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 Sage One 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 it is 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 though. 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 (e.g. 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 edited or made corrections to your accounts then the possibility of unbalancing your trial balance arises. Sage One does make this quite hard though because unless the total debits and credits balance, it will show an error message and not accept the changes. A suspense account on your TB is an indication of an error and would require investigation and correction.
To create a TB simply click Reporting on the top tool bar and then select Trial Balance from the drop down menu. This runs a Trial Balance report for the current month as the default setting. Therefore, if you need a TB for a particular date you must change it.
For example, to produce a TB as at 30th June, for a business with a financial year that starts on 1st June, you would change the details to:
- Period – Custom
- From – 31st May as this needs to be the year end date for any opening balances to be included
- To – 30th June
Sage One doesn’t give you the option to print the TB directly but the Export button allows you to download it as a CSV file or to produce a PDF document.
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. Other reports focus on the type of entry for example listing all the sales invoices entered between specific dates. Whereas 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.
Sage One’s audit trail is a little different to traditional Sage software in terms of both its layout and the details included. This means that it is vital to know what information you need and how it is going to be used, in order to select the right report or combination of reports, to give the details required.
If an audit trail, showing full details of all transactions, including details of receipts/payments allocated to items in customer/supplier accounts is required, then use Sage One’s Audit Report. It shows all the transactions in ID order, starting with the latest entries, in double entry format, showing details of transaction types, references, account names, debit and credit values along with who created the transaction and when.
Audit trails are also run from the Reporting tab. This time though, you will need to select More from the drop down menu to bring up the Reports module. An audit trail for ‘this month’ will be produced automatically once you select Audit Trail from Detailed Reports section in the second column. Change the time period as required and double check that the report shows all the required transactions.
The output options are again accessed by clicking on the Export button as the audit trail report will need to be exported before it can be printed.
As you can see the audit trail report shows details of bank account transactions but it does not provide information of items in the bank account that have been reconciled. In order to see that, you need to use the Banking Module.
Select Banking for the top tool bar and then the bank account required. Summary information is shown at the top of the screen so you need to scroll down to see the ‘Activity’, which includes a column showing a tick against reconciled items. Again the default period will be ‘this month’ so you may need to change the dates.
Note that recurring entries are also shown in this report.
Unfortunately Sage One doesn’t generate a single bank reconciliation summary report of this information. Instead it uses a combination of Bank Reconciliation Statements and an Unreconciled Bank Transactions report, to give a complete picture of all reconciled and unreconciled transactions at any point in time.
The first can be viewed or printed from the Reconciliations tab shown in the screenshot above. When you select the reconciliation statement required, a PDF statement is generated that you can print.
The Unreconciled Bank Transactions report is found in the Reports Module in the Cash Reports section. The report shows all unreconciled transactions up to the current date so you may need to amend the date to be the same as your bank reconciliation statement. Finally, export the report in order to save or print it.
You can now check the unreconciled transactions against the statement and also see that, in this example, the above transaction does not have a tick against it in the banking activity screenshot.
Nominal activity reports
There are often occasions when you want to look at a specific nominal account in detail. This is done by generating a nominal activity report. You need to be in the Reports module, where you can select Nominal Activity from the Detailed Reports section. As ever, the current month will show automatically so may need changing. Like the TB if you want to include any opening balances the ‘From’ date needs to be the last day of the previous financial year and not the first day of the current year. There is a choice of a summary or detailed report. The first shows account balances and is useful if you want that information for a number of accounts. The second shows all the transactions within an account and works best for one account at a time.
Select the account required, click on export and choose between CSV or PDF output. The report is then generated and a notification shown in the upper tool bar when it is ready.
This can be done for any nominal ledger 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. But 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.
Gill Myers is a self-employed accounts consultant. She has taught AAT qualifications since 2005 and written numerous articles and e-learning resources.