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Understanding the Trial Balance: What's a Credit and What's a Debit?

Hayley has studied bookkeeping and enjoys writing about it to help others demystify some of the tricky concepts involved in the process.

The trial balance is a useful self-check tool for bookkeepers, but in order to use it correctly, it's important to know which accounts are in the debit column and which are in the credit column.

The trial balance is a useful self-check tool for bookkeepers, but in order to use it correctly, it's important to know which accounts are in the debit column and which are in the credit column.

The principles of double-entry bookkeeping are not that easy. It's simple to say that for every debit, there is a credit, but when it comes to actually entering transactions into the accounts, it can be difficult to remember if what you are entering is one or the other. It is particularly difficult when you have to enter figures into several accounts (e.g., the book of prime entry, the ledger accounts, the control account, and the subsidiary ledger).

This article focuses on the trial balance, which is an accuracy check done after all transactions have been input. The trial balance can tell you if you've mistyped an entry, forgotten half of a double entry, or incorrectly balanced an account.

What Is a Trial Balance?

A trial balance is a list of the balances of all of a business's general ledger accounts. If the total of all debit values equals the total of all credit values, then the accounts are correct—at least as far as the trial balance can tell. If the sum of all credits does not equal the sum of all debits, then there is an error in one of the accounts.

While it may not pick up all possible accounting mistakes, the trial balance is a useful tool when it comes to locating errors in accounts. Most of what is included on the trial balance is simple enough to fill in so long as you know what is a debit and what is a credit in the general ledger. There are, however, a few entries that it's easy to be stumped by, so I've laid out the table below to indicate where each account balance should be placed and what category it falls under.

Which Accounts Are Debits and Which Are Credits?

CategoryDebitCredit

Income

 

Sales

Expense

Sales Returns

 

Asset

Sales Ledger Control

 

Expense

Purchases

 

Income

 

Purchase Returns

Liability

 

Purchase Ledger Control

Income

 

Discounts Received

Expense

Discounts Allowed

 

Expense

Wages

 

Expense

Rent

 

Expense

General Expenses

 

Asset

Vehicles

 

Asset

Machinery

 

Asset

Office Equipment

 

Asset

Property

 

Asset

Stock

 

Asset

Cash in the Bank

 

Liability

 

Overdrafts

Liability

 

Loans

Liability

 

Taxes Owed

Asset

Tax Rebates Due

 

Capital

 

Capital

Drawings

Drawings

 

Hopefully, this will give you some help when it comes to studying trial balances. Don't worry if you forget a particular account in a basic accounting exam—the bottom line is that the totals for each column should be equal, and any difference indicates a misallocated figure in an account.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Comments

Reshma on August 24, 2020:

Thank you for your help

Aashish on April 13, 2020:

Where does charity and sales tax in trial balance go

Oswald on April 04, 2020:

Where does provision for bad debt lie?

Discount (cr) on March 05, 2020:

Which side in trial balance

Sakib on February 21, 2020:

In trail balance sheet which side is advace sublet??

jovan on January 29, 2020:

the trial balance is simply but the thing which makes it to be difficult if u dont know the debited and credited.

Elizabeth Kizzy on January 23, 2020:

I love financial account

Hamsa on January 20, 2020:

Could you check if the double entries i made where correct?

Sarim on January 15, 2020:

Where does factory rent come in trial balance

Simran on January 05, 2020:

Closing and opening stock ???

Rajni on January 02, 2020:

What about shares in zee leam, apprentice premium,claim paid to customers, allowance from suppliers?????

Rohan Gulati on December 17, 2019:

Interest received

A

Hari bangari on October 16, 2019:

Thanks this is helpful for me

Sonia on October 12, 2019:

This is helpful, thank you.

Riya on September 22, 2019:

Discount on purchases

Mustafa on August 25, 2019:

Import duty come in dr. Or cr.

preeti on August 11, 2019:

deposits with g.

Sushant on July 27, 2019:

Other income

Return in wards on May 29, 2019:

Trial balance

Guru on May 20, 2019:

On which basis the Due from customers is to be considered in trial balance

sumit on April 23, 2019:

Intrest on loan become which side debet or credit and why?

Cheryl Grimes on April 22, 2019:

I made a transfer from savings to checking today for 1000.00 how can i verify that?

Rohan Tamang on March 13, 2019:

Double entry system

Johnny sins on January 25, 2019:

What ?

Dipak on December 03, 2018:

The entry of interest on bank loan in trial balance

Phynah on December 02, 2018:

How about reserve fund

Treatment of interest paid on November 30, 2018:

What will be the tretment for this

Felix on November 13, 2018:

The information is very useful

Tapiwa Nyoni on October 29, 2018:

Thanks the information it is very useful

Jatin sharma on October 17, 2018:

Thanq so nuch for this help

Kimberleyf on October 13, 2018:

Carriage inwards - the business ordered something and they are paying for delivery. This is shown as a debit.

minakshi on October 10, 2018:

how to carrige inward

Maisey on October 03, 2018:

My ledger is equal on both sides debit and credit for accounts receivable for the month do I have to enter Accounts Receivable in the Trial Balance. I am doing a one month general ledger with no opening bank balance the business has spent more money this month for cash at bank the balance b/d is on the credit side do I enter the difference in the trial balance on the credit side?

