Understanding the accounting equation is esential to a good understanding of accounting.

The Accounting Equation Explained with Examples

All accounting courses start with the accounting equation and the meaning it has. There might be many names or variations for the equation but in reality it does not change.

The purpose of the equation underlies the purpose of accounting, and that is to account for the flow of resources in and out of an entity – often a business. Whether this flow of resources is measured purely in cash movement or a full accrual basis, the accounting equation helps us to understand how these flows should be recorded.

So lets take a look at the basic equation first.

Basic Accounting Equation

The accounting equation basically says that at any point of the time, the assets should equal the liabilities plus the equity (the capital and the reserves).

The basic accounting equation reflects assets must balance again liabilities and capital.

However, each item in this equation can be further expanded which will give us the expanded accounting equation. The expanded accounting equation will be the same as a more compact view of the statement of financial position or the balance sheet.

Therefore, the assets can be further analyzed in cash, accounts receivable, prepayments and other short or long term assets. Similarly, the liabilities can be further expanded and include financial statement line items such as the accounts payable, the accruals, the short term and the long term interest bearing debt and other liabilities line items.

The most important thing in the expanded accounting accounting equation is the equity. The equity generally consists of the share capital or the capital contributed by the shareholders and the reserves or the retained earnings. There are many different types of reserves but for simplicity we will just consider the retained earnings.

The retained earnings is the accumulated profits (or losses) less any dividends paid to the shareholders. Therefore, the retained earnings, a statement of financial position line item is the only way that the income statement and the statement of financial position can interact.

Expanded Accounting Equation

As mentioned above, the retained earnings include the profits accumulated less any dividends paid. Let’s assume that a company has just started trading and will pay no dividends. The expanded accounting equation can be therefore written as follows:

The expanded accounting equation is a summary of the two key financial statements; statement of financial performance and position.

Worked Example

Let’s assume that company A, a consultancy company has just started trading. The following transactions have occurred:

  • The owner contributed $1,000 capital which was deposited in the company’s bank account.
  • $200 was spent to buy stationery
  • $200 was paid to for electricity all of which relates to this period
  • Cash Sales worth of $600 were made to Company B.

The transactions will be recorded as follows:

 Debit CashCredit EquityDebit Admin ExpensesCredit CashCredit Revenue
Capital Contribution$1,000$1,000
Expenditure for stationery$200$200
Expenditure for Electricity$200$200
Sales Made$600$600

As shown above, there are three transactions that will be recorded in the income statement which are as follows:

  • Stationery Expenses
  • Electricity Expenses
  • Revenue Generated

In addition, there are four transactions that will have an impact on the balance sheet:

  • The capital contribution
  • The stationery expenses (the cash paid)
  • The electricity expenses (the cash paid)
  • The revenue generated (the cash received)

The income statement will therefore look like this:

Admin Expenses(400)
Profit for the year200

The profit and loss account will be closed and “cleared” at the year end and the $200 balance will be transferred to retained earnings.

Therefore, the balance sheet will be as follows:

Total Assets 1,200
Retained Earnings200
Total Equity1,200

Back to the accounting equations, the basic accounting equation for this example is as follows:



Cash=Capital + Retained Earnings

or 1,200=1,200.

The expanded accounting equation is as follows:




which is the same as 1,200=1,200.

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