What are Financial Statements and Why Do I Need Them? The Balance Sheet

Many business owners think the terms Income Statement and Financial Statement are interchangeable. The Income Statement is indeed one part of a Financial Statement package, but owners should know there are usually three other statements and why they are important.

There are four basic financial statements are:

  • Income Statement
  • Balance Sheet
  • Statement of Cash Flows
  • Statement of Changes in Equity

Let’s start with the Balance Sheet.

The balance sheet is made up of three sections: Assets, Liabilities, and Equity. The basic accounting equation is Assets = Liabilities + Equity. The balance sheet shows a company’s financial position on a specific date.

Assets

Assets are the resources of the company that have been acquired through past transactions and have future economic value. Examples of assets are:

  • Cash in Bank
  • Accounts Receivable (amounts due from customers)
  • Inventory (merchandise for re-sale or materials to be used in production)
  • Prepaid Expenses (items paid in advance like insurance and property taxes)
  • Land
  • Buildings
  • Machinery (used in manufacturing production)
  • Computer Equipment
  • Software
  • Trademarks, Patents, or Copyrights

Assets are classified into distinct groupings.

  • Current Assets are assets that will generally be used within an accounting cycle. They include cash, accounts receivable, inventory, and prepaid expenses.
  • Fixed Assets are items that provide long-term use for the company. Things like land, buildings, machinery, and computer equipment will benefit a company for longer than one accounting cycle.
  • Intangible Assets are those items that are not physical and will last longer than one account cycle, like computer software or trademarks.

Liabilities

Liabilities represent obligations for past transactions that must be paid by a company. Liabilities can be thought of as a source of the company’s assets and claims against those assets. They include:

  • Accounts Payable (amounts due to suppliers)
  • Short-Term Notes Payable (the portion of any loans due within one year)
  • Wages Payable (amounts due to employees but not paid as of the date of the statement)
  • Interest Payable
  • Customer Deposits (advance payments received for work or goods not yet provided)
  • Accrued Expenses (obligations that have been incurred but not yet recorded in Accts Payable)
  • Notes Payable

Liabilities are also classified into groupings:

  • Current Liabilities are obligations that are due within an accounting cycle. Accounts payable, wages payable, customer deposits, and accrued expenses are examples of Current Liabilities.
  • Long-Term Liabilities are obligations that are due over more than one accounting cycle. Notes payable (less the current portion shown in Current Liabilities) are listed here.

Equity

The items listed in the Equity section vary, depending on the legal form of the business. Owner’s Equity is used when a company is a Sole Proprietorship; Members’ Equity is used for a Limited Liability Company; Stockholders’ Equity is used for a corporation.

The Equity accounts for a Sole Proprietorship will include:

  • John Smith, Capital
  • John Smith, Draws
  • Net Income (cumulative for the current year)

Equity accounts for an LLC are:

  • Members’ Equity
  • Members’ Draws
  • Net Income

Equity accounts for a corporation include:

  • Common Stock (shows the original cost of the company shares sold to stockholders)
  • Preferred Stock (not every corporation has this)
  • Retained Earnings (the cumulation of net profits/losses from prior years)
  • Net Income

An accountant who understands how to properly classify items on the balance sheet is crucial to having useful financial statements. Staying on top of accounts receivable is essential for good cash flow; knowing how often inventory turns over can help you determine if you are carrying obsolete items; recognizing when an item should be recorded as a fixed asset and when it should be expensed will keep you out of trouble with the IRS.

 

Cash Basis vs. Accrual Basis Accounting

You may have heard the terms Cash Basis or Accrual Basis, and when you register your business with your state, you will likely be asked which method you plan to use. This is an important decision, but the concepts are not difficult. It is worth the time to understand what the terms mean.

The bottom line is that the Cash Basis and Accrual Basis of accounting are two different methods of recording transactions. The difference between the two is the timing of when Revenues and Expenses are recognized.

The Cash Basis records revenue when cash is received from a customer; expenses are recorded only when cash is paid to suppliers and/or employees. The Cash Basis is the easiest to use of the two methods – there are no payables or receivables to worry about. Another is that taxes are paid only on transactions that have been paid. However, per the IRS the Cash Basis can only be used when a company’s sales are less than $5 million per year.

The Accrual Basis means revenue is recorded when an item is sold or when a service is performed, not when payment is received, and expenses are recorded when the items are used. In other words, revenues are recognized at the time they are earned, Cost of Goods Sold are matched and recorded at the same time, and administrative expenses are recorded when incurred.

Example 1

A company sells 500 widgets for $1,000 to a customer in June. The customer pays the invoice in July. With the cash basis, the sale is recorded in July when the cash payment is received. Under the accrual method, the sale would be recorded in June when the invoice is issued, and an Accounts Receivable would be created. When payment is received in July, the cash is applied to the Accounts Receivable.

Example 2

A company buys $100 of office supplies in September and pays for them in October. Under the Cash Basis, the expense is recorded in October when paid. With the Accrual Basis, the expense is recognized in September when the invoice is received and an Accounts Payable is created.

The consequences of choosing the wrong method can be expensive. I once had a client who had a small retail company and chose the Accrual Method. He was able to get a substantial discount on items for resale, so he actually saved money by purchasing more than he needed. He classified the extra goods in inventory, even though most of those items would never be sold. The correct method would have been to use the cash method and classify all purchases to expense when payment was made. Consequently, he showed higher profits which meant he had a bigger tax bill each year.