Chart of Accounts Overview

What is the Chart of Accounts (COA)?

  • The COA contains the big “buckets” used to segregate costs and revenues within the organizational units (e.g. departments).
  • A well-designed COA not only meets the information needs of management, but it also helps SFU comply with financial reporting standards and regulatory requirements.

What are Chartfields?

  • Chartfields make up the structure which PeopleSoft systems (FINS, HAP and SIMS) uses to segregate and categorize transactional and budget data.
  • Each Chartfield, such as Fund or Dept, is designed to record, report and analyze its own category of data.
  • While a particular Chartfield represents a single category of data, it stores many codes to further categorize that same data.
  • The Chartfields that most employees will use are Project, Object, Fund, Dept and Program. Some areas may also employ Activity.
Chartfield Name



GL Unit (5) SFUNV Cross-business reporting entity. Defaulted for nearly all transactions.

Object (4)

5264, Advertising and Promotion   The nature of transaction, or the "what".  

Fund (2)

11, Operating Fund Utilized for Fund management and separation of line of business

Dept (4)

3010, FCAT Dean   The true organizational unit, typically with clear identification of budgetary and fiscal responsibility

Program (5)

90112, Recruiting – Students   The services that a department can deliver. Includes both Departmental and Global Programs.  
PC Unit (5) PCU10, Operating Projects High-level segregation of projects, based on nature of the Project. Defaulted for nearly all transactions.

Project (6-8)

869477, Vocadlo,D-alz Soc. Of CDA 15-32
Project initiatives, grants, scholarships, awards and bursaries

Activity (max 10)

SU1157, Fall 2016 – Vancouver   A Project-specific grouping of transactions.


Primary vs. Secondary Chartfields

Primary Chartfields (GL Unit, Object, Fund, Dept and Program):

  • Support the University's requirements for External Reporting, Budgeting and Financial Analysis.
  • Codes are expected to remain quite stable on a year-over-year basis in order to satisfy these requirements.
  • Always required to be entered in a transaction string before that transaction can be posted within FINS. (Note, however, that if using an Alias, the Alias will typically default in the Department and Program values.)

Secondary Chartfields (PC Unit, Project and Activity):

  • Generally intended to support a Department's requirements for Internal Reporting and Financial Analysis.
  • Every year, it is expected that a number of Projects will close and a number of new Projects will be created. Project IDs can be created when an initiative has a beginning and end date and when internal or exteral tracking is required.
  • Only required in a transaction string when charging to a Project.


  • The SFU Alias is a code which automatically populates Chartfield values in the accounting string, making for easier transaction entry. 
  • For example, when the Alias code 613407 is typed into the "SFU Alias" field (see below), the FINS system will automatically default the Chartfield codes in the Fund, Dept, Program, PC Unit and Project fields. 
  • Every Project will be set up as an Alias code, meaning that when coding a transaction to a Project, you will generally need to specify only the Project + Object + Fund. The other Chartfields will be populated based on the Alias defaults.
  • However, please note that not all applications can accept accounting strings with aliases.

Combination Edits

What are Combination Edits?

  • Combination Edits are a FINS application feature that screens out invalid combinations of Chartfield codes. This helps to improve the consistency of Chartfield usage and reduce the amount of data entry errors.

How do Combination Edits work?

  • Combination Edits are defined as a series or Rules and Groups that reference SFU's Chartfield codes.
  • Combination Edits are applied automatically to every FINS transaction, such as Requisitions and Journal Entries, as well as to every background or batch process, such as Invoices and accounting batch loads.
  • Combination Edits are now applied to Spreadsheet Journals (SSJ), meaning that SSJs with invalid Chartfield combinations will not be accepted into FINS.
  • When using SFU Aliases, the Combination Edit rules are applied after the Alias has been expanded to the full Chartfield combination.
  • If you receive an error message related to Combination Edits, you will typically see a reference to the Combination Group that failed your transaction. The Group ID, such as SFU_DP (Valid Dept-Program Combos), indicates what part of the coding string is invalid. It also notes the transaction line number that failed.

Examples of Combination Edit rules are:

  • Departments can only use the Global Programs plus their own Departmental Programs. When Dept A uses one of Dept B's Programs, there is a Combination Edit error.
  • Project IDs must be provided in transactions with non-Operating Funds. A transaction with a Research Fund but without a Project is, therefore, an invalid combination.