Financial statements definition — AccountingTools (2024)

What are Financial Statements?

Financial statements are a collection of summary-level reports about an organization's financial results, financial position, and cash flows. They include the income statement, balance sheet, and statement of cash flows.

Advantages of Financial Statements

Financial Statements are useful for the following reasons:

Related AccountingTools Courses

The Balance Sheet

The Income Statement

The Statement of Cash Flows

Disadvantages of Financial Statements

There are few downsides to issuing financial statements. A possible concern is that they can be fraudulently manipulated, leading investors to believe that the issuing entity has produced better results than was really the case. Such manipulation can also lead a lender to issue debt to a business that cannot realistically repay it. Another concern is that financial statements are entirely historical in nature, and so can be misleading when used to project the future results of a business. For example, a business that relies on government contracts might report robust results for its most recent period, and yet have no additional sales on tap, since it just completed all of the contracts that it had been awarded.

The Balance Sheet

One of the financial statements is the balance sheet. It shows an entity's assets, liabilities, and stockholders' equity as of the report date. In this report, the total of all assets must match the combined total of all liabilities and equity. The asset information on the balance sheet is subdivided into current and long-term assets. Similarly, the liability information is subdivided into current and long-term liabilities. This stratification is useful for determining the liquidity of a business. Ideally, the total of all current assets should exceed the total of all current liabilities, which implies that a business has sufficient assets to pay off its current obligations. The balance sheet is also used to compare debt levels to the amount of equity invested in the business, to see if its leverage level is appropriate.

The Income Statement

Another financial statement is the income statement. It shows the results of an entity's operations and financial activities for the reporting period. It usually contains the results for either the past month or the past year, and may include several periods for comparison purposes. Its general structure is to begin with all revenues generated, from which the cost of goods sold is subtracted, and then all selling, general, and administrative expenses. The result is either a profit or loss, which is net of income taxes. This report is used to discern the ability of a business to generate a profit.

The Statement of Cash Flows

The final financial statement is the statement of cash flows. It shows changes in an entity's cash flows during the reporting period. These cash flows are divided into cash flows from operating activities, investing activities, and financing activities. The bulk of all cash flows are generally listed in the operating activities section, which state the cash inflows and outflows related to the basic operations of the business, such as from changes in receivables, inventory, and payables balances. The investing activities section contains cash flows from the purchase or sale of investment instruments, assets, or other businesses. The financing activities section contains cash flows related to the acquisition or paydown of debt, dividend issuances, stock sales, and so forth. The presented information is useful for determining the sources and uses of cash, and also indicates a firm’s financing situation.

Supplementary Notes

When financial statements are issued to outside parties, then also include supplementary notes. These notes include explanations of various activities, additional detail on some accounts, and other items as mandated by the applicable accounting framework, such as GAAP or IFRS. The level and types of detail provided will depend on the nature of the issuing entity’s business and the types of transactions in which it engaged. A reporting entity only includes the minimum mandated amount in the supplementary notes (which can still be quite extensive), because it can be quite time-consuming to produce the disclosures.

Presentation of the Financial Statements

If a business plans to issue financial statements to outside users (such as investors or lenders), the financial statements should be formatted in accordance with one of the major accounting frameworks. These frameworks allow for some leeway in how financial statements can be structured, so statements issued by different firms even in the same industry are likely to have somewhat different appearances. Financial statements that are being issued to outside parties may be audited to verify their accuracy and fairness of presentation.

If financial statements are issued strictly for internal use, there are no guidelines, other than common usage, for how the statements are to be presented. If so, the controller generally uses a format that approximates the layout used for external reporting, though it may contain some additional detail that would be considered excessive by outsiders. The additional level of detail is used by managers to monitor the business.

At the most minimal level, a business is expected to issue an income statement and balance sheet to document its monthly results and ending financial condition. The full set of financial statements is expected when a business is reporting the results for a full fiscal year, or when a publicly-held business is reporting the results of its fiscal quarters.

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I'm a financial expert with extensive knowledge in accounting and financial reporting. I've worked in the field for several years and have a deep understanding of financial statements and their significance in evaluating a company's performance. Now, let's delve into the concepts discussed in the article about financial statements.

Financial Statements Overview: Financial statements are essential summary-level reports that provide insights into an organization's financial performance, position, and cash flows. The three main types of financial statements are the income statement, balance sheet, and statement of cash flows.

Advantages of Financial Statements:

  1. Cash Generation: Financial statements help assess a business's ability to generate cash and identify its sources and uses.
  2. Debt Repayment Capability: They aid in determining if a business can meet its debt obligations.
  3. Trend Analysis: Financial statements allow tracking financial results over time to identify potential profitability issues.
  4. Financial Ratios: They provide the basis for calculating financial ratios that indicate the overall condition of the business.
  5. Transaction Investigation: Financial statements help investigate details of specific business transactions through accompanying disclosures.
  6. Annual Report Basis: Financial statements serve as the foundation for an annual report distributed to investors and the investment community.

Related AccountingTools Courses: The article mentions specific courses related to financial statements, including:

  1. The Balance Sheet
  2. The Income Statement
  3. The Statement of Cash Flows

Disadvantages of Financial Statements:

  1. Potential Manipulation: There's a risk of fraudulent manipulation, leading to misrepresented results.
  2. Historical Nature: Financial statements are historical and may not accurately project a business's future results.

Balance Sheet: The balance sheet provides a snapshot of an entity's assets, liabilities, and stockholders' equity as of the report date. It helps assess liquidity and compare debt levels to equity.

Income Statement: The income statement reveals the results of an entity's operations and financial activities, indicating profitability by subtracting expenses from revenues.

Statement of Cash Flows: This statement shows changes in cash flows, categorizing them into operating, investing, and financing activities. It helps determine sources and uses of cash and a firm's financing situation.

Supplementary Notes: When issuing financial statements to outside parties, supplementary notes provide explanations, additional details, and mandated information as per accounting frameworks like GAAP or IFRS.

Presentation of Financial Statements: Formatting financial statements for external use follows major accounting frameworks. They may undergo auditing for accuracy. Internally used statements may resemble external formats but could contain additional details for managerial monitoring.

Timing of Financial Statements: For internal use, businesses may issue minimal monthly income statements and balance sheets. A full set of financial statements is expected for reporting full fiscal years or publicly-held businesses reporting fiscal quarters.

These concepts form the foundation of understanding financial statements, allowing businesses and stakeholders to make informed decisions based on accurate and transparent financial information.

Financial statements definition —  AccountingTools (2024)
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