I’m still new to GnuCash, and as such I’m setting up all my accounts. When I first created the file, I didn’t add all my accounts because I wanted to set up only a few at a time. The accounts I did set up at first (my checking account and credit card) got their balances from the automatic Equity: Opening Balances account, as expected. Now, though, when I go through the New Account Hierarchy wizard, the opening balances always come from Imbalance-USD instead of the Opening Balances account. Is there a reason this happens? Is there a way to fix this and get GnuCash to use the Opening Balances account for new opening balances?

The only reason I can see for not doing this automatically is to prevent Opening Balances from containing trades in multiple currencies. If that were the actual reason, though, I’d expect them to just make an “Opening Balances-USD” account like they do for Imbalance, Orphan, etc.

  • You'll probably find better results if you use the mailing list or IRC (or possibly in the docs) from the website directly.
    – BLaZuRE
    Nov 26, 2014 at 5:40
  • I’ve tried searching the docs and Google and haven’t found anything (although I could have missed it). I’ll try the mailing list if I don’t get an answer by tomorrow.
    – Daniel H
    Nov 26, 2014 at 5:46
  • 1
    What prevents you from reassigning from imbalance to equity?
    – littleadv
    Nov 26, 2014 at 6:16
  • I do reassign from imbalance to the Opening Balances account, but I’d like it to do this automatically. It seems odd that it doesn’t. There’s probably a reason, but I don’t know what that reason is.
    – Daniel H
    Nov 26, 2014 at 18:00
  • Ok, I now have a guess about the reason (from thinking about it), but I’ll leave this question open in case anybody actually knows. I might answer my own question if I get confirmation.
    – Daniel H
    Nov 26, 2014 at 19:03

1 Answer 1


For what it's worth, numerous discussions on the GnuCash mailing list seem to indicate that the Imbalance-* accounts are simply a convenience mechanism, a conventional "uncategorized" account, that GnuCash creates automatically when it cannot automatically balance a double-entry booking transaction. From the "ORPHAN vs. IMBALANCE" thread on the mailing list:

Sometimes, in the middle of entering a transaction, you realize that you need an account that does not yet exist in the chart of accounts. What do you want to happen? Have to abort the transaction , create the account(s), and reenter the transaction? Or would you prefer to complete the transaction (using "Imbalance" or "Orphan"), create the account(s), and then fix the transaction.

Keep in mind that some research might be needed or consultation with your accountant.

Despite searching numerous sources of documention, I could find no evidently official mention of "Imbalance" accounts having any special meaning to GnuCash, although some people are experimenting using this conventional account for purposes such as zero-sum budgeting.

See also "How to eliminate automatic entries ending up in the “unbalanced” account?" and How to resolve imbalances and orphan transactions in Gnucash?.

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