What is Over and Short? Examples and How it’s Used


What is over and short? Example & how it’s used. Over and short, often referred to as “cash over short,” is an accounting term indicating a discrepancy between a company’s reported figures and its audited figures. It’s also the name of an account in a company’s general ledger—the cash-over-short account. This term is particularly relevant to cash-intensive businesses in the retail and banking sectors, as well as those dealing with petty cash. Discover how cash over short incidents occur, their causes, and the function of the cash-over-short account in this comprehensive guide.

What is over and short?

Over and short, commonly known as “cash over short,” is a critical accounting term that plays a vital role in financial record-keeping for various businesses. This term represents a discrepancy between a company’s reported figures, usually derived from its sales records or receipts, and the figures that have been audited for accuracy. Moreover, “over and short” also denotes the name of an account within a company’s general ledger—the cash-over-short account.

Cash discrepancies in retail and banking

The concept of over and short is especially relevant to businesses in the retail and banking sectors. It also applies to organizations that frequently handle petty cash. In practical terms, if a cashier in a retail store or a bank teller makes an error by providing too much or too little change during a transaction, it can lead to what is commonly referred to as a “cash short” or “cash over” situation at the end of the business day.

An example of over and short

To illustrate this concept, consider the scenario of a cashier working at a sporting goods shop. The cashier accurately rang up a $95 pair of yoga pants for $95, but there was a mistake in counting the cash received for the purchase. The customer unintentionally handed over $96 for the transaction, an error that went unnoticed by both parties. In this situation, the accounting system would record $95 as the posted sales amount but $96 as the collected cash. The one-dollar difference would be recorded in the cash-over-short account.
The journal entry for this sale would involve debiting cash for $96, crediting sales for $95, and crediting cash over short for $1. Conversely, when transactions result in cash shortages, the journal entry would debit cash for the lower amount, credit sales for the actual sale price, and debit cash over and short for the discrepancy.

What causes cash-over-short incidents?

Cash-over-short incidents primarily arise from human error rather than intentional tampering. In most cases, it’s employees making mistakes, such as ringing up a sale incorrectly or miscounting cash, that result in a disparity between the sales price of merchandise, the amount collected, and the figures recorded in the accounting system.

The function of a cash-over-short account

A critical aspect of managing cash-over-short incidents is the presence of a dedicated account in the company’s accounting system known as the cash-over-short account. This account serves as a repository for recording instances where cash variances occur.
It’s essential to classify the cash-over-short account as an income-statement account rather than an expense account. This distinction is crucial because the recorded errors in this account can either increase or decrease a company’s profits as reported on its income statement.

Additionally, the cash-over-short account serves a vital function in helping a company identify the reasons for cash discrepancies. By analyzing the data in this account, businesses can gain insights into the root causes of over and short incidents and take corrective actions.

Why a cash-over-short account matters

The cash-over-short account is not just a record-keeping measure; it also plays a pivotal role as a detective control within a company’s financial processes. Detective control is an accounting term for an internal control mechanism designed to identify issues, including potential instances of fraud, within a company’s operations.
Companies can use the data within the cash-over-short account to pinpoint areas where their cash handling procedures or controls may be lacking. This insight enables them to enhance their operational practices, implement better procedures, and provide additional training to employees to minimize the occurrence of cash-over-short incidents.

Weigh the risks and benefits

Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.

  • Helps identify cash handling issues
  • Allows for corrective actions and process improvement
  • Contributes to fraud prevention
  • May indicate operational inefficiencies
  • Can lead to financial discrepancies
  • Requires additional administrative effort

Frequently asked questions

Can over and short incidents be entirely prevented?

While it’s challenging to entirely prevent over and short incidents, businesses can significantly reduce their frequency by implementing robust cash handling procedures and providing employee training.

How can a company use data from the cash-over-short account to improve its operations?

Data from the cash-over-short account can be analyzed to pinpoint the root causes of cash discrepancies. This information can then be used to enhance operational practices, refine procedures, and provide additional training to employees, ultimately minimizing over and short incidents.

Is the cash-over-short account only relevant to retail and banking businesses?

While over and short incidents are more prevalent in retail and banking, any business that handles cash can benefit from monitoring and addressing cash variances through the cash-over-short account.

Key takeaways

  • Over and short, or “cash over short,” represents discrepancies between reported and audited financial figures.
  • This term is particularly relevant to cash-intensive businesses in retail and banking.
  • Cash-over-short incidents usually result from human errors, such as miscounting cash or ringing up sales incorrectly.
  • The cash-over-short account is an income-statement account and helps companies identify and address cash handling issues.
  • Pros of tracking over and short incidents include improved cash handling, fraud prevention, and process enhancement.
  • Cons may involve operational inefficiencies, financial discrepancies, and increased administrative efforts.
  • Using data from the cash-over-short account, companies can enhance their operational practices and reduce the frequency of over and short incidents.
  • While more common in retail and banking, over and short incidents can affect any cash-handling business.
View article sources
  1. Cash over and short policy – Valdosta State University
  2. Bank reconciliation, petty cash – Alamo Colleges District
  3. 10 things to value more than money in your life – SuperMoney
  4. Short Sales: Definition, Example, Risks, And Margin Requirements – SuperMoney