Balance Sheet - Liabilities and Stockholders' Equity

(B) Liabilities

The balance sheet reports Direct Delivery's liabilities as of the date noted in the heading of the balance sheet. Liabilities are obligations of the company; they are amounts owed to others as of the balance sheet date. Marilyn gives Joe some examples of liabilities: the loan he received from his aunt (Notes Payable or Loan Payable), the interest on the loan he owes to his aunt (Interest Payable), the amount he owes to the supply store for items purchased on credit (Accounts Payable), the wages he owes an employee but hasn't yet paid to him (Wages Payable).

Another liability is money received in advance of actually earning the money. For example, suppose that Direct Delivery enters into an agreement with one of its customers stipulating that the customer prepays $600 in return for the delivery of 30 parcels every month for 6 months. Assume Direct Delivery receives that $600 payment on December 1 for deliveries to be made between December 1 and May 31. Direct Delivery has a cash receipt of $600 on December 1, but it does not have revenues of $600 at this point. It will have revenues only when it earns them by delivering the parcels. On December 1, Direct Delivery will show that its asset Cash increased by $600, but it will also have to show that it has a liability of $600. (It has the liability to deliver $600 of parcels within 6 months, or return the money.)

The liability account involved in the $600 received on December 1 is Unearned Revenue. Each month, as the 30 parcels are delivered, Direct Delivery will be earning $100, and as a result, each month $100 moves from the account Unearned Revenue to Service Revenues. Each month Direct Delivery's liability decreases by $100 as it fulfills the agreement by delivering parcels and each month its revenues on the income statement increase by $100.

(C) Stockholders' Equity

If the company is a corporation, the third section of a corporation's balance sheet is Stockholders' Equity. (If the company is a sole proprietorship, it is referred to as Owner's Equity.) The amount of Stockholders' Equity is exactly the difference between the asset amounts and the liability amounts. As a result accountants often refer to Stockholders' Equity as the difference (or residual) of assets minus liabilities. Stockholders' Equity is also the "book value" of the corporation.

Since the corporation's assets are shown at cost or lower (and not at their market values) it is important that you do not associate the reported amount of Stockholders' Equity with the market value of the corporation. (Hence, it is a poor choice of words to refer to Stockholders' Equity as the corporation's "net worth".) To find the market value of a corporation, you should obtain the services of a professional familiar with valuing businesses.

Within the Stockholders' Equity section you may see accounts such as Common Stock, Paid-in Capital in Excess of Par Value-Common Stock, Preferred Stock, Retained Earnings, and Current Year's Net Income.

The account Common Stock will be increased when the corporation issues shares of stock in exchange for cash (or some other asset). Another account Retained Earnings will increase when the corporation earns a profit. There will be a decrease when the corporation has a net loss. This means that revenues will automatically cause an increase in Stockholders' Equity and expenses will automatically cause a decrease in Stockholders' Equity. This illustrates a link between a company's balance sheet and income statement.

Note: To learn more about the balance sheet, visit: Explanation of Balance Sheet Quiz for Balance Sheet