Financial Glossary

Accounting period
This is simply the period of time covered by an income statement. Usually the accounting period will cover a full financial year but not always. It’s important to check the length of the accounting period (which is stated at the top of the income statement) before starting an analysis of the information to ensure accuracy of the results when compared to previous accounting periods.

Accounts payable
Also referred to as trade creditors. These are amounts due by the business to others such as suppliers of inventory and other services. As these accounts payable fall within the current liabilities section of the balance sheet they are, by definition, due to be paid within 12 months from the date of the balance sheet but, in reality, are usually payable within a much shorter time period, probably within a maximum of 30 days.

Accounts receivable
Also referred to as trade debtors. These are amounts due to the business by others, usually its customers. As these accounts receivable fall within the current assets section of the balance sheet they are, by definition, due to be received within 12 months from the date of the balance sheet but, in reality, are usually receivable within a much shorter time period which will be defined by the credit terms that the business allows its customers and the effectiveness of its collection procedures.

Accrued expenses
Also referred to as “accruals”. This is the result of the accounting system known as “accrual accounting” which is widely used (and in some countries, is the only system in use). A figure for accrued expenses appears when an expense has been incurred by the business in an accounting period but the invoice for that expense was not received and processed through the business’ accounting system before the end of that accounting period. This means that the amount of the expense has not actually been paid to the supplier of the service or product that gave rise to the expense.

Accrued expenses appear in the current liabilities section of the balance sheet as the amount is still to be paid in the subsequent accounting period.

Accumulated depreciation
The value of the fixed assets that is shown in the balance sheet is commonly known as the “book” or “net” value which means that it is the original cost of the asset less accumulated depreciation.

In each accounting period an amount of depreciation appears as an expense in the income statement. This figure is the amount of depreciation that is calculated in the accounting period for each individual fixed asset using an appropriate method.

If the business has owned a fixed asset for longer than one accounting period, all the depreciation that has been calculated for that particular asset, and included as an expense in the income statement, is added together and is called accumulated depreciation. This is then deducted from the original cost of the asset to arrive at the book (or net) value. This resulting amount is also known as the net fixed asset value.

Amortization
Amortization refers to the process of apportioning a part of the cost of a intangible asset and including it as an expense item in the income statement. This happens in each accounting period until the value of the intangible asset is completely extinguished.
No cash changes hands as a result of this expense item so it is very often described as a “non-cash expense”.

Balance sheet
A balance sheet (also known as a Statement of Financial Position) gives a view of a company’s financial position on a particular day, (that is, the last day of the accounting period). While the income statement covers trading activity over a given time period the balance sheet, by contrast, is a static picture (often called a “snapshot” of the business) on that one day only.

Bank balances & cash
In some accounting jurisdictions this is also referred to as “cash and cash equivalents”. This amount would be readily available to the business within a day or two for use in settling its commitments.

Bank overdraft
In US balance sheets this is referred to as “notes payable”. This figure represents short-term bank debt repayable on demand. As such, it is the shortest of short-term liabilities and appears at the top of the current liabilities section in the balance sheet.

Cash flow projection
Also known as a cash flow forecast. Its purpose is to show what the business’ cash flows (both in and out) will look like in the future on the basis of reasonable expectations and, as a result, will show the business’ likely future cash surplus or funding requirements.

Cash flow statement
The cash flow statement provides historical information on how cash was obtained, how cash was used and how the overall cash position of the business has changed as a result during the accounting period.

Cash generated from operations
This shows the amount of cash that the business is able to generate from its normal day-to-day trading operations and includes changes in its working capital assets and liabilities..

Cash paid to suppliers and employees
This is normally the major cash outflow of any business and represents amounts actually paid to suppliers for inventory and to employees in salaries, bonuses etc.

Cash receipts from customers
This represents the amounts actually received from customers as distinct from the level of revenue during the accounting period. Remember that under the accrual accounting system, a sale is recorded as soon as it is made but the cash may not have been received at that point. This figure, then, gives us a realistic picture of the business’ major cash inflow.

