What Are Balance Sheet Formulas?

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Investors and analysts alike use balance sheet formulas to gain insight about a company's finances. By applying formulas to the balance sheet, they can calculate ratios that determine many important metrics about its performance and financial health, such as its liquidity, solvency, and profitability.

Key Takeaways

  • Balance sheet ratios evaluate a company's financial performance.
  • There are three types of ratios derived from the balance sheet: liquidity, solvency, and profitability.
  • Liquidity ratios show the ability to turn assets into cash quickly.
  • Solvency ratios show the ability to pay off debts.
  • Profitability ratios show the ability to generate income.

Definition and Examples of Balance Sheet Formulas

Balance sheet formulas are used to assess a company's financial health, by calculating ratios derived from the balance sheet. Assessing these ratios can better inform your investment decisions.

  • Alternative names: Balance sheet ratios, financial ratios

The balance sheet is divided into three segments: Assets, or the value of what the company has, owns, or is owed; liabilities (debts), or what the business owes; and shareholder's equity, which is the value that is owned by shareholders.

Balance sheets can have many types of entries. These signify where the money came from, where it went, and who owes it to the business. As an investor, you are likely most concerned with profitability (how much money a company makes); liquidity (how soon a company can pay its debts); and solvency (how a company can pay its long-term debts).


Not all companies report their finances the same on balance sheets, which makes it difficult to compare companies based on their financial information alone.

How Balance Sheet Formulas Work

The balance sheet and the income sheet (or income statement) are used to determine many of the ratios used to analyze the balance sheet. For some of the ratios, you can use the information on just the balance sheet. For others, you need to use data from both sheets.

The ratios are used to create the big picture of how a company manages its money. The profitability ratios, when used together, help you figure out whether the business is creating earnings. There is one caveat to determining whether a business is profitable or not: It has to be compared to similar companies. They should be alike in financial structure, operational structure, supply chain, and other aspects of the business.

This comparison also needs to be applied to solvency and liquidity ratios, especially ratios that indicate low performance. All of these ratios have a general guideline that indicates whether the business is performing well or not. For instance, if you have $1 of debt and $3 of equity, your debt-to-equity ratio is 0.333. General guidelines for this ratio suggest that any ratio of less than one is a good indicator.


When judging whether a business is a good investment or not, it helps to compare as much past performance data as possible.

The ratios are beneficial for comparing a company's past to its current performance. That is often done on a comparative balance sheet that shows multiple periods' worth of data.

Types of Balance Sheet Formulas

The most experienced and savvy analysts, academics, and investors have countless formulas to assess the most detailed aspects of a company's finances. For the average or new investor, there are a handful of formulas that make up the basic essentials, which can tell you about a company's profitability, liquidity, and solvency.

How Do You Calculate Profitability?

Profitability ratios show how much money a company makes. They also show how it distributes the cash to operate and to reward investors.

Gross profit margin is used to figure out how much profit is left after sales and when all administrative and selling costs have been paid. To calculate the gross profit of a company, use the formula:

Gross Profit Margin

The contribution margin ratio subtracts all variable expenses from sales and is divided by sales. The ratio demonstrates the percentage of profit left to pay for fixed expenses and call a profit. The formula reads:

Contribution Margin Ratio

The net profit margin ratio indicates the ratio of sales that is left after expenses are paid.

Net Profit Ratio

The return on equity ratio shows the ratio of income to shareholder's equity. This demonstrates your investment return.

Return on Equity

A business's assets should provide profit for the company. The return-on-assets ratio offers a measurement of how well the business is doing that.

Return on Assets

How Do You Calculate Liquidity?

Liquidity ratios measure how quickly a firm can pay off its debts by liquidating assets or using cash. These ratios are:

The current ratio measures the percentage of current assets to current liabilities. The one limitation of the current ratio is that it includes inventory; it isn't quickly turned into cash.

Current Ratio

The quick ratio is the same as the current ratio, but you subtract inventory first, because it isn't a liquid asset.

Quick Ratio

Cash and convertible investments are compared to current liabilities; they show how soon debts can be paid with either or both.

Cash Ratio

How Do You Calculate Solvency?

Solvency ratios are used to figure out how well a company is positioned to pay off its debts. The current and quick ratios can be used for liquidity and solvency tests.

  • Current ratio
  • Quick ratio
  • Debt to equity
  • Interest coverage
  • Essential solvency ratio

The debt-to-equity ratio shows how much debt a company has, compared to its equity.

Debt to Equity

The interest coverage ratio is used to figure out whether a company can pay its interest debts.

Interest Coverage Ratio

One last ratio is not necessarily named but is essential to know. It compares profit and non-cash items to all liabilities, and it gives an investor a clearer picture of whether a business can meet all of its financial obligations. This ratio is called the "essential ratio."

Essential Ratio

Criticisms of Balance Sheet Formulas

The ratios derived from a balance sheet can provide you with a picture of a company's finances, but they are limited to a specific period. The snapshot you get shows how the company has performed in the past; it's not how it performs in the present.

Publicized balance sheets often don't reveal much of the financial knowledge that could be useful to you as an investor, such as the amount spent on specific projects. Instead, you may see an estimate of research-and-development costs. That can be useful, as it lets you know that the company is reinvesting in itself, but not much else is helpful about it.

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  1. Robinhood. "What is the Debt to Equity Ratio?" Accessed Dec. 9, 2021.

  2. Accounting Tools. "Solvency Ratios." Accessed Dec. 9, 2021.

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