Business Transaction: Definition, Types, And Examples

Business transactions are a crucial aspect of every business. Without it, a business may not know its position at a particular period of time. This article will give you a formal definition of a business transaction, its different types, and examples of typical business transactions. 

1. What is a business transaction?

In accounting, a business transaction (also known as a financial transaction) is an event that must be measurable in terms of money and impacts the business’s financial position. It can also be defined as any monetary activity that occurs in a business. All business transactions must be accompanied by a source document. 

For instance, if you run a merchandising business and sell goods to a customer for $1000 cash, you can measure this event in terms of money and impact to your business’s financial position. So it’s a valid business transaction. Similarly, suppose you pay $500 in cash to your salesman as his pay. In that case, this event is also a transaction because it has a monetary value of $500, making a financial impact on your business. Only those events that can be measured in monetary terms are included in the business’ accounting records. 

There are numerous events related to a business to which we can’t reliably assign a monetary value. Such events can’t be called business transactions or financial transactions. For example, when a company CEO delivers a motivational speech to the employees, though this event may be of great benefit to the business, we can’t assign a monetary value to it. So it isn’t a business transaction and can’t become a part of accounting records.  

Each business transaction must be recorded by making a journal entry by the bookkeeper or accountant. Since each transaction impacts the business’s financial position, the bookkeeper or accountant must make sure that a responsible person has authorized it. 

See also: Bookkeeping For Entrepreneurs Best Practices.

One or more source documents must support a valid business transaction before being recorded to the journal. Typical examples of source documents are sales invoices, purchase invoices, cash receipts, payment vouchers, statement of accounts, bills of exchange, promissory notes. Basically, any other document containing the basic transaction details can be presented as proof of valid transaction.

2. Characteristics of a business transaction

A business transaction can be an exchange transaction (which involves physical value exchange such as purchase, payment, etc.) or a non-exchange transaction (which does not involve physical exchange, such as fire loss, flood loss, internal production, depreciation, etc.). A business transaction can be as simple as a cash purchase or as complex as a long-term service contract. However, a business transaction must include the following characteristics: 

  • The transaction must be for a certain sum of money
  • The transaction occurs between two parties
  • The transaction is on behalf of the business entity
  • The transaction isn’t for any individual person’s purpose
  • The transaction must be supported by authorized legitimate documents (sales invoice, official receipt, disbursement voucher, remittance advice, etc.)
  • The transaction must have a two-fold effect on the elements of accounting.

3. Main types of business transactions

In accounting, there are two ways to classify business transactions: cash and credit transactions or internal and external transactions. 

Cash and credit transactions

Cash transaction: In a cash transaction, the payment was paid or received in cash at the time the transaction occurred. For example, suppose you purchase a new shirt from a store and pay at checkout, a cash transaction happens between you and the store. Even if you made the payment with a credit card, as long as it was a payment in-full at the time of purchase, it is still considered a cash transaction because the payment is made when the transaction occurs. In the modern business world today, cash transactions are not limited to currency notes for making or receiving payments. All transactions made using debit or credit issued by financial institutions are also categorized as cash transactions.

Credit transaction: A transaction is classified as a credit transaction when the payment is made after a set period of time, also called the credit period. In other words, the payment is received or paid at a future date. For example, when you purchase a couch from a furniture store, the store allows you to pay within the next 30 days instead of paying at the time of the transaction. Though cash isn’t involved at the time of sale, you will need to pay to the couch after a set period of 30 days. In the business world today, goods are mostly purchased and sold on credit. 

Internal and external transactions

Internal transaction: When there is no external party involved in a business transaction, it’s classified as an internal transaction. Even though there is no value exchange with a third party, a monetary event has taken place that impacts the business’s accounting. An internal transaction can be in the form of depreciation on a fixed asset or loss of assets. The internal transaction is also known as a non-exchange transaction.  

External Transaction: An external transaction is sometimes called an exchange transaction. This transaction occurs when two or more parties are involved in the transaction. These are daily occurring transactions such as purchasing goods, paying rent or utilities, or paying employees. Normally, a large portion of business transactions consists of external transactions. 

4. Examples of business transactions

Let’s take a look at some common business transactions: 

  • Sales of goods and services (either for cash or credit);
  • Purchasing of goods and materials (either in cash or credit);
  • Purchasing services (such as equipment repair, advertising, printing costs);
  • Investment of cash on other assets by the business owners;
  • Borrowing of cash for business purposes from other entities;
  • Withdrawal of cash or other assets, and distribution of dividends; 
  • Paying wages and salaries;
  • Accounting for and paying tax;
  • Collection of receivables from customers and other entities;
  • Payment of payables to the supplier or other entities;
  • Consumption or expiration of assets (e.g., the use of office supplies, the expiration of insurance, expiration of rent, depreciation of equipment, etc.);
  • Movements of cash in the bank account (which usually arise from the transactions above). 

