Shadow Accounting

Updated on April 2, 2024
Article byShrestha Ghosal
Edited byShrestha Ghosal
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is Shadow Accounting?

Shadow accounting is a concept in accounting that entails the creation and maintenance of a separate and unofficial financial record. This process enables individuals and companies to verify the shadow account records with the information provided in the official financial statements. It allows them to identify and correct any inaccuracies or inconsistencies.

Shadow Accounting

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Shadow accounting is standard at the team or department level, and it can occur alongside official record-keeping or workflow systems. The objectives for keeping shadow records differ across sectors and job functions. However, technological advancements and enhanced interaction between private capital partnerships and their administrators can help streamline the system.

Key Takeaways

  • Shadow accounting is an accounting concept that signifies the development and maintenance of an unofficial financial record that is separate from the formal system.
  • This method allows individuals and businesses to compare alternative account information to the data presented in the official financial statements.
  • This accounting helps managers to make more informed decisions. It enables companies to detect and fix errors or discrepancies.
  • Moreover, it promotes openness since these accounts provide individuals and organizations with a clear picture of their finances and other business activities.

Shadow Account Explained

Shadow accounting is a diverse concept with its application in business and financial sectors, which are as follows:

#1 – In Sales

Shadow accounting in sales is the process of creating a separate and unofficial record-keeping structure to monitor and estimate commissions or incentives for salespeople. It often helps enhance or replace the official sales compensation or accounting system an organization employs. The accounting system may take place for several reasons, including inconsistencies between the official system and salespeople’s calculations, discontent with the current compensation structure, or attempts to distort or exaggerate figures to maximize personal gains.

#2 – In Hedge Fund

Fund administrators are the middlemen for hedge funds and their investors. The fund administrators are in charge of back-office functions like fund accounting, profit allocation, financial reporting, Net Asset Value (NAV) calculation, and investor interaction, all of which qualify as official records. Hedge funds can manage financial data and receive multiple reports at a reasonable cost by utilizing the expertise and infrastructure provided by fund administrators.

However, there are different reasons why hedge firms are switching to this accounting system. Hedge funds want to have a single set of internal financial records. However, implementing hedge fund shadow accounting can provide competitive benefits while also building trust among potential investors.

#3 – In Insurance

Shadow accounting activities are used in circumstances where realized earnings and losses on investments might affect insurance assets and liabilities while unrealized profits and losses exist. Wherever applicable, the modification to deferred acquisition costs (DAC), the present value of acquired in-force business (PVIF), and insurance obligations are taken into account in the same method as the unrealized profits and losses on investments.

This accounting can be established as an accounting adjustment that allows for the consequences of acknowledging unrealized gains or losses on associated insurance assets and liabilities. It is done in a way that is consistent with the accounting for unrealized gains or losses on financial assets that have a direct impact on the valuation of the related insurance assets and liabilities.


Let us study the following shadow accounting examples to understand this accounting system:

Example #1

Suppose Jake is a salesperson who works for a cosmetics company named “Roses Beauty.” He maintains a separate record in his computer system for his personal use. In the system, he records all the sales he makes every month and calculates the commission he has earned on them. At the end of every month, he matches his records with the company records to identify any errors or omissions. His records enable him to ensure that he receives the correct salary as per the sales he makes. This is an example of shadow accounting activities.

Example #2

Co-sourcing provides the next level in the advancement of shadow accounting. Managers no longer have to choose between simpler accounting operations and data protection. The UK and EU private equity environments are known for relying on a particular and established back-office outsourcing structure. Most general partners (GPs) choose to outsource accounting and investor reports to a fund manager while also utilizing shadow accounts by having staff keep their duplicative accounting ledger internally. However, this can be replaced by co-sourcing.


The shadow accounting system benefits are as follows:

  • It enhances transparency because these services offer individuals and companies a clear understanding of the finances and operations. This accounting aids the management in making more informed decisions.
  • This accounting aids in enhancing accuracy. The accountant can offer meaningful insights into the different risks related to the fund’s investments and operations. It can assist in ensuring that any possible risks are identified and addressed. It also ensures that the fund’s assets are appropriately protected and the investor’s concerns are resolved. Additionally, this system helps ensure that the financial statements are correct, which helps minimize the threats of mismanagement and fraud.
  • The shadow accounting system helps improve performance and increases investors’ faith in management. Outsourcing the financial reviewing work to third parties can provide insights about the fund’s execution and make alterations to any area that may not be performing well.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When to implement a shadow accounting system?

There are several circumstances where an organization may employ shadow accounting. It is beneficial when an entity’s central accounting system cannot offer sufficient detailed information. Moreover, it is valuable when the departmental data is not available in a ready and usable format, or it needs to be manually arranged or constructed. Furthermore, when an organization can obtain tangible resource savings through enhanced decision-making or eliminating manual obstructions, this accounting system is helpful.

What are the issues with shadow accounting?

Some issues with shadow accounting include inconsistency and the lack of standardization. Moreover, it exhausts valuable time and causes rifts and disagreements if the shadow account does not match the organization’s official financial accounting. Furthermore, it may result in a loss of information and raise compliance and regulatory issues.

Why is reconciliation crucial in shadow accounting?

Reconciliation is essential in hedge fund shadow accounting because it helps ensure that the administrator’s trading records are identical to the records of the investment manager. Reconciling is the initial step in maintaining an accurate financial record. It is instrumental in identifying and resolving issues before they become more significant problems.

This article has been a guide to what is Shadow Accounting. Here, we explain the topic in detail including its examples and benefits. You may also find some useful articles here –

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