Balance Sheet

The general balance sheet definition is - a financial statement that showcases the net worth of an organisation by listing its assets and liabilities along with shareholder’s equity for a particular period, usually a year. 

The balance sheet is one of the three primary financial statements prepared by a firm, the other two being –

  1. Profit & loss (P&L) account statement - As the name suggests, the profit & loss account statement shows the net profit or loss of a company during a specific period, which can be a year, quarter, month, etc. It is also known as an income statement.

  2. Cash flow statement - The cash flow statement displays the inflow and outflow of cash within an organisation during a specific period.  

What is the Purpose or Importance of Balance Sheet?

  • Shows the financial position of an organisation during a specific time frame. 

  • Growth of a company can be evaluated by comparing the balance sheet of the previous years.

  • Displays what an organisation owns and owes.

  • Potential shareholders and investors can gain insight into an entity’s liquidity position before buying shares or investing.

  • Enables shareholders and investors to check whether the company will be able to pay divined.

  • Provides additional information regarding the short-term financial position of a firm. For example, subtracting the current liabilities from the current assets will show the net working capital, which is the funds required to meet the regular activities (rent, wages, utility bills, etc.) of a company.

  • One of the features of a balance sheet is that it acts as a crucial document when applying for credit with a bank or other types of financial institutions.   

What is the Balance Sheet Format?

Usually, a balance sheet is created by listing the assets on the left side and liabilities and shareholder’s equity on the right. However, it is also prepared vertically, with the liabilities and shareholder’s equity recorded first and then the assets. 

In the case of non-profit organisations, the assets are listed on the right while the liabilities on the left. Additionally, instead of capital, it is a capital fund or general fund. Any surplus or deficit will be added or deducted from this fund before preparing a balance sheet.

Test your skills – Now that you know the format, take a problem from your study material and try to prepare a balance sheet by referring to the structure mentioned below.

What is the Structure of a Balance Sheet?

The balance sheet structure is discussed in details below – 

  1. Assets 

Assets are what an organisation owns. These can be converted into cash in the short-run or long-run. Assets can be of the following two types – 

    1. Fixed or Non-current Assets – As the name suggests, these are assets that are “fixed” or immovable. Examples of fixed or non-current assets include land, machinery, equipment, building, goodwill, trademarks, etc. Assets can be classified based on their existence type (tangible or intangible) and usage (operating or non-operating).

    2. Current Assets – These are assets that can be converted into cash (or cash equivalents) within a short period (usually, a year). Examples of current assets include short-term investments, accounts receivables, cash, etc.

Test your skills – There are several entries under assets other the ones mentioned here. Refer to your book and try to find that ones that will go under this head. 

  1. Liabilities 

Liabilities are what a firm owes. These are debts or obligations that arise during the course of business. Balance sheet liabilities can be classified into the following –

    1. Non-current Liabilities – These are long-term liabilities that are due after one year or even more. Examples of non-current liabilities include mortgage loans, deferred tax liabilities, bonds payable, debentures, pension benefit obligations, etc.

    1. Current Liabilities – These are short-term liabilities that are due within a year. Examples of current liabilities include short-term loans, bank overdraft, bills payable, income tax payable, interest payable, payroll tax payable, etc.

    1. Contingent Liabilities – As the name suggests, these liabilities arise owing to contingencies. An organisation may or may not incur such liabilities, depending on the occurrence of contingent events.Examples of contingent liabilities include product warranties, lawsuits, etc.

Test your skills – Similar to assets, there are also several liabilities no mentioned here. To have a better understanding, try to find all the liabilities from any problems mention in your study material. 

  1. Shareholder’s equity 

One of the crucial elements of a balance sheet is shareholder’s equity, which constitutes common shares, preference shares, and retained earnings. Shareholder’s capital can be calculated by subtracting liabilities from assets. 

The following is a typical balance sheet sample –

XYZ Company

Balance sheet for the year ended 31st December 2019



Current assets:

  • Cash

  • Accounts receivable

  • Prepaid expenses 

  • Short-term investments







Current liabilities:

  • Account payable

  • Electricity bill

  • Rent

  • Taxes payable







Long-term investments


Long-term liabilities 




Total liabilities


Plant & machinery


Shareholder’s equity

Deferred income tax

Equity capital


Retained earnings 


Total shareholder’s equity


Total assets


Total liabilities and shareholder’s equity


Test your skills – Prepare a balance sheet in your notebook by referring to any problem in your accountancy book now that you know its format and structure. 

Schedule III of the Companies Act, 2013

The amendments made to Schedule III of the Companies Act, 2013 laid down the format for preparation of profit & loss account and balance sheet with which all companies have to comply. 

A typical example of the new structure is mentioned below –

Equity and liabilities:

  1. Shareholder’s Funds

    1. Money received against shares

    2. Reserves and surplus

    3. Share capital 

  2. Share Application Money After Allotment

  3. Non-current Liabilities

    1. Long-term provisions

    2. Long-term borrowings

    3. Deferred tax liabilities

  4. Current Liabilities

    1. Short-term borrowings

    2. Short-term provisions


  1. Non-current assets 

    1. Fixed assets

    2. Other non-current assets

    3. Intangible assets 

    4. Tangible assets 

  2. Current assets 

    1. Short-term loans

    2. Inventory

    3. Current investments 

    4. Trade receivables

    5.  Other current assets 

Limitations of a Balance Sheet 

  • One of the primary limitations of a balance sheet is that it only accounts for assets that are acquired. Assets that cannot be expressed in monetary terms are excluded from the balance sheet.

  • A balance sheet does not show the actual market value of a company’s assets, which might hinder proper financial assessment. 

  • Sometimes current assets are expressed in the balance sheet based on estimation. This discrepancy might distort liquidity projections of a company.

The above includes balance sheet definition and everything that you need to know about this financial statement. Make sure to keep checking out Vedantu’s website for more of these articles and blogs.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What is a Balance Sheet?

The general balance sheet definition describes it as a financial statement of a company that lists its assets and liabilities against their monetary value for a particular period, especially at the end of a year.

2. What does a Balance Sheet Contain?

A balance sheet contains the assets, liabilities, and shareholder’s equity of a company.

3. What is the General format of the Balance Sheet?

In a balance sheet, assets are listed on the left and liabilities and shareholder’s equity on the right. However, as per the balance sheet format prescribed under the Companies Act 2013, it is vertical with the liabilities and shareholder’s equity recorded first and then the assets.