What are external financial statements?

The external financial statements of a U.S. corporation should consist of a complete set of the following:

These financial statements become "external" when they are distributed to people and organizations not involved in the corporation's operations. Some examples of external users are current investors and lenders, potential investors and lenders, financial analysts, certain government agencies, credit rating organizations, certain customers and suppliers, and others.

Since the external financial statements are likely to be compared to those of other corporations (and to previously issued financial statements), it is imperative that standardized rules be followed. In the U.S. these common rules are known as generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), which are established by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).