Opening Balance Equity in QuickBooks

Ah, the Opening Balance Equity account – as accounting professionals it’s one of the first things we look for when someone hands us a QuickBooks® file at year end. It tells us a great deal about the clients’ skill level with QuickBooks® and is an early indicator of how much time we will have to spend cleaning up the QuickBooks® file before we can rely on the numbers to prepare a tax return or financial statements.

Opening Balance Equity is a very useful account, when used properly. Although you may be tempted to delete this account, it’s much better if you use it as it was intended. It will really help if you ever need to go back and look at the original setup.

Proper Use of Opening Balance Equity

The Opening Balance Equity account is a special clearing account, which allows you to start using QuickBooks® before you have finished setting up the entire Balance Sheet.

The proper use of the Opening Balance Equity account is for the original setup of an existing company. When you start a new QuickBooks® company file with a start date later than the actual start date of the company, you will need to enter opening balances for the various general ledger accounts.

Opening balances can be entered into the company file in the form of a General Journal Entry for most Balance Sheet accounts using Opening Balance Equity as the offset account. Once all of the beginning balances are entered, the remaining balance in Opening Balance Equity can be apportioned between the proper equity accounts using another journal entry.

Once your QuickBooks data file is completely set up, Opening Balance Equity should be zero. This is because the account is only used to “park” the offsets for anything you are setting up opening balances for. If it is not zero, go back to the original Trial Balance and locate the discrepancies before moving on.

Automatic Posting to Opening Balance Equity

In some instances, QuickBooks® automatically posts to the Opening Balance Equity account.

QuickBooks® uses the Opening Balance Equity account automatically as the offset when entering a new Customer, a new Vendor or a new Account balance. This often occurs when clients set up their own QuickBooks® files. Entering beginning balances in the screen for setting up a new Customer, Vendor or Account is not the proper method of setting up beginning balances.  

Do not enter beginning balances in the opening balance field.

Leave this field blank when entering Customers, Vendors and Accounts.

How to Correct Postings to Opening Balance Equity

Unlike the Retained Earnings account, the Opening Balance Equity account does have an account register. If you find that your client has inadvertently or unknowingly made postings directly to the Opening Balance Equity account during the year, you can open the register by going to Lists – Chart of Accounts and double clicking the account. Then double click each posting and make the corrections here.

For more information on how to properly set up beginning balances for Customers, Vendors and/or Accounts or for help in troubleshooting your clients’ Opening Balance Equity account, please call us.

This article of QuickBooks Tips and Tricks was based on the 2012 version of QuickBooks.