How to account for rent cheque?

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How to account for rent cheque?

geo909
Dear all,

First off, I do realize that this is more of an accounting question, but I took the liberty to post here. I'm very new to gnucash, accounting and double entry bookkeeping and I find myself lost very often; I would really appreciate any help.

The manual says that the rent that I pay should be accounted as an expense. However, the way that I do it is that I give to my landlord a cheque with the rent amount, each first day of the month. This seems to me like being a liability, which disappears when my landlord cashes the cheque.

So, how should I account for it? If I create a Liabilities:Rent Payable account, and increase it by the rent amount every first of the month, from where should I transfer the money? If it is my bank account, then my bank account shows a wrong balance, since it accounts for the cheque that is not yet cashed..

Thanks a lot in advance.
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Re: How to account for rent cheque?

Edward Doolittle
The way I understand it is: when you write a cheque, it is an expense,
because you have made a commitment to pay. Liabilities represent claims on
your assets or obligations to pay, for which you have not yet committed to
paying.

Your bank account balance as reported by the bank, and as reported by
GnuCash, will often be out of sync. One of the nice things about using
accounting software like GnuCash properly is that your personal records
will be more up-to-date than the bank's; for one thing, cheques you have
written but which have not yet been cashed will be present in your personal
records.

Periodically you will need to "reconcile" your records with the bank's.
When you receive a bank statement, you should go through the reconciliation
process that GnuCash makes available (big Reconcile button). Typically you
will find that the bank has a few transactions that you may not have
recorded, for example interest, maybe service charges, and maybe
transactions you forgot to record. You should check whether each of those
transactions is legitimate, and if so, enter them into your records. (If
they are not legitimate, you need to contact the bank promptly to resolve
the issue.)

You will also likely find that the order of transactions in your records
does not match the order in the bank statement. I handle that phenomenon by
walking through the bank statement one line at a time, checking the
corresponding box in the reconciliation window wherever it may be.
Alternatively you can walk through the reconciliation window in order and
check off the corresponding line on the bank statement, but using that
method will require a writing implement whereas the former method only
requires a mouse.

Note that reconciliation only ensures that your records are in sync with
the bank's up to a certain date. After that, depending on how careful you
are, your records could be more accurate. If you have a lot of transactions
or get surprised regularly you might want to check in between
reconciliation periods using the bank's online services.





On 1 March 2015 at 17:54, geo909 <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Dear all,
>
> First off, I do realize that this is more of an accounting question, but I
> took the liberty to post here. I'm very new to gnucash, accounting and
> double entry bookkeeping and I find myself lost very often; I would really
> appreciate any help.
>
> The manual says that the rent that I pay should be accounted as an expense.
> However, the way that I do it is that I give to my landlord a cheque with
> the rent amount, each first day of the month. This seems to me like being a
> liability, which disappears when my landlord cashes the cheque.
>
> So, how should I account for it? If I create a Liabilities:Rent Payable
> account, and increase it by the rent amount every first of the month, from
> where should I transfer the money? If it is my bank account, then my bank
> account shows a wrong balance, since it accounts for the cheque that is not
> yet cashed..
>
> Thanks a lot in advance.
>
>
>
> --
> View this message in context:
> http://gnucash.1415818.n4.nabble.com/How-to-account-for-rent-cheque-tp4676600.html
> Sent from the GnuCash - User mailing list archive at Nabble.com.
> _______________________________________________
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>



--
Edward Doolittle
Associate Professor of Mathematics
First Nations University of Canada
1 First Nations Way, Regina SK S4S 7K2

« Toutes les fois que je donne une place vacante, je fais cent mécontents
et un ingrat. »
-- Louis XIV, dans Voltaire, Le Siècle de Louis XIV, Chap. XXVI
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Re: How to account for rent cheque?

Michael DeBusk-2
In reply to this post by geo909
On Sun, Mar 1, 2015 at 6:54 PM, geo909 <[hidden email]> wrote:

> The manual says that the rent that I pay should be accounted as an expense.
> However, the way that I do it is that I give to my landlord a cheque with
> the rent amount, each first day of the month. This seems to me like being a
> liability, which disappears when my landlord cashes the cheque.

A common misunderstanding.

I like to think of liabilities as borrowed money. Your credit cards,
mortgage, car loans, and the like are liabilities. (I also include
under-withheld taxes, because I DO owe the money... it's as if I
borrowed it.)

Expenses, though, are (effectively) paid as they are encountered. You
do not, in fact, owe the rent to the landlord until the day you pay
it. (You do say you pay it on the first of the month.) Utilities
payments, gasoline, tolls, parking fees, interest on loans, groceries,
restaurant checks, and the like are expenses.

To confuse things just a hair, it is possible to have, say, a rent
liability. If you fail to pay your rent within the grace period, then
you HAVE (effectively) borrowed money from the landlord, and you may
want to account for it that way. (I wouldn't bother.)

> So, how should I account for it? If I create a Liabilities:Rent Payable
> account, and increase it by the rent amount every first of the month, from
> where should I transfer the money?

You know, you could do it that way. All it does is severely complicate
your record-keeping, but you could do it that way. Large businesses do
it like that. It's called "accrual basis" accounting. (When my
accounting teacher first described it, I thought, yes, 'a cruel' way
of doing it indeed.)

You would create Liabilities:Rent Payable and Expenses:Rent. On the
first of the month, you would credit Liabilities:Rent Payable and
debit Expenses:Rent. Then you would write the check, give it to your
landlord, credit Assets:Checking, and debit Liabilities:Rent Payable.

With "cash basis" accounting, which you will probably want to use for
your personal books, you would simply create an Expenses:Rent account,
forgetting about Liabilities:Rent Payable altogether. When you write
the rent check, you credit Assets:Checking and debit Expenses:Rent.

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Re: How to account for rent cheque?

foxylady337
In reply to this post by geo909

> On 1 Mar 2015, at 23:54, geo909 <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> Dear all,
>
> First off, I do realize that this is more of an accounting question, but I
> took the liberty to post here. I'm very new to gnucash, accounting and
> double entry bookkeeping and I find myself lost very often; I would really
> appreciate any help.
>
> The manual says that the rent that I pay should be accounted as an expense.
> However, the way that I do it is that I give to my landlord a cheque with
> the rent amount, each first day of the month. This seems to me like being a
> liability, which disappears when my landlord cashes the cheque.

I see that Edward Doolittle and Michael DeBusk have already made contributions to this discussion, and I agree with their advice.

Your rent, paid on the same day each month, is not essentially different from other regular fixed expenses (such as insurance premiums, monthly bank charges), nor from regular variable expenses like telephone and utility bills.

I use the Scheduled Transaction feature for these predictable expenses, and set the transactions up so that they’re processed in advance. For the variable charges I use an average figure and adjust it when the bill comes in, or when the time comes to reconcile my accounts with the bank statement.

I do the same for regular income.

Doing it this way, I can inspect the register for my current bank account, check the balance as it stands today, and look into the future below the blue line which marks today’s date. This way, I can visualise these liabilities and assets where I need to see them - in my bank account - and reduce the risk of an unplanned overdraft.

I treat longer-term assets (e.g. a loan to one of my children to support house purchase, paid off monthly over several years) as Current Assets and Liabilities; these are automatically carried forward at the end of the financial year, and appear on the Balance Sheet as such. I don’t really need to have these in-my-face on a day-to-day basis, but I do need to see the regular transactions associated with them.

Enjoy your journey!

Michael

>
> So, how should I account for it? If I create a Liabilities:Rent Payable
> account, and increase it by the rent amount every first of the month, from
> where should I transfer the money? If it is my bank account, then my bank
> account shows a wrong balance, since it accounts for the cheque that is not
> yet cashed..
>
> Thanks a lot in advance.
>
>
>
> --
> View this message in context: http://gnucash.1415818.n4.nabble.com/How-to-account-for-rent-cheque-tp4676600.html
> Sent from the GnuCash - User mailing list archive at Nabble.com.
> _______________________________________________
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Re: How to account for rent cheque?

Mike or Penny Novack
In reply to this post by geo909
First off, I do realize that this is more of an accounting question, but
I took the liberty to post here................. the rent that I pay
should be accounted as an expense. However, the way that I do it is that
I give to my landlord a cheque with the rent amount, each first day of
the month. This seems to me like being a liability, which disappears
when my landlord cashes the cheque.

It's also a "jurisdiction" question and I can't tell you the rules for
where you are. Here (anywhere in the US) the money in the checking
account legally ceases to be yours once you have made "constructive
delivery" of the check. Handed it to your landlord, or put it in the
mail (which is why here, postmark date is legally relevant). This is
complicated because here, checking accounts do NOT have "overdraft" as a
matter of course, though that can often be arranged. In other words, if
you write and make "constructive delivery" of checks for more than your
account balance you are technically violating the law. Of course, if by
the time the checks get back to your bank there is enough money in the
account, you are unlikely to get caught for having used "float".

In other words, here, the proper date for the transaction is the one for
which you have made "constructive delivery". Normally that would be the
date on the check (again, technically illegal to "postdate" a check,
date it later than the "delivery" date on the presumption that it could
not arrive till a few days later, especially if a weekend involved).

Michael D Novack
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Re: How to account for rent cheque?

geo909
Thank you so much Edward, Dean, foxylady, and the two Michaels.. Your responses were an enormous help.
Sorry for the late reply; there were a lot of things to digest from your answers and I did some reading too. But I think I understand well how accruel accounting works now, at least on a basic level.

So, given that I go with the accruel method, can you please confirm that I get the following example right?

Let's say that, as before, every first of the month I leave a cheque of 1000 to my landlord. But now, I also have a roommate with whom I split the rent in half. So, I do the following:

On the first of each month:
. Expenses:Rent - debit of 1000
. Liability:Rent - credit of 500
. Asset:roommate owes me - debit of 500

When the cheque is cashed:
. Assets:Chequing account - credit of 500
. Liability: Rent - debit of 500

When my roommate pays me for half the rent that I payed on his behalf:
. Asset:roommate owes me - credit of 500
. Asset:Chequing account - debit of 500

Does this look correct?

Thanks
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Re: How to account for rent cheque?

Dean Gibson-2

On 2015-03-03 15:24, geo909 wrote:

> Thank you so much Edward, Dean, foxylady, and the two Michaels.. Your
> responses were an enormous help.
> Sorry for the late reply; there were a lot of things to digest from your
> answers and I did some reading too. But I think I understand well how
> accruAl accounting works now, at least on a basic level.
>
> So, given that I go with the accruAl method, can you please confirm that I
> get the following example right?
>
> Let's say that, as before, every first of the month I leave a cheque of 1000
> to my landlord. But now, I also have a roommate with whom I split the rent
> in half. So, I do the following:
>
> On the first of each month:
> . Expenses:Rent - debit of 1000
> . Liability:Rent - credit of 500
> . Asset:roommate owes me - debit of 500
>
> When the cheque is cashed:
> . Assets:Chequing account - credit of 500
> . Liability: Rent - debit of 500
>
> When my roommate pays me for half the rent that I payed on his behalf:
> . Asset:roommate owes me - credit of 500
> . Asset:Chequing account - debit of 500
>
> Does this look correct?
>
> Thanks


Well, the first one won't balance.  I'd write it as:

Expense (rent expense): $500 (debit) -- your portion
Liability (rent payable): $1000 (credit)
Asset (receivable): $500 (debit)

The second one should be:

Asset (checking): $1000 (credit) -- you pay the whole thing, correct?
Liability (rent):  $1000 (debit) -- zeroes this balance -- you don't owe
any more (until next month).

The third one looks ok.

Some will say that all this is a bit pedantic (and it is somewhat), but
it will help get your head around the process.
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Re: How to account for rent cheque?

Buddha Buck
In reply to this post by geo909
I would say not quite.

You need to record the payment as coming out of your checking account when
you deliver the check, not when it is cashed. If you write a check and
don't record it as being taken of your account then, you may look at your
records and decide you have the money to write another check when that
money is already committed.

