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Business Financials – The Cashflow Statement – What it is and how it is used

There are three financial statements that are commonly given for a business―a profit & loss or income statement, a balance sheet or statement of position , and a cashflow statement (or statement of cash flows), as we explain here.

The cashflow statement highlights the major activities that directly and indirectly impact cash flow in and out of the business and hence affect the overall cash for the business.

Business owners should monitor cash for a very good reason―without a sufficient cash balance at the right time, a company can miss opportunities or may even fall into bankruptcy.  The cash flow statement answers questions that cannot be answered by the income statement and a balance sheet. For example a statement of cash flows can be used to answer questions like where did the company get the cash to pay dividend of nearly $14,000 in a year in which, according to profit & loss / income statement, it lost more than $10,000?

The cashflow statement is a valuable analytical tool for business managers as well as for investors and creditors, although managers tend to be more concerned with forecasted statements of cash flows that are prepared as a part of the budgeting process. The statement of cash flows can be used to answer crucial questions such as the following:

1.     Is the company generating sufficient positive cash flows from its ongoing operations to remain viable?

2.     Will the company be able to repay its debts?

3.     Will the company be able to pay its usual dividends?

4.     Why is there a difference between net profit/income and net cash flow for the year?

5.     To what extent will the company have to borrow money in order to make needed investments?

For the statement of cash flows to be useful, it is important to use a common definition of cash. It is also important that a statement be constructed using consistent guidelines for identifying activities that are sources of cash and uses of cash. The proper definition of cash is broadly defined to include both cash and cash equivalents.

Cash equivalents (applicable more for large companies) include short term, highly liquid investments such as treasury bills, commercial paper, and money market funds that are made solely for the purpose of generating a return on temporary idle funds. Instead of simply holding cash, most large companies invest their excess cash reserves in these types of interest bearing assets that can be easily converted into cash. These short term liquid investments are usually included in marketable securities on the balance sheet. Since such assets are equivalent to cash, they are included with cash in preparing a statement of cash flows.

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The 3 sections of cash flow statement (each has an inflow and outflow section):

Operating Activities: (mostly income statement / profit & loss)

Operating activities shows the cash effects of transactions such as -

  • cash receipts from sales of goods and services and
  • cash payments to suppliers and employees for acquisition of inventory, taxes, interest on loans

Investing Activities: (mostly long term assets)

Investing activities generally show long term assets (and sometimes debt/equity securities) which include -

  • sale/disposing of plant, equipment
  • sale of debt or equity securities
  • acquiring plant and equipment
  • acquiring debt or equity securities

Financing Activities: (mostly long term liabilities and equity)

Financing activities involve liability and stock holder’s equity items and include obtaining cash from creditors and repaying the amounts borrowed and obtaining capital from owners and providing them with a return on, and a return of, their investment.

  • Increase in debt / loans taken on
  • Payment/Redemption of debt facilities / loans
  • Dividends paid

Next month we will work through an example.

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Accounting Software Australia, MYOB, Quickbooks, accounts software, bookkeeping software
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