What Are GL Accountant Responsibilities? (With Definition)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published November 7, 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
A general ledger (GL) accountant maintains the routine financial paperwork for a company regularly. Maintaining a ledger is a requisite for most firms and is important for business activities, such as calculating taxes and budgeting. Working as a GL accountant can be a rewarding way to contribute to the financial economy, and understanding the standard duties of the role can help you succeed. In this article, we define this role, list typical general ledger accountant responsibilities, explain the GL creation process, and examine the responsibilities these professionals undertake throughout a career in this field.
What are GL accountant responsibilities?
GL accountant responsibilities include the maintenance of a company's financial paperwork as it relates to transactions. Some organizations rely on a GL accountant to perform these tasks daily, while other, usually smaller, entities rely on weekly ledger updates. An accountant also provides regular bookkeeping services, with the difference in the two positions being the GL accountant does the quarterly reports, while the accountant submits the annual reports. Accountants reconcile, prepare, and present the information a business uses for its regular reporting, including for tax purposes.
A ledger is a company's method of record keeping as it relates to the financial processes of the business. It includes all the company's accounts and maintains thorough records of equity, revenue, expenses, liabilities, and assets. As these figures change during the regular course of business, the responsibilities of a GL accountant are ongoing throughout the fiscal cycle.
List of regular GL accountant duties
Accountants perform a series of duties related to the financial undertakings of a company. Those who specialize in GL management have regular duties that include:
preparing templates for ledgers and other financial documents as they relate to each account
routinely assessing the format of financial documents
maintaining the ledger entries in all company accounts
using ledgers that rely on a two-column system, into which the accountant inputs data
applying the information from the two-column system to ensure that the debits and credits balance in a process called reconciliation
following the ledger with a summary of the information's implications
relying on analytic software and best practices in the finance industry
GL document expectations and responsibilities
The following steps outline the standard responsibilities involved in creating a GL for a company, the main responsibility of the GL accountant:
1. Confirm the double-entry accounting practice
The most important aspect of integrating a GL process into a company is confirming that it follows the double-entry approach. This requires a ledger to have a direct impact on at least two sub-ledger accounts. Each entry comprises a debit and a credit. GL accountants input these journal entries into two side-by-side columns. When the document balances, it's complete.
2. Create a document template
Unless you work at an organization with a pre-set series of accounting templates, the bookkeeper often creates a unique version that clearly shows the information. Many accounting software options include templates for ledgers, though several standard office programs enable you to design one specific to your audience. Each account requires its own unique ledger, requiring a clear title, date range, and logical format. Typically, the debits are in the left column and the credits are in the right one. In some situations, accountants also include colour-coding, with red denoting negative figures. Otherwise, negatives are typically in brackets on financial statements.
3. Insert the debits and credits
The purpose of a GL is to maintain accurate, current records of a company's practices throughout the financial cycle. Each account has its own ledger, with the goal being an accurate representation of all the money that moves through the organization. This includes savings, investment accounts, loans, and general cash flow in all forms. Maintaining a ledger regularly, usually every day, allows companies to remain current with their finances and avoid the risk of error or loss. It keeps the documents up to date so that if there's an issue; it becomes apparent quickly and is easier to address.
4. Reconcile the information
Once the accountant inputs the information into the system, the next step is to ensure that it's accurate through the reconciliation process. Companies often refer to this as balancing the books. It's the process of ensuring that the accounts show proper transactions and that each properly presents the situation. By reconciling the documents, companies mitigate risk and make it easier to file financial information when submitting tax forms or pursuing a loan.
An example is a juice company that accepts payment in cash, credit, and debit. It also purchases its fruit daily. At the end of the business day, the accountant reviews total transactional income, its sources, and any debit transactions. After entering these into the document, the accountant checks it for accuracy. For example, if the company starts the day with $500 and there were $30 in debit sales, $50 in cash sales, and a juice purchase of $20, the overall balance is $560. In many situations, professionals rely on financial software to ensure reconciliation, though checking accuracy manually is important.
5. Include an informational overview
Especially if you work as a GL accountant rather than a bookkeeper, presenting financial documents is a likely responsibility. Most accountants incorporate visual representations on their reports to add clarity if there is any potential for misunderstanding. Often, the accountant accompanies this with a concise paragraph that explains the results of the report, whether the ledger itself or a report that relies on this. These small sections allow you to highlight important information and rely on the remaining document to provide the whole of the information.
GL accountant duties and responsibilities
The following expectations of GL accountants include the fiduciary, ethical, and professional responsibilities that accountants typically require:
1. Take responsibility to obtain relevant education
An accounting professional has the ethical responsibility to obtain the credentials that allow them to maintain the GL for a company. This can limit the liability for the professional and mitigate the risk for the business. There are multiple colleges that offer short programs that can certify professionals to work in bookkeeping.
While accountants may oversee yearly filings and other important financial reports, bookkeepers maintain the ledger daily. Most private programs that support this type of GL accounting range from eight months for a certificate to two years for a diploma. It allows for efficient entry into the workforce with an appropriate credential, usually including placement assistance or practicum opportunities.
2. Perform routine accounting and administrative duties
Many companies that operate exclusively online enable remote work in bookkeeping, where the professional maintains a GL for the company and reconciles the account using appropriate software. These responsibilities include tracking daily transactions, checking the accuracy of the information through proper data entry, and auditing. Remote GL accounting responsibilities include maintaining digital security, organizing files, and communicating with customers, suppliers, and employees of the company.
3. Address transactional questions and contribute to reports
Accountants who work with GLs maintain a record of all transactions, making these finance professionals a valuable resource when customer or supplier inquiries arise. For example, if the business sells an item, the ledger records the time, date, and amount. If that sale comes into question later, the GL accountant can prove those records. The ledger provides answers to important questions about revenue during a set period and insight into the company's spending.
4. Continue professional development
Financial law, process, and regulation differ between provinces and territories. While there's a consensus on the standards that accounting professionals maintain, it's a living system that changes with time. A responsible accountant maintains current knowledge of the regulations surrounding domestic and international bookkeeping and accounting practices.
Whether you're dealing with format changes in documents or new ledger expectations, it's important to use available resources to thrive in the role. This can help advance your career and ensure that your work remains at a high standard of excellence throughout your career. Responsible professional upkeep allows you to meet the ethical and fiduciary obligations of the role.
5. Assist with any auditing protocols
Accountants with relevant four-year degrees have more responsibility because of the extra training and accreditation. Business, accounting, finance, and mathematics degrees are relevant to the field. Provided you take the applicable accounting courses during your third and fourth years, you can qualify for advanced tasks that include auditing. This involves a review of GL records over the long term, ensuring their accuracy or identifying any errors. Audits occur during mergers, acquisitions, for tax purposes, and during business sales. Accountants that specialize in reconciliation, as with general ledgers, often contribute to the auditing process.
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