Balance Sheet: Definition, Example, Elements of a Balance Sheet

It is also intended to provide context for the financial statements and information about the company’s earnings and cash flows. Cash flow statements report a company’s inflows and outflows of cash. This is important because a company needs to have enough cash on hand to pay its expenses and purchase assets. While an income statement can tell you whether a company made a profit, a cash flow statement can tell you whether the company generated cash. A balance sheet shows a snapshot of a company’s assets, liabilities and shareholders’ equity at the end of the reporting period. It does not show the flows into and out of the accounts during the period.

Fundamental analysis using financial ratios is also an important set of tools that draw their data directly from the balance sheet. In addition to cash, IBM had other current and long-term assets, amounting to just over $150 billion in resources owned by the company at that point in time. On the bottom half of the balance sheet are the sources for the capital used to acquire and use those resources.


Important ratios that use information from a balance sheet can be categorized as liquidity ratios, solvency ratios, financial strength ratios, and activity ratios. Liquidity and solvency ratios show how well a company can pay off its debts and obligations with existing assets. Financial strength ratios, such as the working capital and debt-to-equity ratios, provide information Understanding the Balance Sheet on how well the company can meet its obligations and how the obligations are leveraged. These ratios can give investors an idea of how financially stable the company is and how the company finances itself. Activity ratios focus mainly on current accounts to show how well the company manages its operating cycle (which include receivables, inventory, and payables).

  • Those who are curious to look into the same can refer to pages 80, 81, 82 and 83 in the FY14 Annual report for Amara Raja Batteries Limited.
  • To take the simplest example, say a company starts up by an owner who contributes $1,000 cash.
  • For this reason, the balance sheet should be compared with those of previous periods.
  • A company that is generating enough net income will have higher retained earnings from one year to the next.
  • Cash flows provide more information about cash assets listed on a balance sheet and are related, but not equivalent, to net income shown on the income statement.
  • Organize your assets into two categories — current and fixed — and represent each asset as a line item within the appropriate category.
  • Toggl’s balance sheet template gives an overview of your balances in one single view.

Without knowing which receivables a company is likely to actually receive, a company must make estimates and reflect their best guess as part of the balance sheet. Different accounting systems and ways of dealing with depreciation and inventories will also change the figures posted to a balance sheet. Because of this, managers have some ability to game the numbers to look more favorable.

Understanding a Balance Sheet (With Examples and Video)

As the company pays off its AP, it decreases along with an equal amount decrease to the cash account. Property, Plant, and Equipment (also known as PP&E) capture the company’s tangible fixed assets. Some companies will class out their PP&E by the different types of assets, such as Land, Building, and various types of Equipment. Enter your name and email in the form below and download the free template now! You can use the Excel file to enter the numbers for any company and gain a deeper understanding of how balance sheets work. Equity, often called “shareholders equity”, “stockholder’s equity”, or “net worth”, represents what the owners/shareholders own.

How do you analyze a balance sheet?

The strength of a company's balance sheet can be evaluated by three broad categories of investment-quality measurements: working capital, or short-term liquidity, asset performance, and capitalization structure. Capitalization structure is the amount of debt versus equity that a company has on its balance sheet.

Verifying that these numbers match allows you to confirm that the data in your balance sheet is correct. This happens because of the difference in the way depreciation is treated as per the Company’s act and Income tax. We will not get into this aspect as we will digress from our objective of becoming users of financial statements. But do remember, deferred tax liability arises due to the treatment of depreciation. You will find that there are many companies which do not have long term borrowings (debt).

Identify your assets as of your reporting date.

It is a snapshot at a single point in time of the company’s accounts—covering its assets, liabilities, and shareholders’ equity. The purpose of a balance sheet is to give interested parties an idea of the company’s financial position, in addition to displaying what the company owns and owes. It is important that all investors know how to use, analyze and read a balance sheet. The balance sheet includes information about a company’s assets and liabilities, and the shareholders’ equity that results. These things might include short-term assets, such as cash and accounts receivable, inventories, or long-term assets such as property, plant, and equipment (PP&E). Likewise, its liabilities may include short-term obligations such as accounts payable to vendors, or long-term liabilities such as bank loans or corporate bonds issued by the company.

Identifiable intangible assets include patents, licenses, and secret formulas. Inventory includes amounts for raw materials, work-in-progress goods, and finished goods. The company uses this account when it reports sales of goods, generally under cost of goods sold in the income statement. At the very bottom of the balance sheet, you will see totals for assets and liabilities plus equity.

This could cause your net income to look inflated on paper and result in an inaccurate picture of how profitable the business is. QuickBooks Online automatically tracks and organizes your accounting data, allowing it to generate up-to-date balance sheet reports. You can even set up automated reporting and share your balance sheets with others. Try QuickBooks Online to quickly and accurately create balance sheets and other financial reports.

  • The company takes up the obligation because it believes these obligations will provide economic value in the long run.
  • Apple’s total liabilities increased, total equity decreased, and the combination of the two reconcile to the company’s total assets.
  • Let’s look at each of the first three financial statements in more detail.
  • The second is earnings that the company generates over time and retains.
  • For example, a company’s balance sheet may report more liabilities than assets; however, it likely owns economic assets that are not reflected on its balance sheet.

Since all assets are recorded on the balance sheet at the price you paid for them, you have to account for the reduction of their value over time. Long-term assets (or non-current assets), on the other hand, are things you don’t plan to convert to cash within a year. Assets are on the top or left, and below them or to the right are the company’s liabilities and shareholders’ equity. A balance sheet is also always in balance, where the value of the assets equals the combined value of the liabilities and shareholders’ equity.

How to read a balance sheet

As we know, the balance sheet has two main sections, i.e. the assets and the liabilities. The liabilities, as you know, represent the obligation of the company. The shareholders’ fund, which is integral to the balance sheet’s liabilities side, is highlighted in the snapshot below. For new companies, a higher debt-to-equity ratio may be common if it’s relying on a bank loan or other financing to get the business up and running. And more established companies may need debt to purchase new equipment or buy a bigger warehouse.

Interest income is the money companies make from keeping their cash in interest-bearing savings accounts, money market funds and the like. On the other hand, interest expense is the money companies paid in interest for money they borrow. Some income statements show interest income and interest expense separately. The interest income and expense are then added or subtracted from the operating profits to arrive at operating profit before income tax. A balance sheet is an important reference document for investors and stakeholders for assessing a company’s financial status.

Equity can also drop when an owner draws money out of the company to pay themself, or when a corporation issues dividends to shareholders. Owners’ equity, also known as shareholders’ equity, typically refers to anything that belongs to the owners of a business after any liabilities are accounted for. The balance sheet provides an overview of the state of a company’s finances at a moment in time. It cannot give a sense of the trends playing out over a longer period on its own. For this reason, the balance sheet should be compared with those of previous periods.

Understanding the Balance Sheet