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SAMPLE CHART OF ACCOUNTS - Non-Profit Organization

Please also refer to the FAQs and 'Notable Observations' at the bottom of this page for information about the basic architecture of this chart of accounts.
Non-Profits have a different way of looking at things, though there are similarities between them and their 'for-profit cousins'.


Q: What is a Debit?
A: Here's a quick run-down of the big picture, in regard to basic accounting principles.

Q: If Cash is a Debit Balance on my books, why does the bank call (a positive cash balance) a Credit Balance?
A: It's a simple matter of perspective. Your positive cash balance is a liability to the bank - a Credit Balance.
Cash is a Debit Balance On your books (an Asset); but your check-book balance is Credit on the bank's books (a Liability: A Loan Payable).

Q: How many accounts and sub-accounts should I have?
A: You should have at least 10 fewer accounts than you can keep track of!
This is important to note.
Categories and sub-categories can provide useful information about your organization, but only if they are accurate. If your staff is not going to be consistent about how things are coded, then your sophisticated chart of accounts will steer the books into much worse shape than if you had kept things simple.

Don't design a structure that no one is willing to follow. Too much detail is counter-productive, miss-informative, expensive, and hard to trouble-shoot; and too little detail means you have lost an opportunity to provide useful analytical information to the users of your financial statements.
Our recommendation: Err on the side of keeping things simple.

Observations about the Non-Profit Chart of Accounts:

Restricted Funds - These are funds that have been designated toward specific expenses/initiatives by the donor.
Un-spent Restricted funds are listed on the Balance Sheet till they are used as intended. We recommend restricted funds be placed in the Net Asset Section of the Balance Sheet, though some like them as Other Liabilities.

Net Assets. This designation resembles "Owners Equity" on a for-profit chart of accounts. It is literally, Assets minus Liabilities and, just like a for profit organization, it is where historical earnings are accumulated.

The first two digits of Income Statement accounts (XX - XXXX).
If a non-profit has more than one emphasis, it should consider splitting the income statement into separate departments (or classes), which can be done with the first two digits (depending on the accounting system you're using, it could also be the last two digits, or a separate field).
  • This can help with accountability for most Restricted Donations.
  • Even if the ministry has only one focus, it is advisable to split the Income Statement into 3 divisions:
    01 - Ministry
    02 - Fund-raising (aka Development)
    03 - Overhead (Management).

    Account Number 4100 - Reimbursable Expenses: Amounts billed to reimburse the company for expenses incurred on behalf of clients, etc.. A markup could be included with this. A mark-up of 20% is typical for most industries.

    Account Number 4900 - Reimbursable Expenses: These are Expenses incurred on behalf of the client: Expenses that are expected to be reimbursed.

    4901 - Reimbursable Expenses - Meals and Entertainment: Meals and Entertainment are separated for tax purposes. This Makes things easier at year-end! Easier = Less expensive.

    Operating Expenses: Everything in this category is listed in alphabetical order for quick reference, and to keep things simple.

    6121 - Capitalized Purchases - Contra Account: Using this contra account is an effective way to capitalize an asset without losing track of total expenditures by category. I hope that make sense!

    6951 - Travel - Meals and Entertainment: Meals and Entertainment are separated for tax purposes. Your tax accountant needs this information at year end, so it will save time if you segregate it for her/him.