Some entities prepare their financial statements in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), while others prepare their financial statements in accordance with the United States Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (US GAAP).
The choice of standards/principles is usually a function of which jurisdiction the entity and users of its financial statements are domiciled in. Entities domiciled in the United States of America tend to prepare their financial statements in accordance with US GAAP, while companies in Europe tend to prepare their financial statements in accordance with IFRS.
Alternative Balance Sheet Presentation Formats
US GAAP uses the title ‘Balance Sheet’, while IFRS uses the title ‘Statement of Financial Position’. Notwithstanding this name difference, both statements report on the three basic elements i.e. assets, liabilities, and equity.
IFRS and US GAAP both require that the balance sheet distinguishes between current and non-current assets and between current and non-current liabilities and classify them separately. This format of the balance sheet is referred to as a classified balance sheet. (See table 1)
Table 1: Example of a Classified Balance Sheet
Under IFRS, an entity is not required to have separate classifications as long as a liquidity-based presentation provides reliable and more relevant information than a classified balance sheet does. In a liquidity-based presentation, all assets and liabilities are presented in order of liquidity i.e. according to how easily they can be converted into cash (See table 2).
Table 2: Example of a Liquidity-based Balance Sheet Presentation (Showing Assets Segment Only)
Which of the following statements accurately describes a classified balance sheet format?
A. A distinction is made between current and non-current assets and between current and non-current liabilities and they are classified separately.
B. Assets and liabilities are broadly presented in order of liquidity.
C. Cash flow from operations is distinguished from cash flow from investing and financing activities.
The correct answer is A.
Statement B describes a liquidity-based presentation, while statement C describes a cash flow statement.
In a liquidity-based presentation of the balance sheet, which of the following items would appear first on the side of assets?
A. Cash & cash equivalents
B. Land & property
C. Accounts receivable
The correct answer is A.
In a liquidity-based presentation of the balance sheet, the most liquid items show first on the side of assets on the balance sheet. As cash is the most liquid asset, it would be listed on the top.
Reading 24 LOS 24c:
Describe alternative formats of balance sheet presentation