Financial Terms
Accounting period

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Definition of Accounting period

Accounting Period Image 1

Accounting period

The period of time for which financial statements are produced – see also financial year.

Related Terms:

Adjusting entries

The entries needed at the end of an accounting period to properly state certain account balances.

Balance Sheet

A financial statement showing the financial position of a business – its assets, liabilities and
capital – at the end of an accounting period.

Cash Flow statement

A financial report that shows the movement in cash for a business during an accounting period.

Change in Accounting Estimate

A change in accounting that occurs as the result of new information
or as additional experience is acquired—for example, a change in the residual values
or useful lives of fixed assets. A change in accounting estimate is accounted for prospectively,
over the current and future accounting periods affected by the change.

Constant dollar accounting

A method for restating financial statements by reducing or
increasing reported revenues and expenses by changes in the consumer price index,
thereby achieving greater comparability between accounting periods.


The payment of after-tax profits to shareholders as their share of the profits of the business for an accounting period.

Ending inventory

The dollar value or unit total of goods on hand at the end of an
accounting period.

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Financial year

The accounting period adopted by a business for the production of its financial statements.
Finished goods Inventory that is ready for sale, either having been purchased as such or the result of a conversion from raw materials through a manufacturing process.


Net earnings after all expenses for an accounting period are subtracted from all
revenues recognized during that period.

Inventory Turnover

Ratio of annual sales to inventory, which shows how many times the inventory of a firm is sold and replaced during an accounting period.


An excess of expenses over revenues, either for a single business transaction or in
reference to the sum of all transactions for an accounting period.

Operating profit

The profit made by the business for an accounting period, equal to gross profit less selling, finance, administration etc. expenses, but before deducting interest or taxation.

Prepaid expense

An expenditure that is paid for in one accounting period, but which
will not be entirely consumed until a future period. Consequently, it is carried on the
balance sheet as an asset until it is consumed.

Profit and Loss account

A financial statement measuring the profit or loss of a business – income less expenses – for an accounting period.


The allocation of either under- or over-allocated overhead costs among the
work-in-process, finished goods, and cost of goods sold accounts at the end of an
accounting period.

Straight line depreciation

An equal dollar amount of depreciation in each accounting period.

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Temporary accounts

The accounts found on the Income Statement and the Statement of Retained Earnings; these accounts are reduced to zero at the end of every accounting period.


Mutual Funds: A measure of trading activity during the previous year, expressed as a percentage of
the average total assets of the fund. A turnover ratio of 25% means that the value of trades represented onefourth
of the assets of the fund. Finance: The number of times a given asset, such as inventory, is replaced
during the accounting period, usually a year. Corporate: The ratio of annual sales to net worth, representing
the extent to which a company can growth without outside capital. Markets: The volume of shares traded as a
percent of total shares listed during a specified period, usually a day or a year. Great Britain: total revenue.


A depreciation method that relates a machine’s depreciation to the number of units it makes each
accounting period. The method requires that someone record the machine’s output each year.


A collection of systems and processes used to record, report and interpret business transactions.


A broad, all-inclusive term that refers to the methods and procedures
of financial record keeping by a business (or any entity); it also
refers to the main functions and purposes of record keeping, which are
to assist in the operations of the entity, to provide necessary information
to managers for making decisions and exercising control, to measure
profit, to comply with income and other tax laws, and to prepare financial

Accounting and Auditing Enforcement Release (AAER)

Administrative proceedings or litigation releases that entail an accounting or auditing-related violation of the securities laws.

Accounting change

An alteration in the accounting methodology or estimates used in
the reporting of financial statements, usually requiring discussion in a footnote
attached to the financial statements.

Accounting earnings

Earnings of a firm as reported on its income statement.

Accounting entity

A business for which a separate set of accounting records is being

Accounting equation

The representation of the double-entry system of accounting such that assets are equal to liabilities plus capital.

Accounting equation

The formula Assets = Liabilities + Equity.

