Welcome to our comprehensive guide on debits and credits! In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of debits and credits, providing you with a clear understanding of these fundamental concepts in accounting. Whether you are a business owner, a student, or someone interested in expanding your financial knowledge, this guide will equip you with the necessary information to grasp this essential aspect of bookkeeping. So, let's begin!

In the world of accounting, debits and credits are the cornerstone of the double-entry bookkeeping system. This system is used to record financial transactions accurately and maintain the balance in the accounting equation. But what exactly are debits and credits?

What is a debit?

A debit represents an entry made on the left side of an account, signifying an increase in assets or expenses and a decrease in liabilities, equity, or revenue. It acts as an inflow or an outflow of value from an account. For example, when you purchase inventory for your business using cash, you would record the increase in inventory as a debit and the decrease in cash as a credit.

What is a credit?

On the other hand, credits are entries made on the right side of an account, indicating an increase in liabilities, equity, or revenue, and a decrease in assets or expenses. Credits are the counterpart to debits and complete the double-entry system. For instance, when your business receives payment from a customer, you would record the increase in cash as a debit and the increase in revenue as a credit.

Applying Debits and Credits

To illustrate the application of debits and credits, let's consider a few common scenarios:

Scenario 1: Purchasing Equipment

Suppose you decide to upgrade your office by purchasing new equipment for $5,000. To record this transaction, you would:

  1. Debit the Equipment account: +$5,000
  2. Credit the Cash or Accounts Payable account (depending on the payment method): -$5,000

This entry reflects the increase in the value of your equipment and the decrease in cash or the increase in accounts payable.

Scenario 2: Paying Expenses

Let's say you need to pay your monthly utility bill of $200. The entry for this transaction would be:

  1. Debit the Utilities Expense account: +$200
  2. Credit the Cash account: -$200

By debiting the expense account, you increase the amount of expenses incurred, while crediting the cash account reflects the decrease in cash due to the payment.

How does an account reflect debits and credits?

To gain a holistic understanding of debits and credits, it's important to comprehend the accounting equation, which serves as the foundation of the double-entry system. The accounting equation is as follows:

Assets = Liabilities + Equity

This equation demonstrates the relationship between a company's assets, which are what it owns or is owed, and its liabilities and equity, which are the company's debts and ownership claims, respectively. Every financial transaction affects the accounting equation, with debits and credits ensuring that the equation remains balanced.

Types of accounts

Your business is likely spending and receiving money. A common accounting practice is to assign transactions to one of five main account types:

  • Asset accounts: Assign resources relied on to generate revenue now and in the future (e.g., inventory, accounts receivable, cash account)
  • Expense accounts: Assign resources used to generate income (e.g., delivery expenses, advertising expenses)
  • Liability accounts: Assign liabilities owed to creditors (e.g., accounts payable, salaries and wages, income taxes)
  • Equity accounts: Assign an owner’s equity in their company (e.g., initial investments, stock)
  • Revenue/income accounts: Assign income that your business generates (e.g., interest income, rent income)

If a business owner wants to get a closer picture of their income taxes, they can analyze the activity in their liability account. When recording debits and credits, remember that all of these accounts relate to one another; when one account changes, so do the others.

A chart of accounts, or COA, provides a bird’s-eye view of a business’s financial data. A COA lists all financial accounts in the general ledger for a business, and business owners can use this organizational tool to perform a financial analysis.

Debits and credits balance a company's records. They are recorded in pairs for each transaction, so a debit to one financial account necessitates a credit or aggregate of credits to other financial accounts of equal value. This procedure is important to double-entry accounting. Accounts must be accurate since they "roll up" into certain lines on a company's balance sheet or income statement, which both offer a picture of a company's financial health, value, and profitability. They also help internal and external parties, such as corporate management, lenders, investors, and tax authorities, make decisions.

It's easy to picture how much time and effort an accountant or bookkeeper (or teams of them) might use manually recording debits and credits for thousands or hundreds of thousands of business transaction and ensuring that they are all in balance. One mistake is all it takes to mess up the records and the ensuing financial statements. This is why software, like NetSuite Cloud Accounting Software, which streamlines and automates many of the procedures necessary for double-entry accounting, is best suited to perform the task. 

This includes keeping track of debits and credits, as well as maintaining the general ledger and chart of accounts for a business. Debits and credits will automatically post to the appropriate accounts whenever a transaction is created — the software can manage that for some journal entries, too. Additionally, NetSuite streamlines the processes for accounts payable, accounts receivable, and closing management, increasing productivity and enhancing cash flow. Each of these skills contributes to an organization's capacity to provide extremely accurate financial account and reports.


In conclusion, debits and credits are fundamental concepts in accounting that enable the accurate recording and tracking of financial transactions. Debits represent increases or decreases in assets and expenses, while credits denote changes in liabilities, equity, or revenue. By understanding how debits and credits impact the accounting equation, you can maintain balanced books and gain valuable insights into your company's financial health.

We hope this comprehensive guide has provided you with the necessary knowledge to navigate the world of debits and credits confidently. Remember, accurate bookkeeping is crucial for effective financial management, and mastering these concepts will undoubtedly contribute to your success. Happy accounting!