Account Types

Charles Day cedayiv at
Fri Sep 12 11:56:56 EDT 2008

On Fri, Sep 12, 2008 at 2:01 AM, Ken <kmailuk at> wrote:

> Hi. I am new to GnuCash (recently switched over as Quicken has
> withdrawn their product from the UK) and it looks like a great program
> (although I do have a couple of GUI issues in Windows).
> The question I have which I can't seem to find an answer to is: Why
> does GnuCash have so many different account types?  What are the
> fundamental differences between cash, bank, stock, mutual fund,
> account receivable, credit card, liability, etc.  Why not simply 4:
> Asset, Liability, Income, Expense. And then let the user create
> sub-accounts depending on the nature/liquidity of the account?

Generally the top level of your chart of accounts (account tree) contains
only those four account types. But why make the user build the most common
account types themselves? GnuCash just has them already built for you (like
Quicken). Besides, there isn't currently an option to add your own account
types anyway. Also, there are some differences in the way account types are
treated. I'm not familiar with the exact differences between all of them.

For example, stock and mutual fund types get a "price" column in their
registers, and can be denominated in non-currencies. However these two
account types are currently identical in all but name. So the distinction
between "stock" and "mutual fund" assets are unknown to the software, and in
fact these account types could be used to track any asset at all that needs
a price column. These two account types could be made distinct and more
useful if the GUI treated them differently. (For instance, options to
distribute capital gains could be enabled for mutual fund accounts, but
disabled for stock accounts.)  There is lots more work to be done in the
investments area.

I can't speak to the other account types. Some of them might be the same in
all but name, too.

> I may not have been using GnuCash long enough to appreciate the
> differences, but it would enhance my understanding of the product if I
> had a better idea as to why these distinctions are made.
> Thanks,
> Ken


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