If you find this article helpful, you may wish to read the article titled Using Ratio Analysis to Assess Financial Stability.
Financial statement information is used by both external and internal users, including investors, creditors, managers, and executives. These users must analyze the information in order to make business decisions, so understanding financial statements is of great importance. Several methods of performing financial statement analysis exist. This article discusses two of these methods: horizontal analysis and vertical analysis.
Methods of financial statement analysis generally involve comparing certain information. The horizontal analysis compares specific items over a number of accounting periods. For example, accounts payable may be compared over a period of months within a fiscal year, or revenue may be compared over a period of several years. These comparisons are performed in one of two different ways.
One method of performing a horizontal financial statement analysis compares the absolute dollar amounts of certain items over a period of time. For example, this method would compare the actual dollar amount of operating expenses over a period of several accounting periods. This method is valuable when trying to determine whether a company is conservative or excessive in spending on certain items. This method also aids in determining the effects of outside influences on the company, such as increasing gas prices or a reduction in the cost of materials.
The other method of performing horizontal financial statement analysis compares the percentage difference in certain items over a period of time. The dollar amount of the change is converted to a percentage change. For example, a change in operating expenses from $1,000 in period one to $1,050 in period two would be reported as a 5% increase. This method is particularly useful when comparing small companies to large companies.
The vertical analysis compares each separate figure to one specific figure in the financial statement. The comparison is reported as a percentage. This method compares several items to one certain item in the same accounting period. Users often expand upon vertical analysis by comparing the analyses of several periods to one another. This can reveal trends that may be helpful in decision making. An explanation of Vertical analysis of the income statement and vertical analysis of the balance sheet follows.
Performing vertical analysis of the income statement involves comparing each income statement item to sales. Each item is then reported as a percentage of sales. For example, if sales equals $10,000 and operating expenses equals $1,000, then operating expenses would be reported as 10% of sales.
Performing vertical analysis of the balance sheet involves comparing each balance sheet item to total assets. Each item is then reported as a percentage of total assets. For example, if cash equals $5,000 and total assets equals $25,000, then cash would be reported as 20% of total assets.
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Edmonds, C., Edmonds, T., Olds, P., & Schneider, N. (2006). “Fundamental Managerial Accounting Concepts.” 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin.