Four Types of Financial Statements (2024)

Delving into the world of corporate finance, this article offers an in-depth look at the four fundamental financial statements that form the backbone of a company's financial reporting:

  1. Income statement
  2. Balance sheet
  3. Cash flow statement
  4. Statement of retained earnings

You’ll learn how the balance sheet captures a company’s financial position at a specific point in time, while the income statement reveals profitability over a specific time period. You’ll come to understand how the cash flow statement tracks the movement of cash and why the statement of retained earnings is crucial for investors. This guide not only covers the core concepts but also adapts to the varying financial reporting frameworks like GAAP and IFRS, making it an essential read for those pursuing financial clarity in the global business landscape.

Essentials of Financial Reporting

Financial statements are documents that convey a company’s business activities and financial performance. As the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) succinctly put it, “They show you where a company’s money came from, where it went, and where it is now.”1

The line items in a financial statement will vary from one corporation to the next, but the most common among them are revenues, costs of goods sold, taxes, cash, marketable securities, inventory, short-term debt, long-term debt, accounts receivable, accounts payable, and cash flows from investing, operating, and financing activities.

It’s not unusual for government agencies or accounting firms to audit an organization’s financial statements for tax, financing, or investing purposes, as well as to confirm and ensure overall accuracy and regulatory compliance.

In asking, “What are the different types of financial statements?” it’s important to remember that financial statements vary not only between companies but between countries. While companies in the United States adhere to rules known as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, international companies often go by the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).2

William & Mary’s Online Master of Accounting (MAcc) program includes a course in Financial Statement Analysis and Valuation. Students learn careful analysis of these essential documents, “with an emphasis on risk management activities and transactions impacting owner’s equity.”3

For-profit businesses use four primary types of financial statement: the balance sheet, the income statement, the statement of cash flow, and the statement of retained earnings. Read on to explore each one and the information it conveys.

Types of Financial Statements: Income Statement

Typically considered the most important of the financial statements, an income statement shows how much money a company made and spent over a specific period of time. It presents revenues, expenses, profits/losses, net income (the amount remaining after expenses are subtracted from revenues), and earnings per share—that is, the company’s operating results. It covers a range of time, such as a year, a financial quarter, and so on. Its main purpose is to convey details of profitability and the financial results of business activities. When compared across multiple reporting periods, it can be highly useful in determining whether the company’s revenue is increasing. Investors rely on the income statement to indicate how well management is controlling expenses, which can, of course, help increase profits.2

An income statement will reflect multiple forms of revenues and expenses. For example:

Operating Revenue

This is the revenue generated by selling a company's products or services—its core business: the production and sale of cars for an auto company, tickets and concessions for a movie theatre, and so on.

Non-Operating Revenue

This is the income earned from non-core business activities—those that fall outside the company’s primary function. For example:2

  • Interest earned on cash in the bank
  • Rental income from a property
  • Income from strategic partnerships, such as royalty payment receipts
  • Income from an advertisem*nt display located on the company's property

Other Income

This is the income earned from other activities, such as gains from the sale of long-term assets including vehicles, land, or a subsidiary.

Primary Expenses

A company incurs primary expenses during the process of earning money from its primary activity. Such expenses include:

  • The cost of goods sold (COGS)
  • Selling
  • General and administrative expenses (SG&A)
  • Depreciation or amortization
  • Research and development (R&D)

Typical Expenses

Typical expenses include employee wages, sales commissions, and utility costs such as power and transportation. Expenses linked to secondary activities include interest paid on loans or debt. Losses from the sale of an asset are also recorded as expenses.2

Types of Financial Statements: Balance Sheet

In contrast to the income statement, the balance sheet reflects information as of a specific date. In the words of the SEC, it shows “what a company owns and what it owes at a fixed point in time.”1 The second most important financial statement, it gives information about the organization’s liquidity and capitalization: its assets, liabilities, and equity as of the reporting date, which is usually the end of the reporting period.2,4

