Balance Sheet

Assets = Liabilities + Equity

What is the balance sheet?

The balance sheet is one of the three fundamental financial statements. These statements are key to both financial modeling and accounting. The balance sheet displays the company’s total assets, and how these assets are financed, through either debt or equity. The balance sheet is also related to the fundamental equation:

Assets = Liabilities + Equity

As such, the balance sheet is divided into two sides. The left side of the balance sheet outlines all a company’s assets. On the right side, the balance sheet outlines the companies liabilities and equities. On either side, the main line items are generally classed by liquidity. More liquid accounts like Inventory, Cash and Trades Payables are placed before illiquid accounts such as Plant, Property and Equipment and Long Term Debt. The asset and liabilities are also separated by current asset/liabilities and long-term assets/liabilities.


Example balance sheet

Below is an example of Amazon’s 2016 balance sheet.  As you will see, it starts with current assets, the non-current and total assets.  Below that is Liabilities and stockholders’ equity which includes current liabilities, non-current liabilities, and finally shareholders’ equity.


Amazon's balance sheet


View Amazon’s investor relations website to view the full balance sheet and annual report.


How is the balance sheet used in financial modeling?

This statement is a great way to analyze a company’s financial position. An analyst can generally use the balance sheet to calculate a lot of financial ratios that can determine how well a company is performing, how liquid or solvent a company is, and how efficient it is.

Changes in balance sheet accounts are also used to calculate cash flow in the cash flow statement. For example, a positive change in plant, property, and equipment is equal to capital expenditure minus depreciation expense. If depreciation expense is known, capital expenditure can be calculated to include as a cash outflow under cash flow from investing in the cash flow statement.


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How to set up the balance sheet?

Balance sheets, like all financial statements, will have minor differences between organizations. However, there are several “buckets” and line items that are almost always included in common balance sheets. We briefly go through commonly found line items under Current Assets, Long-Term Assets, Current Liabilities, Long-Term Liabilities and Equity.


balance sheet example


Current Assets

Cash and Equivalents

The most liquid of all assets, cash appears on the first line of the balance sheet. Cash Equivalents are also lumped under this line item, and include assets that have short term maturities under three months or assets that the company can liquidate on short notice, such as marketable securities. Companies will generally disclose what equivalents it includes in the footnotes to the balance sheet.

Accounts Receivables

This account includes the balance of all sales revenue still on credit, net of any allowances for doubtful accounts (which generates a bad debt expense). As companies recover accounts receivables, this account decreases and cash increases by the same amount.


Inventory includes amounts for raw materials, work-in-progress goods and finished goods. The company uses this account when it makes sales of goods, generally under cost of goods sold in the income statement.


Long-Term Assets

Plant, Property and Equipment

Also known as PP&E, Plant, Property and Equipment captures the companies tangible fixed assets. This line item is noted net of depreciation. Some companies will class out their PP&E by the different types of assets, such as Land, Building, and various types of Equipment. All PP&E is depreciable except for Land.

Intangible Assets

This line item will include all of the companies intangible fixed assets, which may or may not be identifiable. Identifiable intangible assets include patents, licenses and secret formulas. Unidentifiable intangible assets include brand and goodwill.


Current Liabilities

Accounts Payables

Accounts Payables, or AP, is the amount a company owes suppliers for items or services purchased on credit. As the company pays off their AP, it decreases along with an equal amount decrease to the cash account.

Current Debt/Notes Payable

Includes non-AP obligations that are due within one year time or within one operating cycle for the company (whichever is longest). Notes payable may also have a long-term version, which includes notes with a maturity of more than one year.

Current Portion of Long-Term Debt

This account may or may not be lumped together with the above account, Current Debt. While they may seem similar, the current portion of long-term debt is specifically the portion due within this year of a piece of debt that has a maturity of more than one year. For example, if a company takes on a bank loan to be paid off in 5-years, this account will include the portion of that loan due in the next year.



Bonds Payable

This account includes the amortized amount of any bonds the company has issued.

Long-Term Debt

This account includes the total amount of long-term debt (Excluding the current portion, if that account is present under current liabilities). This account is derived from the debt schedule, which outlines all the companies outstanding debt, the interest expense and the principal repayment for every period.



Share Capital

This is the amount of funds a shareholder has invested in the company. When a company is born, shareholder’s will generally put in cash. For example, an investor starts a company and seeds it with $10M. Cash (an asset) rises by $10M, and Share Capital (an equity account) rises by $10M, balancing out the balance sheet.

Retained Earnings

This is the total amount of net income the company decides to keep. Every period, a company may pay out dividends from its net income. Any amount remaining (or exceeding) is added to (deducted from) retained earnings.


Learn more about the financial statements!