Accounting Terms 101: A Beginners Guide for Business Owners

April 4, 2023

As a business owner, you may have heard various accounting terms thrown around, such as balance sheet, cash flow, and profit and loss statement. However, it is essential to have a clear understanding of these terms to make informed financial decisions for your business. In this beginner’s guide, we will explain some of the most commonly used accounting terms and what they mean. Whether you are an experienced entrepreneur or just starting, this guide will help you navigate the world of accounting and ensure your business’s financial success. So, let’s get started with Accounting Terms 101!


Why is it Important to Understand Accounting Terms?

Well, accounting is the backbone of any business; it provides insight into your company’s financial health and helps you make important decisions. Without a solid understanding of accounting terms, it can be challenging to interpret financial statements, understand financial ratios, and make informed decisions about your business’s future. For instance, if you don’t know what cash flow means or how to calculate it, you may not be able to determine if your business has enough cash to pay its bills, invest in new opportunities, or handle unexpected financial difficulties. By learning accounting terms, you will be better equipped to manage your finances, plan for the future, and ultimately grow your business.


Accounting Terms for the Balance Sheet

The balance sheet is a financial statement that shows a snapshot of a company’s financial position at a specific point in time. It summarizes a company’s assets, liabilities, and equity and provides a clear picture of the company’s financial health. By analyzing the balance sheet, a business owner can determine how much their company is worth and make informed decisions about the allocation of resources.

Understanding balance sheet accounting terms is crucial for any business owner. It can help you determine your company’s financial position and make strategic decisions about investments, debt, and equity. By regularly reviewing your balance sheet, you can identify trends, spot potential issues, and ensure your business’s long-term financial success.


Anything owned by a business that has value, such as cash, inventory, equipment, or property.

Book Value:

The value of an asset as recorded in a company’s accounting records.

Balance Sheet:

A financial statement that shows a company’s assets, liabilities, and equity at a specific point in time.


The residual interest in the assets of a business after deducting liabilities. In other words, equity represents the value of the business that belongs to the owners.


Goods or materials that a company holds in stock and plans to sell to customers.

Accounts Payable:

A liability that represents the amount a company owes to its suppliers or vendors for goods or services received but not yet paid for.

Accounts Receivable:

An asset that represents the amount of money owed to a company by its customers for goods or services provided but not yet paid for.


A financial obligation or debt owed by a business to others, such as loans or unpaid bills.

Accrued Expense:

Expenses that have been incurred but not yet paid, such as wages or taxes.


Accounting Terms for the Income Statement

Now that we’ve covered the balance sheet, let’s dive into the income statement accounting terms. The income statement, also known as the profit and loss statement or P&L, shows a company’s revenues, expenses, and net income or loss over a specific period, typically a month, quarter, or year. It provides insight into a company’s profitability and helps identify areas where expenses can be reduced, or revenues can be increased.

Business owners should understand income statement accounting terms to make informed decisions about their company’s finances. By analyzing the income statement, you can identify which products or services are most profitable, assess the effectiveness of your marketing and sales strategies, and determine where to allocate resources to maximize profits.


The income a business receives from its sales or services rendered.

Gross Profit:

The profit a business makes after deducting the cost of goods sold from its revenue.

Operating Expenses:

The costs a business incurs to keep its operations running, such as rent, utilities, salaries, and marketing expenses.

Net Income:

The profit a business makes after deducting all expenses from its revenue.

Cost of Goods Sold:

The direct costs a business incurs to produce and sell its products or services, such as raw materials, labor, and manufacturing overhead.

Gross Margin:

The percentage of revenue that remains after deducting the cost of goods sold.

Operating Income:

The profit a business makes after deducting operating expenses from its gross profit.

Pre-tax earnings:

The income a business earns before deducting taxes.


Accounting Terms for the Cash Flow Statement

Let’s move on to the third financial statement, the cash flow statement. This statement shows how cash is flowing in and out of a company over a specific period. It’s essential to understand cash flow for businesses because cash is the lifeblood of a company. Without it, a business may not be able to pay its bills, invest in growth opportunities, or even survive.

Sales receipts:

The cash a business receives from the sale of goods or services.

Interest payments:

The cash a business pays in interest on loans or other debts.

Salary payments:

The cash a business pays to its employees as compensation for their work.

Rent payments:

The cash a business pays for the use of property or equipment.

Office supplies:

The cash a business spends on necessary supplies for its day-to-day operations.

Income tax payments:

The cash a business pays to government entities for income taxes owed.

Purchase of assets:

The cash a business spends to acquire assets, such as equipment or property, that will contribute to its long-term growth and success.


The process of two companies combining to form a single entity.


The process of one company buying another company.

Investor cash:

The money that investors contribute to a business in exchange for ownership or equity. This cash can be used to fund operations, pay off debts, or invest in growth opportunities. It’s essential to keep track of investor cash and ensure that it is used appropriately and in accordance with any agreements or contracts.

Shareholder payments:

The cash a business pays to its shareholders, typically in the form of dividends or stock buybacks. Shareholder payments are a way for a business to return value to its investors and can impact the overall financial health and reputation of the company.


General Accounting Terms

Last but not least, we have summarized a list of general accounting terms that do not necessarily fit under the three previous areas. These include but are not limited to:


The process of spreading out expenses or revenue among different departments or products.

Business entity:

The legal structure of a business, such as a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation.

Accounting period:

The period of time for which financial statements are prepared, such as a month, quarter, or year.

Cash flow:

The movement of cash in and out of a business, including cash from operating activities, investing activities, and financing activities.


A Certified Public Accountant, a professional who has passed a rigorous exam and met education and experience requirements to provide accounting services to the public.


An entry on the right side of an account, indicating an increase in liabilities, revenue, or equity, and a decrease in assets or expenses.


An entry on the left side of an account, indicating an increase in assets or expenses, and a decrease in liabilities, revenue, or equity.


The act of spreading out investments across different assets, such as stocks or bonds, to reduce risk.

Fixed costs:

Expenses that remain constant regardless of the level of production or sales, such as rent, salaries, or insurance.

Journal entry:

A record of a transaction in a company’s accounting system, including the date, accounts involved, and amount of the transaction.

General ledger:

A comprehensive record of all financial transactions of a business, organized by account.


The ability of a business to meet its short-term financial obligations with its available cash or other assets that can be easily converted to cash.


Expenses incurred by a business that are not directly tied to the production of goods or services, such as rent, utilities, and administrative costs.


The total amount of money paid to employees in a specific period, including salaries, wages, and bonuses.


Return on Investment, a measure of the profitability of an investment, calculated by dividing the gain or loss by the cost of the investment.

Variable cost:

Expenses that vary with the level of production or sales, such as raw materials, commissions, or shipping costs.

We hope that this Accounting Terms 101 guide has been helpful for business owners looking to familiarize themselves with key accounting terms. Remember, understanding these terms is essential for maintaining accurate financial records and making informed business decisions. If you have any questions or need further assistance, seek the advice of a qualified accountant or financial professional.


How can Capital CFO+ help with Accounting?

At Capital CFO+, we offer a range of accounting and bookkeeping services to help business owners manage their finances effectively. Our team of experienced accountants can assist with bookkeeping, financial statement preparation, tax planning and compliance, and more. With our expertise and support, you can focus on running your business while we handle the numbers. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your business succeed.


About Capital CFO+

Capital CFO+ LLC is based in Saratoga Springs, New York, providing bookkeeping, accounting, and CFO services. Capital CFO+ helps small firms access the economies of scale, efficiency, and expertise that large companies enjoy. Visit Pearl, our branch manager, at or LinkedIn for more information.

Accounting Terms

Interested in Outsourcing Your Business Management Needs?
We can help build the perfect, custom plan for all your business management needs. Reach out for a free consultation today and let's start a relationship.