Glossary of Accounting Terms

Listed below is a glossary of terms that are commonly used by Accounting Services. The terms are listed alphabetically. The list is provided to help assist those who handle accounting transactions outside of the Accounting Services office.


1. Agency Fund-An agency fund is a fund group used to account for assets that are received by the university to be held or disbursed only on the instruction or on behalf of the person or organization from whom they were received. The assets do NOT belong to the university.

2. AUC-Asset Under Construction-This is the SAP process using internal orders #650000 to 5999999 by Facilities Management for repairs, maintenance, and improvement projects of university assets.

3. Auxiliary Fund-An auxiliary fund account is used to account for revenue and expenditures of revenue- producing, substantially self-supporting activities that perform a service for but are not themselves educational and general activities. The following are examples of business enterprises that CMU records in auxiliary fund cost centers: Athletics, CMU Bookstore, CMU Printing Services, Telecommunications, Health Services, Motorpool, Residence Life, Campus Dining, Bovee University Center, and other miscellaneous self-supporting activities. Auxiliary fund cost centers begin with 5XXXX.

4. Available Balance-The amount available in a cost center that can be used or expended before the cost center has a zero balance. This amount takes into consideration the outstanding commitments as of the time the available balance is determined. It should be noted that when using this balance some charges may have been incurred but not processed though SAP.

5. BTA-Budget To Actual-The Budget to Actual Report compares the approved operating budget to the actual revenue and expense activity for the fiscal year period indicated on each report.

6. Business Area-A unit of financial accounting that represents a separate area of operations or responsibilities within the organization.

7. Commitment-A commitment is a transaction that sets aside budget because the cost center made a commitment of their funds to pay for purchases or payroll. For example, the unfilled portion of an outstanding purchase order is a commitment.

8. Cost Center -Cost centers are used to account for related revenues and expenses.

9. Deficit - This occurs when the expenditures are greater than the revenues.

10. Designated Fund-A designated fund account is used to account for specific purposes which are not restricted by donors or supporting agencies.

Designated funds will include organized departmental activities associated with academic programs, conferences, seminars and unrestricted gifts. Designated fund cost centers begin with 4XXXX.

11. Document Number-Document numbers are generated automatically by the SAP system after a transaction, such as a journal entry, is entered into SAP.

12. Endowment Fund-An endowment fund account is used for funds which the donor specifies that the principal is to be held in perpetuity. The principal is unexpendable and is invested to produce earnings that are generally available for use as specified by the donor.

13. Escheats -Is a process whereby uncashed checks or unclaimed property is turned over to the State of Michigan. Checks are the typical unclaimed property of the university. The period of abandonment for checks varies. Payroll checks are returned to the State of Michigan (escheated) after one year. Payables and Receivables checks (not including Title IV funds) are escheated after one year. Any unclaimed checks due to be escheated that include Title IV funds must instead be returned to the appropriate aid program.

14. Expendable Restricted Fund - The Expendable Restricted Fund is used to account for all special programs financed by separate special-purpose state appropriations, income from endowment funds, federal, state and private contracts and grants, and other gifts and grants. In all cases, the use of the funds is restricted for specific purposes stated by the supporting agencies or donors. Internal grants are also recorded in the restricted fund. Those consist of PRIF (President’s Research Investment Fund), REF (Research Excellence Funds) and FIT (Faculty Insight Teams).

15. Fiscal Year-The annual financial accounting period (July 1 st-June 30). For example, the period FY 07/08 represents the period 7/1/07-6/30/08.

16. Fund-An accounting entity with a self-balancing set of accounts consisting of assets, liabilities, and fund balance. Separate funds are used to ensure the observance of limitations and restrictions placed on the use of their resources.

17. Fund Balance-The fund balance of each fund represents the difference between the fund’s assets and liabilities.

18. General Fund - A General Fund account is used to account for those transactions related to academic and instructional programs and their administration. General fund cost centers begin with 2XXXX. Global Campus cost centers begin with 3XXXX.

19. General Ledger (G/L): A set of six digit numbers used to classify revenues, expenditures, transfers, assets, liabilities, and fund balances. They are grouped as follows:



3XXXXX-Fund Balance


59XXXX-Revenue Transfers

61XXXX-62XXXX Personnel Services

63XXXX-8XXXXX Supplies and Equipment

9XXXXX Expense Transfers

20. Grant Accounting-Grant Accounting is responsible for the post award oversight of the University’s Grants and Contracts, oversight of related journal entries, WBS element / Grant Cost Center creation, billing, financial reporting to funding agencies and providing departmental guidance of SAP Grant/Contract account maintenance.

21. Grant Funding-Grant revenue is generated from agreements with sponsoring agencies, such as governments, corporations, and foundations. These generally require the performance of specific tasks.

22. Internal Orders- Internal Orders numbers provide a way of tracking expenses in addition to G/Ls. For example, all the expenses associated with a department project or faculty member can be assigned an Internal Order number. Internal Orders are created and maintained by the department. The system automatically assigns an internal order number when the setup of the new internal order is complete and saved. The system assigns the next number in the sequence assigned to the Order Type used. This means your internal orders will not necessarily be in consecutive order. Keep a record of the Internal Orders you create.

23. Plant Fund-Is a separate fund group used to account for long-lived assets such as land, buildings, and capital equipment; renewals and replacements of those assets; and debt service (principal and interest payments) incurred to purchase those assets.

24. Reference Number-The reference document number is used as a search criterion when displaying or changing documents. This can be created by Accounting Services or the department requesting the journal entry.

25. Sponsored Project-Any externally funded activity that has a defined scope of work and set of objectives which provide a basis of accountability and sponsor expectations. All projects determined to be a sponsored project must be processed through the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

26. Transfers-Transfer codes (GL’s) are used to move funds (instead of specific expenses) between cost centers. A transfer occurs when one cost center is providing general support. A movement of expense occurs when the expense hit one cost center & G/L, but really belongs in another cost center.

DO NOT use transfers codes on Agency cost centers.

27. UBIT-Unrelated Business Income Tax-CMU is exempt from the payment of income taxes on income related to its exempt purposes. However, the University is liable for taxes on unrelated business income (UBI). Income from an activity carried on by an exempt organization is subject to the unrelated business income tax if the following three criteria are present:

1. The activity constitutes a “ trade or business,”

2. The activity is “ regularly carried on” by the organization, and

3. The conduct of the activity is “ not substantially related” (other than through the production of funds) to the performance of the organization’s exempt function.​

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