Financial Statements 101: How to Read and Use Your Balance Sheet

The balance sheet date is a date as of which the information in a statement of financial position is stated. The balance sheet is a very important financial statement for many reasons. It can be looked at on its own and in conjunction with other statements like the income statement and cash flow statement to get a full picture of a company’s health. To ensure the balance sheet is balanced, it will be necessary to compare total assets against total liabilities plus equity. To do this, you’ll need to add liabilities and shareholders’ equity together. Current liabilities are amounts you are likely to pay within the next 12 months.

A lender will usually require a balance sheet of the company in order to secure a business plan. Again, these should be organized into both line items and total liabilities. This stock is a previously outstanding stock that is purchased from stockholders by the issuing company. Shareholders’ equity reflects how much a company has left after paying its liabilities. Current assets are typically those that a company expects to convert easily into cash within a year.

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In this example, the imagined company had its total liabilities increase over the time period between the two balance sheets and consequently the total assets decreased. Overall, a balance sheet is an important statement of your company’s financial health, and it’s important to have accurate balance sheets available regularly. Examples of activity ratios are inventory turnover ratio, total assets turnover ratio, fixed assets turnover ratio, and accounts receivables turnover ratio. Some accounting software prompts you to enter a date range for the balance sheet report. Unlike the profit and loss statement, which only shows information for a certain period, the balance sheet shows information as of a specific date.

  • On February 28 prepaid expenses will report $900 (3 months of the insurance cost that is unexpired/still prepaid X $300 per month), and so on.
  • If the company takes $8,000 from investors, its assets will increase by that amount, as will its shareholder equity.
  • They are divided into current assets, which can be converted to cash in one year or less; and non-current or long-term assets, which cannot.
  • Balance sheets are typically prepared at the end of set periods (e.g., annually, every quarter).
  • A lender will usually require a balance sheet of the company in order to secure a business plan.

Current assets include assets that can be converted into cash as early as possible (typically within the next 12 months). The most liquid of all assets, cash, appears on the first line of the balance sheet. Cash Equivalents are also lumped under this line item and include assets that have short-term maturities under three months or assets that the company can liquidate on short notice, such as marketable securities. Companies will generally disclose what equivalents it includes in the footnotes to the balance sheet.

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Before joining the team, she was a Content Producer at Fit Small Business where she served as an editor and strategist covering small business marketing content. She is a former Google Tech Entrepreneur and she holds an MSc in International Marketing from Edinburgh Napier University. Our goal is to deliver the most understandable and comprehensive explanations of financial topics using simple writing complemented by helpful graphics and animation videos. We follow strict ethical journalism practices, which includes presenting unbiased information and citing reliable, attributed resources.

Companies often sell products or services to customers on credit; these obligations are held in the current assets account until they are paid off by the clients. Cash, the most fundamental of current assets, also includes non-restricted bank accounts and checks. Cash equivalents are very safe assets that can be readily converted into cash; U.S. Balance sheets are important because they give a picture of your company’s financial standing.

Current liabilities are due within one year and are listed in order of their due date. Long-term liabilities, on the other hand, are due at any point after one year. A quick definition of current assets is cash and assets that are expected to be converted to cash within one year of the balance sheet’s date. Arranging assets in the order of liquidity means putting assets that can be readily converted into cash at the top of the list and more permanent assets at the bottom.

Investors, business owners, and accountants can use this information to give a book value to the business, but it can be used for so much more. Balance sheets are one of the most critical financial statements, offering a quick snapshot of the financial health of a company. Learning how to generate them and troubleshoot issues when they don’t balance temporary account examples is an invaluable financial accounting skill that can help you become an indispensable member of your organization. You can quickly analyze your business’s financial health with a glance at the balance sheet. If equity is negative — meaning liabilities are greater than assets — that could indicate your business is in financial trouble.


Unlike an income statement, the full value of long-term investments or debts appears on the balance sheet. The name «balance sheet» is derived from the way that the three major accounts eventually balance out and equal each other. All assets are listed in one section, and their sum must equal the sum of all liabilities and the shareholder equity. The balance sheet shows a company’s resources or assets, and it also shows how those assets are financed—whether through debt under liabilities or by issuing equity as shown in shareholder equity. The balance sheet provides both investors and creditors with a snapshot of how effectively a company’s management uses its resources.

Step 1: Determine the Reporting Date and Period

Typically, a balance sheet will be prepared and distributed on a quarterly or monthly basis, depending on the frequency of reporting as determined by law or company policy. Whether you’re a business owner, employee, or investor, understanding how to read and understand the information in a balance sheet is an essential financial accounting skill to have. Check out how to analyze the numbers on your balance sheet to gain actionable insights into your financial health. Noncurrent liabilities are obligations that will take more than the next 12 months to be repaid.

The Purpose of the Balance Sheet

Shareholders’ equity belongs to the shareholders, whether public or private owners. Current liabilities refer to the liabilities of the company that are due or must be paid within one year. Returning to our catering example, let’s say you haven’t yet paid the latest invoice from your tofu supplier. Companies that report on an annual basis will often use December 31st as their reporting date, though they can choose any date.

Generate the income statement

An income statement often states that it is prepared for a particular period, referred to as the income statement period. The income statement reports on a company financial performance, namely the various revenues and gains it has earned and expenses and losses incurred over time. Unlike measuring balance sheet item values at a point in time, tracking revenues and gains or expenses and losses requires the totaling of all sale or cost transactions over a period. At the end of an accounting cycle, with the accounting books closed to recording new business transactions, companies can summarize their financial performance for the time during the cycle.

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