What is a Profit and Loss Statement (P&L)?
The profit and loss (P&L) statement is a financial statement that summarizes the revenues, costs and expenses incurred during a specified period, usually a fiscal quarter or year. The P&L statement is synonymous with the income statement. These records provide information about a company's ability or inability to generate profit by increasing revenue, reducing costs or both. Some refer to the P&L statement as a statement of profit and loss, income statement, statement of operations, statement of financial results or income, earnings statement or expense statement.
What's a P&L Statement?
Breaking Down a Profit and Loss Statement (P&L)
The P&L statement is one of three financial statements every public company issues quarterly and annually, along with the balance sheet and the cash flow statement. The income statement, like the cash flow statement, shows changes in accounts over a set period. The balance sheet, on the other hand, is a snapshot, showing what the company owns and owes at a single moment. It is important to compare the income statement with the cash flow statement since under the accrual method of accounting, a company can log revenues and expenses before cash changes hands.
The income statement follows a general form as seen in the example below. It begins with an entry for revenue, known as the top line, and subtracts the costs of doing business, including the cost of goods sold, operating expenses, tax expenses and interest expenses. The difference, known as the bottom line, is net income, also referred to as profit or earnings. You can find many templates for creating a personal or business P&L statement online for free.
It is important to compare income statements from different accounting periods, as the changes in revenues, operating costs, research and development spending and net earnings over time are more meaningful than the numbers themselves. For example, a company's revenues may grow, but its expenses might grow at a faster rate.
Profit and Loss Statement (P&L) Example
Below is Caterpillar Inc's income or P&L statement for 2013 and 2014 (all figures in USD millions except per-share data):
One can use the income statement to calculate several metrics, including the gross profit margin, the operating profit margin, the net profit margin and the operating ratio. Together with the balance sheet and cash flow statement, the income statement provides an in-depth look at a company's financial performance and position.