The balance sheet provides information about the nature and amounts of investments in enterprise resources, obligations to enterprise creditors, and the owners’ equity in net enterprise resources. That information not only complements information about the components of income, but also contributes to financial reporting by providing a basis for (1) computing rates of return, (2) evaluating the capital structure of the enterprise, and (3) assessing the liquidity and financial flexibility of the enterprise.
Solvency refers to the ability of an enterprise to pay its debts as they mature. For example, when a company carries a high level of long-term debt relative to assets, it has lower solvency. Information on long-term obligations, such as long-term debt and notes payable, in comparison to total assets can be used to assess resources that will be needed to meet these fixed obligations (such as interest and principal payments).
Financial flexibility is the ability of an enterprise to take effective actions to alter the amounts and timing of cash flows so it can respond to unexpected needs and opportunities. An enterprise with a high degree of financial flexibility is better able to survive bad times, to recover from unexpected setbacks, and to take advantage of profitable and unexpected investment opportunities. Generally, the greater the financial flexibility, the lower the risk of enterprise failure.
Some situations in which estimates affect amounts reported in the balance sheet include:
allowance for doubtful accounts.
depreciable lives and estimated salvage values for plant and equipment.
determining the amount of revenues that should be recorded as unearned.
An increase in inventories increases current assets, which is in the numerator of the current ratio. Therefore, inventory increases will increase the current ratio. In general, an increase in the current ratio indicates a company has better liquidity, since there are more current assets relative to current liabilities.
Liquidity describes the amount of time that is expected to elapse until an asset is converted into cash or until a liability has to be paid. The ranking of the assets given in order of liquidity is:
(1) (d) Short-term investments.
(2) (e) Accounts receivable.
(3) (b) Inventory.
(4) (c) Buildings.
(5) (a) Goodwill.
The major limitations of the balance sheet are:
The values stated are generally historical and not at fair value.
Estimates have to be used in many instances, such as in the determination of collectibility of receivables or finding the approximate useful life of long-term tangible and intangible assets.
Many items, even though they have financial value to the business, presently are not recorded. One example is the value of a company’s human resources.
Some items of value to technology companies such as Intel or IBM are the value of research and development (new products that are being developed but which are not yet marketable), the value of the “intellectual capital” of its workforce (the ability of the companies’ employees to come up with new ideas and products in the fast changing technology industry), and the value of the company reputation or name brand (e.g., the “Intel Inside” logo). In most cases, the reasons why the value of these items are not recorded in the balance sheet concern the lack of faithful representation of the estimates of the future cash flows that will be generated by these “assets” (for all three types) and the ability to control the use of the asset (in the case of employees). Being able to reliably measure the expected future benefits and to control the use of an item are essential elements of the definition of an asset, according to the Conceptual Framework.
Classification in financial statements helps users by grouping items...
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