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I need to record a transaction in a journal.

If I take the date of the paper receipt, this might be different to the date on my bank statement.

Which one should I use? Should I use one, and then record the other in some notes?

In general, if you have several source documents that "prove" a financial transaction has taken place, what should be the process to translate these to financial records?

The reasons might be for auditing, reconciling with source documents, tax or management purposes.

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The answer to your question will depend on the purpose.

You say:

The reasons might be for auditing, reconciling with source documents, tax or management purposes.

If you are tracking for tax purposes, the US IRS says that donations mailed on 12/31 count for the current year. In that case, you'll want to record the date the payment was made or sent to match the law.

There are other accounting rules that require you to not record your income until a certain event happens after you receive the actual income. You can see this in company financial reports where they discuss the timing differences between receiving funds and recognizing income. In that case, you'll want to follow the law and record the later date.

For my personal financial accounts, I use whatever I think makes sense at the moment which, for me, is almost always to use the earlier date.

  • And I can't help but wonder if my letter from the charity dated 1/5/15 won't be questioned at the audit of my 2014 return. (Although I agree with your answer) – JoeTaxpayer Dec 23 '14 at 16:55
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To what end? how would one date over the other make a material difference?
Knowing that I can answer your question better.

Here is what you should do if you really want to track both dates.(actual and bank)

I buy a Widget on the 1st and pay via credit card.

Make a journal entry to accounts payable on the first. Then when you see it on your statement make an entry moving it out of AP and onto your credit card account.

  • The reasons might be for auditing, reconciling with source documents, tax or management purposes. – cammil Jul 26 '14 at 13:16
  • Okay sounds good. I think my answer might hold true for you then. Did i explain it in a way that makes sense? – Mark Monforti Jul 26 '14 at 13:26

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