The items listed in a balance sheet consist of these:2


  • Liquid assets: cash and cash equivalents, including treasury bills and certificates of deposit
  • Accounts receivable: the amount of money owed to the company by its customers for the sale of its products and services
  • Inventory: the finished goods, works in progress, or raw materials that the company has on hand and intends to sell as a course of business
  • Prepaid expenses: costs that have been paid in advance of their due dates. They’re recorded as assets because their value has not yet been recognized; if the benefit is not recognized, a refund would be due to the company
  • Capital assets: property, plant, and equipment (including buildings used for manufacturing and heavy machinery used for processing raw materials) owned by the company for its long-term benefit
  • Investments: assets not used in operations but held for speculative future growth
  • Intangible assets: trademarks, patents, and goodwill; these can't be physically touched but have future economic, often long-term, benefits for the organization


  • Accounts payable: the bills (including utility bills, rent invoices, and obligations to buy raw materials) due as part of the company’s normal course of operations
  • Wages payable: payments due to employees for time worked
  • Notes payable: recorded debt instruments that record official debt agreements, including the payment schedules and amounts
  • Dividends payable: as-yet-unpaid dividends that have been declared to be awarded to shareholders
  • Long-term debt: this can include diverse obligations, including sinking bond funds, mortgages, or other loans that are due in full in more than a year; the short-term portion of this debt is recorded as a current liability

Shareholders' Equity

Also known as stockholders’ equity, this is a company's total assets minus its total liabilities. It represents the amount of money that would be returned to shareholders if all of the company’s assets were liquidated and all of its debt paid off. A component of shareholders’ equity, retained earnings are the amount of net earnings that were not paid to shareholders as dividends.

Types of Financial Statements: Cash Flow Statement

The cash flow statement (CFS) measures how well the company generates cash to pay its debts and fund its operating expenses and investments. It helps investors see whether or not the company is on strong financial ground by showing where its money comes from and how it’s being spent.2 Detailing the exchange of money between the company and the outside world also over a period of time,1 the CFS can be useful when compared to the income statement, especially when the amount of reported profit or loss does not reflect the company’s cash flows.4

Used to reconcile the income statement with the balance sheet, the three sections of the CFS concern various cash-bound activities:2

Operating Activities

This section addresses sources and uses of cash from running the business and selling its products or services. Those can include any changes made in cash accounts receivable, depreciation, inventory, and accounts payable—such as wages, income tax payments, interest payments, rent, and cash receipts from the sale of a product or service.

Investing Activities

This section details sources and uses of cash from the company's investments in its long-term future. That includes purchase or sale of an asset, loans made to vendors or received from customers, and any payments related to a merger or acquisition. Purchases of fixed assets such as property, plant, and equipment (PPE) are also included in this section.

Financing Activities

This section shows the net cash flows that are used to fund the company. Financing activities include transactions involving debt, equity and dividends. By reviewing this section of the cash flow statement, a company’s investors can gain insight into the company’s financial strength and how well it’s managing its capital structure.5

Types of Financial Statements: Statement of Retained Earnings

This document shows changes in equity—including the sale or repurchase of shares, dividend payments, and changes caused by reported profits or losses—during a given reporting period.

Also called a statement of owner's equity, an equity statement, or a statement of shareholders' equity,6 this is the least commonly used of the financial statements. Its report format can vary, and it’s typically only included in a company's audited financial statement package.4

Types of Financial Statements for Not-for-Profit Organizations

Because of the differences between for-profit and philanthropic organizations, the financial statements used in the not-for-profit world vary somewhat from those used by corporate institutions. Nonprofit organizations record their financial doings using these standard documents:2

Statement of Activities

This is the equivalent of a for-profit company’s income statement. It reports the changes in operation over time, including donations, grants, event revenue and expenses.

Statement of Financial Position

The equivalent of a for-profit entity's balance sheet, this document differs from it primarily in that nonprofit organizations do not have equity positions. Residual balances after all assets have been liquidated and liabilities have been satisfied are referred to as “net assets.”

Statement of Cash Flow

Closely aligned with a for-profit company’s cash flow statement. The listed accounts will likely vary, but this statement is also broken out into operating, investing and financing activities.

Statement of Functional Expenses

This document is unique to non-profit organizations. It tracks expenses by entity function, typically separated into administrative, program and fundraising expenses. Disseminated to the public, the statement of functional expenses details what proportion of company-wide expenses are related directly to the company’s mission.

Turn Your Passion for Numbers into a Successful Career

Build your accounting expertise and your authority as a business leader. As a student in William & Mary’s Online MAcc program, you can prepare to sit for the CPA exam and advance your career in as few as 16 months. Explore the cutting-edge curriculum, get acquainted with the innovative experts of the MAcc faculty and, for answers to questions about the application process, reach out to an Admissions Advisor today.


