Partnership Accounting

Except for the number of partners' equity accounts, accounting for a partnership is the same as accounting for a sole proprietor. Each partner has a separate capital account for investments and his/her share of net income or loss, and a separate withdrawal account. A withdrawal account is used to track the amount taken from the business for personal use. The net income or loss is added to the capital accounts in the closing process. The withdrawal account is also closed to the capital account in the closing process.   

Asset contributions to partnerships

When a partnership is formed or a partner is added and contributes assets other than cash, the partnership establishes the net realizable or fair market value for the assets. For example, if the Walking Partners company adds a partner who contributes accounts receivable and equipment from an existing business, the partnership evaluates the collectibility of the accounts receivable and records them at their net realizable value. An existing valuation reserve account (usually called allowance for doubtful accounts) would not be transferred to the partnership as the partnership would establish its own reserve account. Similarly, any existing accumulated depreciation accounts are not assumed by the partnership. The partnership establishes and records the equipment at its current fair market value and then begins depreciating the equipment over its useful life to the partnership.

Income allocations 

The partnership agreement should include how the net income or loss will be allocated to the partners. If the agreement is silent, the net income or loss is allocated equally to all partners. As partners are the owners of the business, they do not receive a salary but each has the right to withdraw assets up to the level of his/her capital account balance. Some partnership agreements refer to salaries or salary allowances for partners and interest on investments. These are not expenses of the business, they are part of the formula for splitting net income. Many partners use the components of the formula for splitting net income or loss to determine how much they will withdraw in cash from the business during the year, in anticipation of their share of net income. If the partnership uses the accrual basis of accounting, the partners pay federal income taxes on their share of net income, regardless of how much cash they actually withdraw from the partnership during the year.

Once net income is allocated to the partners, it is transferred to the individual partners' capital accounts through closing entries. For example, assume Dee's Consultants, Inc., a partnership, earned $60,000 and their agreement is that all profits are shared equally. Each of the three partners would be allocated $20,000 ($60,000 ÷ 3). The journal entry to record this allocation of net income would be:

Remember that allocating net income does not mean the partners receive cash. Cash is paid to a partner only when it is withdrawn from the partnership.

In addition to sharing equally, net income may also be split according to agreed upon percentages (for example, 50%, 40%, and 10%), ratios (2:3:1), or fractions ( 1/ 3, 1/ 3, and 1/ 3) . Using Dee's Consultants net income of $60,000 and a partnership agreement that says net income is shared 50%, 40%, and 10% by its partners, the portion of net income allocated to each partner is simply the $60,000 multiplied by the individual partner's ownership percentage. Using this information, the split of net income would be: 

Using the 2:3:1 ratio, first add the numbers together to find the total shares (six in this case) and then multiply the net income by a fraction of the individual partner's share to the total parts ( 2/ 6, 3/ 6, and 1/ 6). Using the three ratios, the $60,000 of Dee's Consultants net income would be split as follows:

Using the fractions of 1/ 3, 1/ 3, and 1/ 3, the net income would be split equally to all three partners, and each partner's capital account balance would increase by $20,000.

Assume the partnership agreement for Dee's Consultants requires net income to be allocated based on three criteria, including: salary allowances of $15,000, $12,000, and $5,000 for Dee, Sue, and Jeanette, respectively; 10% interest on each partner's beginning capital balance; and any remainder to be split equally. Using this information, the $60,000 of net income would be allocated $21,000 to Dee, $20,000 to Sue, and $19,000 to Jeanette.

Information from the owners' capital accounts shows the following activity: 


The investments and withdrawal activity did not impact the calculation of net income because they are not part of the agreed method to allocate net income. As can be seen, once the salary and interest portions are determined, they are added together to determine the amount of the remainder to be allocated. The remainder may be a positive or negative amount.

Assume the same facts as above except change net income to $39,000. After allocating the salary allowances of $32,000 and interest of $16,000, too much net income has been allocated. The difference between the $48,000 allocated and the $39,000 net income, a decrease of $9,000, is the remainder to be allocated equally to each partner. These assumptions would result in allocations of net income to Dee of $14,000, Sue of $13,000, and Jeanette of $12,000. The calculations are as shown: