Balance Sheet vs. Profit and Loss Statement: What’s the Difference?

5 mins read
by Angel One
Explore the unique roles and characteristics of balance sheet vs profit and loss statement. Discover thor role in highlighting a company's financial strength and steering its strategic pathways.


The balance sheet and P&L statement form two vital parts of the trio of documents businesses regularly release.  While they interweave shared data such as revenues, expenses, and profits, each document serves a distinct purpose in the financial storytelling of a company. 

Balance Sheet 

The balance sheet is a critical snapshot, revealing the financial position of a company at a specific moment. Picture this document as a scale, balancing assets on one side with the combined weight of liabilities and shareholder equity on the other. 

  • Assets: The economic resources or value the company owns, like cash reserves, inventory, and property. These are tools the company uses to operate and grow.
  • Liabilities: These are the debts or obligations the company must pay, like loans or accounts payable. It represents the financial responsibilities the company has to external parties.
  • Owners’ Equity: This is the residual interest in the assets of the company after deducting liabilities. It represents the net value or ‘worth’ of the company to its shareholders, reflecting their claim on the company’s assets.

Just as a scale balances weight, a balance sheet balances these three elements, with assets on one side equaling the sum of liabilities and owners’ equity on the other. 

Read More About Balance Sheet

Profit and Loss (P&L) Statement 

Commonly known as an income statement, the Profit and Loss (P&L) statement is a vital document showcasing a firm’s financial trajectory over a designated period, such as a quarter or a fiscal year. This document narrates the journey of revenues evolving into either net profits or losses. P&L Statement includes:

  • Total Revenues: This represents the sum of earnings from goods or services sold before subtracting any expenses.
  • Cost of Goods Sold (COGS): These are the expenses directly tied to the production of the sold goods.
  • Gross Profit: Calculated as Revenue – COGS, it’s the profit a company makes after deducting the costs associated with making and selling its products or services.
  • Operating Expenses: This category includes costs not directly linked to production like salaries, rent, and utilities.
  • Net Income: Often referred to as the ‘bottom line,’ it is the final profit or loss after all expenses, including operational costs, taxes, and interests, are deducted from total revenues.

Read More About P&L Statements

Balance Sheet Vs P&L

While both P&L and balance sheet provide critical insights into a company’s financial health, they serve different purposes and give different perspectives:

  • Time Frame: The balance sheet captures the company’s status at the end of an accounting period, showing what it owns and owes. The P&L statement unfolds the company’s financial story over a set period, like a fiscal year or quarter.
  • Value vs. Performance: The balance sheet focuses on the company’s value through its assets and liabilities, offering a glimpse into its financial stability. The P&L statement, however, zeroes in on operational performance, emphasising the company’s profitability.
  • Interconnectivity: Although distinct, these statements are related. The net income figured in the P&L influences the retained earnings in the shareholder’s equity section of the balance sheet. Decisions and strategies reflected in the balance sheet affect costs and revenues, thereby impacting the P&L statement.

Purpose of Each Statement

  • Balance Sheet: Reflecting Financial Health

The balance sheet highlights a company’s financial worth at a certain moment.  It stands as a foundational reference for calculating financial ratios like debt to equity and return on assets, pivotal in making informed investment choices.

  • P&L Statement: A Record of Efficiency and Profitability

On the other hand, the P&L statement sheds light on the company’s financial activities over a set period. It’s particularly valuable for spotting patterns in sales, costs, and profits over various intervals. 

Profit vs. Total Value

  • Profit: A Sign of Business Efficiency 

Profit, simply put, is the money left after paying off all the costs, expenses, and taxes from the business’s income. It shows on the P&L (Profit & Loss) statement as net income and acts as a signal of how well a company is doing in turning its revenues into profit.  

  • Total Value: More Than Just Profits

On the other hand, the total value is not just about the money made; it’s about everything the company is worth. This includes all the profits kept in the business, the money invested into it, and all the assets it has built up over time. Unlike profit, which can go up and down quickly, total value tends to be more consistent and gives a clearer picture of where the company stands overall.

Understanding the Calculations: Profit And Loss Balance Sheet

Balance Sheet Equation: Assets = Liabilities + Shareholders’ Equity

At the heart of the balance sheet lies a simple yet fundamental equation: Assets equal the sum of Liabilities and Shareholders’ Equity. Imagine a scale in perfect balance. On one side, assets represent everything the company owns. On the other hand, liabilities and shareholders’ equity represent what the company owes and the value left for owners, respectively. Every item the company owns, lowes, or is owned by shareholders must be meticulously listed and valued to ensure both sides of this equation are equal.

Profit & Loss (P&L) Statement: Revenues – Expenses = Profit

Now, let’s look at the Profit and Loss Statement, or P&L. It begins with revenues – the total earnings – and then subtracts all costs and expenses, including the cost of goods sold (COGS), operating expenses, taxes, and interest. What you end up with is the net income or profit. It’s a linear journey from the total earnings down to the remaining profit after all deductions. The challenge lies in correctly identifying and recording every type of revenue and expense during the period, following strict accounting rules and standards.


What insights does the P&L statement offer about a company?

The P&L statement is a tale of earnings. It details the journey of revenues converting into net income, reflecting on the company’s ability to manage costs, drive sales, and maintain operational health across a set accounting period.

Why do investors need both a balance sheet and P&L statement?

Investors look to the balance sheet for a snapshot of financial worth and stability at a given time. The P&L statement, conversely, shows the business’s earnings trajectory and operational prowess. Together, they paint a full picture of financial vitality and future potential.

Are there any key differences in the way these statements are prepared?

Yes, generally, the Profit and Loss statement is prepared first to culminate in the net income figure, which then feeds into the retained earnings in the shareholders’ equity section of the Balance Sheet. The Balance Sheet reflects the company’s financial position at a specific point, whereas the P&L reflects financial performance over a period.

Can a company have a healthy P&L and a weak balance sheet?

Yes, a firm might show healthy profits on the profit and loss account in balance sheet but simultaneously struggle with financial health as revealed by a strained balance sheet. High debts or poor asset management can shadow profitable operations, signalling deeper financial concerns.

How do balance sheets and P&L statements interrelate?

The dance between these two statements is intricate. Net income from the P&L slots into the balance sheet’s equity section, altering retained earnings. Every operational success or hiccup (revenues and expenses) not only reflects in profits but also reshapes assets and liabilities, continuously weaving the company’s financial narrative.