Final thoughts

It’s important to understand your company’s role in a transaction. It affects everything from how you provide services to your customers to marketing, pricing, and more. Understanding thoroughly about these types of business transactions helps you make more informed decisions about the business. 

In most cases, companies have to work with multiple types of business transactions, and they need to keep track of them with numerous paperwork like invoices, receipts, and expense reports. If this sounds familiar to you, then you can consider digitizing your paper receipts and getting them into action. 

Shoeboxed is an outsourced receipt-scanning service that converts paper receipts into organized digital copies on your company’s behalf. You can scan your receipts with a single smartphone or mail them to any Shoeboxed facility to have them scanned and organized. Shoeboxed is the simplest way to keep track of your business transactions by turning your receipts into data. Get paper off your desks and keep your vital documents in a logical sequence for years with Shoeboxed!

Try Shoeboxed for free with our 1-month trial!

Swift Passport Services: Paperless Accounting with Shoeboxed and ScanSnap

With Shoeboxed there has never been one “best” way to use our service to stay organized. And after processing over a billion dollars of expense data since 2007, we say that from years of firsthand experience!

Shoeboxed takes enormous pride in serving clients from around the country and across the globe, all of whom use our service in a myriad of ways to fulfill a whole host of organizational needs in both their personal and professional lives.

“Using Shoeboxed and ScanSnap together is a lifesaver … This process has saved us thousands of dollars a year in accounting fees.”

-Rob Lee

Shoeboxed Success Story Rob LeeIntroducing: Rob Lee

Profession: Owner, Swift Passport Services

Twitter: @SwiftPassport

LinkedIn: Swift Passport Services

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Shoeboxed: Hi, Rob! Please tell us a little about yourself and what Swift Passport Services does.

Swift Passport Shoeboxed CustomerRob Lee: I’m one of the founders of the company. We expedite US passports and international travel visas to virtually any country in the world; ones we see a lot are Brazil, Russia, China and India. We can get passports within one business day. We help both international business travelers and families going on tourist trips. The majority of our customers are business travelers and that’s our target customer because they tend to be repeat customers.

People come to us to outsource and expedite what is typically a long and sometimes confusing process. Once you come to us, we provide you with detailed instructions on how to get your passport done within one of seven timeframes depending on how quickly you need it. We’re an authorized third-party service — it’s a fairly big industry. There are 17 government agencies where you can get your passport across the country, but there are a few hundred of businesses like ours. Normal processing through the US government is 3-8 weeks to get a passport — our processing is much shorter.

SBX: Whoa, we didn’t know you could get passports that quickly! How did you get into the business of expediting passports?

Shoeboxed Success Story Swift Passport Services Customer Rob LeeRL:
 Well my wife is a former wildlife biologist and I used to be a forest and resource conservationist. We quit our jobs in Montana working for US Forest Service and moved abroad– fulfilling a shared dream. I taught English and she worked for a study abroad program. We lived abroad for a few years and used a company that is now one of our competitors to travel back and forth to the US. When we returned we ended up in Chicago with no plans and decided to start a business, thinking we would get to travel and help others travel. It’s been five years now and we’ve grown to four employees here in Chicago, two in New York and contractors all around the country.

SBX: What a great story, it sounds like you’ve had quite an adventure! Have you always wanted to operate a small business?

RL: No, it honestly just kind of fell into my lap. But it’s great to be your own boss, it’s very rewarding.

SBX: So at what point in your business venture did you start using Shoeboxed?

Shoeboxed User Swift Passport Services Success StoryRL: Well I have no business or accounting background. But as we started growing, I became responsible for the financial side of the business. We have an accountant, but I do the day to day receipt and expense tracking. Our receipts were in stacks and stacks and I just didn’t know what to do with them. I had a scanner and started scanning them, and then I googled receipt management services. I stumbled upon Shoeboxed and used the envelopes to get rid of all of them. The rest is history!

SBX: Excellent! How did you handle your tax filing before Shoeboxed, especially with all of those stacks of receipts?

RL: I just waited until quarterly tax time and then tried a series of different accounting solutions. But the main problem was that but I could never find the receipts I needed when I needed them. At first it was simple enough to manage but then we started having way too many receipts. We have to buy money orders for foreign consulate fees, so the number of documents related to that just got huge and we couldn’t keep track. Shoeboxed became our way to keep track.

