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  • Writer's pictureCezary L. Lerski

15 Basic Terms in American Accounting Magical Lingo

For all you international moguls out there, navigating the US accounting scene and understanding its language can be as tricky as a visit to the wizard world. It requires precise comprehension of its ingredients, careful timing, and a bit of alchemy to concoct the perfect brew. And just when you think you’ve mastered the art, there’s always a new spell in the tax law to learn! Fear not! Here's a handy explanation of the 15 most-used accounting terms in the USA, to help you digest the American financial magic.




1. Accounting Period

   Think of this as the financial world's version of a TV series season. It's the time frame for tracking a company's money moves. Most US businesses opt for monthly episodes, but you can also find quarterly or annual binge-watchers.


2. Allocation

   This is when a company plays matchmaker with its funds, pairing them with specific accounting periods or accounts. It's like saying, "You, insurance cost, you're going on several monthly dates with our budget."


3. Book Value

   Imagine your company car is aging like a Hollywood star—losing value every year. The book value is what it was worth before it started needing those metaphorical touch-ups.


4. Business Entity

   This isn't about ghosts in suits; it's the legal structure of a company. The usual suspects are sole proprietorships, partnerships, and the famous INCs and LLCs.


5. Cash Flow

   It's the lifeblood of a company, showing the cash coming in and going out. If you end up with more cash than you started with, it's like winning at financial musical chairs.


6. Cost of Sales

   Sold something? Great! Now, let's talk about the cost of sales, which are the backstage costs of putting on your sales show.


7. General Ledger

   The grand library of financial transactions, where every penny's journey is recorded. It's the behind-the-scenes footage for all your financial statements.



8. Gross Profit

   This is your company's financial selfie before any filters (expenses) are applied. Revenue minus the cost of goods sold gives you the unedited picture.


9. Income Statement

   A financial tell-all that spills the beans on revenues, profits, and expenses. It starts with your earnings and ends with the grand reveal: your net income.


10. Liabilities

    These are the IOUs your company has yet to settle. Think loans, payroll, and that money you promised to third parties.


11. Liquidity

    How fast can you turn assets into cash? If it's inventory, it's like a quick-change artist. Real estate? More like a costume change in an epic drama.


12. Return on Investment (ROI)

    It's the scorecard for your investments. Spend $1,000 on marketing, earn $2,000 back, and voilà, you've got yourself a 50% ROI.


13. Trial Balance

    A ledger's roll call where every account stands up and says, "Here!" Debits and credits must balance out, or it's detention time.


14. Variable Costs

    These costs are like Hogwarts' first year students potions —unpredictable. They fluctuate with sales volume, often tied to the raw materials needed for your products.


15. Working Capital

    The financial fuel for your company's daily grind. Add up your assets and receivables, subtract liabilities, and that's your working capital—no coffee required.


There you have it! A little less jargon, a bit more clarity, and hopefully, a chuckle or two. Now you can conquer the American accounting landscape without the magic wand!




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