Level I Review: Balance Sheet

Study Session 9 is really your first look into the detail in the financial statements. There are four readings, covering inventories, income taxes, non-current liabilities and non-current assets. The material may seem a little boring at times and is largely a review of accounting issues. Resist the urge to just go through the motions and memorize enough to pass the test on these topics, here and in the other readings on the financial statement accounts. Learning the intricacies within the individual line items in the financial statements is your life as an analyst and really separates the good from the great.

It may be easy to fall into a trance-like state while reading through the material. You really need to stop every once in a while to think back on what you’ve read and review the important points.


The material revolves around the choices for inventory accounting (FIFO, LIFO, Weighted Average, and Specific ID). You absolutely must know the FIFO AND LIFO concepts as well as how the choice affects ratios and the income statement. You will need this going into the CFA level 2 exam so don’t ignore it.
FIFO expenses the first items purchased for cost of goods sold, which are usually cheaper given inflation. This will lead to higher earnings from the lower expense. Ending inventory, working capital, shareholders’ equity, earnings, current ratio, ROA, ROE and the profit margin are usually higher using FIFO accounting. The advantage of FIFO is that the ending inventory will represent current replacement costs.
LIFO expenses newer inventory first so ending inventory will usually be lower in an environment of increasing prices. Understand what happens in an inventory liquidation and what it means for taxes, cash flow and earnings. After-tax cash flow, debt-to-equity, and asset turnover are usually higher under LIFO accounting. The advantage of LIFO is that it better matches current costs in goods sold with revenues.
The weighted average costing method is fairly straight forward and just the total cost of units available for sale divided by the total number of units available for sale in the period. It is not quite as commonly used and the Institute does not spend nearly as much time on it as the other two methods. The advantage of average costing is that it smoothes any price changes.
Understand how to convert LIFO to FIFO statements. Add the ending LIFO reserve to inventory. Subtract the change in LIFO reserve from the COGS for FIFO cost of goods sold. Adjust the LIFO net profit by the change in LIFO reserve and the tax rate for the FIFO net profit.
For the exam, you need to understand how the inventory costing methods result in different valuations in other accounts (i.e. gross/operating/net profits, ending inventory, cost of goods, taxes). The table below shows the costing method affects in a (normal) rising price environment. You may be asked how this would differ when prices are falling which would mean that the opposite would happen. More important that memorizing the table is understanding what is happening.
A table with LIFO and FIFO across the top and all the relevant ratios/financial statement line items down the side makes it easier to see how the two methods can cause differences in your analysis. Rather than just writing higher or lower, understand why the effect happens (i.e. shareholders’ equity is usually higher with FIFO because earnings and inventories are higher).

Long-lived Assets

Much of the reading revolves around the capitalizing/expensing debate. Understand the rules for capitalizing and how/why managers might want to bend them.
On acquisition, all tangible assets (physical assets) are recorded at cost on the balance sheet. This is capitalization because the company creates a capital asset that will be used in the business. It appears as an increase in the asset and shareholder’s equity (balance sheet) and a cash outflow in investing (Statement Cash Flows). The company will then depreciate the value of the asset by expensing a certain amount on the income statement each quarter and increasing the accumulated depreciation account on the balance sheet.
The company may also choose to expense an asset if its usefulness is used entirely in the current period. This means no change on the balance sheet and higher expenses on the income statement. Since this results in lower net income (in the current period) and lower assets, management may choose to capitalize an asset when it can.
Your job as an analyst will be to decide if the decision was appropriate and adjust the financial statements if necessary. The material on the adjustments is important and you should remember how to adjust the interest coverage ratio (add depreciation expense to EBIT and the capitalized interest to interest expense) and the net profit margin.
You may also want to adjust the statements for capitalized interest by: add capitalized interest back to interest expense, reclassify capitalized interest from investing to operations on the cash flow statement, remove capitalized interest from depreciation expense.
Understand how the financial statement accounts and ratios differ under capitalizing or expensing. A table makes it easy to remember with capitalization on one side and expensing on the other. Return on equity, ROA, profit margin, pretax cash from operations, earnings, and shareholders’ equity will be higher under capitalization. Cash from investing, asset turnover, and debt-to-equity will be higher under expensing.
Remember the difference and how to calculate the methods of depreciation: straight-line, accelerated, and units-of-production and be able to estimate the age of fixed assets.
Straight-line depreciation is relatively easy and just the original cost minus salvage value, divided by useful life. The biggest hurdle is remembering to reduce by salvage value because many candidates forget the step.
Accelerated depreciation for each year is = (2/asset life) multiplied by the year’s beginning book value of the asset. The method books higher depreciation expense earlier in the asset life.

Debt-to-equity and asset turnover will be higher under an accelerated method of depreciation while ROE, ROA, profit margin, shareholders’ equity, and earnings are higher under straight-line.

The units-of-production method is = (number of units produced/number of total units asset will produce over useful life) times the cost minus salvage value.
Intangible assets are those like patents and goodwill that do not have a physical nature. The most important material here is the difference between IFRS and GAAP in the recognization and accounting for intangible assets. There are separate rules for an internally-generated asset (i.e. through R&D) and an acquired asset. Again, a table with IFRS and GAAP next to each other makes it easiest to compare and remember the material.

Income Taxes

You will need to know the difference between accounting profit and taxable income and how to calculate deferred tax assets and liabilities. A deferred tax liability is taxes that will be paid in the future because the company reported lower taxable income than profits, while a DTA is taxes that will be saved in the future. The material can be a little confusing so you may need to spend a little extra time.
On these more difficult concepts, I like to look for a YouTube video that may help explain things. If you are a visual learner like me, it may help to see the material from a different perspective. Allen Mursau provides a good overview of deferred taxes at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45PARid_erY
Understand the concept behind temporary and permanent differences. Tax-exempt interest, allowable tax credits and life insurance premiums are the usual examples for permanent differences.
Be able to determine the income tax expense under the liability method: Taxes payable + change in DTL – Changes in DTA net of valuation allowance.

Non-Current Liabilities

You need to be able to work through the calculation for interest expense, coupon payment and the ending carrying value of a bond. It can be a pain at first isn’t too difficult once you understand what is happening.
The interest expense is just the ending carrying value times the market rate times ½ for semiannual bonds. Reduce this by the interest payment (face value * coupon rate*1/2) for the change in the liability. The prior ending carrying value plus the change in liability is your new carrying value.
Understand how a change in interest rates affects the market value of debt and economic gains. An increase in rates will decrease the value of debt and lead to an economic gain.
Remember the five main debt covenants: limitations on asset disposal, restrictions on debt issuance, limits on use of borrowed funds, collateral maintenance, and dividend restrictions.
Study session ten in the Level I CFA Program curriculum concludes the material on FSA with reporting quality and some applications.
‘til next time, happy studyin’
Joseph Hogue, CFA

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