Before making decisions with legal, tax, or accounting effects, you should consult appropriate professionals. Information is from sources deemed reliable on the date of publication, but Robinhood does not guarantee its accuracy. Even though some refer to retained earnings appropriations as retained earnings reserves, using the term reserves is discouraged. If the company is experiencing a net loss on their Income Statement, then the net loss is subtracted from the existing retained earnings. According to the provisions in the loan agreement, retained earnings available for dividends are limited to  $20,000.

Is unearned revenue a debit or credit?

Unearned revenue is originally entered in the books as a debit to the cash account and a credit to the unearned revenue account. The credit and debit are the same amount, as is standard in double-entry bookkeeping. Also, each transaction is always recorded in two accounts.

Such items include sales revenue, cost of goods sold (COGS), depreciation, and necessary operating expenses. If the company had not retained this money and instead taken an interest-bearing loan, the value generated would have been less due to the outgoing interest payment. RE offers internally generated capital to finance projects, allowing for efficient value creation by profitable companies. Profits give a lot of room to the business owner(s) or the company management to use the surplus money earned. This profit is often paid out to shareholders, but it can also be reinvested back into the company for growth purposes.

How Do You Calculate Retained Earnings on the Balance Sheet?

Taking the balance at the beginning of the month, adding the deposits, and subtracting the withdraws would result in the balance at the end of the month. An alternative to the statement of retained earnings is the statement of stockholders’ equity. Changes in the composition of retained earnings reveal important information about a corporation to financial statement users. A separate formal statement—the statement of retained earnings—discloses such changes.

There are businesses with more complex balance sheets that include more line items and numbers. These adjustments could correct errors or rectify incorrect estimates that were used in the preceding accounting period. As an investor, one would like to know much more—such as the returns that the retained earnings have generated and if they were better than any alternative investments. Additionally, investors may prefer to see larger dividends rather than significant annual increases to retained earnings. Management and shareholders may want the company to retain the earnings for several different reasons. Retained earnings are also called earnings surplus and represent reserve money, which is available to company management for reinvesting back into the business.

What Happens to Retained Earnings When a Dividend Is Paid?

Retained earnings is the cumulative amount of earnings since the corporation was formed minus the cumulative amount of dividends that were declared. Retained earnings is the corporation’s past earnings that have not been distributed as dividends to its stockholders. Calculating your retained earnings balance can bring up lots of questions, so we answered the most common ones below.

retained earnings normal balance

The income statement calculates net income, which is the balance you have after subtracting additional expenses from the gross profit. At the end of the period, you can calculate your final Retained Earnings balance for the balance sheet by taking the beginning period, adding any net income or net loss, and subtracting any dividends. Examples of these items include sales revenue, cost of goods sold, depreciation, and other operating expenses. Non-cash items such as write-downs or impairments and stock-based compensation also affect the account. Adjustments to retained earnings are made by first calculating the amount that needs adjustment.


This information is educational, and is not an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security. This information is not a recommendation to buy, hold, or sell an investment or financial product, or take any action. This information is neither individualized nor a research report, and must not serve as the basis for any investment decision.

For an analyst, the absolute figure of retained earnings during a particular quarter or year may not provide any meaningful insight. Observing it over a period of time (for example, over five years) only indicates the trend of how much money a company is adding to retained earnings. It involves paying out a nominal amount of dividends and retaining a good portion of the earnings, which offers a win-win. The decision to retain the earnings or to distribute them among shareholders is usually left to the company management. However, it can be challenged by the shareholders through a majority vote because they are the real owners of the company.

Unit 14: Stockholders’ Equity, Earnings and Dividends

A statement of retained earnings is a disclosure to shareholders regarding any change in the amount of funds a company has in reserve during the accounting period. Retained earnings are part of shareholder equity (assets minus liabilities), which appear on the company’s balance sheet (the financial statement that lists assets and liabilities). Retained earnings increase if the company generates a positive net income (revenues are greater than expenses) during the period, and the company elects to retain rather than distribute those earnings. Retained earnings decrease if the company experiences an operating loss — or if it allocates more in dividends (distributions to shareholders) than its net income for the accounting period.

Note that a retained earnings appropriation does not reduce either stockholders’ equity or total retained earnings but merely earmarks (restricts) a portion of retained earnings for a specific reason. Over the same duration, its stock price rose by $84 ($112 – $28) per share. For example, during the period from September 2016 through September 2020, Apple Inc.’s (AAPL) stock price rose from around $28 to around $112 per share. During the same period, the total earnings per share (EPS) was $13.61, while the total dividend paid out by the company was $3.38 per share. In the long run, such initiatives may lead to better returns for the company shareholders instead of those gained from dividend payouts. Paying off high-interest debt also may be preferred by both management and shareholders, instead of dividend payments.

Normal balance of retained earnings definition

To calculate retained earnings add net income to or subtract any net losses from beginning retained earnings and subtracting any dividends paid to shareholders. A statement of retained earnings is part of a company’s financial statement, which explains any change in retained earnings during an accounting period. However, once you debit the amount from dividends, that money still needs to be credited to the appropriate account. These values need to be equal to show where money was deducted and added.

  • The statement of retained earnings is the fourth part of a company’s financial statements.
  • Consequently, the amount of the credit balance does not necessarily indicate the relative success of a business.
  • These adjustments could correct errors or rectify incorrect estimates that were used in the preceding accounting period.
  • If you look at the bank statement for your savings account, it explains how your balance changed during the month.
  • Distribution of dividends to shareholders can be in the form of cash or stock.

Cash dividends represent a cash outflow and are recorded as reductions in the cash account. These reduce the size of a company’s balance sheet and asset value as the company no longer owns part of its liquid assets. Retained Earnings are reported on the balance sheet under the shareholder’s equity section at the end of each accounting period. To calculate RE, the beginning RE balance is added to the net income or reduced by a net loss and then dividend payouts are subtracted. A summary report called a statement of retained earnings is also maintained, outlining the changes in RE for a specific period.

What affects the retained earnings balance?

Harold Averkamp (CPA, MBA) has worked as a university accounting instructor, accountant, and consultant for more than 25 years.