Re: Accounting language to plain language - translation, please?

Subject: Re: Accounting language to plain language - translation, please?
From: "Peter Neilson" <neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Wed, 11 Jul 2012 20:55:23 -0400

If the audience already understand the accounting concepts involved, then perhaps it makes perfect sense.

Otherwise, you would probably need to spell out definitions and examples for each of the concepts.

For example, I can guess at what a contra account or a loan loss reserve might be, but as I am not an accountant, I'll be thinking of them as Scrooge McDuck bins with money in them, while all the time they might instead merely be numbers in a list, and they won't fill up with gold, silver or green paper unless something really bad happens.

Each technical term has a specific meaning, and I would bet that a contra account and a contra-asset account might be two different things. (If not, why the different words?)

To accomplish your intended purpose I suspect that about ten paragraphs would be required, or perhaps an entire mini-course in accounting. I've noticed that people educated in the sciences do particularly poorly in accounting, usually because they think they know the material already. "It's obvious, and it's just adding and subtracting. Don't need to pay much attention. Wait a minute, why did you call that entry a credit when it's clearly a debit?"

On Wed, 11 Jul 2012 18:21:59 -0400, <elizabeth -dot- sprague -at- maine -dot- rr -dot- com> wrote:

Hi folks -

It's been years since I last posted to the list but I think mine may be an appropriate question for this forum.

At a small non-profit with whom I work, I'm involved in a project to re-write our loan policies and procedures. One intention for this project is to provide language through the document that's accessible for all staff the first time they read it. (What a concept, right?)

The accounting consultant who generated the text in question asserts that the text is sufficient as is. I hold another view and, advocating for a more democratic narrative, I've indicated that I'd attempt a re-write to plain language and offer that re-write for review.

Here's the original text:

"On <my non-profit's> balance sheet the loan loss reserve is a contra account to the Loans Outstanding asset that is equal to or greater than the aggregate of the loan loss reserve (âLLRâ) assigned to each loan in the portfolio. Increases to the contra-asset account is accompanied with a Loan Loss Expense (or Provision for Loan Losses) entry on the income statement."

How would you translate into plain language?

TIA,

Elizabeth Sprague
esprague -at- maine -dot- rr -dot- com

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