Whether you're doing your own accounting with accounting software, or you hired an accountant to prepare your financial statements, you've likely seen the balance sheet. The balance sheet, along with the income statement and statement of cash flows provides an overview of a business' financial standing.

Why is the balance sheet important? It's used by business owners and investors to see what the company owns and what it owes, and its primary use is to track earnings and spending. The balance sheet provides a snapshot of the business' financial standing at a specific point in time.

Next, we'll demystify the balance sheet and look at some templates you can use to create your own.

Download Now: Free Business Plan Template

What Is a Balance Sheet?

A balance sheet is one of the key financial statements used for accounting and it's divided into two sides. On the left side, the company's assets are reported. The right side shows the business' liabilities and shareholders' equity.

The line items for each side are listed in order of liquidity, with the more liquid items (e.g., cash and inventory) are listed before accounts that are more illiquid (e.g., plant, property, and equipment).

The balance sheet is a snapshot of the business' financial standing at a single point in time. For example, an accounting period is typically 12 months long. The line items or accounts on the balance sheet would reflect the number of assets and liabilities at the final moment of the accounting period.

Balance Sheet Example

On the balance sheet, you can see how assets, liabilities and shareholders' equity are reported. Here's an example that shows the layout of a balance sheet:

Source: AccountingCoach

On the balance sheet, assets equal liabilities plus shareholders' equity. The balance sheet equation is:

Assets = Liabilities + Shareholders' Equity

Let's break down the elements of the formula.


Assets include both current assets and non-current assets.

  • Current assets: cash and cash equivalents (e.g., short-term government bonds, treasury bills, and money market funds), accounts receivable, and inventory
  • Non-current assets: property, plant, equipment, long-term investments, and intangible assets (e.g., patents and licenses)


Both current and non-current liabilities are included in the liabilities section of the balance sheet.

  • Current liabilities: accounts payable, notes payable due within the year, and current maturities of long-term debt
  • Non-current liabilities: long-term notes payable, deferred tax liabilities, and bonds payable, and long-term debt

Shareholders' Equity

Shareholders' equity, also known as stockholders' equity, includes:

  • Share capital: the amount of money a company receives from its shareholders for business purposes
  • Retained earnings: the amount of a company's profits that aren't distributed to shareholders as dividends -- the funds are reinvested in the business instead

Balance Sheet Analysis

The balance sheet is key to determine a business' liquidity, leverage, and rates of return. When current assets are greater than current liabilities, this means the business can cover its short-term financial obligations and is likely in a good financial position.

The term leverage is used to describe how much of a company's capital comes from debt. But how does the balance sheet impact a business' leverage? One of the leverage ratios, the debt to equity ratio, divides liabilities from shareholder's equity to show how leveraged a company is.

Other calculations, like return on equity and return on assets, can be calculated with the financial information listed in the balance sheet. Both of these formulas tell investors whether or not they will get a return on the money they invest in the company.

Next, we'll take a look at some balance sheet templates you can use to create your own balance sheet and perform a financial analysis.

Balance Sheet Template

Below are a few balance sheet templates you can use to create your own.

1. Toggl

This template download from Toggl can be used in Excel to create your own balance sheet.

2. Quickbooks

Download this Quickbooks balance sheet template for Excel.

3. Corporate Finance Institute

Use this downloadable template from the Corporate Finance Institute to create a balance sheet for your business.

Here's an example of a common size balance sheet:

Source: Accounting Tools

The percentages listed on the common size balance sheet can be used by investors to compare the financial standing of different businesses in the same industry. An analysis can also be performed for a single company by looking at the financial statements from two or more accounting periods. For example, if there's a significant percent decrease in the company's cash, it could be experiencing financial problems, and it might not be wise to invest in the business.

The balance sheet is one of the three financial statements that provides an overview of your business' financial standing. If your business is doing well, investors can look at your balance sheet and see if you have a profitable business they'd like to invest in.

To learn more about accounting, check out this plain-English breakdown of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) next.

Business Plan Template
 New Call-to-action

Originally published Jan 10, 2019 7:30:00 AM, updated September 05 2019