Financial Statements - Balance Sheet Components - Assets

Total Assets
Total assets on the balance sheet are composed of:

1. Current Assets - These are assets that may be converted into cash, sold or consumed within a year or less. These usually include:

  • Cash - This is what the company has in cash in the bank. Cash is reported at its market value at the reporting date in the respective currency in which the financials are prepared. (Different cash denominations are converted at the market conversion rate.
  • Marketable securities (short-term investments) - These can be both equity and/or debt securities for which a ready market exist. Furthermore, management expects to sell these investments within one year's time. These short-term investments are reported at their market value.
  • Accounts receivable - This represents the money that is owed to the company for the goods and services it has provided to customers on credit. Every business has customers that will not pay for the products or services the company has provided. Management must estimate which customers are unlikely to pay and create an account called allowance for doubtful accounts.Variations in this account will impact the reported sales on the income statement. Accounts receivable reported on the balance sheet are net of their realizable value (reduced byallowance for doubtful accounts).
  • Notes receivable - This account is similar in nature to accounts receivable but it is supported by more formal agreements such as a "promissory notes" (usually a short term-loan that carries interest). Furthermore, the maturity of notes receivable is generally longer than accounts receivable but less than a year. Notes receivable is reported at its net realizable value (what will be collected).
  • Inventory - This represents raw materials and items that are available for sale or are in the process of being made ready for sale. These items can be valued individually by several different means - at cost or current market value - and collectively by FIFO (first in, first out), LIFO (last in, first out) or average-cost method. Inventory is valued at the lower of the cost or market price to preclude overstating earnings and assets.
  • Prepaid expenses - These are payments that have been made for services that the company expects to receive in the near future. Typical prepaid expenses include rent, insurance premiums and taxes. These expenses are valued at their original cost (historical cost).

2. Long-term assets - These are assets that may not be converted into cash, sold or consumed within a year or less. The heading "Long-Term Assets" is usually not displayed on a company's consolidated balance sheet. However, all items that are not included in current assets are long-term Assets. These are:

  • Investments - These are investments that management does not expect to sell within the year. These investments can include bonds, common stock, long-term notes, investments in tangible fixed assets not currently used in operations (such as land held for speculation) and investments set aside in special funds, such as sinking funds, pension funds and plan-expansion funds. These long-term investments are reported at their historical cost or market value on the balance sheet.
  • Fixed assets - These are durable physical properties used in operations that have a useful life longer than one year. This includes:
    • Machinery and equipment - This category represents the total machinery, equipment and furniture used in the company's operations. These assets are reported at their historical cost less accumulated depreciation.
    • Buildings (plants) - These are buildings that the company uses for its operations. These assets are depreciated and are reported at historical cost less accumulated depreciation.
    • Land - The land owned by the company on which the company's buildings or plants are sitting on. Land is valued at historical cost and is not depreciable under U.S. GAAP
  • Other assets - This is a special classification for unusual items that cannot be included in one of the other asset categories. Examples include deferred charges (long-term prepaid expenses), non-current receivables and advances to subsidiaries.
  • Intangible assets - These are assets that lack physical substance but provide economic rights and advantages: patents, franchises, copyrights, goodwill, trademarks and organization costs. These assets have a high degree of uncertainty in regard to whether future benefits will be realized. They are reported at historical cost net of accumulated depreciation.

The value of an identifiable intangible asset is based on the rights or privileges conveyed to its owner over a finite period, and its value is amortized over its useful life. Identifiable intangible assets include patents, trademarks and copyrights. Intangible assets that are purchased are reported on the balance sheet at historical cost less accumulated amortization.

An unidentifiable intangible asset cannot be purchased separately and may have an infinite life. Intangible assets with infinite lives are not amortized, and are tested for impairment annually, at least. Goodwill is an example of an unidentifiable intangible asset. Goodwill is recorded when one company acquires another at an amount that exceeds the fair market value of its net identifiable assets. It represents the premium paid for the target company's reputation, brand names, customers, suppliers, human capital, etc. When computing financial ratios, goodwill and the offsetting impairment charges are usually removed from the balance sheet.

Certain intangible assets that are created internally such as research and development costs are expensed as incurred under U.S. GAAP. Under IFRS, a firm must identify if the R&D cost is in the research and development stage. Costs are expensed in the research stage and capitalized during the development stage.

Look Out!

These assets are listed in order of their liquidity and tangibility. Intangible assets are listed last since they have high uncertainty and liquidity.

Balance Sheet Components - Liabilities
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