How to reconcile petty cash

Updated March 23, 2017

Petty cash is money used for small ad hoc expenditures. Petty cash is handy, and it can be a deductible business expenses. It's important to keep track of it, though, because a penny here and a nickel there adds up. Plus, you need to find out if someone inappropriately has their hand in the cookie jar.

Note the starting balance. This can something as simple as a slip of paper in the lockbox with the petty cash or the beginning balance on a bank statement. It's essential to have the balance as of the last reconciliation to compare recent expenses.

Count the cash in the lockbox, which might include loose change. If it is equal to the starting balance, your work is done and there's no reconciliation necessary.

Total the receipts. Each time someone uses petty cash for a business expense, it's essential that they get a receipt and put it in the lockbox.

Add uncashed checks and IOUs to the receipt total. Some employees might be authorised to tap petty cash for personal expenses, provided they pay it back. In such cases, the employee should put an IOU slip (instead of a receipt) in the lockbox when he takes cash and then replace it either with the same amount of cash or a check.

Add the amount of cash in the lockbox to the receipt total and the total amount of uncashed checks and IOUs. This should equal the starting balance in step 1.

Report any shortfall. If the sum of steps 2, 3, and 4 does not equal the starting balance, someone has taken petty cash without putting in their IOU or failed to put a business-expense receipt in the lockbox. Use the appropriate means in your office for reporting a petty-cash shortfall.


Be sure to save all business expense receipts in the appropriate manner so they are reported by the company's accountant. Pass along any uncashed checks to whomever is responsible for getting them deposited. Offer a friendly reminder to those with unpaid IOUs in the petty cash lockbox.

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About the Author

Joseph Nicholson is an independent analyst whose publishing achievements include a cover feature for "Futures Magazine" and a recurring column in the monthly newsletter of a private mint. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Florida and is currently attending law school in San Francisco.