The purpose of a Balance Sheet is to report the financial position of a company at a certain point in time. It is divided into two columns. The first lists what the company owns (assets) on the left. The second shows what the company owes (liabilities and net worth) on the right. At the bottom of each list is the total of that column. As the name implies, the bottom line of the balance sheet must always "balance." In other words, the total assets are equal to the total liabilities plus the net worth.
The particular elements of a balance sheet may vary significantly from day to day. Over time, these "snapshots" of a company, taken on a year-end or monthly basis, can reveal important information about the ability of the company to satisfy its creditors, manage inventory, and collect its receivables.
Another way to look at the balance sheet is in terms of the "sources" and "uses" of cash. Liabilities and net worth are sources of cash. They represent debt owed to creditors who have supplied cash or its equivalent. Assets are a use of cash. The company uses cash to purchase assets in order to make a profit.
|Use of Cash||Source of Cash|
|Assets which are the most like cash||Obligations which must be paid to keep creditors happy|
|Assets which will turn into cash within one year||Obligations which will be due and payable within one year|
|Assets which may never mature into cash||Obligations which are the least nervous and never due|
|Total Assets||Liabilities & Net Worth|
Understanding the sources and uses of cash is critical to the survival and growth of a small business. Creditors (sources of cash) must be kept happy because they supply the inventory (use of cash) which is sold by the company to make a profit.
Current assets are those assets which will mature into cash during the next twelve months. They are a measure of the liquidity of a company, which is the amount of time it takes for an asset to be converted into cash.
This time period is referred to as the Operating Cycle. In other words, a company begins with cash, purchases inventory with the cash, sells the inventory which creates a receivable, and then collects the receivable which generates the cash. The cash is then used to purchase additional inventory and the cycle begins again. In terms of liquidity, cash is the highest quality current asset and inventory is the lowest quality. Whereas cash is immediately available to pay obligations, inventory must be converted into cash (through the operating cycle), before it is available to pay bills.
When constructing a balance sheet, assets and liabilities are listed in a specific order. Assets are listed in descending order with cash and assets most like cash first.
Liabilities are also listed in descending order with those obligations which are due soonest listed first. Current liabilities are those liabilities which must be paid within the next twelve months. Those liabilities which may never come due and payable (i.e., subordinated officer debt) are listed last. Liabilities are creditors who have provided cash to the company. They must be paid in a timely manner in order to keep them as sources of cash. For example, the company purchases inventory (use of cash) and an account payable (source of cash) is created with the supplier. The payable should be kept current so that the supplier will provide additional inventory in the future.
Net worth simply represents the owner's investment in the company. It is treated the same as a liability in that both creditors and owners are a source of cash for the company. The owner's investment, however, is an obligation which may never have to be repaid. A positive net worth demonstrates that the owners have a financial commitment to the company that is subordinate to all other creditors.
Current Assets: those assets which mature into cash in one year or less (CA).
Accounts Receivable: dollars due from customers as a result of selling inventory or services on terms which allow for delivery prior to the payment of cash. The transaction exists as a receivable on the balance sheet until cash is collected from the customer (A/R).
Inventory: the goods and materials a company sells to make a profit. Inventory exists in three forms: raw materials, work in progress, and finished goods. In the process of selling inventory, either cash is received or an account receivable is created (INV).
Prepaid Expenses: when cash is used to purchase a good or service, the benefits of which will be realized or received within the current year (12 months).
Fixed Assets: physical assets which have life in excess of one year. This includes land, buildings, machinery, equipment, furniture/fixtures, and leasehold improvements (FA).
Net Fixed Assets: Also known as the book value, the net fixed asset is calculated as the purchase price of the asset (gross fixed asset) less the accumulated depreciation (the sum of the annual amounts charged for the "wearing out" of the asset) (NFA).
Notes Receivable: a loan made by the company which is evidenced by a promissory note (N/R).
Intangibles: assets which have no physical properties or "set" values. Examples of intangibles include patents, research and development, and goodwill (INT).
Current Liabilities: what the company "owes" which must be paid within one year (CL).
Note Payable Bank: obligations evidenced by a promissory note from the bank which have maturity dates of less than one year (N/P).
Accounts Payable: amounts due to suppliers who have provided inventory to the company (A/P).
Accruals: obligations owed but not yet billed (ACCR).
Current Portion of Long-Term Debt: the portion of a long-term loan (principal only) which is due within the next 12 months (CDTD).
Long Term Debt: the portion of a term loan which does not have to be paid within the next year.
Subordinated Officer Debt: Cash the officers have invested in the company which is subordinated to any bank financing the company has received.
Net Worth: The owner's investment or "equity" in the company which may be either "purchased" or "earned." Purchased equity consists of preferred stock, common stock, and capital surplus. Simply put, the net worth is the difference between the assets and liabilities of a company (NW).
Retained Earnings: another term for earned equity; represents the profits of a company which have been reinvested within the business.
Treasury Stock: This is created when the company purchases its own stock from a stockholder.