Closing entries, also called closing journal entries, are entries made at the end of an accounting period to zero out all temporary accounts and transfer their balances to permanent accounts. In other words, the temporary accounts are closed or reset at the end of the year. This is commonly referred to as closing the books.
Temporary accounts are income statement accounts that are used to track accounting activity during an accounting period. For example, the revenues account records the amount of revenues earned during an accounting period—not during the life of the company. We don’t want the 2015 revenue account to show 2014 revenue numbers.
Permanent accounts are balance sheet accounts that track the activities that last longer than an accounting period. For example, a vehicle account is a fixed asset account that is recorded on the balance. The vehicle will provide benefits for the company in future years, so it is considered a permanent account.
At the end of the year, all the temporary accounts must be closed or reset, so the beginning of the following year will have a clean balance to start with. In other words, revenue, expense, and withdrawal accounts always have a zero balance at the start of the year because they are always closed at the end of the previous year. This concept is consistent with the matching principle.