Archive for March, 2011

Investing and financing

Another portion of the statement of cash flows reports the investment that the company took during the reporting year. New investments are signs of growing or upgrading the production and distribution facilities and capacity of the business. Disposing of long-term assets or divesting itself of a major part of its business can be good or bad news, depending on what's driving those activities. A business generally disposes of some of its fixed assets every year because they reached the end of their useful lives and will not be used any longer. These fixed assets are disposed of or sold or traded in on new fixed assets. The value of a fixed asset at the end of its useful life is called its salvage value. The proceeds from selling fixed assets are reported as a source of cash in the investing activities section of the statement of cash flows. Usually these are very small amounts.

Like individuals, companies at times have to finance its acquisitions when its internal cash flow isn't enough to finance business growth. financing refers to a business raising capital from debt and quity sources, by borrowing money from banks and other sources willing to loan money to the business and by its owners putting additional money in the business. The term also includes the other side, making payments on debt and returning capital to owners. it includes cash distributions by the business from profit to its owners.

Most business borrow money for both short terms and long terms. Most cash flow statements report only the net increase or decrease in short-term debt, not the total amounts borrowed and total payments on the debt. When reporting long-term debt, however, both the total amounts and the repayments on long-term debt during a year are generally reported in the statement of cash flows. These are reported as gross figures, rather than net.


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Depreciation reporting

In an accountant's reporting systems, depreciation of a business's fixed assets such as its buildings, equipment, computers, etc. is not recorded as a cash outlay. When an accountant measures profit on the accrual basis of accounting, he or she counts depreciation as an expense. Buildings, machinery, tools, vehicles and furniture all have a limited useful life. All fixed assets, except for actual land, have a limited lifetime of usefulness to a business. Depreciation is the method of accounting that allocates the total cost of fixed assets to each year of their use in helping the business generate revenue.

Part of the total sales revenue of a business includes recover of cost invested in its fixed assets. In a real sense a business sells some of its fixed assets in the sales prices that it charges it customers. For example, when you go to a grocery store, a small portion of the price you pay for eggs or bread goes toward the cost of the buildings, the machinery, bread ovens, etc. Each reporting period, a business recoups part of the cost invested in its fixed assets.

It's not enough for the accountant to add back depreciation for the year to bottom-line profit. The changes in other assets, as well as the changes in liabilities, also affect cash flow from profit. The competent accountant will factor in all the changes that determine cash flow from profit. Depreciation is only one of many adjustments to the net income of a business to determine cash flow from operating activities. Amortization of intangible assets is another expense that is recorded against a business's assets for year. It's different in that it doesn't require cash outlay in the year being charged with the expense. That occurred when the business invested in those tangible assets.


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Depreciation

Depreciation is a term we hear about frequently, but don't really understand. It's an essential component of accounting however. Depreciation is an expense that's recorded at the same time and in the same period as other accounts. Long-term operating assets that are not held for sale in the course of business are called fixed assets. Fixed assets include buildings, machinery, office equipment, vehicles, computers and other equipment. It can also include items such as shelves and cabinets. Depreciation refers to spreading out the cost of a fixed asset over the years of its useful life to a business, instead of charging the entire cost to expense in the year the asset was purchased. That way, each year that the equipment or asset is used bears a share of the total cost. As an example, cars and trucks are typically depreciated over five years. The idea is to charge a fraction of the total cost to depreciation expense during each of the five years, rather than just the first year.

Depreciation applies only to fixed assets that you actually buy, not those you rent or lease. Depreciation is a real expense, but not necessarily a cash outlay expense in the year it's recorded. The cash outlay does actually occur when the fixed asset is acquired, but is recorded over a period of time.

Depreciation is different from other expenses. It is deducted from sales revenue to determine profit, but the depreciation expense recorded in a reporting period doesn't require any true cash outlay during that period. Depreciation expense is that portion of the total cost of a business's fixed assets that is allocated to the period to record the cost of using the assets during period. The higher the total cost of a business's fixed assets, then the higher its depreciation expense.
 


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Inventory and expenses

Inventory is usually the largest current asset of a business that sells products. If the inventory account is greater at the end of the period than at the start of the reporting period, the amount the business actually paid in cash for that inventory is more than what the business recorded as its cost of good sold expense.  When that occurs, the accountant deducts the inventory increase from net income for determining cash flow from profit.

the prepaid expenses asset account works in much the same way as the change in inventory and accounts receivable accounts. However, changes in prepaid expenses are usually much smaller than changes in those other two asset accounts.

The beginning balance of prepaid expenses is charged to expense in the current year, but the cash was actually paid out last year. this period, the business pays cash for next period's prepaid expenses, which affects this period's cash flow, but doesn't affect net income until the next period. Simple, right?