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accounting equation

An equation that reflects the two-sided nature of a
business entity, assets on the one side and the sources of assets on the
other side (assets = liabilities + owners’ equity). The assets of a business
entity are subject to two types of claims that arise from its two basic
sources of capital—liabilities and owners’ equity. The accounting equation
is the foundation for double-entry bookkeeping, which uses a
scheme for recording changes in these basic types of accounts as either
debits or credits such that the total of accounts with debit balances
equals the total of accounts with credit balances. The accounting equation
also serves as the framework for the statement of financial condition,
or balance sheet, which is one of the three fundamental financial
statements reported by a business.

Accounting Errors

Unintentional mistakes in financial statements. Accounted for by restating
the prior-year financial statements that are in error.

Accounting exposure

The change in the value of a firm's foreign currency denominated accounts due to a
change in exchange rates.

Accounting insolvency

Total liabilities exceed total assets. A firm with a negative net worth is insolvent on
the books.

Accounting Irregularities

Intentional misstatements or omissions of amounts or disclosures in
financial statements done to deceive financial statement users. The term is used interchangeably with fraudulent financial reporting.

Accounting liquidity

The ease and quickness with which assets can be converted to cash.

Accounting Policies

The principles, bases, conventions, rules and procedures adopted by management in preparing and presenting financial statements.

Accounting rate of return (ARR)

A method of investment appraisal that measures
the profit generated as a percentage of the
investment – see return on investment.

accounting rate of return (ARR)

the rate of earnings obtained on the average capital investment over the life of a capital project; computed as average annual profits divided by average investment; not based on cash flow

Accounting system

A set of accounts that summarize the transactions of a business that have been recorded on source documents.

Accrual accounting

The recording of revenue when earned and expenses when
incurred, irrespective of the dates on which the associated cash flows occur.

accrual-basis accounting

Well, frankly, accrual is not a good descriptive
term. Perhaps the best way to begin is to mention that accrual-basis
accounting is much more than cash-basis accounting. Recording only the
cash receipts and cash disbursement of a business would be grossly
inadequate. A business has many assets other than cash, as well as
many liabilities, that must be recorded. Measuring profit for a period as
the difference between cash inflows from sales and cash outflows for
expenses would be wrong, and in fact is not allowed for most businesses
by the income tax law. For management, income tax, and financial
reporting purposes, a business needs a comprehensive record-keeping
system—one that recognizes, records, and reports all the assets and liabilities
of a business. This all-inclusive scope of financial record keeping
is referred to as accrual-basis accounting. Accrual-basis accounting
records sales revenue when sales are made (though cash is received
before or after the sales) and records expenses when costs are incurred
(though cash is paid before or after expenses are recorded). Established
financial reporting standards require that profit for a period
must be recorded using accrual-basis accounting methods. Also, these
authoritative standards require that in reporting its financial condition a
business must use accrual-basis accounting.

Accruals accounting

A method of accounting in which profit is calculated as the difference between income when it is earned and expenses when they are incurred.

Aggressive Accounting

A forceful and intentional choice and application of accounting principles
done in an effort to achieve desired results, typically higher current earnings, whether the practices followed are in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles or not. Aggressive
accounting practices are not alleged to be fraudulent until an administrative, civil, or criminal proceeding takes that step and alleges, in particular, that an intentional, material misstatement
has taken place in an effort to deceive financial statement readers.

Annualized holding period return

The annual rate of return that when compounded t times, would have
given the same t-period holding return as actually occurred from period 1 to period t.

Annuity Period

The time between each payment under an annuity.

Average accounting return

The average project earnings after taxes and depreciation divided by the average
book value of the investment during its life.

Average Amortization Period

The average useful life of a company's collective amortizable asset base.

Average Collection Period

Average number of days necessary to receive cash for the sale of
a company's products. It is calculated by dividing the value of the
accounts receivable by the average daily sales for the period.

Average collection period, or days' receivables

The ratio of accounts receivables to sales, or the total
amount of credit extended per dollar of daily sales (average AR/sales * 365).

Cash accounting

A method of accounting in which profit is calculated as the difference between income
when it is received and expenses when they are paid.

Change in Accounting Estimate

A change in the implementation of an existing accounting
policy. A common example would be extending the useful life or changing the expected residual
value of a fixed asset. Another would be making any necessary adjustments to allowances for
uncollectible accounts, warranty obligations, and reserves for inventory obsolescense.

