Study tips – generating Nominal Ledger Reports in a desktop version of Sage

Have you ever been asked to produce a report on Sage and wondered which one is the right one?

The quantity and variety of reports available can make what seems like a simple request really confusing. The key to being able to select the right one is often based in your manual bookkeeping knowledge, which provides understanding of the purpose of the report and how it is likely to be used.

Let’s look at the common reports run from the nominal ledger. The screenshots are from a 2013 version of Sage Instant Accounting and will vary slightly from Sage Line 50, as some of the icons are in different positions.  If you use a desktop version of Sage software, this article is for you, if not, read the version based on Sage’s cloud-based software instead.

Trial Balance (TB)

A trial balance is simply a list of all the nominal ledger accounts, divided between debit and credit columns depending on the balance of each account. Its purpose is to check that the total debits and credits match. In other words a reconciliation and it is used to highlight possible errors.

In manual accounting, postings errors that are caused by unequal debits and credits will be highlighted by an imbalance on the TB.  However, in Sage, the software will ensure the double entry is posted correctly so this type of error doesn’t happen. Other errors which do not unbalance the TB are possible in both manual and computerised accounts. For example, posting to the wrong account or entering VAT-inclusive figures as VAT-exclusive. Whilst these types of errors won’t show up as an imbalance, running a TB after processing a series of transactions (eg. opening balances) and checking it, is still a good way of ensuring all is well before moving onto another task. This is quickly done by a preview as often there’s no need to print the report.

If you have made corrections to your accounts then the possibility of unbalancing your trial balance arises. A suspense account on your TB is an indication of an error and would require investigation and correction.

To create a TB click the Modules tab on the top tool bar and then select Financials from the drop down menu.  This brings up the Financials screen for the nominal ledger.

Select Trial Balance, choose your output (to print, preview etc.) then specify your period. Sage will automatically set the date to be the end of the financial year so if you want a particular period you must change it as the date is shown on the report.

Audit trail

An audit trail gives a step by step record of all the transactions in a set of accounts. Every time a transaction is entered into Sage it is given a unique sequential number. Where other reports focus on the type of entry, for example listing all the sales invoices entered between specific dates, the audit trail lists every transaction in number order allowing the user to review all transactions in order of entry for the required date range. This report has many uses but can be overwhelmingly long. Therefore selecting the correct type of trail and date range is vital unless you want to be trawling through pages of transactions.

Audit trails are also run from the Financials screen. As well as the output selections there are also four types of audit trail to choose between. The Brief report includes:

  • No – transaction number
  • Type – transaction type, for example SI (Sales Invoice)
  • Date – transaction date
  • Account – customer, supplier, bank or nominal account reference
  • Ref – reference entered to identify the transaction
  • Details – additional information entered at the time of posting to identify the transaction
  • Net – VAT-exclusive value of the transaction
  • Tax – VAT amount
  • Gross – VAT-inclusive value of the transaction

The Summary report includes all the above except the Gross amount and it shows the Accounts and Nominal Codes separately.

In addition it also shows:

  • Dept – department to which the transaction was posted if any
  • T/C – VAT tax code used to record the transaction, for example T1
  • Pd – shows a value of N if the transaction has not been paid and Y if it has been paid
  • Paid – the value of the amount paid
  • V – VAT reconciliation status of the transaction. This shows a value of N if the transaction is not reconciled, R if reconciled or – if not applicable for reconciliation
  • B – bank reconciliation status of the transaction. This shows a value of N if the transaction is not reconciled, R if reconciled or – if not applicable for reconciliation
  • Bank Rec. Date – date the transaction was reconciled with the bank statement

The Detailed report includes all the same categories as the Summary but shows the breakdown of each transaction into its double entry postings. For example, when you enter a sales invoice the Summary shows the invoice details and the net, VAT and total values. The Detailed breakdown shows the double-entry values on the ledger accounts, such as Sales, Sales Tax (VAT) and Debtors Control Account.

Finally the Deleted Transactions report, shows the same categories as the Summary but just for the deleted transactions.

All four of the audit trail reports essentially serve the same purpose so selecting the correct one depends on what you want to do with it:

  • A quick overview is provided with the Brief report.
  • If you need information about which items have been reconciled in the bank account then you want the Summary.
  • Unless you are drilling down into the complex workings of double entry, the Detailed report probably contains too much information for every day usage.
  • The Deleted Transactions is a really useful report if you are investigating errors and discrepancies.

Nominal activity reports

There are often occasions when you want to look at a specific nominal account in detail. This can be done by going to Company and selecting the Nominal ledger view then choosing Nominal Record and entering or searching for the account required, for example sales.  You can see all the transactions by selecting the Activity tab.

Alternatively, you can produce a nominal activity report. You need to be in the Nominal Ledger screen in the ‘List’ Layout. Start by selecting the required account so it is highlighted and then click on Reports. From the Nominal reports window choose Nominal activity and finally Nominal Activity – Excluding No Transactions. Select your output from the icons, for example print, preview, export. Finally enter a date range if required.

This can be done for any nominal ledger account and shows all the transactions within the account.

There’s lots of accounting software available with lots of variation in presentation. Even within one brand, such as Sage, different packages and versions lead to differences in their functionality.  Fundamentally they are all based on manual double entry bookkeeping principles. Therefore, thinking about what a report shows and how it is going to be used is the best way of working out which one to produce.

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Gill Myers is a self-employed accounts consultant. She has taught AAT qualifications since 2005 and written numerous articles and e-learning resources.

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