As a business grows, it needs to increase its prepaid expenses for such things as fire insurance premiums, which have to be paid in advance of the insurance coverage, and its stocks of office supplies. Increases in accounts receivable, inventory and prepaid expenses are the cash flow price a business has to pay for growth. Rarely do you find a business that can increase its sales revenue without increasing these assets.

The lagging behind effect of cash flow is the price of business growth. Managers and investors need to understand that increasing sales without increasing accounts receivable isn't a realistic scenario for growth. In the real business world, you generally can't enjoy growth in revenue without incurring additional expenses.
 


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Revenue and receivables

In most businesses, what drives the balance sheet are sales and expenses. In other words, they cause the assets and liabilities in a business. One of the more complicated accounting items are the accounts receivable. As a hypothetical situation, imagine a business that offers all its customers a 30-day credit period, which is fairly common in transactions between businesses, (not transactions between a business and individual consumers).

An accounts receivable asset shows how much money customers who bought products on credit still owe the business. It's a promise of case that the business will receive. Basically, accounts receivable is the amount of uncollected sales revenue at the end of the accounting period. Cash does not increase until the business actually collects this money from its business customers. However, the amount of money in accounts receivable is included in the total sales revenue for that same period. The business did make the sales, even if it hasn't acquired all the money from the sales yet. Sales revenue, then isn't equal to the amount of cash that the business accumulated.

To get actual cash flow, the accountant must subtract the amount of credit sales not collected from the sales revenue in cash. Then add in the amount of cash that was collected for the credit sales that were made in the preceding reporting period. If the amount of credit sales a business made during the reporting period is greater than what was collected from customers, then the accounts receivable account increased over the period and the business has to subtract from net income that difference.

If the amount they collected during the reporting period is greater than the credit sales made, then the accounts receivable decreased over the reporting period, and the accountant needs to add to net income that difference between the receivables at the beginning of the reporting period and the receivables at the end of the same period.

 


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Gains and Losses

It would probably be ideal if business and life were as simple as producing goods, selling them and recording the profits. But there are often circumstances that disrupt the cycle, and it's part of the accountants job to report these as well. Changes in the business climate, or cost of goods or any number of things can lead to exceptional or extraordinary gains and losses in a business.  Some things that can alter the income statement can include downsizing or restructuring the business. This used to be a rare thing in the business environment, but is now fairly commonplace. Usually it's done to offset losses in other areas and to decrease the cost of employees' salaries and benefits. However, there are costs involved with this as well, such as severance pay, outplacement services, and retirement costs.

In other circumstances, a business might decide to discontinue certain product lines. Western Union, for example, recently delivered its very last telegram. The nature of communication has changed so drastically, with email, cell phones and other forms, that telegrams have been rendered obsolete. When you no longer sell enough of a product at a high enough profit to make the costs of manufacturing it worthwhile, then it's time to change your product mix.

Lawsuits and other legal actions can cause extraordinary losses or gains as well. If you win damages in a lawsuit against others, then you've incurred an extraordinary gain. Likewise if your own legal fees and damages or fines are excessive, then these can significantly impact the income statement.

Occasionally a business will change accounting methods or need to correct any errors that had been made in previous financial reports. Generally Accepted Accounting Procedures (GAAP) require that businesses make any one-time losses or gains very visible in their income statement.


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Personal Accounting

If you have a checking account, of course you balance it periodically to account for any differences between what's in your statement and what you wrote down for checks and deposits. Many people do it once a month when their statement is mailed to them, but with the advent of online banking, you can do it daily if you're the sort whose banking tends to get away from them.

You balance your checkbook to note any charges in your checking account that you haven't recorded in your checkbook. Some of these can include ATM fees, overdraft fees, special transaction fees or low balance fees, if you're required to keep a minimum balance in your account. You also balance your checkbook to record any credits that you haven't noted previously. They might include automatic deposits, or refunds or other electronic deposits. Your checking account might be an interest-bearing account and you want to record any interest that it's earned.

You also need to discover if you've made any errors in your recordkeeping or if the bank has made any errors. 

Another form of accounting that we all dread is the filing of annual federal income tax returns. Many people use a CPA to do their returns; others do it themselves. Most forms include the following items:

Income – any money you've earned from working or owning assets, unless there are specific exemptions from income tax.

Personal exemptions – this is a certain amount of income that is excused from tax.

Standard deduction – some personal expenditures or business expenses can be deducted from your income to reduce the taxable amount of income. These expenses include items such as interest paid on your home mortgage, charitable contributions and property taxes.

Taxable income – This is the balance of income that's subject to taxes after personal exemptions and deductions are factored in.


Regards

Jeyasithar R

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