Contingent liabilities
These are liabilities that will only become payable by the business should some other event occur. Because the liability is not a real one for the business (the actual amount of the liability may not have been established) until the occurrence of the other event, it cannot be accounted for in the balance sheet and so any contingent liabilities should be listed in the notes to the financial statements.

Cost of goods sold
A business has to incur some expenses to enable it to generate its revenue (or turnover). These expenses could include the cost of inventory for a trading business or time-based fees or commissions if it is a service business. These costs will vary with the level of revenue and are often known as “variable”.
They are also described as “direct expenses” as they are incurred directly in the production of its final products or services that are sold to its customers.

Creditors
Strictly speaking, “creditors” refers to any person or business that is owed money by the business. We should more specifically focus on trade creditors (or trade accounts payable) in our analysis of the business’ financial performance since these relate to the trading operations of the business.

Current assets
These assets are those that can be expected to be converted into cash within the next accounting period of the business. For most businesses, the major assets that would appear under this heading would be bank balances and cash (sometimes described as cash and cash equivalents), inventory and accounts receivable.

Current liabilities
These are liabilities payable within a period of 12 months from the date of the balance sheet and are paid from current assets when those assets convert to cash or from cash flow if a business sells products or services for cash to its customers. Examples of current liabilities are accounts payable (that is, suppliers of inventory and other services), bank overdraft and other short-term debt, tax etc.

Current portion of long-term liabilities (or debt)
Long-term liabilities are payable by the business over a period longer than the usual accounting period. However, in most cases where the liabilities are interest-bearing debt there will be some element of those long-term debts that will be payable within the next 12 months and that element is known as the current portion of long-term debt. By definition, then, it must fall under current liabilities.

Debtors
Strictly speaking, “debtors” refers to any person or business that owes money to the business. We should more specifically focus on trade debtors (or trade accounts receivable) in our analysis of the business’ financial performance since these relate to the trading operations of the business.

Deferred tax
There is a common misunderstanding that income tax is calculated on a business’ net profit figure as shown on its income statement. In fact, the tax computation is entirely separate from the accounting profit calculation.

The business’ taxable income is usually different to the accounting profit in an accounting period because there are various tax allowances that a business can claim that have nothing to do with its income and expenditure situation.

An example of this is the tax allowance on capital equipment. In many jurisdictions, the tax allowance on a piece of equipment is different to the accounting depreciation figure that is included in the income statement. Over time this gives rise to a difference between the tax value of an asset and its balance sheet value (that is, its depreciated value). This difference is usually only temporary and may only become apparent on disposal of the asset at which point there may be an additional tax implication. To recognise this possible tax implication while the asset is still owned by the business, the amount of tax payable or receivable is calculated and described as deferred tax. It may be either an asset or a liability.

Depreciation
This is one type of expense that differs from most of the others and it’s different because there is no transfer of cash involved. Depreciation is an accounting term that refers to the cost of a fixed asset being accounted for as an expense over a period of time, usually the useful life of the asset.
Because no cash changes hands as a result of this expense item it is very often described as a “non-cash expense”

Distributable reserves
Sometimes also described as retained income, retained profits, or similar. The figure relates to the accumulated profits that have been made in previous accounting periods and which have not been paid (distributed) to shareholders by way of dividends.

Dividends
This item features in the current liabilities section of the balance sheet and indicates the amount of dividends declared by the directors that will be paid to shareholders in the next accounting period.

Dividends paid
This item features in the cash flow statement and indicates the actual amount of dividends paid to shareholders during the past accounting period.

Earnings
In some accounting jurisdictions profits are referred to as earnings. Even where the term “profits” is in common use, earnings appears in some financial terms such as EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Tax). Earnings and profits are synonymous

EBIT
This represents the business’ earnings before interest and tax. It’s a commonly used measure of profitability, especially when comparing one business’ performance with another’s. Note that the terms “earnings” and “profits” are synonymous.

EBITDA
This represents the business’ earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation. It’s a commonly used measure of profitability, especially when comparing one business’ performance with another’s. Note that the terms “earnings” and “profits” are synonymous.

Many analysts use the EBITDA figure as a proxy for cash flow since the figure excludes the major non-cash expenses (depreciation and amortisation) but this is really only partly true since no account has been taken of any changes in accounts receivable (trade debtors) or account payable (trade creditors) which could be significant.

