Balance Sheet: Definition, Structure & Example

financial statements

The balance sheet is one of the major financial statements that accountants use. The others are the income statement, the statement of stockholders’ equity, and the statement of cash flows. A single balance sheet doesn’t tell you how a company’s financial position has changed over time, which can provide a better indication of the company’s future prospects. To determine that, you need to examine balance sheets from several different periods.


It’s a good idea to have an accountant do your first balance sheet, particularly if you’re new to business accounting. A few hundred dollars of an accountant’s time may pay for itself by avoiding issues with the tax authorities. You may also want to review the balance sheet with your accountant after any major changes to your business. Figure 1 shows the overall structure of a company’s balance sheet with assets, liabilities, and equity. 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.

Video: What Is a Balance Sheet?

Current liabilities refer to the liabilities of the company that are due or must be paid within one year. Balance sheets are useful tools for individual and institutional investors, as well as key stakeholders within an organization, as they show the general financial status of the company. F-150 Lightning electric pickup coming later this year are the first vehicles offering the features Ford expects to add 11-digit numbers to its balance sheet. Coindesk highlighted the troubled balance sheet of Bankman-Fried’s crypto-trading firm, Alameda Research. Share capital is the capital contributed by shareholders through their purchases of company shares. Accounts receivable, which is money owed to the company by its customers under credit agreements falling due within one year.

A balance sheet definition sheet is also different from an income statement in several ways, most notably the time frame it covers and the items included. The balance sheet only reports the financial position of a company at a specific point in time. Using financial ratios in analyzing a balance sheet, like the debt-to-equity ratio, can produce a good sense of the financial condition of the company and its operational efficiency. Assets are typically listed as individual line items and then as total assets in a balance sheet. You will need to tally up all your assets of the company on the balance sheet as of that date.

Balance Sheet definition

For small privately-held businesses, the balance sheet might be prepared by the owner or by a company bookkeeper. For mid-size private firms, they might be prepared internally and then looked over by an external accountant. The image below is an example of a comparative balance sheet of Apple, Inc. This balance sheet compares the financial position of the company as of September 2020 to the financial position of the company from the year prior.

  • The image below is an example of a comparative balance sheet of Apple, Inc.
  • The balance sheets of each of these associations would be the envy of most business undertakings.
  • It’s important to note that how a balance sheet is formatted differs depending on where an organization is based.
  • This results in a $1,000 increase in the store owner’s assets , as well as an offsetting $1,000 in liabilities .

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. The balance sheet previews the total assets, liabilities, and shareholders’ equity of a company on a specific date, referred to as the reporting date. A balance sheet is a financial statement that shows the relationship between assets, liabilities, and shareholders’ equity of a company at a specific point in time. Retained earnings, found as a line item on a balance sheet under shareholder’s equity, refers to a company’s cumulative profits that have been retained or held aside for future use. As many companies pay dividends to their shareholders, retained earnings refers to profits held inside the company, possibly in anticipation of future use for growth, expansion or to pay down debt. The cumulative retained earnings is calculated by adding the previous year’s retained earnings to this year’s profit or loss, and subtracting any dividends paid out this during the period.

The Purpose of the Balance Sheet

Non-current assets are long-term holdings that will generally not be converted into cash in 12 months, such as land, equipment, or intellectual property. The balance sheet quantifies the company’s assets and informs about their liabilities. From these numbers, the company’s net worth can be determined, providing investors with a picture of the underlying value of their shares. Book value of equity can be assessed relative to the market value of the company.


A lender will usually require a balance sheet of the company in order to secure a business plan. These operating cycles can include receivables, payables, and inventory. Financial ratio analysis is the main technique to analyze the information contained within a balance sheet. Again, these should be organized into both line items and total liabilities.