Accounting Equation

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DEFINITION of 'Accounting Equation'

The equation that is the foundation of double entry accounting. The accounting equation displays that all assets are either financed by borrowing money or paying with the money of the company's shareholders. Thus, the accounting equation is: Assets = Liabilities + Shareholder Equity. The balance sheet is a complex display of this equation, showing that the total assets of a company are equal to the total of liabilities and shareholder equity. Any purchase or sale by an accounting equity has an equal effect on both sides of the equation, or offsetting effects on the same side of the equation. The accounting equation is also written as Liabilities = Assets – Shareholder Equity and Shareholder Equity = Assets – Liabilities.

BREAKING DOWN 'Accounting Equation'

The basic equation shows that a company can fund the purchase of an asset with assets (a $50 purchase of equipment using $50 of cash) or fund it with liabilities or shareholder equity (a $50 purchase of equipment by borrowing $50 or using $50 of retained earnings). In the same vein, liabilities can be paid down with assets, like cash, or by taking on more liabilities, like debt.

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