Economic profit
The profit figure that we see in the income statement is an accounting concept which, using generally accepted guidelines, attempts to report the profit made by a business from its activities during the accounting period. What this figure does not take into account, however, is the cost to the business of the shareholders’ equity or capital that was utilised in funding the assets that helped generate the profit. Once this cost is deducted from the accounting profit we are left with the business’ economic profit. For many analysts (and certainly for shareholders), this is a far more important measure of profitability than the accounting profit reflected in the income statement.

Exceptional gains/losses
These are positive or negative figures that are sometimes found in an income statement after the operating profit figure. They relate to unusual and non-recurring gains or losses that are usually unconnected with the normal day-to-day operations of the business.
Examples would be gains or losses from the sale of a fixed asset.

Fixed assets
These form part of the non-current assets found in the balance sheet. They are those assets that tend to have a long-life cycle and are usually defined according to the purpose for which they were acquired by the business. The idea is that these types of assets are utilised in the production of the business’ products and services and are not acquired for re-sale at a profit.

Examples of fixed assets are land and buildings, plant and equipment, fixtures and fittings, motor vehicles etc. Since these assets are held for longer than a single accounting period it is necessary to write-off their cost over their estimated productive lives and this is the process known as depreciation.

Fixed expenses
Fixed expenses are usually found in the operating expenses in the income statement and normally relate to those expenses that are incurred irrespective of the level of revenue that the business generates. The word “fixed” in this context does not, therefore, mean that they never change but that they do not change in direct proportion to changes in revenue.

Examples of fixed expenses are salaries, accounting expenses, rent and rates, water and lights, statutory personnel payments, etc.

Gearing
Also known as leverage. This is the relationship between liabilities and shareholders’ equity and is an indicator of risk.
The more liabilities that a business has relative to the funds invested by the shareholders, the less able it will be to raise additional debt in the future and so it will have fewer funding options in difficult times.

Goodwill
This figure is often seen in the asset-side of a business’ balance sheet. It arises when a business changes ownership and the new owners purchase the business at a value greater than its net asset value.
Essentially, although it appears as an asset, goodwill has no real value to a lender as its value is very difficult to define and impossible to liquidate.

Gross profit
Gross profit is the difference between the revenue (turnover) and the cost of goods sold and gives an indication of the business’ ability to generate a profit from its selling prices after taking into account its direct costs of producing the products or services that were sold.

Headline earnings
This refers to the level of profit (or loss) that is attributable to shareholders adjusted to remove the effects of any exceptional (and usually non-recurring) items of revenue (turnover) and expenditure. It is an attempt to give a reflection of the sustainable earnings of a company (that is, the company’s earning ability had the exceptional items not occurred. Exceptional items in this case would be transactions of a capital nature that are not related to the ordinary trading activity of the company.

Income statement
Also known as Statement of Comprehensive Income and Profit or Loss Statement. One of the main objectives of a business is to make a profit and the income statement reflects the financial results of a business’ trading activity over a given period (usually, but not always, 12 months) which is called the accounting period. Information for the accounting period being reported on is required to be shown together with the previous period so that a comparison of performance can be made.

Intangible assets
These are assets that are included under non-current assets in the balance sheet and, as their name suggests, do not physically exist. Typical examples of intangible assets are goodwill, patents, licences etc.

Such assets are often difficult to value because of their intangible nature so many analysts would apply no value to them in their analysis. This may not be entirely correct as some intangible assets may have a value on liquidation of the business. The problem is that the value cannot be defined in advance.

Interest expense
Found in the income statement and sometimes described as financing cost. It indicates the amount of interest due to all the providers of long- and short-term interest-bearing debt finance to the business during the accounting period.

Interest paid
Found in the cash flow statement. This amount is the total of interest actually paid to providers of interest-bearing debt finance to the business during the accounting period.

Inventory
Also referred to as stock. This appears in the current assets in the balance sheet and reflects the worth of the inventory which should have been valued at the lower of cost or net realisable value (that is, what the inventory could be sold for).
Very often, businesses fail to value the inventory correctly by omitting to remove the value of inventory that is unsaleable because it is damaged or obsolete, for example.

