What is the purpose of the cash flow statement?

what is the purpose of the statement of cash flows

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Cash flow is typically depicted as being positive (the business is taking in more cash than it’s expending) or negative (the business is spending more cash than it’s receiving). To facilitate this understanding, here’s everything you need to know about how to read and understand a cash flow statement. For example, if a company buys new computers for its employees, that would be recorded as an investment expense. On the other hand, if a company sells some PP&E it previously owned (or pays off some debt), that would also show up as an investing cash inflow. Are you interested in gaining a toolkit for making smart financial decisions and the confidence to clearly communicate those decisions to key internal and external stakeholders?

The statement may show a flow of cash from operating activities large enough to finance all projected capital needs internally rather than having to incur long-term debt or issue additional stock. Alternatively, if the company has been experiencing cash shortages, management can use the statement to determine why such shortages are occurring. Using the statement of cash flows, management may also recommend to the board of directors a reduction in dividends to conserve cash. Cash moves into and out of a business for various reasons, sometimes unrelated to the direct sale of products, goods, or services. The cash on these financial statements includes current assets, like money in checking and savings accounts, and cash equivalents, like short-term investments. The purpose of the statement of cash flows is to present cash inflows and outflows for a reporting period to the reader of the report.

Purpose of Cash Flow Statement

In cash basis accounting, money is only counted when it is actually received or spent by the business. The opposite of this is the accrual basis of accounting which counts cash if earned or expensed, even if those transactions have not been completely processed. Each section of the cash flow statement should have a total balance — total cash flows for operating activities, investing, and financing. At the end of the statement, these totals are combined to determine the company’s total cash flow balance for the period. On the other hand, a negative balance suggests the company spent more than it generated. Southwest Airlines was in the enviable position of generating $1,600,000,000 in cash from operating activities for the year ended December 31, 2010.

However, cash on the balance sheet only increased $147,000,000 for the same period. Why did total cash go up by such a small amount compared to the $1,600,000,000 increase in cash from operating activities? The statement of cash flows provides the information necessary to answer this question. Southwest spent $493,000,000 on property and equipment (planes, parts, etc.) and $155,000,000 to pay off long-term debt. The CFS bridges the income statement and balance sheet by showing how a company’s assets and liabilities translate into revenue-affecting transactions.

Example of a Cash Flow Statement

You can also add “creation of financial statements” to your resume’s skill section. When calculating financing cash flows, accountants should include debt and equity financing — money used to fund the business and pay back borrowed funds. U.S.-based accountants who adhere to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) should list shareholder dividends in the financing activities section. However, international accountants who follow international financial reporting standards (IFRS) should include dividends as part of operating activities instead. The statement of cash flows is part of the financial statements, which also include the income statement and balance sheet.

  • The statement also reveals the sources and uses of certain cash flows, which would not otherwise be readily apparent to the reader.
  • The second way to prepare the operating section of the statement of cash flows is called the indirect method.
  • Comparing current year numbers with the previous year via cash flow analysis makes it easy to check if your company has improved or worsened in terms of its financial health.
  • Southwest spent $493,000,000 on property and equipment (planes, parts, etc.) and $155,000,000 to pay off long-term debt.

Meanwhile, it spent approximately $33.77 billion in investment activities, and a further $16.3 billion in financing activities, for a total cash outflow of $50.1 billion. Assume you keep track of your individual cash transactions for an entire year in a check register (e.g., checks written and paycheck deposits) and suppose you have hundreds of transactions for the year. Rather than showing every single transaction in a formal report, the statement of cash flows summarizes these transactions. The goal is to start with the beginning of the year cash balance, add all cash receipts for the year, subtract all cash payments for the year, and find the resulting end-of-year cash balance. Although the formal statement of cash flows is not quite this simple, the concept is the same.

Purpose of the Statement of Cash Flows

Calculating investing cash flows involves tallying up any cash spent or generated from buying property, selling real estate, investing in office equipment, or acquiring a business. These cash flows only include transactions completed with free cash or money the company has on hand to spend. The second way to prepare the operating section of the statement of cash flows is called the indirect method. If your work or internship experience included creating financial statements, include that in the description of the job or internship. For example, mention if you had an internship where you prepared a business’s income sheets, balance sheets, and cash flow statements.

what is the purpose of the statement of cash flows

The first method used to calculate the operation section is called the direct method, which is based on the transactional information that impacted cash during the period. To calculate the operation section using the direct method, take all cash collections from operating activities, and subtract all of the cash disbursements from the operating activities. The statement depicting the profitability of the business entity by reporting all the sacrifices made by the business and the benefits generated from the business operations is known as an income statement. Having negative cash flow means your cash outflow is higher than your cash inflow during a period, but it doesn’t necessarily mean profit is lost. Instead, negative cash flow may be caused by expenditure and income mismatch, which should be addressed as soon as possible. Your business can be profitable without being cash flow-positive, and you can have positive cash flow without actually making a profit.

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For example, if you sell products or services, this would be called revenue (or sales). And if you purchase products or services for your business, this would be called expenses. Using Apple’s annual financial report for the fiscal year 2022, we can see an example of what cash flow statements look like for a large corporation.

For instance, depreciation and amortization are subtracted from revenue to get net income. These are not cash transactions, though, even if they affect the company’s overall profits. Cash flows are only explicit additions or subtractions to the company’s cash balances.


If you’re an investor, this information can help you better understand whether you should invest in a company. If you’re a business owner or entrepreneur, it can help you understand business performance and adjust key initiatives or strategies. If you’re a manager, it can help you more effectively manage budgets, oversee your team, and develop closer relationships with leadership—ultimately allowing you to play a larger role within your organization. Prepare a corrected classified balance sheet as of July 31, 2017, from the available information, adjusting the account balances using the additional information.