The Balance Sheet

There are two kinds of financial statements and both follow a long-standing format of reporting. So if you understand how one set of financial statements is organized, you are well suited to follow any other corporate financial statement as well.

The first of these two is the balance sheet. It is given this name for two reasons. First, it summarizes the ending balances of all asset, liability, and net worth accounts as of a specific date.

That date is the ending date of the period being reported, usually the last day of the quarter or fiscal year. Second, the sum of all asset account balances is equal to the sum of liabilities plus net worth accounts.

The first component of the balance sheet is a category called current assets. These are all assets in the form of cash or that are convertible to cash within 12 months. Included are cash, accounts receivable, notes receivable, marketable securities, and inventory.

In order, after current assets, the next group is called long-term assets (also called 'fixed assets'). This is the net value of all capital assets minus accumulated depreciation.

After these two categories, additional asset groups include prepaid assets, deferred assets, and intangible assets. Prepays or deferrals are the values of expenses properly covering more than one year, and set up for annual amortization reducing the asset and transferring relevant portions to expense. Deferred assets are entire sums paid in advance but properly belonging to a future fiscal year. They are placed in the asset account until transferred to the expense category later. Intangible assets are all assets without physical value, including the assigned value of goodwill or covenants not to compete.

The asset accounts are added together to report the total of the corporation's properties, before being reduced by offsetting debts and obligations. It is important to use the subdivisions listed above, because so many ratios and indicators rely on distinctions between various asset classes.

Key Point

The subcategories of fi nancial statements are critically important. Many key ratios are based on isolated classes of accounts.
Assets are the top half of the balance sheet. On the bottom half are two main groups, liabilities and net worth. Liabilities include all of the debts and obligations (as well as any deferred credits), and net worth is the sum of capital stock, retained earnings, and other ownership accounts. Examples of 'other' accounts include treasury stock, which is the value of corporate stock the company purchases on the open market and retires permanently.

Key Point

The total of all liabilities plus net worth accounts is always equal to the total of all assets, without exception.
The first group under the liabilities section is current liabilities. This is the sum of all debts payable within 12 months, including accounts and taxes payable and the current portion (12 months) of all long-term liabilities.

Next are the long-term liabilities, which are all debts owed by the company beyond the next 12 months. These include notes or contracts payable as well as the outstanding balances of bonds issued.

A final section included on this part of the balance sheet is not actually a liability, but a form of revenue received but not yet earned. All such deferred credits are assigned to this category. For example, a customer prepays a large purchase. The corporation has received the cash but it will not be earned until next year. In the current year, this is set up as a deferred credit.

The final section of the balance sheet is the net worth section. This includes capital stock and retained earnings as well as any other additional forms of net worth or adjustments. The sum of all net worth accounts is added to the sum of all liability accounts, and that total is identical to the sum of all asset accounts.

Note: How is the balance accomplished? The sum of liabilities and net worth is always equal to the value of all asset accounts because of double-entry bookkeeping. Every entry has a debit and a credit and these are equal in value. They may also be thought of as a plus and a minus. At any time, the sum of all accounts in the corporate books will add up to zero, because debits and credits offset one another.
By Michael C. Thomsett
Michael Thomsett is a British-born American author who has written over 75 books covering investing, business and real estate topics.

Copyrighted 2016. Content published with author's permission.

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