Leased assets
There are essentially two types of leases; operating leases and financial leases.

Operating leases relate to assets that the business uses in its operations and has no intention of acquiring at the end of the lease. An example of this would be an office building. In this case, the lease payments appear in the income statement as an expense.

Financial leases, on the other hand, relate to assets that the business can acquire at the end of the lease period and are, to all intents and purposes, actually owned by the business but financed by a lender. The value of these assets must be capitalised and appear in the balance sheet so that the true value of assets used in the business and the corresponding debt commitment are correctly reflected.

Leverage
Also known as gearing. This is the relationship between liabilities and shareholders’ equity and is an indicator of risk.
The more liabilities that a business has relative to the funds invested by the shareholders, the less able it will be to raise additional debt in the future and so it will have fewer funding options in difficult times

Liquidity
This is a term used to describe the ability of a business to convert assets into cash in the short-term in order to meet its urgent short-term commitments.

Long-term liabilities
This are liabilities payable after more than 12 months after the date of the balance sheet. They are often interest-bearing and will usually give rise to an item found in the current liabilities in the balance sheet called current portion of long-term liabilities (or debt).

Minority interests
Reference to minority interests is often usually found at the bottom of the income statement and in the balance sheet in the shareholders’ equity section. It refers to an outsider’s financial interest in a subsidiary or an associate company of the company whose balance sheet is being analysed.

Net fixed assets
These appear under the non-current assets section of the balance sheet and relate to the long-term, tangible assets of the business such as land and buildings, fixtures and fittings, motor vehicles, equipment etc. When they are described as “net” it means that all the accumulated depreciation up to the date of the balance sheet has been deducted from their original cost of the assets.

Net profit before tax
This profit figure includes all expenses (except for taxation) of the business as well as any exceptional gains/losses. It is common in some jurisdictions to use this profit figure when calculating profitability ratios.

Net working capital
When funds are invested in short-term current assets it is described as working capital. Typically, these assets would primarily be bank balances and cash (or cash and cash equivalents), inventory, and accounts receivable. Some of these assets can be funded through the use of supplier financing (i.e. trade accounts payable), rather than interest-bearing debt and/or shareholders’ equity.
Net working capital, therefore, is the value of the current assets after the total of current liabilities has been deducted.

Non-current assets
These have a life cycle longer than the normal accounting period (i.e. 12 months) of the business and may include fixed assets such as property, equipment, furniture and fittings, vehicles, etc., as well as items such as long-term loans advanced to others by the business, intangible assets, investments in associate companies and other investments.

Non-current liabilities
These are simply the long-term liabilities of a business. In accounting terms, long-term is defined as those liabilities that are only due to be paid more than one year from the date of the balance sheet. This includes such items as long-term debt, long-term obligations under staff pension and medical aid schemes etc.

Non-distributable reserves
These increase the shareholders’ equity in the business but are not available for distribution to shareholders by way of dividends. The reason for this is that, usually, the gain or the profit that gives rise to this reserve has not actually been realised (that is, it is still only a book figure). An example of this type of reserve is when a fixed property is re-valued at the directors’ request and the new value is higher than the value shown in the balance sheet. The value of the fixed property from then onwards will be reflected at the higher value in the balance sheet and the non-distributable reserve is the corresponding accounting entry.

Operating expenses
As the name suggests these are expenses incurred by the business in its normal day-to-day operations and excludes any expenses of a non-operational nature. Examples of operating expenses are salaries, accounting expenses, rent and rates, water and lights, statutory personnel payments, etc. These expenses are often referred to as fixed expenses because they have no direct relation to the revenue (or turnover) that was generated by the business.

Operating profit
This gives an indication of how effectively the operations of the business are managed. This profit figure excludes items of an exceptional nature and includes only those income and expenditure items that are directly related to operations.

Prepaid expenses
Also known as “Prepayments”. This appears under the current assets section in the balance sheet and relates to expenses that have been paid in advance of the end of the accounting period.

