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Incomplete Accounting Records

The accounting records of many smaller non-profit organisations such as clubs, cultural societies and small undertakings are often kept by means of a single entry accounting system. Nevertheless, details of the financial activities of such organisations and undertakings are available in different documents such as bank statements, invoices, accounts, wage sheets and minute books.

There are two major disadvantages to such incomplete (non-double entry basis) accounting records: (1) a great deal of useful information may be lost. It is possible to prepare financial accounting statements from the available information, but this may be more difficult than when complete records are available. Certain transactions may not be accounted for and there is also no continuity in the recording of financial and other useful information. (2) The advantages of the controls inherent in a double entry accounting system are lost.

A discussion of the treatment of incomplete records is useful for various reasons. First, it emphasises the advantage of a comprehensive double accounting system. Further, it is practical because accountants often have to prepare financial statements from such incomplete records, chiefly for income tax purposes. In practice, therefore, the conversion of single entry accounting information to a double entry basis is an analytical exercise. It may also happen that the double entry accounting records of an enterprise are lost (e.g. as a result of damage by fire) and the accountant must reconstruct them from incomplete records. Consequently, attention is given to certain aspects and practical procedures that arise as a result of keeping incomplete accounting records.

Assume that a trader has been in business for some time and that he wants to determine his interest in the undertaking at a specific date. In order to do this he must determine the total interest in the business and against this, bring into account any external interest. This can be done by, constructing an equity statement. (Basically, this contains the same information as the balance sheet, but is not prepared from balances of accounts in a double entry accounting system.)

The equity statement must be prepared by referring to any applicable information available. Keeping in mind that, undertakings that do not have formal accounting systems will find it necessary to keep records of certain basic information in order to conduct their business. For example, records of cash received and paid and amounts owing, both to and by the undertaking, are essential. Cash on hand can be determined by a cash count, cash in bank from the bank statement and amounts owing to and by the undertaking from invoices. Stock can be counted physically and the valued. The cost of fixed assets purchased can be determined from the supporting documentation. Owner’s equity will be the difference between the values allocated to assets and liabilities.

The most practical method of determining net income or loss from incomplete accounting records is to analyse the change in owner’s equity during any specific period. Obviously, owner’s equity increases if a profit is made and when the owner makes additional investments in the undertaking. Conversely, owner’s equity decreases as a result of losses and drawings by the owner.