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Accounting Basics: What Is a Balance Sheet?

A balance sheet is one of the most important financial statements used by companies to assess their financial health. It is a snapshot of a company's financial position at a specific point in time and provides a summary of its assets, liabilities, and equity.

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Assets are the resources owned by a company that can generate future economic benefits. These include cash, investments, property, equipment, and inventory. Assets are typically categorized as current assets or non-current assets. Current assets are those that can be converted into cash within one year or less, while non-current assets are those that are expected to provide economic benefits for more than one year.


Liabilities, on the other hand, represent the company's obligations or debts that it owes to others. These include loans, accounts payable, and taxes payable. Liabilities are also categorized as current or non-current. Current liabilities are those that are due within one year or less, while non-current liabilities are those that are due beyond one year.


Equity is the residual interest in the assets of a company after deducting its liabilities. It represents the value of the company that is attributable to its owners. Equity can be divided into two categories: contributed capital and retained earnings. Contributed capital is the amount of capital that has been contributed by the owners of the company, while retained earnings are the profits that have been earned by the company and retained for future use.

balance sheet for small business
Sample Balance Sheet

The balance sheet follows the fundamental accounting equation, which states that assets must always equal liabilities plus equity. This means that the total assets of a company must always be equal to the sum of its liabilities and equity. If the company has more assets than liabilities and equity, it is said to have a positive net worth or a surplus. Conversely, if the company has more liabilities and equity than assets, it is said to have a negative net worth or a deficit.

The balance sheet is a valuable tool for investors, creditors, and other stakeholders to evaluate a company's financial health. By analyzing the composition of a company's assets, liabilities, and equity, stakeholders can assess the company's ability to meet its obligations and generate future profits. The balance sheet also helps to identify potential risks and opportunities for growth.

In conclusion, the balance sheet is a critical financial statement that provides a snapshot of a company's financial position at a specific point in time. It summarizes the company's assets, liabilities, and equity and follows the fundamental accounting equation of assets equaling liabilities plus equity. The balance sheet is an essential tool for evaluating a company's financial health and identifying potential risks and opportunities for growth.

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