Looking at the Balance Sheet

balance sheet

Balance Sheet

A quick picture of the financial condition of a business at a specific period in time. The activities of a business fall into two separate groups that are reported by an accountant. They are profit-making activities, which includes sales and expenses. This can also be referred to as operating activities. There are also financing and investing activities that include securing money from debt and equity sources of capital, returning capital to these sources, making distributions from profit to the owners, making investments in assets and eventually disposing of the assets.

Profit making activities are reported in the income statement; financing and investing activities are found in the statement of cash flows. In other words, two different financial statements are prepared for the two different types of transactions. The statement of cash flows also reports the cash increase or decrease from profit during the year as opposed to the amount of profit that is reported in the income statement.

It is different from the income and cash flow statements which report, as it says, income of cash and outgoing cash. It represents the balances, or amounts, or a company’s assets, liabilities and owners’ equity at an instant in time. The word balance has different meanings at different times. As it’s used in the term balance sheet, it refers to the balance of the two opposite sides of a business, total assets on one side and total liabilities on the other. However, the balance of an account, such as the asset, liability, revenue and expense accounts, refers to the amount in the account after recording increases and decreases in the account, just like the balance sheet in your checking account. Accountants can prepare a balance sheet any time that a manager requests it. But they’re generally prepared at the end of each month, quarter and year. It’s always prepared at the close of business on the last day of the profit period.

Another way to look at the  equation is that total assets equals liabilities plus owner’s equity. Looking at the equation in this way shows how assets were financed: either by borrowing money (liability) or by using the owner’s money (owner’s or shareholders’ equity). They are usually presented with assets in one section and liabilities and net worth in the other section with the two sections “balancing”.

A business operating entirely in cash can measure its profits by withdrawing the entire bank balance at the end of the period, plus any cash in hand. However, many businesses are not paid immediately; they build up inventories of goods and they acquire buildings and equipment. In other words: businesses have assets and so they cannot, even if they want to, immediately turn these into cash at the end of each period. Often, these businesses owe money to suppliers and to tax authorities, and the proprietors do not withdraw all their original capital and profits at the end of each period. In other words, businesses also have liabilities.