  1. Retrieved on November 21, 2022, from
  2. Retrieved on November 21, 2022, from
  3. Retrieved on November 21, 2022, from
  4. Retrieved on November 21, 2022, from
  5. Retrieved on November 21, 2022, from
  6. Retrieved on November 21, 2022, from

Return to Online Business Blog

Four Types of Financial Statements (2024)


Four Types of Financial Statements? ›

Financial statements can be divided into four categories: balance sheets, income statements, cash flow statements, and equity statements.

What are the 4 types of financial statements? ›

There are four primary types of financial statements:
  • Balance sheets.
  • Income statements.
  • Cash flow statements.
  • Statements of shareholders' equity.
Nov 1, 2023

What are the four 4 elements of financial statement? ›

Financial statements can be divided into four categories: balance sheets, income statements, cash flow statements, and equity statements.

What are the four 4 types of four financial statements found in most annual reports and what information does each provide? ›

“Show me the money!”

They show you the money. They show you where a company's money came from, where it went, and where it is now. There are four main financial statements. They are: (1) balance sheets; (2) income statements; (3) cash flow statements; and (4) statements of shareholders' equity.

What are the 4 basic income statements? ›

Typically, you'll need all four: the income statement, the balance sheet, the statement of cash flow, and the statement of owner equity. By preparing these four accounting financial statements, you will be able to see how well your company's finances are doing or find areas that need improvement.

How are the 4 financial statements connected? ›

All four financial statements are interrelated, and users must look at them jointly. Business transactions are intricate, and they influence many items in the financial reports simultaneously. For example, the profit figure for the year appears in both, the Income Statements and the Statement of Changes in Equity.

Which is not one of the 4 types of financial statements? ›

The audit report is not one of the four basic financial statements.

Which of the 4 financial statements do you think is the most important and useful in predicting a company's success? ›

The balance sheet is particularly important as it provides a snapshot of a company's financial position at a specific moment in time, empowering a business owner or manager to establish the company's most important ratios such as solvency versus liquidity that are particularly important for debt management.

What are the types of financial statements? ›

These statements are :
  • Income statement,
  • Balance Sheet or Statement of financial position,
  • Statement of cash flow,
  • Noted (disclosure) to financial statements.

Which of the four financial statements should be prepared first? ›

The income statement should always be prepared before other statements because it provides an overview of the company's revenue and expenses during a specific period. This information is used in preparing other reports such as balance sheets and cash flow statements.

What are four main types of financial ratios used in ratio analysis? ›

Although there are many financial ratios businesses can use to measure their performance, they can be divided into four basic categories.
  • Liquidity ratios.
  • Activity ratios (also called efficiency ratios)
  • Profitability ratios.
  • Leverage ratios.

What are the 3 main financial statements called? ›

The income statement, balance sheet, and statement of cash flows are required financial statements. These three statements are informative tools that traders can use to analyze a company's financial strength and provide a quick picture of a company's financial health and underlying value.

What are the 5 statements of accounting? ›

Statement of financial position (balance sheet); Statement of income and expense (profit and loss account); Statement of cash flows (cash flow statement); Statement of changes in equity; and.

What are the 5 components of the financial statement? ›

The major elements of the financial statements (i.e., assets, liabilities, fund balance/net assets, revenues, expenditures, and expenses) are discussed below, including the proper accounting treatments and disclosure requirements.

What are the 5 steps of financial reporting? ›

Defining the accounting cycle with steps: (1) Financial transactions, (2) Journal entries, (3) Posting to the Ledger, (4) Trial Balance Period, and (5) Reporting Period with Financial Reporting and Auditing.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Gov. Deandrea McKenzie

Last Updated:

Views: 5397

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (46 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Gov. Deandrea McKenzie

Birthday: 2001-01-17

Address: Suite 769 2454 Marsha Coves, Debbieton, MS 95002

Phone: +813077629322

Job: Real-Estate Executive

Hobby: Archery, Metal detecting, Kitesurfing, Genealogy, Kitesurfing, Calligraphy, Roller skating

Introduction: My name is Gov. Deandrea McKenzie, I am a spotless, clean, glamorous, sparkling, adventurous, nice, brainy person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.