RFC: A "book-close dialog" to help auto-zeroize all Inc/Exp accounts

Mike or Penny Novack stepbystepfarm at mtdata.com
Mon Dec 24 09:34:53 EST 2007

>>   The other issue is the fact not really how traditional accounting 
>> would do this. More usual is a temporary equity account (receiving 
>> total income and total expenses) which is then closed to retained 
>> equity with a single entry, either gain or loss for the year (thus 
>> making it clear which the case was).
> I was planning to close all the accounts in a single transaction.
> Actually, two, one transaction for income and one for expense.

I understood what you were doing. Now let me try to explain why that 
MIGHT be an issue.

The result you have is two transactions, one representing total income 
and one representing total expenses. But the absolute magnitude of these 
two amounts is of little interest while the difference between them and 
especially the sense of that difference is considered of paramount 
importance (oh the famous lines from Dickens's "David Copperfield" say 
that so much better).

So yes, your users can see whether the total income amount or the total 
expenses amount is the greater and perhaps even do a rough subtraction 
in their head BUT they probably would prefer a single amount clearly 
labeled as a "gain" or "loss" for the year. Which is why the traditional 
method was as it was (and from that temporary account the "profit and 
loss" report easily produced).

Now equity accounts are "standing" accounts. Not entirely crazy for the 
"close the books" function to require the existence of a named equity 
account to be used for the closing process. The closing function would 
then generate THREE (instead of two) transactions (total income, total 
expenses, and gain (or loss) for the year).


PS: We (MA Chestnut Foundation) will probably agree to adopt GnuCash at 
the January board meeting after I present my recommendation. After which 
I presumably will become available to work on some of the things 
desired. But also likely to at first be working on the special report 
formats generally used by non-profits (we have so few 
accounts/transactions that no big deal to close the books manually so an 
autoclose not my highest priority). If I get involved, would have to be 
considered a "serious" resource (retired senior analyst with a few 
decades experience designing/writing/debugging financial business software).

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