Accounting Equation

Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Accounting Equation

Accounting Equation

Quick Summary of Accounting Equation

The relationship between assets, liabilities and ownership interest.

What is the dictionary definition of Accounting Equation?

Dictionary Definition

Also known as the balance-sheet equation, The accounting equation is the underlying formula of a balance sheet.

It is expressed as: assets = liabilities + capital.

An increase (or decrease) in the total assets of a concern needs to be accompanied by an equal movement in the liabilities and capital in order to ensure that they always balance.

Hence, the balance in balance sheet.

This formula expresses an entity view of a business, whereas an proprietary view deducts liabilities from assets to calculate an owners’ stake in a business.

Full Definition of Accounting Equation

The basic accounting equation is the foundation for the double-entry bookkeeping system. It shows how assets were financed: either by borrowing money from someone else (liability) or by paying your own money (shareholder’s equity).

Assets = Liabilities + (Shareholders or Owners equity)

How It Works

For example, say a student buys a computer for $945. This student borrowed $500 from his best friend and saved another $445 from his part-time job. Now his assets are worth $945, liabilities are $500, and equity $445.

The formula can be re-written:

Assets − Liabilities = (Shareholders or Owners equity)

Now it shows that owner’s interest is equal to property (assets) minus debts (liabilities). Since in a company, owners are shareholders, the owner’s interest is called shareholder’s equity. Every accounting transaction affects at least one element of the equation, but always balances.

Simplest transactions also include:

Assets Liabilities Shareholder’s
1 + 6,000 + 6,000 Issuing stocks for cash or other assets
2 + 10,000 + 10,000 Buying assets by borrowing money (taking a loan from a bank or simply buying on credit)
3 900 900 Selling assets for cash (in essence, it’s just an exchange of one asset to another)
4 + 1,000 + 450 + 550 Buying assets by paying cash (550) and by borrowing money (450)
5 + 700 + 700 Earning revenues
6 200 200 Paying expenses (e.g. rent or professional fees) or dividends
7 + 100 100 Recording expenses, but not paying them at the moment
8 500 500 Paying a debt that you owe
9 200 200 Receiving cash for the sale of an asset

These are some simple examples, but even the most complicated transactions can be recorded in a similar way. This equation is behind debits, credits, and journal entries.

Balance Sheet

An elaborate form of this equation is presented in a balance sheet which lists all assets, liabilities, and equity and makes sure it balances (thus its name).


Luca Pacioli is notable for including the first published description of the method of keeping accounts that Venetian merchants used during the Italian Renaissance, known as the double-entry accounting system.

Also, David Flath asserts that Japanese merchants have used double-entry accounting for centuries:

assets= liabilities+capital+ additional investments + revenue or income – withdrawals -expenses or losses

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

Page URL
Modern Language Association (MLA):
Accounting Equation. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd.
January 26, 2022
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Accounting Equation. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: January 26, 2022).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Accounting Equation. Retrieved January 26, 2022
, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Accounting Equation are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 18th April, 2020 | 20 Views.