Change in Accounting Principle

A change from one generally accepted accounting principle to another generally accepted accounting principle—for example, a change from capitalizing expenditures
to expensing them. A change in accounting principle is accounted for in most instances
as a cumulative-effect–type adjustment.

Compounding period

The length of the time period (for example, a quarter in the case of quarterly
compounding) that elapses before interest compounds.

compounding period

the time between each interest computation

Contract Accounting

Method of accounting for sales or service agreements where completion
requires an extended period.

cost accounting

a discipline that focuses on techniques or
methods for determining the cost of a project, process, or
thing through direct measurement, arbitrary assignment, or
systematic and rational allocation

Cost Accounting Standards Board (CASB)

a body established by Congress in 1970 to promulgate cost accounting
standards for defense contractors and federal agencies; disbanded
in 1980 and reestablished in 1988; it previously issued
pronouncements still carry the weight of law for those
organizations within its jurisdiction

Creative Accounting Practices

Any and all steps used to play the financial numbers game, including
the aggressive choice and application of accounting principles, both within and beyond
the boundaries of generally accepted accounting principles, and fraudulent financial reporting.
Also included are steps taken toward earnings management and income smoothing. See Financial
Numbers Game.

Creative Acquisition Accounting

The allocation to expense of a greater portion of the price
paid for another company in an acquisition in an effort to reduce acquisition-year earnings and
boost future-year earnings. Acquisition-year expense charges include purchased in-process research
and development and an overly aggressive accrual of costs required to effect the acquisition.

Credit period

The length of time for which the customer is granted credit.

Critical Growth Periods

Times in a company's history when growth is essential and without which survival of the business might be in jeopardy.

Cumulative Effect of a Change in Accounting Principle

The change in earnings of previous years
based on the assumption that a newly adopted accounting principle had previously been in use.

Cumulative Effect of Accounting Change

The change in earnings of previous years assuming
that the newly adopted accounting principle had previously been in use.

Discount period

The period during which a customer can deduct the discount from the net amount of the bill
when making payment.

Discounted payback period rule

An investment decision rule in which the cash flows are discounted at an
interest rate and the payback rule is applied on these discounted cash flows.

double-entry accounting

See accrual-basis accounting.

Evaluation period

The time interval over which a money manager's performance is evaluated.

Extended Amortization Period

An amortization period that continues beyond a long-lived asset's economic useful life.

Extended Amortization Periods

Amortizing capitalized expenditures over estimated useful lives that are unduly optimistic.

Financial accounting

The production of financial statements, primarily for those interested parties who are external to the business.

financial accounting

a discipline in which historical, monetary
transactions are analyzed and recorded for use in the
preparation of the financial statements (balance sheet, income
statement, statement of owners’/stockholders’ equity,
and statement of cash flows); it focuses primarily on the
needs of external users (stockholders, creditors, and regulatory

Full Credit Period

The period of trade credit given by a supplier to its customer.

Gain-on-Sale Accounting

Up-front gain recognized from the securitization and sale of a pool
of loans. Profit is recorded for the excess of the sales price and the present value of the estimated
interest income that is expected to be received on the loans above the amounts funded on the loans
and the present value of the interest agreed to be paid to the buyers of the loan-backed securities.

Generally Accepted Accounting Principals (GAAP)

A technical accounting term that encompasses the
conventions, rules, and procedures necessary to define accepted accounting practice at a particular time.

Generally accepted accounting principles

The rules that accountants follow when processing accounting transactions and creating financial reports. The rules are primarily
derived from regulations promulgated by the various branches of the AICPA Council.

generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)

This important term
refers to the body of authoritative rules for measuring profit and preparing
financial statements that are included in financial reports by a business
to its outside shareowners and lenders. The development of these
guidelines has been evolving for more than 70 years. Congress passed a
law in 1934 that bestowed primary jurisdiction over financial reporting
by publicly owned businesses to the Securities and Exchange Commission
(SEC). But the SEC has largely left the development of GAAP to the
private sector. Presently, the Financial accounting Standards Board is
the primary (but not the only) authoritative body that makes pronouncements
on GAAP. One caution: GAAP are like a movable feast. New rules
are issued fairly frequently, old rules are amended from time to time,
and some rules established years ago are discarded on occasion. Professional
accountants have a heck of time keeping up with GAAP, that’s for
sure. Also, new GAAP rules sometimes have the effect of closing the barn
door after the horse has left. accounting abuses occur, and only then,
after the damage has been done, are new rules issued to prevent such
abuses in the future.

generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)

Procedures for preparing financial statements.