Think of it this way: When you give the rent check to the land lord, you've
spent the money.  Your land lord thinks the money is his, you think the
rent's been paid. The fact that the bank hasn't caught up iwth reality
isn't a concern for your records.

The importance of cash v. accrual comes when there can legitimately be a
gap between when an expense or income "happens", and when money actually
changes hands. It is not uncommon in commercial transactions to have terms
like "Net 30", meaning that payment is considered to be on time up to 30
days after delivery of the goods or services. So when a business sells
something under those terms, the income "happens" when delivery is made,
and is usually taxable as happening then, but the money won't catch up for
a month.

But that doesn't apply to your situation.

On Tue, Mar 3, 2015 at 6:34 PM geo909 <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Thank you so much Edward, Dean, foxylady, and the two Michaels.. Your
> responses were an enormous help.
> Sorry for the late reply; there were a lot of things to digest from your
> answers and I did some reading too. But I think I understand well how
> accruel accounting works now, at least on a basic level.
>
> So, given that I go with the accruel method, can you please confirm that I
> get the following example right?
>
> Let's say that, as before, every first of the month I leave a cheque of
> 1000
> to my landlord. But now, I also have a roommate with whom I split the rent
> in half. So, I do the following:
>
> On the first of each month:
> . Expenses:Rent - debit of 1000
> . Liability:Rent - credit of 500
> . Asset:roommate owes me - debit of 500
>
> When the cheque is cashed:
> . Assets:Chequing account - credit of 500
> . Liability: Rent - debit of 500
>
> When my roommate pays me for half the rent that I payed on his behalf:
> . Asset:roommate owes me - credit of 500
> . Asset:Chequing account - debit of 500
>
> Does this look correct?
>
> Thanks
>
>
>
> --
> View this message in context: http://gnucash.1415818.n4.nabb
> le.com/How-to-account-for-rent-cheque-tp4676600p4676634.html
> Sent from the GnuCash - User mailing list archive at Nabble.com.
> _______________________________________________
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Re: How to account for rent cheque?

Michael DeBusk-2
In reply to this post by geo909
On Tue, Mar 3, 2015 at 6:24 PM, geo909 <[hidden email]> wrote:

> So, given that I go with the accruel method, can you please confirm that I
> get the following example right?

I won't comment on the transactions because others have covered that.
I'll just say this: Please, do yourself a favor and don't use accrual
accounting. It's so very not worth the trouble for personal books.
People who use the accrual method go to school to learn all the ins
and outs.

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Re: How to account for rent cheque?

geo909
Hi,

Thanks a lot for your answers, It all makes sense.

Michael: I totally understand all this seems to be an overkill in my
case, but soon I'll be helping with some family business. So I see it
more like practicing to learn the basics, starting with the easy stuff
to get comfortable.




On Tue, Mar 3, 2015, at 11:05 PM, Michael DeBusk wrote:

> On Tue, Mar 3, 2015 at 6:24 PM, geo909 <[hidden email]> wrote:
>
> > So, given that I go with the accruel method, can you please confirm that I
> > get the following example right?
>
> I won't comment on the transactions because others have covered that.
> I'll just say this: Please, do yourself a favor and don't use accrual
> accounting. It's so very not worth the trouble for personal books.
> People who use the accrual method go to school to learn all the ins
> and outs.
>
> --
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Re: How to account for rent cheque?

Michael DeBusk-2
On Tue, Mar 3, 2015 at 11:59 PM, George <[hidden email]> wrote:

> Michael: I totally understand all this seems to be an overkill in my
> case, but soon I'll be helping with some family business. So I see it
> more like practicing to learn the basics, starting with the easy stuff
> to get comfortable.

Fair enough. On the FAQ I recently posted a couple of Youtube links to
college-level "Intro to Accounting" playlists.
http://wiki.gnucash.org/wiki/FAQ#Q:_Can_you_recommend_a_book_on_Accounting.3F

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Re: How to account for rent cheque?

Dean Gibson-2
In reply to this post by Michael DeBusk-2

On 2015-03-03 20:05, Michael DeBusk wrote:
> ... Please, do yourself a favor and don't use accrual accounting. It's
> so very not worth the trouble for personal books. People who use the
> accrual method go to school to learn all the ins and outs.

