis net income is less dependent on the timing of cash flows.

Adjusting entries example

At the end of the accounting period, the company makes adjusting entries. These update the accounts.

Assume Parnell, Inc. has the following accounts and account balances for 2022. We will make the necessary adjusting entries for the end of the year.

Trial Balance


1. Insurance expense

On December 1, Parnell paid for a 12-month insurance policy for $2,400. Make the adjusting entry for December 31.

The balance of prepaid insurance will be $2,400 – 200 = $2,200. The balance of insurance expense is $200.


2. Supplies expense

During the year, the company purchased supplies of $9,720. At the end of the year, the company had an ending balance of $6,400. Record the adjusting entry for the supplies that were used.

The ending balance of supplies is now $6,400. Supplies expense has a $3,320 balance.


3. Depreciation expense on equipment

On July 1, the company purchased equipment for $26,000. It has an expected useful life of 4 years.

Make the required adjusting entry for the equipment for 2022. Hint: the company used the equipment for 6 months in 2022.

The depreciation expense balance is $3,250. The balance of equipment remains $26,000, but the balance of accumulated depreciation is $3,250.

Accumulated depreciation is a contra account that reduces the balance of the equipment account. So, the net equipment shown on the balance sheet equals equipment $26,000 minus accumulated depreciation $3,250 = $22,750.


4. Unearned revenue

On December 1, customers paid Parnell, Inc. $3,000 in advance for a 3-month contract for consulting. One month has expired on December 31.

Make the adjusting entry to record earning one month of revenue.

Service revenue balance increases by $1,000 to $6,800. Unearned revenue decreases to $2,000. Remember unearned revenue is a liability.


5. Salaries expense

At the end of December, employees have earned an additional $350. They will be paid in January next year. Make the adjusting entry.

Salaries expense balance is now $1,750. Salaries payable balance is $350.


6. Accrued service revenue

During December, the company performed services for clients and sent invoices of $6,500. The clients will pay in January.

Accounts receivable increases from $0 to $6,500. Service revenue increases by $6,500.


Adjusted Trial Balance

After the adjusting entries are made, an adjusted trial balance will list all the accounts with their new balances.

The financial statements are prepared based on the adjusted trial balance.


Financial Statements

Based on the Parnell, Inc. adjusted trial balance, the financial statements will be:

  1. income statement
  2. retained earnings statement
  3. balance sheet
  4. cash flow statement

The financial statements for Parnell, Inc. are:

Income statement

The format for the income statement is revenues minus expenses. Revenues and expenses are called income statement accounts.

income statement

Parnell has total revenues of $13,600 and total expenses of $9,825. The net income for 2021 is $3,775.


Retained earnings statement

Retained earnings statement shows the change in retained earnings over the period. The format of the retained earnings statement is:

Beginning retained earnings + net income – dividends = ending retained earnings

retained earnings statement

Since Parnell was a new company in 2022, beginning retained earnings was $0. The ending retained earnings was $3,575.


Balance sheet

The format for the balance sheet is assets = liabilities + equity. This is the accounting equation. Assets, liabilities, and equity are called balance sheet accounts.

The total assets for 2022 were $42,125. Total liabilities were $8,550. The total equity was $33,575.


Cash flow statement

The cash flow statement is one of the basic financial statements. Because the cash flow statement is more complicated than the other financials, it is shown in a later lesson.


Closing entries

At the end of the accounting period, companies make closing entries. The closing entries close the books on the previous period to begin another period.

The steps in the closing process are:

  1. Close revenue accounts
  2. Close expense accounts
  3. Close income summary
  4. Close dividends

1. Close revenues

Revenues have a credit balance. Debiting revenues closes them. So, service revenue was debited for $13,300. This makes the balance of service revenue $0.


2. Close expenses


3. Close income summary


4. Close dividends


Post closing trial balance

After the closing entries, only assets, liabilities, and equity remain. The ending balance of retained earnings is $3,575.

After the closing process is complete, the company can start the new year in January 2023.


Accounting Cycle

The accounting cycle shows the steps to prepare financial statements. Here are the steps in the accounting cycle:

StepAccounting CycleExplanation
1Analyze transactionsexamine source documents
2Journalizemake the journal entries
3Post to ledgercalculate the balance of each account
4Unadjusted trial balancelist all the accounts with debit/credit balance
5Adjusting entriesmake the end of period adjusting entries
6Adjusted trial balancetrial balance after the adjusting entries
7Financial statementsincome statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement
8Closing entriescloses revenues, expenses, and dividends to zero
9Post closing trial balancetrial balance after the closing entries
10Reversing entriesoptional, not required

Steps 1-3 are completed during the accounting period. Steps 4-9 are made at the end of the period.


Financial Accounting Lessons

We have many resources for Financial Accounting. This works for students learning principles of accounting or financial accounting.

For all the lessons see The Ultimate Guide to Learn Financial Accounting

Here are the lessons:

  1. Introduction to Accounting
  2. Recording Business Transactions
  3. Adjusting Entries and the Accounting Cycle
  4. Accounting for Merchandising Activities
  5. Time Value of Money
  6. Inventory
  7. Cash
  8. Receivables
  9. Long-term Assets
  10. Investments
  11. Current Liabilities
  12. Long-term Liabilities
  13. Stockholders’ Equity

Jeff Mankin

Jeff Mankin teaches financial literacy. His website is FinallyLearn.com.

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