Dash dash on October 03, 2018:

Where do we wriye discount on purchases and discount on sales in trial balance

Larryrogers on September 27, 2018:

Checking accoint?

Fathima on September 26, 2018:

Bad debts and recovers debts will appear in trial balance? If so which side

is loan interest debit or credit on September 23, 2018:

very useful thanks

Robin on September 17, 2018:

Trade and office expanses, is debit or credit balance in trial balance

Lucky on August 30, 2018:

This is very useful to us

Lucky on August 26, 2018:

This was very useful. Thank you soo much

Lokie on August 22, 2018:

Very useful

Maria Petrus on August 17, 2018:

does trial balance record things bought on credit?

Neha Randive on August 14, 2018:

If expenses are not specified in tiral balance if it is factory expenses or office than why it will come in profit and loss account

Kunal handa on August 11, 2018:

is workmen compensation fund is debit or credit ?

Nidhi Garg on July 31, 2018:

if purchase return has debit balance, why should it credited in trial balance?

Subhi on July 15, 2018:

Answer for income tax is not given.

Donessa on July 13, 2018:

Where should I put the Freight in and freight out?

samuel on July 06, 2018:

wow, thanks for that valuable information

Suraj salunkhe on June 13, 2018:

May I know how did you decide (any trick/logic behind) whether it is credit balance or debit balance

I on June 03, 2018:

Inters on lone is on Dr. Side

Joel Rozario on June 01, 2018:

Carriage is debit or credit???

1234 on May 26, 2018:

interest on loan

Swecha on May 25, 2018:

Discount received is debit item ( debit the receiver and credit the giver)

Kabira noh on May 08, 2018:

This is good... Maybe add more categoriea

Josephine Loke on May 06, 2018:

Depreciation of Assets should be credit side of Trial Balance?

t on April 18, 2018:

Discount earned on vendor invoice....credit and income account?

Ria on April 10, 2018:

so what do u put if you have opening and closing inventory

Madhavi on April 04, 2018:

Due from customers is debit or credit

nikhilesh singh on April 04, 2018:

how to identify debit and credit

syed akbar on April 02, 2018:

use full nice

Mitali on March 31, 2018:

Thanks it worked actually

Chetan reddy on March 26, 2018:

Unproductive wages is debit or credit

Nishant Agnihotri on March 19, 2018:

What will be the treatment of Interest on Overdraft in trial balance.

Suranjeetha Tripathy on February 24, 2018:

What is the position for reserve fund

Animated on February 18, 2018:

Yayyy for Trial Balance

Chandrakant on February 18, 2018:

Outstanding D or c

ashwini on February 16, 2018:

discount recevied is credit or debit

Pragati on February 12, 2018:

Where we have to put Investment of trial balance for final accounts

reshma on February 08, 2018:

Where dividend collected should be posted in trial balance

Hellen Nabwire on February 05, 2018:

Information has helped so much

Jasmine on January 30, 2018:

Rates in Trial Balance are debit so the category

is expenses or current assets?

Tosif khan on January 29, 2018:

My one question is Ram's A/c Dr or Cr ?

Anu on January 24, 2018:

Carriage outward is dr or cr

ajanya p v on January 24, 2018:

long term investment debit or credit balance?

Sahil on December 13, 2017:

Reserve fund is Dr or cr ?

Wilson on December 13, 2017:

Interest on capital is c or d

Saurabh kesarwani on December 04, 2017:

If taxes and insurance written in trial balance and in adjustment if prepaid insurance is given then what to do

tikka on December 03, 2017:

goodwill is an asset therefore it is debited

Chayanjit on December 02, 2017:

Capital overdrawn come under dr or cr ?

Ani on November 26, 2017:

Investment ta ki dr or cr????

Bidhan on November 15, 2017:

Reserve fund is Dr or cr

Sudeesh on November 05, 2017:

Thank u for that brief explanation...

Shweta on November 03, 2017:

Goodwill a/c will be debited or credited?

Rishab on September 02, 2017:

If debit side of a trial balance does not tallied with the credit side, where would you place the diffrence and at what side?

Manav on September 01, 2017:

Where will be an outstanding expense

Narayan on August 28, 2017:

Permises will be debit or credit

monbebe on August 25, 2017:

is owner's withdrawal debit?

soledad on August 25, 2017:

wow thank you so much it helped

pratvi on August 19, 2017:

insurance will be credit or debit ??

Sumit Chaurasia on July 23, 2017:

I like that it is solve my problems very much so it is useful for me..

Maira on July 14, 2017:

Bad debts written off come under which column

Trishanka Debnath on June 27, 2017:

I found it useful ....Thanks for helping me

Tokley on June 15, 2017:

Easy to understand. Thank you

Indu on June 12, 2017:

Business premises in trial balance will come under debit or credit

Victor on June 12, 2017:

I love it, you really touched where my lecturer did not.

Arjun Kalia on June 08, 2017:

Very helpful. Nice post.

lolitsme on June 08, 2017:

thank you so so so muchh

Carolyn on May 23, 2017:

Gives the reason why, at the time of closure of the accounts for a retail trade, the first is to close accounts that have a debit balance rather than to close accounts that have a credit balance

Lolade on March 19, 2017:

This article was so helpful. Thanks.

Tabassum on February 22, 2017:

sir Capital is where to write debitside or creditside of trial balance

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