Every Business is owned by somebody!
Theoretically, the Equity section of the Balance Sheet represents the owners portion of the business after all the Liabilities have been paid off.
Technical Stuff: Calculation of Equity
The Accounting Equation states
ASSETS = LIABILITIES + OWNERS EQUITY.
which can also be written as,
ASSETS - LIABILITIES = EQUITY
There are TWO IMPORTANT SOURCES that form the balances you see in the Owners Equity account.
The First source of Equity is the contribution made by the owners directly into the company.
The Second source is the Cash the company Retains from its own operations.
When a Business starts, the money originally invested in the company by the owners is represented in the Capital Accounts.
In smaller businesses, it is easier to track this cash inflow and each owner gets their own capital account.
In larger corporations each share of stock represents a percent of ownership in the company so the owners could number in the thousands.
Common Stocks, par value, Preferred Stocks and Treasury Stocks get a bit technical and we will leave that discussion for the Advanced Accounting Section for now.
The SECOND SOURCE of Equity is the money that the company Retains in the Business from the profits it accumulates over the years.
If a company makes a profit - each year the company has to make one of two choices.
CHOICE #1. Either pay out their net profit to the owners (shareholders).
This is called Drawings in small and medium businesses (not incorporated) and Dividends in bigger Corporations.
CHOICE #2. Retain all or some of the profit and use it as reserves, for growth, reinvestment or somewhere else.
If the company decides to keep the Profits to itself, the amount of Profit the company keeps is called Retained Earnings.
The Retained Earnings in the Equity Section of the Balance Sheet is cumulative and consists of all the profits over the years that have not been distributed to it's owners.
If you are new to accounting the next thing I would read about would be Liabilities.
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