Correcting Entries – For Errors Made in the Journal

When an error is discovered in the accounting records, it should be corrected immediately to prevent the processing of wrong data which results in unreliable financial statements.

This is done through a correcting entry.

A correcting entry is a journal entry whose purpose is to rectify the effect of an incorrect entry previously made.

To illustrate how to prepare correcting entries, here are some examples.

On December 5, 2013, Gray Network Services paid $370 registration and licensing fees for the business.

The correct entry is:

Dec 5 Taxes and Licenses 370.00  
    Cash   370.00

Suppose the bookkeeper, due to carelessness or for whatever reason, debited Transportation Expense instead of Taxes and Licenses.

The entry made was:

Dec 5 Transportation Expense 370.00  
    Cash   370.00

Upon analysis of the above entry, the Transportation Expense is overstated (higher than in should be) because the bookkeeper recorded transportation expense but it was not really a transportation expense.

Also, Taxes and Licenses is understated (lower than it should be) since the amount was not recorded under this account.

To correct these errors, we should make an entry to offset the effects. Transportation Expense is overstated therefore we should reduce it; Taxes and Licenses is understated therefore we should increase it.

The Cash account was credited in the entry made. Is this correct? Look at the correct entry. Is it proper to have Cash credited? Yes. Therefore, we have no problem with the Cash account.

Now, to increase Taxes and Licenses, we credit it. To decrease Transportation Expense, we debit it. Remember that to increase/record an expense, we debit it; to decrease an expense, we credit it. The correcting entry would then be:

Dec 31 Taxes and Licenses 370.00  
    Transportation Expense   370.00

Note: The correcting entry is dated when the error is discovered. In this case, we assumed that it was discovered and corrected on December 31.

If an explanation or annotation is required, it would be something like: "To correct error made on taxes and licenses" or "To record correction of error on entry made for taxes and licenses."

After making this entry, Transportation Expense will zero-out ($370 debit and $370 credit) and Taxes and Licenses will now have a balance of $370.00, thus making our records correct.

Another Example

Let us assume the bookkeeper made another error.

On December 17, the company collected a receivable from a customer, $1,650.00. Suppose the bookkeeper recorded it at $1,560.00 instead of $1,650.00. This was the entry made:

Dec 17 Cash 1,560.00  
    Accounts Receivable   1,560.00

What is the correct entry? The entry should have been:

Dec 17 Cash 1,650.00  
    Accounts Receivable   1,650.00

How will we correct this? Cash is understated because the accountant recorded 1,560 instead of 1,650. Accounts Receivable is also overstated because it was reduced by 1,560 but should have been reduced by 1,650. We should then increase Cash and reduce Accounts Receivable by $90.

The correcting entry would be:

Dec 31 Cash 90.00  
    Accounts Receivable   90.00

Another way of doing it (and an easier one) is to look at the entry made and correct entry. Upon analysis, you will see that the amount debited to Cash is less that what should have been debited. The same goes for the amount credited to Accounts Receivable. Cash should then be debited by $90 more and Accounts Receivable should be credited by $90 more.

Recap: Steps in Making Correcting Entries

The steps in preparing correcting entries may be summed up as follows:

  1. Determine the entry made. -- What was the erroneous/wrong entry made?
  2. Determine the correct entry. -- What entry should have been made?
  3. Analyze #1 and #2 to come up with the correcting entry.

Steps 1 and 2 may be interchanged. Nonetheless, you need to know the entry made and the correct entry (should-be entry) before you can come up with the correcting entry.

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