What Is a Balance Sheet?


A balance sheet is a document designed to show the financial position of a business. It lists the assets, liabilities, and equity of the company, and provides a snapshot of what the company owns and owes, as well as the value of its investments in itself. The purpose of a balance sheet is to provide a quick overview of a business and to identify potential financial problems before they become too serious.

Definition of Balance Sheet

A balance sheet is a summary of a business’s financial position at a given time. It displays the resources that the business can use to pay its debts, as well as the liabilities and equity of the company. The assets are listed first and include cash, accounts receivable, inventory, property, and furniture. The liabilities include accounts payable, wages payable, and sales tax payable.

Purpose of Balance Sheet

The purpose of a balance sheet is to provide a snapshot of the financial health of a business. By looking at the balance sheet, one can quickly determine how much the business owes and how much it owns. It also helps investors evaluate the stability and potential growth of a company. This is why it is an important document for assessing a business’s financial position.

Components of Balance Sheet

A balance sheet is a financial document that records a company's assets, liabilities, and equities. It is an important document for determining the financial position of the company. A balance sheet typically has two sides, which include assets, liabilities, and equities.


Assets are the resources owned by a company, which can be either current or long-term in nature. The assets can be tangible or intangible in nature. The current assets are those assets which can be easily converted into cash within one year, such as cash, accounts receivable, and inventory. The long-term assets are those which cannot be converted into cash within one year, such as fixed assets, investments, and intangible assets.


Liabilities are the obligations or debts of a company, which can also be either current or long-term in nature. Current liabilities are those which must be paid off within one year, such as accounts payable, accrued expenses, and taxes. The long-term liabilities are those which must be paid in more than one year, such as mortgages, bonds, and loans.


Equities refer to the shareholder's claim on the assets of the company. It can be categorized into two types, which are owner's equity and corporate equities. The owner's equity represents the amount of owner's investment in the company, such as initial capital. The corporate equity includes the company's retained earnings, which are the profits that are not distributed to the shareholders.

Types of Assets

The Balance Sheet identifies and categorizes a business’s assets into two primary categories: current and fixed. Assets are resources of a business that are owned and can be used to generate future economic benefit. Determining which items should be reported and which should be excluded from the balance sheet is critical for accurately assessing the financial stability of a business.

Current Assets

Current assets, also known as liquid assets, are expected to be consumed, sold, or expired within 12 months. Common current assets include cash, short-term investments, accounts receivables, and inventory. These assets are listed in order of liquidity, meaning the easiest assets to convert to cash are listed first.

Fixed Assets

Fixed assets are long-term assets that are expected to be used for more than a year. These assets are typically used to generate revenue or provide the business with production capabilities and may include land, buildings, equipment, and vehicle. Furthermore, Fixed assets are not likely to be immediately sold and may last and generate revenue for the entire lifespan of the business.

  • Cash
  • Short-term investments
  • Accounts receivables
  • Inventory
  • Land
  • Buildings
  • Equipment
  • Vehicles

Types of Liabilities

Liabilities are amounts that represent debts to be paid by an organization. These can be divided into two categories: Current Liabilities and Long-term Liabilities.

Current Liabilities

Current Liabilities are debts that need to be paid within one year. Examples of Current Liabilities are:

  • Income taxes
  • Interest payments
  • Notes Payable
  • Accounts payable

Long-term Liabilities

Long-term Liabilities are debts that need to be paid over a period of time longer than one year. Examples of Long-term Liabilities are:

  • Capital leases
  • Mortgages
  • Bonds Payable
  • Loans Payable

Components of Equity

The Components of Equity are typically outlined on the balance sheet and represent the total amount of the owners’ equity in the business. The Owners’ Equity is the owners’ stake in the firm and typically comes from either direct investments into the firm by the owners or retained earnings accumulated over time. The Components of Equity include the following:

Subscribed Capital

Subscribed capital is the amount of money that is invested by the owners directly into the company. This could be equity investments or debt investments, and it includes any funds invested as well as any subsequent capital that is issued as a result of the transaction. Subscribed capital also represents any capital that is distributed to the owners through dividends.

Retained Earnings

Retained earnings are profits that the business has earned that has not been distributed to the owners or paid out in dividends. The company can reinvest the profits or use them to complete projects and other business initiatives. Retained earnings are important for business owners as it shows how their investments have grown over time and can be used as a good indicator of the financial health of the company.

Preparing a Balance Sheet

A balance sheet is usually prepared by the business at the beginning of the fiscal period, or when needed. It is also an essential financial statement to understand the financial health and solvency of any business. Preparing an accurate and timely balance sheet would help the business owners and stakeholders to plan for the future.

Guidelines for Formatting

Before preparing a balance sheet, it is important to define the purpose of the balance sheet and the financial period in which it needs to be prepared. The following points should be kept in mind while preparing the balance sheet:

  • The balance sheet should follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).
  • The date at which the balance sheet is being prepared should be given at the top of the balance sheet.
  • All assets and liabilities should be listed according to GAAP-mandated categories.
  • The total amount at the bottom of each section must match.
  • The amounts reported in the balance sheet must be reliable, current and true.

Key Elements

Once all the guidelines for preparing the balance sheet are followed, the core elements or components of a balance sheet should be listed. Businesses typically use a two-column setup called the 'accounting equation”. The two columns are assets and liabilities.

  • Assets are the resources owned by the organization, and they are usually listed in order of liquidation. Assets include cash, non-cash assets such as accounts receivable and inventory and intangible assets such as copyrights and trademarks.
  • Liabilities are the organization’s debt that are due to outside parties, and they are also typically listed in order of liquidation. Liabilities include short term debt such as accounts payable, loans and line-of-credit, and long terms dues such as notes payable and bonds payable.
  • The equity section of the balance sheet includes the shareholder invested capital such as preferred stock and common stock, and retained earnings.


A balance sheet is a financial statement that summarizes a business’s assets and liabilities, as well as its shareholders’ equity. With its presence, businesses can properly manage their resources and improve their financial decision-making. There are several components of a balance sheet, including current assets and non-current assets, current liabilities and non-current liabilities, and owners’ equity.

In addition to recognizing the components of balance sheets, it’s important to understand their benefits. Here are the highlights of balance sheet benefits:

  • Provides useful information for analysis of business operations.
  • Can help businesses detect fraudulent activities and apply preventive measures.
  • Assists in making changes to a business’s financial structure.
  • Allows businesses to make adjustments of balance sheet data.
  • Provides insight into a business's strategies and moves.

Understanding the components of balance sheet and its benefits can enable a business to make the right decisions and carry out its day-to-day operations with ease. With its presence, companies can analyze their financials and understand the whole picture of their financial health.

Expert-built startup financial model templates

1000+ Excel financial model templates for your business plan

Leave a comment

Comments have to be approved before showing up