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How to Calculate Retained Earnings?

Susan Kelly

Nov 17, 2023

Are you looking to better manage your business finances? If so, you need to understand how to calculate retained earnings. Retained earnings are the total of all profits and losses that remain with a company at any time.

By understanding how to calculate them accurately, you'll be able to maximize efficiency in bookkeeping and help ensure your business remains financially stable in the years ahead. Keep reading for more insights on what retained earnings are and learn about the practical steps involved in calculating these important financial figures.

Retained Earnings

Retained earnings are left over after all expenses, dividends, and taxes have been paid. This figure is also known as 'retained profits' or 'shareholder's equity.' It is important to keep track of retained earnings because it reflects a company's economic health; if the number is positive, then it means that the business has more money coming in than going out, an indicator of financial stability.

This figure can be used to make investment decisions, employee salaries, and other budgeting matters. It is also helpful when filing taxes as you must know exactly how much profit your business has made before deductions such as payroll or other deductions. Calculating retained earnings accurately can help you stay on top of your finances and ensure your business remains profitable.

Steps for Calculating Retained Earnings

  • Start by calculating a company's net income (net profit or earnings) from the current year's financial statement. This is done by subtracting all expenses, such as payroll, taxes, and operating costs, from total revenue. The resulting figure is the net income.
  • Subtract any dividends paid to shareholders during that fiscal year from the net income to get a figure known as retained earnings before dividends were paid out.
  • Add back any dividends paid out in prior fiscal years to calculate the current retained earnings balance.
  • Subtract any losses the business may have incurred during the current fiscal year. This will give you an accurate figure reflecting your company's retained earnings.

By following these steps, you can accurately calculate retained earnings each period and understand your business's financial standing well. Doing so can help you plan for large investments or unexpectedly high expenses and ensure that your business remains stable in years to come.

Different Types of Distributions Associated with Retained Earnings

Retained earnings can be distributed in various ways. These include dividends, share repurchases, reinvestment into the business, and debt repayment.


Dividends are payments to shareholders from a company's profits. They are typically paid out every quarter and are usually relatively small amounts compared to other types of distributions.

Share repurchase

Share repurchase is when a company buys back its shares, thereby decreasing the number of outstanding shares and increasing the value of remaining shares due to lower supply. This type of distribution is often used by companies that have reached a certain level of profitability but do not need additional capital for growth or expansion.


Reinvestment into the business refers to using retained earnings as capital for new investments, such as expanding operations or creating new products. This is a common practice among companies with a lot of excess cash but looking for ways to stay competitive and remain profitable in the long term.

Debt repayment

Finally, retained earnings can be used to pay off debt. This may include short-term and long-term debts depending on the company's financial situation. Paying off debt helps decrease liabilities, which can benefit businesses looking to increase their net worth over time.

By understanding how to calculate retained earnings and their different types of distributions, you will be better equipped to make sound financial decisions for your business and ensure its sustainability over time.

How Do You Calculate Retained Earnings on the Balance Sheet?

Retained earnings can be calculated on the balance sheet using the formula:

Retained earnings = Beginning Retained Earnings + Net Income – Dividends Paid.

Beginning retained earnings refer to the amount of retained earnings reported on the previous period's balance sheet. Net income is the company's profit for a given period, and dividends paid are amounts distributed to shareholders as part of their return on investment.

The value obtained from this formula should match what is reported in the current period's balance sheet. If there are any discrepancies, then it could indicate that additional research is needed to identify why there may be a difference between expected and actual results.

By calculating retained earnings on the balance sheet as per the formula above, you can clearly understand how much your company has available for future growth and investments. It's important to keep track of this figure regularly to ensure that your business remains on a sound financial footing.

How Do You Prepare Retained Earnings Statements?

The retained earnings statement is a financial document that provides information on a company's retained earnings. Retained earnings are the profits or losses left after shareholders pay dividends.

It can be prepared by reviewing past financial statements and calculating the difference between net income and dividends paid for each period.

When preparing a retained earnings statement, you must include the beginning balance of retained earnings for the period, net income or loss for each period, dividends paid out each period, and any adjustments made to the account.

These adjustments may include corrections of errors in prior periods or write-offs of bad debts. Once all these figures are calculated, the ending retained earnings can be determined by adding the beginning balance to net income or loss and subtracting dividends paid out.

What Makes up Retained Earnings?

Retained earnings comprise a company's total profits after all expenses, taxes, and dividends have been paid out. It is important to keep track of this figure as it reflects the financial health of the business; if the number is positive, then it means that more money is coming in than going out and indicates that the company is doing well financially.

Retained earnings can also be used to make investment decisions, employee salaries, and other budgeting matters. In addition, calculating retained earnings accurately can help you stay on top of your finances and ensure that your business remains profitable.


What are the retained earnings at the end of a period?

The retained earnings at the end of a period are the amount left over after all expenses, taxes, and dividends have been paid out. This figure represents the money to be reinvested into the business or distributed to shareholders as dividends.

Is retained earnings an asset or liability?

Retained earnings are neither an asset nor a liability because it does not represent any legal obligation. Instead, it simply represents the money earned and reinvested into the company.

Is retained earnings also cash?

Retained earnings are not the same as cash because retained earnings are profits earned over time, whereas cash represents the amount of money a company has on hand at any given time. Retained earnings can be used to purchase assets or pay for expenses, but they are not equivalent to actual physical currency.


Learning how to calculate retained earnings for a business is essential for understanding the organization's financial health. With the right calculation approach and access to accurate data, you can get a clear picture of your company's overall profitability and ability to fund future investments. Retained earnings calculations enable stakeholders to assess how efficiently management has generated value over time.

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