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)

A common set of standards and procedures
for the preparation of general-purpose financial statements that either have been established
by an authoritative accounting rule-making body, such as the Financial accounting
Standards Board (FASB), or over time have become accepted practice because of their universal

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)

GAAP is the term used to describe the underlying rules basis on which financial statements are normally prepared. This is codified in the Handbook of The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants.

Grace Period

A specific period of time after a premium payment is due during which the policy owner may make a payment, and during which, the protection of the policy continues. The grace period usually ends in 30 days.

Grace Period

Length of time during which repayments of loan principal are excused. Usually occurs at the start of the loan period.

Holding period

Length of time that an individual holds a security.

Holding period return

The rate of return over a given period.

internal accounting controls

Refers to forms used and procedures
established by a business—beyond what would be required for the
record-keeping function of accounting—that are designed to prevent
errors and fraud. Two examples of internal controls are (1) requiring a
second signature by someone higher in the organization to approve a
transaction in excess of a certain dollar amount and (2) giving customers
printed receipts as proof of sale. Other examples of internal
control procedures are restricting entry and exit routes of employees,
requiring all employees to take their vacations and assigning another
person to do their jobs while they are away, surveillance cameras, surprise
counts of cash and inventory, and rotation of duties. Internal controls
should be cost-effective; the cost of a control should be less than
the potential loss that is prevented. The guiding principle for designing
internal accounting controls is to deter and detect errors and dishonesty.
The best internal controls in the world cannot prevent most fraud
by high-level managers who take advantage of their positions of trust
and authority.

Management accounting

The production of financial and non-financial information used in planning for the future; making decisions about products, services, prices and what costs to incur; and ensuring that plans are implemented and achieved.

management accounting

a discipline that includes almost
all manipulations of financial information for use by managers
in performing their organizational functions and in
assuring the proper use and handling of an entity’s resources;
it includes the discipline of cost accounting

Management Accounting Guidelines (MAGs)

pronouncements of the Society of Management Accountants of
Canada that advocate appropriate practices for specific
management accounting situations

Multiperiod immunization

A portfolio strategy in which a portfolio is created that will be capable of
satisfying more than one predetermined future liability regardless if interest rates change.

Net period

The period of time between the end of the discount period and the date payment is due.

Neutral period

In the Euromarket, a period over which Eurodollars are sold is said to be neutral if it does not
start or end on either a Friday or the day before a holiday.

Odd first or last period

Fixed-income securities may be purchased on dates
that do not coincide with coupon or payment dates. The length of the first and
last periods may differ from the regular period between coupons, and thus the
bond owner is not entitled to the full value of the coupon for that period.
Instead, the coupon is pro-rated according to how long the bond is held during
that period.

Payback Period

The number of years necessary for the net cash flows of an
investment to equal the initial cash outlay

payback period

the time it takes an investor to recoup an
original investment through cash flows from a project

payback period

Time until cash flows recover the initial investment of the project.

period cost

cost other than one associated with making or acquiring inventory

Period costs

The costs that relate to a period of time.

periodic compensation

a pay plan based on the time spent on the task rather than the work accomplished

Periodic inventory

A physical inventory count taken on a repetitive basis.

Periodic inventory system

An inventory system in which the balance in the Inventory account is adjusted for the units sold only at the end of the period.

PPF (periodic perpetuity factor)

a generalization formula invented by Abrams that is the present value of regular but noncontiguous cash flows that have constant growth to perpetuity.

Purchase accounting

Method of accounting for a merger in which the acquirer is treated as having purchased
the assets and assumed liabilities of the acquiree, which are all written up or down to their respective fair
market values, the difference between the purchase price and the net assets acquired being attributed to goodwill.







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