Generally, retained earnings is a corporation's cumulative earnings since the corporation was formed minus the dividends it has declared since it began. In other words, retained earnings represents the corporation's cumulative earnings that have not been distributed to its stockholders.

The amount of retained earnings as of a balance sheet's date is reported as a separate line item in the  stockholders' equity section of the balance sheet.

A negative amount of retained earnings is reported as deficit or accumulated deficit.

Gain unlimited access to our bookkeeping seminar videos, bookkeeping proficiency exams (and answers), bookkeeping cheat sheet, visual tutorials, and more—all designed to help you master valuable bookkeeping skills. Learn more about AccountingCoach PRO.