The Short and the Long of It

The balance sheet is one of the main financial reports for any business. Among other things, it shows what a company owns, what they owe, and how much they and others have invested in the business. One of the characteristics of a balance sheet is how it separates what you own and what you owe into two categories based on time frame.

Current and Long-Term
You may have seen the Assets section of your balance sheet divided into two sections: Current Assets and Long-Term Assets.

Current Assets
Current Assets include all of the items the business owns that are liquid and can easily be converted to cash within a year’s time. The most common types of current assets include the balances in the checking and savings accounts, accounts receivables, and inventory for sale.

Long-Term Assets
The remaining assets are long-term, or assets that cannot easily be converted to cash within a year. Property, Plant, and Equipment, also termed Fixed Assets, includes buildings, automobiles, and machinery that the business owns. You should also see an account called Accumulated Depreciation; it reflects the fact that fixed assets lose their value over time and adjusts the balance accordingly.

Intangible assets are assets that have value but no physical presence. The most common intangible assets are trademarks, patents, and Goodwill. Goodwill arises out of a company purchase. Investments that are not easily liquidated will also be listed under Long-Term Assets.

Similarly, liabilities are broken out into the two categories, current and long-term.

Current Liabilities
Current liabilities are made up of credit card balances, unpaid invoices due to vendors (also called accounts payable), and any unpaid wages and payroll taxes. If you have borrowed money from a bank, the loan can show up in two places. The amount due within one year will show up in current liabilities and the amount due after one year will show up in long-term liabilities.

Long-Term Liabilities
The most common types of long-term liabilities are notes payable that are due after one year, lease obligations, mortgages, and pension obligations.

Why All the Fuss Over Current vs. Long Term?
Bankers and investors want to know how liquid a company is. Comparing current assets to current liabilities is a good indicator of that. Some small businesses have loan covenants requiring that they maintain a certain current ratio or their loan will be called. The current ratio of your business is equal to current assets divided by current liabilities.

Next time you receive a balance sheet from your accountant, check out your current and long-term sections so that you’ll have a better understanding of this report.

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