What is a Trial Balance Worksheet?

A trial balance worksheet is a multi-column spreadsheet that contains the ending balances of all general ledger accounts used by a business. The worksheet is useful for converting ending account balances into financial statements if there is no accounting software on hand that can accomplish this task automatically.

The worksheet is generally structured as an electronic spreadsheet, into which accounting ending balances are manually entered from the general ledger. The spreadsheet may contain pre-set subtotal and total formulas, which are useful for aggregating the account information into financial statements.

The worksheet is still occasionally used when a business wants to adjust its accounts at the end of an accounting period and produce financial statements. However, the spreadsheet is much more likely to be used when a business does not have accounting software (which can produce the same information much more easily). Thus, the trial balance worksheet is primarily found in situations where accounting records are kept manually.

The one situation in which a trial balance worksheet may be found even in a computerized accounting environment is when the financial results of multiple entities are being combined; the spreadsheet format makes it easier to see the consolidating entries.

The key columns in a trial balance worksheet are:

  • Column 1 contains the account number of every account that has a balance. The accounts are almost always listed in ascending numerical order, which usually means that the order of priority in the spreadsheet is assets, then liabilities, then equity accounts, then revenue, and the expense accounts.
  • Column 2 contains the account description associated with each account number.
  • Column 3 contains the ending debit balance in each account. If the balance is instead a credit balance (which is likely for liability, equity, and revenue accounts) then it appears in Column 4.
  • Column 4 contains the ending credit balance in each account. If the balance is instead a debit balance (which is likely for asset and expense accounts) then it appears in Column 3.
  • Columns 5 and 6 include any adjustments to the debit and credit balances in Columns 3 and 4. These adjustments are typically for such matters as accrued expenses, or deferring expenses by shifting them into asset accounts.
  • Columns 7 and 8 contain the final adjusted debit (Column 7) and credit (Column 8) account balances. These two columns are known as the adjusted trial balance.
  • Additional columns may be added in which to carry forward revenue and expense balances to create an income statement. In addition, there may be additional columns in which asset, liability, and equity accounts are carried forward to create a balance sheet.