general ledger (GL) definition

Contributor(s): Laura Aberle

A general ledger (GL) is a chronological accounting record a business uses to keep track of financial transactions. Transactions are categorized and summarized into general ledger accounts. An account is a unique record for each type of asset, liability, equity, revenue and expense. The number and type of accounts that make up the general ledger is determined by the chart of accounts (COA).

The general ledger is the primary component of most financial accounting software applications, including accounts payable software, accounts receivable software and enterprise asset management (EAM) software. The GL can be thought of as an electronic database that provides the data required to build financial reports. The general ledger is at the core of any enterprise resource planning (ERP) financial management system, which encompasses the functions that are required to maintain one or more sets of books, generate financial reports, manage cash and fixed assets and execute payment and accounts receivable transactions.

Many financial accounting software vendors now offer cloud-based options, which are becoming more popular for general ledger and other accounting functions. The cloud can make accounting processes more efficient by providing users with anywhere, anytime access to financial information.

This was first published in April 2015

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