How to Use a GL Account in QuickBooks

by David Roberts

Originally, a general ledger (GL) was a large paper-bound volume, with each page divided into columns for the recording of accounting transactions. The general ledger included all customer transactions on one page, all vendor transactions on another, with the corresponding entries on the bank account page. In QuickBooks, the GL lists these transactions using the date of the transaction, the accounts affected by the transaction and the amount of each transaction. Each account in the GL report is a GL account, whether it is an income or expense account. The only way to use a GL account is to access the account from the General Ledger or Chart of Accounts.

Create a General Ledger report. To use a GL account, you will have to generate this GL report. The GL records the transactions between accounts, so a GL account includes each account in the Chart of Accounts. Go to the Reports tab at the top of the page and click on it. Scroll down to the "Accountant & Taxes" button and click on it. The window that pops up will inform you that a General Ledger report is defaulted to a summary report; if you want to expand it, click on the "Expand" button.

Adjust the dates for which you want a General Ledger report. Choose the "From" date and then the "To" date and click on the "Refresh" button. This will allow you to see which accounts were used in these transactions for that period of time. If you are generating a report for transactions over a three-month period or more, it may take some time to build the report.

Print the Chart of Accounts (COA). Click on the "List" button and scroll down to the "Chart of Accounts" button. Click on it and the Chart of Accounts will open. Click on the "Print" key to print the chart.

Compare the General Ledger report to your Chart of Accounts (COA). The General Ledger report will list all transactions that affect each GL account in the COA in the order the accounts appear. Use the GL report to see if any accounts are not being used and, if need be, make those accounts inactive. Open the account in the COA, click on the account and hold the "Ctrl" and "E" keys to edit the account. Click in the box labeled, "Make Inactive."

Print the General Ledger report. Look at the 10 columns across the top of the GL report. These columns include the "Type," "Date" and "Name." Use the GL report to detail each type of payment from which account. The "Type" refers to the type of payment of a particular transaction. Types of payments can include checks, bill payments, deposits and liability checks. Print this report if, for example, you need to ensure a consistency of payments from a particular account or need to determine if the type was simply a "payment" or a "bill payment." Note the "Debit" and "Credit" columns. For each transaction, there is a debit from one GL account and a credit to another.

Examine the flow of cash into and out of each account using the GL report. Each account in the COA is on the GL report, as are the totals for the debits or money added to an account and credits or money taken from an account. Debits to asset accounts add funds to those accounts, and credits remove funds from those accounts. Debits to liability accounts add funds to the amount owed for the liability, and credits remove funds from the amount that is owed. The GL report totals all debits and credits for the time period specified in the report and gives the beginning and ending balances, which let you see the flow of cash into and out of each account.

About the Author

David Roberts has been writing since 1985. He has published for various websites including online business news publications. He has over 11 years experience in tax preparation and small business consultation. He is also a Certified Fraud Examiner. He received a Master of Business Administration from Florida Metropolitan University in 2005.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera calculator image by leafy from