My union contract requires a certain number of furlough hours be taken over the next year and a half. Furloughs are basically unpaid vacation--I don't show up, and don't get paid. How should I represent this obligation in GNUCash?

I have a fairly extensive set of accounts for assets, liabilities, expenses and income. I've got three ideas but no clear way to decide between them:

  1. Furlough days represent the absence of a transaction and thus should not be recorded at all. Obviously this makes it difficult to ensure I meet my contractual obligations and create a personal record of meeting them.
  2. The furlough days are a liability, since they're in some sense "owed." But it gets fuzzy since I don't know where the initial transaction would come from. Pay periods where I take furlough days would be reflected in the massive payday split transaction.
  3. The furlough days are an asset, since it's like a vacation. Pay periods where I take furlough days would be reflected in the payday transaction as a transfer from asset to a vacation day expense account.

Can anyone come up with an even better transaction model, or possibly explain which one actually makes sense?

2 Answers 2


Furlough days are neither an asset nor a liability: YOUR TIME does not depreciate with years of use (in fact it usually appreciates) nor do you owe anyone money or write it off.

It's how you treat your time is what matters: What your question seems to be is how to you account for the pay split in a double entry system.

You have wonderfully thought out loud on your question: consider this, could you be doing it wrong?

Whatever your company might have forced you into thinking, furlough days are a pay cut and you should not fool yourself into thinking it's not. Besides your pay, many other things are likely to get impacted as well, because of the furlough and with your current idea of splitting the paycheck, you are adding more complication where there is none.

The answer is simple: when furloughs are concerned, you are not getting a uniform recurring payment and you need to understand your income during that period is variable. Your tax liability, FICA contributions, medical premiums etc are all going to get affected.

Treat it as a variable income and things will clear up.

  • Perhaps I've confused you a bit. My paycheck already has a massive split documenting all the various places my gross pay goes: FICA, insurance premiums, checking account, etc. Included in this paycheck transaction is vacation time income assigned to a vacation time asset account. Vacation time IS an asset, payable upon taking it or, by contract, payable on separation.
    – jldugger
    Commented Apr 7, 2012 at 3:59
  • What I'm wondering then, is how to use double entry accounting to track the furlough time I'm required to take at some point. Obviously it's a pay cut, and my annual budget spreadsheet clearly reflects this.
    – jldugger
    Commented Apr 7, 2012 at 4:16
  • I am not an accountant; I learnt basic accounting and from my understanding, assets contribute to the business. For you, as an educator, for example, your education/certifications are assets. For the company that pays you, your vacation is an expense payable at a later time. If I were you, I would treat my vacation balance as income receivables. Mis-classifying items can make things difficult down the line, but I am open to other documentation backing/refuting my claims. Could you elucidate the issues you are facing using using double entry accounting to track the furlough time? Commented Apr 7, 2012 at 5:23

Without going into the philosophy of using gnucash to record future events that might not happen (if you quit half-way through the year, do you still half to "repay" unused furlough days?), my suggestion is to create a liability account denominated in the new stock/currancy "furlough" (days, hours, whatever). Create a transaction against some convenient account (administrative, work related, whatever) to populate the account. When asked to create an exchange rate to your native currency, set the exchange rate to 0 "dollars" per furlough.

Thus, your cash accounts are not affected and you now have a brand new furlough liability you can track against. The only trick is that if you hide/filter zero valued accounts, you might not see it very often. I assume you can create splits of your paycheck against this furlough currency, but I will admit I've never tried to adjust a zero-valued stock account in the same transaction as real currency.

I use a variant of this technique to record unrealized income due to stock fluctuations. I "buy" stock in an administrative asset that has zero value and balance the purchase with (unrealized) income in dollars. Because the administrative asset has no value everything works, and more to the point, my balance sheet doesn't have imbalance amounts (when working with "nearest in time" stock values, anyway).

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