I disagree.  If everyone makes accrual accounting mysterious or
complicated (it's not), then a lot of users won't take advantages of the
real features of accrual accounting.  If someone pays every bill when
they get it, and never does any budgeting (even short-term), and doesn't
want to learn anything more than simple expenses, then maybe you are
right.  But if someone wants to LEARN, I don't see the point in
discouraging them.

Accrual accounting is valuable not only for long-term obligations, but
also for short-term ones (like monthly bills).  I divide my liabilities
into long-term and short-term ones.  The short-term ones are divided
into credit card accounts, and accounts payable.  The sum of those two
(GnuCash automatically displays the total on the chart-of-accounts page)
are what I need to pay in the next 30 days or so.

Most of the times that I run GnuCash, I go online to retrieve credit
card and bank transactions:

 1. The credit card transactions post as debits to expenses, and a
    credit to the credit card liability account.
 2. When I receive a credit card paper bill, I reconcile the account,
    which debits the credit card liability account and credits the
    corresponding account-payable account.
 3. When I receive a utility bill, I debit the utility expense account
    and credit the corresponding account-payable account.
 4. When I pay either bill at a later time (this being the whole point
    as far as I am concerned), I pay electronically, and the next online
    bank access (the bank info is never more than a banking day old),
    records the credit to the bank account, and (automatically by
    GnuCash after the first time) debits the appropriate
    accounts-payable account.  I prefer letting GnuCash post the ACTUAL
    "check" transactions a day after I pay, rather than subject myself
    to manual data entry the day before.

Steps #1 and #4 are automatic, and steps #2 and #3 take less than a
minute, once a month for each bill (eg, less time than it takes for
GnuCash to load).  This process gives me a lot of information, right on
the chart-of-accounts page:

 1. I see my current (unbilled) credit card transaction balance as well
    as the amount of the last bill.
 2. The difference between my current liabilities and my checking
    account is my available cash for the next month (and as such it
    reflects bills that I have not yet paid).

Taking a course in accounting is certainly helpful, although I think a
good book is sufficient.  The most important thing (in my opinion) is to
spend a little time and get one's head around the concepts.  A bit of
practice at being pedantic helps.

I do admit I'm a bit pedantic.  When I get a paycheck, I record each of
the deductions as part of the deposit.  Most of the deductions are
expenses, but the withholding for income tax I post to a "pre-paid
taxes" asset account (because I don't know the actual expense amount).  
When I do my income tax filing, is when I post the actual (ie, known)
tax obligation as an expense, with a credit to the pre-paid taxes
account, and an adjustment to my checking account or an
accounts-receivable account.

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Re: How to account for rent cheque?

Michael DeBusk-2
On Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 2:49 AM, Dean Gibson <[hidden email]> wrote:

> I disagree.  If everyone makes accrual accounting mysterious or complicated
> (it's not), then a lot of users won't take advantages of the real features
> of accrual accounting.  If someone pays every bill when they get it, and
> never does any budgeting (even short-term), and doesn't want to learn
> anything more than simple expenses, then maybe you are right.  But if
> someone wants to LEARN, I don't see the point in discouraging them.

When he made it clear that it was something he wanted to learn, I
stopped trying to discourage him.

> I do admit I'm a bit pedantic.  When I get a paycheck, I record each of the
> deductions as part of the deposit.  Most of the deductions are expenses, but
> the withholding for income tax I post to a "pre-paid taxes" asset account
> (because I don't know the actual expense amount).  When I do my income tax
> filing, is when I post the actual (ie, known) tax obligation as an expense,
> with a credit to the pre-paid taxes account, and an adjustment to my
> checking account or an accounts-receivable account.

I'm an almost-all-cash-basis guy myself, but I do use a couple of
accrual-style accounts for taxes so the numbers stay in the
appropriate year. I have a Liabilities:Taxes Owed and an Assets:Taxes
Overpaid.

I think I have done the same with rebates, too, but I can't recall. I
hate those things. So rarely are they worth the effort.

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