Trial Balance


  • What is a Trial Balance? 
  • What is Included in a Trial Balance? 
  • How to Prepare a Trial Balance? 
  • Why is a Trial Balance Important?
  • Challenges of a Trial Balance 

What is a Trial Balance? 

A trial balance is like a financial checkpoint for an entity’s accounting system. It’s a report that summarises all the credits and debits recorded in the entity’s accounts during a certain period, usually a month or a quarter. The main purpose of a trial balance is to make sure that the total amount of money recorded as credits in all accounts equals the total amount recorded as debits.  

In double entry accounting, every transaction involves at least two accounts: one gets credited and the other gets debited. The trial balance helps ensure that for every credit entry, there’s a corresponding debit entry, and vice versa.  

By adding up all the credit balances and all the debit balances across different accounts, the trial balance provides a quick way to check if the accounting records are accurate and balanced. 

Although nowadays many accounting systems automatically check for balanced credits and debits, trial balances still serve an important purpose. They’re handy for accountants who want to review their work and make sure everything adds up correctly.  

Plus, they’re useful for auditors who need to understand which accounts to scrutinise during an audit to ensure the financial statements are accurate. 

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What is Included in a Trial Balance? 

A trial balance document provides a comprehensive overview of an entity’s financial transactions over a specific period. It includes a list of all the accounts from the general ledger, which is the main record of financial transactions. The trial balance has two columns: one for debits and one for credits. 

Here’s what is included in a trial balance: 

Credits and debits to each account from transactions during the accounting period

This section details all the transactions that occurred within the specified timeframe. It shows whether money was added (credited) or subtracted (debited) from each account.

The associated account names

Each account mentioned in the trial balance is labelled with its name, helping to identify the type of transaction it represents. For instance, accounts might include Cash, Accounts Receivable, Inventory, and so on. 

The associated account numbers

Alongside the account names, there are usually corresponding numbers. These account numbers provide a standardised way to reference and organise the accounts, making it easier to locate specific information. 

The dates of the accounting period

The trial balance specifies the timeframe for which the financial data is being analysed. It could be a month, a quarter, or a year, depending on the entitys accounting practices. 

The total sum of all debit balances and credit balances

At the bottom of the trial balance, the total debit balance and total credit balance are calculated. The aim is to ensure that these two totals match, indicating that the entitys accounting records are balanced. 

By including these elements, a trial balance offers a concise summary of an entitys financial activities, helping accountants and auditors verify the accuracy and completeness of the accounting records. 

How to Prepare a Trial Balance 

To prepare a trial balance for an entity, these steps are followed: 

Gather all financial records

Collect all the entitys financial documents, including the general ledger and any supporting papers like invoices, receipts, and bank statements. 

Review the general ledger

Take a close look at the general ledger to ensure that all transactions have been accurately recorded and posted to the right accounts. 

Create a trial balance worksheet

Set up a worksheet where all the entitys accounts are listed in the same order they appear in the chart of accounts. For each account, record the balance as either a debit or a credit, depending on its usual balance. 

Total debits and credits

Add up all the debits and credits for each column on the trial balance worksheet separately. 

Check for equality

Verify that the total debits equal the total credits. If they dont match, there might be an error in the entitys financial records that needs addressing. 

Make necessary adjustments

If there are discrepancies, make adjustments to correct any errors or omissions in the financial records. This might involve reviewing transactions, updating entries, or making additional General Journal or Special Journal entries. 

Prepare financial statements

Once the trial balance is accurate and balanced, the information from it can be used  to prepare the entitys financial statements, such as the balance sheet and income statement. These statements provide a snapshot of the entitys financial health and performance.

It’s important to remember that the accuracy of the trial balance relies on the accuracy of the data entered into the general ledger. Thus, it’s essential to maintain meticulous records and ensure all transactions are recorded correctly before generating the trial balance. 


An example of a trial balance for an ABC Company is given below: 

Trial Balance for the Period 1/1/2023 to 3/31/2023 

Account Number 

Account Name 








Accounts receivable 








Accounts payable 




Common stock 




Sales revenue 




Credit card expense 




Utility expense 




Cost of goods sold 



Total Balance 





Why is a Trial Balance Important?

The trial balance serves as an important component in maintaining accurate financial records within an entity. It acts as a checkpoint in the accounting process, ensuring the correctness of all recorded transactions. By pinpointing and rectifying errors, the trial balance guarantees the precision and dependability of the financial statements. 

Moreover, the trial balance offers a snapshot of the entity’s financial position at a specific moment in time. This snapshot aids in making informed business decisions, such as whether to invest in new equipment, expand the workforce, or venture into new markets. 

Accuracy of the Financial Statements

The precision of financial statements depends upon the accuracy of the trial balance. Any errors present in the trial balance will carry forward into the financial statements, resulting in inaccurate reporting. 

Through the identification and rectification of errors during the trial balance stage, entities can uphold the accuracy of their financial statements. This is vital for fostering trust with stakeholders, adhering to regulatory standards, and making sound business decisions. 

Informed Business Decisions

By providing insights into the entitys financial health, the trial balance empowers stakeholders to make informed decisions. For instance, if the trial balance indicates high debt levels, the entity may need to prioritise debt reduction strategies. Conversely, a surplus of cash showcased in the trial balance may signal opportunities for investment and growth. 

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Challenges of a Trial Balance 

A trial balance, while a helpful tool, does come with certain limitations. It primarily focuses on ensuring that debits and credits balance out within an entitys financial records. However, there are several types of errors that it cannot detect. 

Errors Beyond Debits and Credits

A trial balance is designed to spot discrepancies between debits and credits. Yet, it doesnt catch instances where a transaction is mistakenly recorded twice, or when a transaction is entirely missed in the records. 

Errors of Judgement or Estimation

Sometimes, errors arent about the actual recording of transactions but rather the assessment of values. A trial balance doesnt pick up on instances where assets are overvalued or liabilities are undervalued. 

Errors Uncovered Differently

Apart from the limitations of a trial balance, there are various types of errors that require different methods for identification and rectification. 

  • Omissions, Commissions, and Principle Errors: These types of mistakes, involving either missing transactions, transactions recorded in the wrong accounts, or transactions not aligned with accounting principles, aren’t flagged by the trial balance. Detecting and correcting them requires a more detailed examination of financial statements. 
  • Errors of Judgement or Estimation: Inaccuracies in estimating the values of assets or liabilities can significantly impact financial statements but aren’t caught by the trial balance. It’s essential for entities to establish robust procedures for assessing and periodically reviewing these values to maintain accuracy. 

While a trial balance serves as an initial check in the accounting process, it’s crucial for entities to recognise its limitations and employ additional methods for ensuring the accuracy of financial records. 

This article is general information only and does not provide advice to address your personal circumstances. To make an informed decision you should contact an appropriately qualified professional.