Skip main navigation

Introduction: stocks and flows

This short animation illustrates the fundamental accounting equation that must always hold in any company or public sector entity.
15.4
What a company or a public sector entity owns is its wealth. In accounting terms, wealth is formed of assets and liabilities. Assets minus liabilities equals capital. This is the fundamental accounting equation that must always hold in any company or public sector entity. Companies and entities can borrow money. Money borrowed might be used to increase the asset base, but it also adds to the debt. Assets, liabilities, and capital are stock values because they exist at any particular moment in time. Income or revenue is generated through what the company charges or sells. The company also has expenses. Paying staff, buying services, and paying interest on debt.
67.3
Over an extended period of time, the difference between how much the company earns and how much it consumes tells us its net income. For businesses, hopefully the net income shows a healthy bit of profit. Public sector entities, instead, do not aim to make a profit. If they do make a loss, however, they erode their capital and jeopardise the running of their business in the future. Income and expenses are flow values because they exist over a period of time. But remember, net income is different to cash flow which is the amount of money flowing in and out in a period of time.
110.1
That cash may come in from charging for services, collecting taxes, or selling assets, and it may go out to pay salaries, purchase services, or pay back loans. Net income and cash flow are related, but they are not the same kind of flow. For example, a company earns an income when they sell goods or services, but they do not have any cash inflow until they receive payment from their clients. Cash flow is important. It’s the lifeblood of any company and tells us just how healthy the company’s finances really are.

How do we measure and track what a company owns?

This short animation introduces some basic accounting concepts used to measure and track income and cash flow.

This article is from the free online

Understanding Public Financial Management: How Is Your Money Spent?

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education