Shoeboxed has absolutely saved us so much time — hours and hours. Now every receipt I get I quickly scan into Shoeboxed using our ScanSnap. From there I can easily export it into QuickBooks, which makes the whole process streamlined and simple. This process has saved us thousands of dollars a year in accounting fees.

SBX: That’s music to our ears! So you use our ScanSnap instegration. Can you walk us through your workflow?

RL: Sure. All the receipts always come to me. About once a week I’ll scan every receipt for that week using my ScanSnap. From my ScanSnap they go directly into the Shoeboxed Desktop Uploader and right into my online account, where all of the important information is pulled off. Come accounting time, if there’s any question about anything, I can hop online and find exactly what we need in seconds. Using Shoeboxed and ScanSnap together is a lifesaver.

SBX: Aren’t ScanSnap’s handy?! You also mentioned our QuickBooks integration. How was that been working for you?

RL: I started using the QuickBooks integration the minute it was available, probably about a year ago. I think it’s really easy to use!

SBX: Beyond our integrations, what’s your favorite thing about using Shoeboxed?

RL: Not having the clutter of receipts and all kinds of documents on my desk is really nice. It’s great to have them all organized in one place where I can access them from anywhere.

SBX: Do you have any organization tips for other small businesses?

RL: I’m not an organized person. Any way you can make things easier for yourself, I would recommend that. Definitely reduce paper clutter by any means possible– doing digital and paperless is great.

SBX: We agree, and think every small business owner would benefit from going paperless! Anything else?

RL: Shoeboxed is a great company with great software. I’m just really glad it exists!

SBX: That’s awesome, Rob.  Thank you! We’re honored to be apart of your business as it grows and wish you many years of continued success!

Are you a Shoeboxed user who has a success story and would like to be featured on our blog? Then we would love to hear from you! Please reach out to Emily at for more information.

Until then, stay tuned… and stay organized!

FreshBooks: The Brachiosaurus of Accounting Solutions

The brachiosaurus is the largest known species to have existed on our earth.  They were massive creatures with migratory habits necessary to sustain their large eating habits. With that in mind, it’s the perfect preface to introduce our next featured platform for our accounting solutions Dino Series: FreshBooks.

Brachiosaurus of Accounting Solutions

Freshbooks is the #1 cloud accounting specialist for small business owners, second only to Quickbooks Online in North America. For years FreshBooks has been the ‘big guy’ in online billing and invoicing because of its easy to use functionality, broad-spectrum industry application and out of this world customer service (we can attest firsthand to their great customer service!).

With its heritage in billing, FreshBooks recently began a new and exciting migration route down the path of cloud based accounting solutions.  Their herd of loyal users have taken advantage of the accounting style reports for years and have long described the platform as their preferred choice of accounting solutions, so this new path was no surprise to us. Over the past four years, FreshBooks’ enormous full feature set of tools have uncovered a fresh business trail for this growing company and their 4.5 million users are more than happy to follow this jolly long neck on its newest adventure.

Being the largest creature to ever grace our earth, an adult Brachiosaurus didn’t have any predators (must be nice!). Similarly, it’s pretty tough to find any competition that stacks up against FreshBooks in the invoice/billing world. Their recent product introductions (such as: expense-tracking capabilities, profit and loss statements and more) have already become invaluable assets to their new accounting solutions positioning. Here is what you can expect from our Brachiosaurus friends at FreshBooks:

FreshBooks Strengths:

  • Easy to use and great customer service
  • Easy external collaboration
  • Project and document management
  • Numerous add-ons/integrated sites (like Shoeboxed!)
  • Cloud-based and compatible with multiple devices
  • Completely affordable (most expensive plan is $39.95, excluding add-ons)

FreshBooks Weaknesses:Brachiosaurus of Accounting Solutions

  • Not designed for every kind of business’ accounting needs
  • Isn’t an in-depth/all-in-one accounting solution (BUT integrates with other accounting platforms to fill any gaps)
  • Can get pricey if you need multiple staff members to have access

FreshBooks is best for business owners who:

  • Are in the service industry (lawyers, therapists, plumbers etc.)
  • Are swamped with managing receivables
  • Own small businesses looking to scale
  • Work directly with their accountant and/or other accounting platforms
  • Are freelancers
  • Own a company that outsources a great deal of work to freelancers

With its famously long neck, the Brachiosaurus appeared to have its head in the clouds. But we don’t look at that as a bad thing. In fact, with the future of computing moving more and more into the cloud, FreshBooks is actually leading the way for many small business owners.

Don’t get stuck in the Mesozoic Period when looking at accounting solutions for your business: consider migrating with FreshBooks! You might be pleasantly surprised how helpful its feature set is at helping you with your business’ needs.

Is FreshBooks your preferred choice out of all of the accounting solutions? Tell us what you think in the comments below!