Profit & Loss (P&L) Statement

Updated September 14, 2020

Profit and loss (P&L) statements are one of the three financial statements used to assess a company’s performance and financial position. The two others are the balance sheet and the cash flow statement.

Profit and Loss Statement (P&L) Meaning

The profit and loss statement summarizes all revenues and expenses a company has generated in a given timeframe. This summary provides a net income (or bottom line) for a reporting period. The P&L reporting period can be any length of time, but the most common are monthly, quarterly, and annually. 

The profit & loss statement is also known as the:

The basic equation for a profit & loss statement is:

Why Do P&L Statements Matter?

Simply put, the profit & loss statement shows whether a company is making money or not. All companies need to generate revenue to stay in business, and that makes the P&L essential. 

Revenues are used to pay expenses, interest payments on debt, and taxes. After all costs of doing business are paid, the remaining amount is called net income. Net income is theoretically available to shareholders, however, the company will often keep these earnings for future investment instead of paying out dividends.

Companies don’t always have a positive net income at the end of a P&L. If a company is suffering a ‘loss’, this means that it is  spending more than it earns (also known as being ‘in the red’).

Profit and Loss Statement Template

Regardless of the industry, profit and loss statements are all organized the same way with five main sections: 

  • Total Revenue (Income) 
  • Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) 
  • Expenses (including operating expenses) 
  • Other Income/Expenses (including taxes and earnings on shares)
  • Net Income 

Each section has a line on the report for the category and subcategory.

How to Create a Profit and Loss Statement

A profit & loss statement can be prepared by a bookkeeper, accountant, or accounting software (like Quickbooks). You can always prepare your own profit & loss statement using the InvestingAnswers free P&L template in Excel. 
Profit and Loss Statement Example
Here is a profit and loss statement example created using InvestingAnswers P&L template in Excel: 

Profit & Loss Statement . for one calendar year

Total Revenue                        $100,000

Cost of Goods Sold               ($ 20,000)
Gross Profit                             $ 80,000

Operating Expenses    
 Salaries          $10,000   
 Rent               $10,000
 Utilities            $  5,000
 Depreciation   $  5,000
Total Operating Expenses    ($ 30,000)
Operating Profit (EBIT)           $ 50,000

Interest Expense                    ($ 10,000)
Income before taxes (EBT)     $ 40,000

Taxes                                        ($ 10,000)
Net Income                                $ 30,000

Number of Shares Outstanding      30,000

Earnings Per Share (EPS)             $1.00

P&L Statement vs. Balance Sheet

Profit and loss statements summarize the money that’s coming in and going out. The balance sheet provides a snapshot of the entire company’s financial position. Each report shares some of the same line items, like revenue, expenses, and profit. 

The main difference is that balance sheets also include liabilities, equity, and assets to illustrate a clearer picture of resource management. While the P&L focuses only on a company’s profit (or lack of profit), it doesn’t include these components.

Tips for Effective P&L Management

When you need to know whether your business is profitable, you’ll turn to the profit & loss statement. Use this statement to answer important questions about business profits like: 

  • Does your company generate enough revenue to cover expenses?  
  • Does your company generate enough money each period to pay its employees, and shareholders? 
  • How does your current P&L compare to past P&Ls? Has anything changed? Did this change increase or decrease your net income? 

You’ll want to keep records of your profit & loss statements for reference. You can also take these statements to an accountant for suggestions about improving your bottom line.

How P&L Helps Investors

Anyone interested in active investing or picking stocks should know the financial health of a company. This includes the profit and loss statement because profitability relates to stock and bond prices as it is factored into the P/E ratio (price over earnings). 

Related: Financial Statement Analysis for Beginners

How the Profit and Loss Statement Relates to the Market

A company’s ability (or inability) to generate earnings over the long term is the key driver of stock and bond prices. Let’s look at two line items on the P&L and how they relate to stock and bond prices:  

  • Operating profit (EBIT) is the source of debt repayment, and if a company can’t generate enough EBIT to pay its debt obligations, over the long run it might have to enter bankruptcy or sell the company. 
  • Net income is the source of compensation to shareholders (owners of the company). If a company cannot generate enough profit to compensate these owners for the risks they’ve taken, the value of the owners’ shares may plummet. If a company is healthy and growing,its increased profits will typically lead to higher stock and bond prices.

Please note that earnings/net income are not the same as cash flow. It’s possible for a company to be profitable on its profit & loss statement but not generate cash flow (and vice versa). To accurately view a company’s cash flow, you will need to examine its statement of cash flows.

Ask the Experts About Profit and Loss Statements

At InvestingAnswers , all of our content is verified for accuracy by certified financial experts. Our experts also take the time to answer your questions at the end of each article.

Q: What Are Retained Earnings?

Retained earnings are the cumulative income that a company has earned and is retained in the business. That means they have not been distributed to shareholders as dividends or used for other purposes. The decision for a company to retain earnings is complicated as owners (or shareholders) often expect certain dividend payouts. Retained earnings are reflected on the balance sheet as owner’s equity.

Q: How Do You Calculate Profit & Loss?

There are several components to a profit and loss statement, but the simplest way to calculate profit and loss is  Income- Expenses = P&L. 

  • Add up all income (revenue)
  • Add up all of the expenses (e.g. COGS, operating expenses, interest, taxes) 
  • Subtract the difference between the two 

There are plenty of accounting software applications that can help you generate a basic P&L statement. This is especially useful for small business owners who aren’t ready to hire an accountant yet.

Q: How Do You Analyze a Profit and Loss Statement?

Here are a couple of examples of ways to analyze a P&L statement:

1. Year over year

Looking at year over year numbers (or often the same quarter from the previous year) provides an easy way to compare trends on your P&L. This will indicate ways in which your sales are improving or perhaps costs increasing. This can help you highlight potential problem areas.

2. Cost of Goods Sold

Cost of goods sold should be proportionate to sales, though is also tied to profit margins. You should also see if there is a way to reduce costs without sacrificing on your good or service (thus generating greater gross profits).