Parentheses around numbers could have a variety of meanings. Here are a few that come to mind.
- An amount in parentheses could indicate a negative amount, such as a negative balance in your check register.
- Sometimes an amount in parentheses signifies a credit balance in an account normally having a debit balance, or even a debit balance in an account that normally has a credit balance.
- Some accountants use the parentheses to simply indicate credit entries. Amounts without parentheses are debit entries.
- In standard costing, the variances that are unfavorable are often shown in parentheses. Favorable variances are presented as amounts without parentheses.
- In comparisons of actual expenses to budgeted expenses, the amount overspent is often shown in parentheses. Amounts that are underspent appear without parentheses. Similar to variances in standard costing, the parentheses represents unfavorable amounts.
- Sometimes parentheses are used to indicate that the amount is to be subtracted.
- The bottom line of a comparative income statement (an income statement that reports several years) might read Net Income (Loss). In this case an amount in parentheses indicates a net loss—meaning that expenses exceeded revenues. The amounts on this line that are not in parentheses indicate a positive net income—meaning that revenues exceeded expenses.
I am certain there are other uses of parentheses as well.