Balance sheet

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Financial reporting - primary statements.


What is a balance sheet?

The balance sheet is one of the primary statements in financial reporting.

Also known as the Statement of financial position.

The balance sheet summarises the assets, liabilities and shareholders’ funds at the balance sheet date.

Shareholders' funds are also known as 'equity'.

Equity includes original share capital invested, as well as cumulative retained profits to date.

Under the 'double entry' accounting convention, assets are Debits (DR) and liabilities and shareholders' funds are Credits (CR).

The standard UK balance sheet presentation for external reporting is Net Assets = Shareholders' Funds.

The Net assets part of the balance sheet is sometimes called the 'top half'.

The Shareholders' funds part being the 'bottom half'.

Example summary balance sheet
Assets 100 DR
- Liabilities (20) CR
= Net assets 80 DR

Shareholders’ funds 80 CR

(Total shareholders' funds being detailed in turn into share capital and reserves. Assets and liabilities also being appropriately listed in fuller detail.)

The balance sheet equation in summary, using the convention above, is 80 = 80.

Alternative presentations of balance sheets

There are many other ways to present this information in other balance sheet formats.

Alternative balance sheet conventions maintain the balanced/double-entry principle, but may show for example:

Total Assets = Total Liabilities + Shareholders' Funds; OR

Total Assets = Total Liabilities + Equity

Presented on this alternative basis (assets = liabilities) and using the same summary figures as before:


Total assets 100 DR


Total liabilities 20 CR

+ Equity 80 CR

= Total liabilities & equity 100 CR

The same balance sheet information has now been presented as 100 = 100, using the alternative convention.

The Total liabilities of 20 CR are now presented in the bottom half of the balance sheet (rather than in the top half as before).

Total liabilities & equity of 100 CR means the same thing as Total liabilities & shareholders' funds of 100 CR.

(Equity and Shareholders' funds being alternative names for the same item.)

The choice of presentation and terminology will depend on the purposes for which the balance sheet information is required, together with any rules or conventions applying to the entity's external reporting.

See also

External link

Is your balance sheet sound? The Treasurer, 2009