What is a comparative balance sheet?

Definition of Comparative Balance Sheet

A comparative balance sheet typically has two columns of amounts that appear to the right of the account titles or other descriptions such as Cash and Cash Equivalents, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, etc. The first column of amounts contains the amounts as of a recent moment or point in time, say December 31, 2022. To the right will be a column containing the corresponding amounts from an earlier date, such as December 31, 2021. The older amounts appear further from the account titles or descriptions since the older amounts are less important.

Providing the amounts from an earlier date gives the reader of the balance sheet a point of reference—something to which the recent amounts can be compared.

Example of Comparative Balance Sheet

The balance sheet in any publicly-traded corporation's annual report Form 10-K is a comparative balance sheet. You can find it by doing an internet search for a corporation of your choice, then select Investor Relations, then annual reports.