Being the compulsive sort of man I am, I have applied myself to bookkeeping just as assiduously as to programming. In fact the two overlap considerably: my software is a bookkeeping system, and I use it for my own business and personal books as well as lease it to others. I am just as proud of the quality of my bookkeeping as I am of my software.
A good bookkeeper will make errors. Not many, but some. A good bookkeeping system, computerized or not, will catch most of those errors.
A number of years ago, in February, I was closing out my business books for the previous quarter and year. As I skimmed my trial balance, I found that the "US withholding tax payable" had a balance of one dollar in it. It should have been at zero, since I took my annual payday the previous year in November and had made the required tax deposit at the same time. I set out to find the problem.
When I did find it, it was this: I had made out my tax deposit coupons correctly. But when I added the coupons, I had understated my total by a dollar, and written the check accordingly. When I entered the check into my system, I had entered the amount first, then factored it into the several taxes payable accounts. I let the computer itself figure the final line of the entry and failed to notice the amount was a dollar off. That accounted for the dollar not paid and still in a tax payable account. But it also meant my check and my coupons were different by a dollar. Did I still owe that dollar to the government? I called the bank and asked for accounting.
A gentleman answered and I started to explain my problem. As often happens in a little country bank, he already was aware of what happened and how it was resolved. The bank had given me a dollar, out of a slush fund, to make up my shortage! And never said a word to me.
It was nice finding that the bank was taking care of me so well. But the big satisfaction I got out of this was showing off the accuracy of my bookkeeping. Sure, I had made a human error of a dollar. But my system had caught it. That, in turn, led to the bank finding out just how accurate I was.
Had I had nothing but perfect accuracy, sustained over twenty years, the bank would never have noticed.
© 2009 Joseph Mansfield
2007.06.01 first draft