Prior to reading the standard on Chart of Accounts - Framework, it is beneficial to review the below section to gain foundational information:
This section discusses elements of the chart of accounts and how it affects financial accounting and reporting internally at Indiana University. The information presented below will walk through a general understanding of the chart of accounts, its uses within university accounting, where to locate a listing of the chart of accounts, and how it is used to record accounting entries within Indiana University.
The chart of accounts (COA) is the set of tables that define codes and coding structures such as accounts, organizations, responsibility centers (RC), object codes, etc. and provides structure for all accounting, reporting, and budgeting needs at IU.
The COA exists primarily to support and validate entries into the general ledger (GL). For example, transactions cannot be applied to an account in the GL unless that account exists in the COA. Each individual attribute could be dependent on one or more chart attributes such as the fund group or organization associated with an account. Defining these attributes and their various relationships is how the financial structure of an institution is defined. By leveraging the COA, the entity can organize its information to support activities such as document routing, management of internal controls, and internal and external reporting.
The purpose of a chart of accounts is an organizational tool that provides various ways to specifically identify and summarize financial data for a given accounting period. It is used to organize transactional data so that internal and external users can better understand an entity’s financial health. The chart of accounts has the flexibility to create or terminate new parameters like accounts, but if the account does not currently exist in the chart of accounts, it cannot be used.
Importance and Impact of the Chart of Accounts
IU is a large and evolving organization with many accounting complexities. The chart of accounts helps departments, campuses, and university administrators accurately review and create financial statements and reports that directly affect the livelihood of the university. The chart of accounts is especially pertinent for external and internal reporting. Without the ability to organize financial data, it would be nearly impossible to report at the RC, department, or consolidated levels, preventing management at all three levels from tracking their entity’s financial health.
With the addition of multiple levels organized in IU’s chart of accounts (i.e. RC, object code, account, etc), users are able to reap multiple benefits including:
- Auxiliary users can more easily identify object codes that are not relevant to their unit such as tuition revenue and state appropriations.
- Campus charts are not required to contain object codes unrelated to their activities. Examples of this include dental school expense object codes in the Southeast campus or inventory for RC code 79 – External Affairs. This makes for a more efficient and effective organization of data for multiple types of users.
- The use of multiple charts allows the university to easily evaluate the financial health of the institution as a whole, as well as, a single campus.
Additionally, the chart of accounts is an important internal control procedure ensuring strong reporting hierarchy and correct routing of transactions. The lack of a chart of accounts would cause confusion during the review and approval process and lead to errors in accounting and financial representation. This in turn can impact future funding either through state appropriations, gift or contract and grants from donors that rely on accurate financial statements.
Lastly, the chart of accounts is an important factor for budget construction. The bedrock of IU’s finances, budgeting is a key component to ensure all departments and the university as a whole are not expending more than what is being earned. The chart of accounts helps the budget team equitably allocate funding to each unit within the university based on their individual financials. Without a solid chart of accounts, there can be major consequences to tax filing, ability to maintain existing loans and bonds and general management of funds.
Indiana University’s Chart of Accounts Framework
Chart of Accounts Attributes
Indiana University’s chart of accounts provides multiple levels of detail and information related to chart fields such as object codes and responsibility centers. These codes were created to assist departments/units with the classification of financial activities for financial reporting. These unique chart attributes help users to better group and identify financial information at both a high and low level of detail. The level of detail required is based on the user’s needs, i.e. is this executive management of a school looking at the high level financial health of the university or a fiscal officer trying to identify a specific transaction? The below diagram shows IU’s main attributes organized by least to most detail available.
Chart of Accounts Structure
Indiana University’s chart of accounts is organized into two kinds of chart codes: campus level charts (including University Administration) and auxiliary charts. IU has a unique chart of accounts structure for each of its nine campuses, including UA –University Administration which stores financial information for organizations that serve all IU campuses.
Due to IU’s large amount of financial reports and information, the university has created 12 separate chart codes to narrow down the search for relevant financial data. Chart codes define the valid charts that make up the high-level structure of the chart of accounts. It also defines who has management responsibilities for each chart. Accounts and object codes are specific to each chart. Below are the 12 chart codes specific to IU.
Who to Contact With Questions?
As each campus has its own chart of accounts with specific campus codes, RCs, and organizations, campus representatives are best equipped to answer questions. Below is the current listing of chart managers by campus.
For any accounting or report specific questions regarding the chart of accounts, contact the Accounting and Reporting Services team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Requirements and Best Practices
This section outlines requirements related to the Chart of Accounts – Framework, as well as best practices. While not required, the best practices outlined below allow users to gain a better picture of the entity’s financial health and help identify potential issues on a more frequent basis. This allows organizations to identify errors, mistakes and pitfalls which can be remedied quickly and prevent larger issues in the future.
- Fiscal officers should be knowledgeable of all the Chart of Account - Framework standard listed within the document. In addition, fiscal officers should review the accounting Glossary to gain pertinent knowledge of accounting at IU.
- If users have questions regarding the account structure or attributes, contact the Accounting and Reporting Services team at email@example.com.
- For additional information on the structure of the chart of accounts, attend the KFS Training Series held by the VPCFO Training team. Register by visiting the training website.