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Terms and Definitions

What is a control account?

Updated: May 22, 2024

Control account definition and meaning

A control account is a financial summary of the activity of several subsidiary (secondary) accounts so that they appear as one central account in a general ledger. Because they contain aggregated totals of subsidiary-level account transactions, control accounts provide a high-level overview of a business’s financial position, and are commonly used to compare actual company performance against budgeted amounts.


More about control accounts and their purpose

In accounting, control accounts are helpful in double-entry bookkeeping systems where each transaction is recorded in two different accounts. The ending balance in a control account should be equivalent to the ending total for the subsidiary accounts it includes.

One of the most common benefits of using a control account is that it can help prevent a general ledger from getting overloaded with transactional detail (when the only information needed is the total amount owed to an organization).


Consolidating multiple subsidiary accounts into one control account reduces the amount of time spent on manual data entry, and simplifies tracking transactions across multiple accounts. These types of accounts are most often used by very large organizations that have a significant volume of transactions on a day-to-day basis.

Using control account in a sentence

“There’s no doubt that all the information related to our accounts payable and receivable transactions is incredibly useful for business decisions, but I’m glad we have one  control account to get an overview of how the company is performing.”

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