When does a negative cash balance appear on the balance sheet?

Definition of Negative Cash Balance

A negative cash balance results when the cash account in a company's general ledger has a credit balance. The credit or negative balance in the checking account is usually caused by a company writing checks for more than it has in its checking account.

Example of Reporting Negative Cash on the Balance Sheet

When a company prepares its balance sheet, a negative balance in the cash account should be reported as a current liability which it might describe as checks written in excess of cash balance. The logic is that the company likely issued the checks to reduce its accounts payable. Since the issued checks will not be paid by the company's bank, the company still has the liability.

A negative cash balance in the general ledger does not mean that the company's bank account is overdrawn. Let's assume that a company writes checks for $100,000 and mails them at the end of the day to suppliers in another state. Those checks might not clear the company's bank account until three or four days later. Therefore, it is possible that the company's Cash account shows a negative $40,000 but at the bank the company's checking account balance could have a positive balance of $60,000. If the company deposits at least $40,000 tomorrow morning, the bank balance will be large enough for the bank to pay the $100,000 of checks it had written.

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