Intercompany Accounting

What Is Intercompany Accounting?

Intercompany accounting is the recording of financial transactions between two different entities that are related by the same parent company.

The transactions may occur between the parent and one if its subsidiaries, or between two subsidiaries.

They may also occur between groups, subdivisions, or departments within the same company.

Intercompany accounting is an important step in the business accounting process. It allows the business to record and evaluate all manner of financial activity thoroughly and accurately. For a given business, not all transactions are external. Those that occur within or between entities within the parent company can equally impact its overall financial health as those that involve external, client-customer transactions.

Intercompany accounting allows a business to maintain the same detailed journal entries for intercompany transactions as it would for all other financial activity. The recorded information allows the company to evaluate the full monetary value of its transactions, and to provide accurate financial statements.

Intercompany transactions must be recorded properly because the two entities are not independent, and for this reason, the parent business cannot record the transactions as a profit or loss. A business cannot record a profit or loss by conducting business with itself. Transactions can only affect profit or loss when they involve an independent, outside entity.

When Is Intercompany Accounting Performed?

Many businesses have divisions, subsidiaries, franchises, or other units that act independently, but are owned by the larger, parent company. For example, 3M—the office supply manufacturer—owns Scotch Tape, Post-It, Bondo, and several other manufacturers of popular office products.

However, not all intercompany scenarios involve large, international businesses. Many are also entirely domestic and operate on a smaller scale. For example, a lawn care company may spin off a smaller start-up to develop and sell a new line of grass seeds. The start-up will act independently but is owned by and receives financing from the parent company.

Any time an exchange of financial value takes place between any of the two entities in these scenarios, the transaction must be accounted for and ultimately reconciled. It cannot be overlooked or disregarded because the two entities are related.

How Is Intercompany Accounting Performed?

Intercompany reconciliation will look different depending on the business. For example, a large, multi-national corporation with subsidiaries around the globe will have a much different process for reconciling its intercompany transactions than a small, domestic company with one or two subsidiaries.

Intercompany transactions are recorded in different ways depending on the nature of the transaction. For example, if one subsidiary of a company sells inventory to another, the transaction will be recorded as an account receivable entry for the selling subsidiary and as an account payable for the purchasing subsidiary. If a parent company makes a loan to one of its subsidiaries, it will be recorded as an asset for the parent company and as a liability for the subsidiary. In either case, the transactions will be eliminated before the consolidated financial statement is prepared.

Intercompany transactions occur in one of three ways:

  1. Downstream transactions refer to transactions that originate from the parent company and are directed to one of its subsidiaries

  2. An upstream transaction is a financial activity that is directed from the subsidiary to the parent company

  3. Lateral transactions take place between two subsidiaries of the same parent company

In the process of intercompany accounting, it is vital that both parties accurately record the transaction and that they do so in a similar manner, using the same descriptive terms and values. This ensures that the transaction can be correctly recorded, processed, and eliminated by both entities. Because intercompany transactions cannot be reported as a profit, they must be eliminated. That is to say they must cancel out, or equal zero, in the final accounting process. The parent business cannot have an intercompany transaction with a value greater than zero in the closing period statements.


Account Reconciliation
Consolidated Financial Statements
Downstream Transactions
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
General Ledger
Intercompany Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)
Intercompany Debt
Intercompany Elimination
Intercompany Invoice
Intercompany Receivables
Intercompany Revenue and Expenses
Intercompany Sales
Intercompany Stock Ownership
Intercompany Transactions
Lateral Transactions
Master Data Management
Related Entities
Subsidiary Companies
Subsidiary Ledger
Upstream Transactions


What Are Some Unique Features of Intercompany Accounting?

An intercompany invoice is a document that details a transaction between two units, divisions, or subsidiaries within the same parent company. It will have all the same information that any other invoice would have, including:

  • The name of the entity or unit providing the good or service

  • The recipient entity or unit of the good or service

  • The good or service provided

  • The date on which it was provided

  • The quantity or amount that was provided

  • The value of the resource that was exchanged

Intercompany reconciliation is the verification of transactions that take place between two units or subsidiaries of the same parent company.

Intercompany reconciliation is performed much like other forms of account reconciliation. However, there are some steps that are unique to the process. As account reconciliation ensures the validity and accuracy of business accounting in general, intercompany reconciliation is the process of verifying the records of intercompany accounting, specifically.

Intercompany reconciliation faces a number of challenges because of the nature of the transactions that are being reconciled. These may include poor record keeping, such as invoicing errors and inconsistent account period recording. Exchange rate differences can also be an issue for international companies.

Utilizing standard data parameters greatly increases the efficiency of the intercompany accounting and reconciliation process, by eliminating or reducing the need to search and find data pertaining to intercompany transactions. This process is often referred to as master data management. The term describes the process by which a business takes steps throughout the enterprise to ensure the uniformity, accuracy, and consistency of its data.

Why Is Intercompany Accounting Important?

Much of a business’s financial activity takes place between and within subsidiaries or divisions of the same parent company. This has become even more commonplace in today’s global economy.

Journal entries of intercompany transactions are an important step in the business accounting process. They allow the business to record and evaluate all manner of financial activity thoroughly and accurately.

An effective intercompany accounting process helps the business avoid double entries in more than one of its subsidiaries or divisions. It allows the company to evaluate the full monetary value of its transactions, to provide accurate financial statements, and to avoid disputes.

Intercompany accounting helps businesses with multiple divisions and subsidiaries prepare accurate consolidated financial statements, to provide a clear and transparent picture of its financial health, and avoid disputes.

Without thorough and accurate intercompany accounting, companies leave themselves vulnerable. Businesses will not be able to properly reconcile transactions that take place between entities or to accurately assess profits and losses. This undermines the ability of the parent company to prepare accurate consolidated financial statements. The role and contribution of each entity to the parent company’s overall performance and financial health cannot be accurately ascertained. Inadequate intercompany accounting can also lead to financial disputes between entities under the same parent company.

Are There any Calculations Involved in Intercompany Reconciliation?

Intercompany transactions can artificially inflate profits and liabilities in the business. Intercompany accounting operates on the principle that only transactions with outside entities can create a profit or a liability. Therefore, all intercompany transactions must cancel out to zero in the business accounting records.

For example, if a subsidiary purchases supplies from another, it will record a $1000 transaction in its purchase account. At the same time, the entity that sold the supplies will record the transaction for the same amount in its sales account.

Intercompany reconciliation will make sure that these two transactions are properly recorded in the ledgers for both subsidiaries, and that they ultimately cancel out, or equal zero, and do not appear in the consolidated financial statement for the parent business.

What Are Some Examples of Intercompany Transactions?

Intercompany transactions can include a number of different kinds of financial activity. Related units can buy and sell goods or services, just like they do with outside customers. They can also exchange other resources, such as fees, inventory, cash, capital, dividends, raw materials, parts, staff, and loans. Any of these types of transactions require documentation.

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