GAAPs ensure that financial statements prepared under its standards are comparable, consistent, reliable and relevant. Such financial statement aid users in decision-making on such issues as investing decisions, credit worthiness and tax computation. They help accountants make decisions when encountered by a difficult situation. Financial statements prepared under GAAPs also reflect a true picture of the entitys financial position. (Stickney, C. and R. Weil, 2005)
It is a generally accepted accounting principle that applies to preparation of the balance sheet. This principle dictates that an item in the financial statement should be recorded at the amount that it was paid for rather than at market value. This is because the market value fluctuates a lot and those preparing financial statements may apply subjective measures of the market value. Recording assets at their actual cost does not affect a business entity much since assets are held to facilitate the entitys operations and not for resale.
It is criticized for ignoring the time value of money and market values of the various balance sheet items. However it is preferred as it leaves the management no room to manipulate the values as they would with market values. Financial statements prepared under this principles on therefore more reliable. (Stickney, C. and R. Weil, 2005)
Accrual basis vs. cash basis accounting
Accrual basis accounting recognizes revenue in the accounting period it is realized or earned and not necessarily when they are paid up. Revenue is considered realizable if the entity has enough ground to expect cash in future. It is considered earned when the entity has done enough to warrant compensation. The accrual basis also dictates that expenses be charged from revenue they were incurred to produce.
Cash basis accounting on the other hand, requires that revenues is recognized in the accounting period that cash is received and expenses in the period they are paid for. Revenues and expenses involves in credit transactions are therefore not recognized until payment is done. It is usually applied in small organizations with a short credit periods. It is simple and inexpensive since one does not have to maintain several ledger accounts such as accounts payable accounts receivable, prepaid and accrued expenses. It also allows the entities to defer tax payments until it receives the cash.
However accrual basis is more widely used since it gives a fairer view of the financial performance of an entity. It also complies with the accrual and matching concepts under US GAAP. The difference between the two methods is on timing of recording transactions. Cash basis traces all cash flows but fails to match revenues with expenses incurred. Accrual basis matches revenues with expenses incurred but fails to trace cash flows. (Stickney, C. and R. Weil, 2005) To overcome this deficiency, the entity has to prepare a cash flow statement.
Current assets and liabilities vs. non-current items
Current assets are cash and assets that can be converted in to cash within a short period probably within a year. They include accounts receivable, inventory and prepaid expenses. Non current assets are not convertible to cash in a short period and if convertible, there are still non-current as they are used in the entitys operation.
Non-current assets are either tangible or intangible. Tangible assets include property and plant and machinery while intangibles include goodwills and patents. Current liabilities are those liabilities that fall due and are paid up within a year include accounts payable accruals, and tax liability. Non-current liabilities fall due in the long term and include such items long-term debt and deferred income tax.
This classification is useful in determining the financial position of an entity. A business entity should pay its current liabilities with current assets and non-current liabilities with non-current assets and equity. A firm financing its current liabilities with non-current assets is not in a healthy financial position.
Wal-Mart stores Inc
The consolidated balance sheet is arranged in the order of liquidity while the cash flow is prepared under the indirect methods. All the statements are prepared in compliance with the US GAAP. Accrual basis accounting is applied and revenues are matched with the expenses incurred to generate them. Assets are recorded at the actual cost of acquisition and not at the market value. The balance sheet items are classified as current and non- current items. (Wal-Mart, 2008)
Wal-Mart Stores cash flow from operating activities is higher than the net income. The company is in a position to meet its financial obligations as they fall due. The cash flow from operating activities is more useful to Wal-Mart since it is harder to manipulate than net income. This is especially so for a retailer where the management can engage in sales boosting activities such as channel stuffing. (Williams J. and J. Carcello, 2006).
The corporations income statement is prepared under the common sized format is thus easier to analyze. The balance sheet and cash flow statement have been combined in to a single statement devoid of much detail.
The corporations cash flow from operating activities is higher than the net income, which is an indication of enough liquidity to meet obligations as they become due. The net income for Google is however more useful than the net cash flow from operating as more details of its calculation is provided in the companys annual report while the cash flow is given as a final figure. (Google, 2008)
The financial statements are prepared using the accrual basis accounting and historical cost concept. The revenues and expenses are matched and balance sheet items recorded at the actual cost rather than in fair market value. The balance sheet items are classified as current and non-current and are in order of liquidity.
The statements are in compliance with the Japanese financial accounting standards, and are in conformity with the US GAAP. The positive net cash flow from operations indicates that company has enough liquidity to meet its financial obligations. The operating cash flow is more useful since net income does not reflect the firms true financial performance. The cash dividends are paid out cash from operating activities and it was therefore prudent to issue them. (Honda, 2006)
The company is likely to be more profitable and have higher cash flows in 2007. This is because its investment budget both domestically and internationally has grown consistently over time. From the annual report it is clear that while the firm will expand its operations internationally, the growth in revenues and cash flow may be hampered by interest rate fluctuations and exchange rate fluctuations. The effect of these fluctuations is however mitigated through hedges. (Wal-Mart, 2008)
The company future financial out look is healthy and income and cash flow from operating activities are likely to grow in 2007. Constant growth in both measures of performance has been also increased absolutely and also relative to reverse. It has also achieved greater efficiency as the proportion of net income in revenue has growth consistently. The trend is likely to continue in 2007. (Google, 2008)
While the net income has been growing over time the net cash flow from operating activities have declined in 2006. This is an indication that the company may experience cash flow problems in 2007. This company projects that revenues will grow in 2007 in spite of risks posed by interest rate and foreign exchange fluctuations. It however projects the growth to be moderate. (Honda, 2006)