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Financial Accounting Overview

Financial Accounting Overview

Released once a month, every quarter, or once per year, an income statement reports revenue, expenses, and net earnings or losses of a company for a given period. A company’s net revenue is calculated by subtracting allowances for uncollectable accounts, discounts, etc. from the business’s gross sales or revenue. From there, subtract the cost of sales, or how much the lot of products or services cost to make for the accounting period, from the net revenues figure. This results in gross profit or gross margin. Depreciation, along with amortization—or the cost of machinery and equipment losing life over time—is subtracted from the gross profit figure.

From there, operating expenses, which aren’t directly attributable to product or service production but are running day-to-day operations, are deducted from the resulting gross profit figure. This number is now called income from operations or operating profit before interest and income expense. Depending on the number, the interest income or interest expense is either added or subtracted from operating profits to arrive at the operating profit before income tax. Finally, income tax is deducted, resulting in net profit (net income or net earnings) or net losses. For publicly traded companies, it gives investors insight as to how much the company is making per share—so-called “earnings per share” (EPS).

Statement of Cash Flow

Per the SEC, a statement of cash flow features three sections that detail sources and utilization of the business’ operating, financing, and investing cash flows. It paints a picture of inflows and outflows of the business’s cash levels. At the end of the day, it helps anyone interested in the company’s financials, especially potential and current investors, to see the latest status and trends of cash flow.

One way to calculate cash flow, according to the SEC, is to look at a company’s free cash flow (FCF). This is calculated as follows:

Free Cash Flow = Operating Cash Flow – Capital Expenditures

Free Cash Flow = $50 million – $20 million = $30 million

This information is useful because free cash flow can help determine a company’s financial health, how well (or not) the business model is performing, and its overall likelihood of success moving forward. Additionally, understanding the difference in accounting methods is another helpful piece of financial accounting analysis.

Accrual Method vs. Cash Method

Accrual Method

When it comes to the accrual method, according to the Congressional Research Service, when a business is paid for services or products to be rendered in the future, the payment is permitted to be recognized as revenue only when the product or service has been rendered. When it comes to accounting for expenses that are presumably deductible, under the accrual method, the expense can be recorded when it’s experienced by the business, not when payment has been made to the utility, raw material supplier, etc.

Cash Method

If a consultant gets payment immediately but isn’t expected to do said job until the following month, this approach requires revenue to be recognized when the cash has been received. Similarly, when expenses are paid is when expenses are recorded.


For any business that handles inventory or sells to customers on credit, accrual accounting is required by the Internal Revenue Service. Similarly, for companies with an average gross receipt of revenues greater than $25 million for the past 36 months, the IRS mandates accrual accounting. For companies with an average gross receipt of revenues of less than $25 million, depending on the exact circumstances of the company’s business nature, cash or accrual may be used.

Financial accounting provides investors, business owners, and those providing businesses with legal and accounting services a way to monitor performance and compliance.