Balance sheets

What is a balance sheet and why is it used?


The balance sheet provides information on a company's assets and liabilities which show its ability to pay for its near-term operating needs and future debt obligations.

Limited companies and limited liability partnerships must produce a balance sheet as part of their annual accounts for submission to:

  • Companies House
  • HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
  • shareholders - unless agreed otherwise

As well as the balance sheet, annual accounts include the:

  • profit and loss account
  • auditor's reports - unless exemptions apply
  • directors' report
  • notes to the accounts - these should provide any information you think may be relevant, eg supplementary financial information or additional detail

Other parties who may wish to see the accounts - and therefore the balance sheet - are:

  • potential lenders or investors
  • potential purchasers of the business
  • government departments carrying out inspections
  • employees
  • trade unions

There are strict deadlines for submitting annual accounts and returns to Companies House and HMRC - you may have to pay a fine if you send them in late.

Reporting requirements for other business structures

Self-employed people, partners and partnerships are not required to submit formal accounts and balance sheets on their tax return. However, the returns do require the relevant financial details to be entered in a set format, so you may find it beneficial to prepare the figures in a balance sheet format.

Other key benefits of producing a balance sheet include:

  • if you want to raise finance, most lenders or investors will want to see three years' accounts
  • if you want to bid for large contracts, including government contracts, the client will probably want to see audited accounts
  • producing formal accounts - including a balance sheet - will help you monitor the performance of your business

Download a basic balance sheet for limited companies to use and adapt (XLS, 14K).

  • Companies House Contact Centre
    0303 1234 500