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What is a 'Common Size Financial Statement'

A common size financial statement displays all items as percentages of a common base figure rather than as absolute numerical figures. This type of financial statement allows for easy analysis between companies or between time periods for the same company. The values on the common size statement are expressed as ratios or percentages of a statement component, such as revenue.

While most firms don't report their statements in common size format, it is beneficial for analysts to compute it to compare two or more companies of differing size or different sectors of the economy. Formatting financial statements in this way reduces bias that can occur and allows for the analysis of a company over various time periods, revealing, for example, what percentage of sales is the cost of goods sold and how that value has changed over time. Common size financial statements commonly include the income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement.

BREAKING DOWN 'Common Size Financial Statement'

Common Size Income Statement

The income statement, also referred to as the profit and loss (P&L) statement, provides an overview of flows of sales, expenses and net income during the reporting period. The income statement equation is sales minus expenses and adjustments equals net income. This is why the common size income statement defines all items as a percentage of sales. The term "common size" is most often used when analyzing elements of the income statement, but the balance sheet and the cash flow statement can also be expressed as a common size statement.

For example, if a company has a simple of income statement with gross sales = $100,000, cost of goods sold = $50,000, taxes = $1,000 and net income = $49,000, the common size statement would read:

Sales 1.00
Cost of good sold 0.50
Taxes 0.01
Net Income 0.49

Common Size Balance Sheet Statement

The balance sheet provides a snapshot overview of the firm's assets, liabilities and shareholders' equity for the reporting period. A common size balance sheet is set up with the same logic as the common size income statement. The balance sheet equation is assets equals liabilities plus stockholders' equity. As a result, analysts define the balance sheet as a percentage of assets. Another version of the common size balance sheet shows asset line items as a percentage of total assets, liabilities as a percentage of total liabilities and stockholders' equity as a percentage of total stockholders' equity.

Common Size Cash Flow Statement

The cash flow statement provides an overview of the firm's sources and uses of cash. The cash flow statement is divided among cash flows from operations, cash flows from investing and cash flows from financing. Each section provides additional information about the sources and uses of cash in each business activity. One version of the common size cash flow statement expresses all line items as a percentage of total cash flow. The more popular version expresses cash flow in terms of total operational cash flow for items in cash flows from operations, total investing cash flows for cash flows from investing activities, and total financing cash flows for cash flows from financing activities.

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