[GNC-dev] New balsheet (and P&L report), API considerations, and (slow?) KVP in Account.cpp

John Ralls jralls at ceridwen.us
Wed Aug 8 20:32:23 EDT 2018

> On Aug 8, 2018, at 8:51 AM, Geert Janssens <geert.gnucash at kobaltwit.be> wrote:
> I haven't been following every detail of this. However I note on most balance 
> sheets the total assets doesn't match total net worth (or liabilities/equity). 
> In most, this is fixed by including the retained earnings.
> I believe at least in most European countries the "left hand side" (Assets, 
> Active) and "right hand side" (Passive or liabilities + equity) of the 
> multicolumn view should balance (it's called balance sheet for a reason).
> That would suggest retained earnings does have to be part of the balance 
> sheet.
> However I'm not an accountant and perhaps your book is slightly contrived so I 
> don't know the exact answer here.
> As for the "multi-column" vs one column debate, both present the same data. 
> The only difference is visual representation or style.
> As of recently I have become a strong proponent of separating structure (or 
> accounting functionality in a different context) from style, I think this 
> should be delegated to the realm of css. This particular layout variation can 
> IMO be handled by making divs for each large group and either let them follow 
> normal flow or use float to move them next to each other. If you will you can 
> have a European style sheet and an American one, or an Australian or whatever.
> As for "categories", I read Frank's earlier reply as if he agreed that at 
> least for now the account organization is something to be done in the CoA, not 
> in report code.

The Balance Sheet is indeed supposed to balance, but in normal practice it balances only when the book is “closed”, i.e. when all of the income and expense accounts are summed up and added to Equity. In US corporate books the cumulative total of income and expenses lives in an Equity account called “Retained Earnings”.

In the pen-and-paper days a  “Trial Balance” was computed outside of the books before closing as a way to catch errors before making the closing entries and writing the formal Balance Sheet.

GnuCash's existing Balance Sheet Report creates the “Retained Earnings” line so that one need not close the books (Tools>Close Book) in order to get a balanced report. Removing that feature might be more formally correct but it would mean that users would have to close their book before running a balance sheet. That would be a big change and I don’t think that we want to do it. On the other hand “Retained Earnings” isn’t the right term for many cases, so it would be a useful improvement to make it configurable.

There’s a second problem with the current report as well: If the user does close their books periodically they’ll have an account for the accumulation that may well be called “Retained Earnings”. The Balance Sheet Report will dutifully report the contents of that account and, if there are income and expenses after the last close, add a second “Retained Earnings” line. That looks a bit odd and might be confusing; ISTR we’ve had comments on the user list about just that.

John Ralls

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