Profit/(loss) for the year
Profit for the year (the so-called “bottom-line”) can be described as the “leftovers” of a business’ revenue (or turnover) after all the expenses and taxes have been paid.

Profitability
A set of ratios exist that are designed to measure the profitability of a business. This is slightly different to simply determining whether a business has made a profit; profitability is a measure of how well assets and resources are used to generate profit.

Property, furniture & fittings, equipment and vehicles
These are the fixed assets of the business and appear under the non-current assets in the balance sheet. The intention of the business is to use these assets to enable the business to operate and not to sell them in the short-term to make a profit.

Depreciation is normally calculated on the values of the assets (with the usual exception of land and, sometimes, buildings) and so the values seen in the balance sheet are their net (or book) values, that is, the original cost of the assets less the accumulated depreciation that has been calculated.

Provision for bad debts
Businesses that supply products and services to their customers on credit terms know that, occasionally, a customer is going to fail to pay. To recognise this possibility, prudent managers will make a provision each year for these bad debts which entails deducting a given amount from each year’s profit. It’s important to note that any amount deducted in this way has not actually been lost as a bad debt but is simply being kept aside as a provision to meet that eventuality should it arise.

Retained profit
Sometimes also described as retained income, distributable reserves, or similar. The figure relates to the accumulated profits that have been made in previous accounting periods and which have not been paid (distributed) to shareholders by way of dividends.

Revenue
Often also referred to as turnover. Revenue is generated through the provision of products and services to customers during the accounting period. The description can vary for different types of businesses depending on their particular trading activity – for example, turnover, sales, fee income, rental income, and commission income are all variants of this.

Share capital
This is found on the balance sheet as the first item under the shareholders’ equity section. It could be more correctly described as issued share capital since it represents the nominal (or par) value of the ordinary shares that the company has issued to shareholders. Note that this nominal value bears no relation to the market value of those same shares or how much the initial shareholders actually paid for those shares.

Share premium
This is found on the balance sheet under the shareholders’ equity section and it arises when shares are issued by the company to shareholders but at a price that exceeds the nominal (or par) value of the shares.

Shareholders’ equity
This refers to the financial interest of the shareholders in the business. Equity includes share capital, share premium and profits that have been retained and reserves that have been created.

Stock
Also referred to as inventory. This appears in the current assets in the balance sheet and reflects the worth of the stock valued at the lower of cost or net realisable value (i.e. what the stock could be sold for).
Very often, businesses fail to value the inventory correctly by omitting to remove the value of inventory that is unsaleable because it is damaged or obsolete, for example.

Taxation
This figure appears in the income statement and is the amount of income tax that has been computed based on the profits made during the accounting period and after taking into account any tax allowances available to the business (that is, the taxable income of the business).

Taxation paid
This figure appears in the cash flow statement and represents the actual amount of tax paid to the tax authorities during the accounting period.

Taxation payable
This figure appears in the balance sheet under the current liabilities section and represents the amount of tax that the business has to pay to the tax authorities in the next accounting period.

Trade creditors
Also referred to as “accounts payable”. These are amounts due by the business to others such as suppliers of inventory and other services. As these trade creditors fall within the current liabilities section of the balance sheet they are, by definition, due to be paid within 12 months from the date of the balance sheet but, in reality, are usually payable within a much shorter time period, probably within a maximum of 30 days.

Trade debtors
Also referred to as “accounts receivable”. These are amounts due to the business by others, usually its customers. As these trade debtors fall within the current assets section of the balance sheet they are, by definition, due to be paid within 12 months from the date of the balance sheet but, in reality, are usually receivable within a much shorter time period which will be defined by the credit terms that the business allows its customers and the effectiveness of its collection procedures.

Turnover
Often also referred to as revenue. Turnover is generated through the provision of products and services to customers during the accounting period. The description can vary for different types of businesses depending on their particular trading activity – for example, revenue, sales, fee income, rental income, and commission income, are all variants of this.

Variable expenses
Variable expenses usually make up the cost of goods sold figure since they vary in line with changes in the level of revenue. Examples could be raw materials costs, packaging, delivery expenses, commissions paid to salespeople, depreciation of manufacturing equipment, etc.