The income statement is the financial statement responsible for informing past performance, forecasting future performance, and evaluating the organization’s ability to produce future profits. It has also been referred to as a statement of operations, profit and loss statement, or the statement of earnings.
The income statement consists of revenues and expenses, along with the resulting net income or loss over a period of time due to earning activities. Net income, or the “bottom line," is the result after all revenues and expenses have been accounted for. The income statement reflects a company’s performance over a period of time. This is in contrast to the balance sheet, which represents a single moment in time.
The most common means of constructing the income statement is with the single step method. This involves calculating all revenues for the period, and then calculating and subtracting all expenses for the period in order to arrive at the net income.
The more complex multi-step income statement (as the name implies) takes several steps to find the bottom line. First, operating expenses are subtracted from gross profit. This yields income from operations. Then, other revenues are added and other expenses are subtracted. This yields income before taxes. The final step is to deduct taxes, which finally produces the net income for the period measured.
Elements of expenses include:
Certain items must be disclosed separately in the notes if it is material (significant). This could include items such as restructurings, discontinued operations, and disposals of investments or of property, plant and equipment. Irregular items are reported separately so that users can better predict future cash flows.
In viewing an income statement, the last line, net income, is often referred to as the bottom line. This is what remains after all expenses have been subtracted from revenue. This number is important to investors in order to determine the profit that is available to shareholders at the end of the year.
For companies with shareholders, earnings per share (EPS) are also an important metric and are required to be disclosed on the income statement.
Income statements are a key component to valuation but have several limitations stemming from estimation difficulties, reporting error, and fraud.
Another common difference across income statements is the method used to calculate inventory, either FIFO or LIFO. FIFO stands for first-in, first-out, and assumes that the oldest inventory items are recorded as sold first, while LIFO stands for last-in, first-out, and assumes that the most recently produced items are recorded as sold first.
In addition to good faith differences in interpretations and reporting of financial data in income statements, these financial statements can be limited by intentional misrepresentation. One example of this is earnings management, which occurs when managers use judgment in financial reporting and in structuring transactions to alter financial reports in a way that usually involves the artificial increase (or decrease) of revenues, profits, or earnings per share figures.
The goal with earnings management is to influence views about the finances of the firm. Aggressive earnings management is a form of fraud and differs from reporting error. Managers could seek to manage earnings for a number of reasons.
EXAMPLEIf a manager earns his or her bonus based on revenue levels at the end of December, there is an incentive to try to represent more revenues in December so as to increase the size of the bonus.
While it is relatively easy for an auditor to detect error, part of the difficulty in determining whether an error was intentional or accidental lies in the accepted recognition that calculations are estimates. It is therefore possible for legitimate business practices to develop into unacceptable financial reporting.
GAAP’s assumptions, principles, and constraints can affect income statements through temporary (timing) and permanent differences.
Although most of the information on a company’s income tax return comes from the income statement, there often is a difference between pretax income and taxable income. These differences are due to the recording requirements of GAAP for financial accounting (usually following the matching principle and allowing for accruals of revenue and expenses) and the requirements of the IRS’s tax regulations for tax accounting (which are more oriented to cash).
GAAP’s assumptions, principles, and constraints can affect income statements through temporary (timing) and permanent differences. Timing differences between financial accounting and tax accounting create temporary differences.
EXAMPLERent or other revenue collected in advance, estimated expenses, and deferred tax liabilities and assets may create timing differences.
Also, there are events, usually one time, which create “permanent differences,” such as GAAP, which recognizes as an expense an item that the IRS will not allow to be deducted.
To achieve basic objectives and implement fundamental qualities, GAAP has four basic principles:
|Historical Cost Principle||It requires companies to account and report based on acquisition costs rather than fair market value for most assets and liabilities.|
|Revenue Recognition Principle||It requires companies to record when revenue is (1) realized or realizable and (2) earned, not when cash is received.|
|Matching Principle||This governs the matching of expenses and revenues, where expenses are recognized, not when the work is performed or when a product is produced, but when the work or the product actually makes its contribution to revenue.|
|Full Disclosure Principle||This suggests that the amount and kinds of information disclosed should be decided based on a trade-off analysis, since a larger amount of information costs more to prepare and use. GAAP reporting also suggests that income statements should present financial figures that are objective, material, consistent, and conservative.|
Non-cash items that are reported on an income statement will cause differences between the income statement and cash flow statement. Common non-cash items are related to the investing and financing of assets and liabilities, and depreciation and amortization. When analyzing income statements to determine the true cash flow of a business, these items should be added back in because they do not contribute to inflow or outflow of cash like other gains and expenses.
Fixed assets, also known as a non-current asset or as property, plant, and equipment (PP&E), is an accounting term for assets and property. Unlike current assets such as cash accounts receivable, PP&E are not very liquid. PP&E are often considered fixed assets; they are expected to have relatively long life, and are not easily changed into another asset. These often receive a more favorable tax treatment than short-term assets in the form of depreciation allowances.
Broadly speaking, depreciation is a way of accounting for the decreasing value of long-term assets over time.
EXAMPLEA machine bought in 2012 will not be worth the same amount in 2022 because of things like wear-and-tear and obsolescence.
On a more detailed level, depreciation refers to two very different but related concepts: the decrease in the value of tangible assets (fair value depreciation) and the allocation of the cost of tangible assets to periods in which they are used (depreciation with the matching principle). The former affects values of businesses and entities. The latter affects net income.
In each period, long-term non-cash assets accrue a depreciation expense that appears on the income statement. Depreciation expense does not require a current outlay of cash, but the cost of acquiring assets does.
EXAMPLEAn asset worth $100,000 in year 1 may have a depreciation expense of $10,000, so it appears as an asset worth $90,000 in year 2.
Amortization is a similar process to depreciation but is the term used when applied to intangible assets. Examples of intangible assets include copyrights, patents, and trademarks.
Source: THIS CONTENT HAS BEEN ADAPTED FROM LUMEN LEARNING'S "THE INCOME STATEMENT" TUTORIAL.