Horizontal and vertical analysis Accounting and Accountability

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This allows financial statement users to see relative changes over time and spot trends. Vertical analysis, or common size analysis, analyzes the proportional relationship between line items on a financial statement in a single reporting period. Figures are shown as a percentage of a relevant base figure for that statement. Horizontal analysis, also known as trend analysis, is a technique used to evaluate an account over a period of time. It allows you to see changes in an account from one accounting period to another, expressed as a percentage. The business will need to determine which line item they are comparing all items to within that statement and then calculate the percentage makeup.

  1. Using both methods strategically can facilitate smarter and more informed business decisions.
  2. As a result, some companies maneuver the growth and profitability trends reported in their financial horizontal analysis report using a combination of methods to break down business segments.
  3. Evaluate your company’s overall financial structure and efficiency by considering other types of analysis that provide a more comprehensive understanding of your business’s financial health.
  4. This ratio is a measure of the ability of a firm to turn Inventory into Sales.

It allows you to compare financial data over time, providing insights into the company’s growth and identifying patterns or changes in its financial trends. It compares different line items on a financial statement to a key metric, allowing you to see how each item relates as a percentage. For example, you can use vertical analysis to compare multiple line items from the income statement (revenue, COGS, operating expenses, etc.) as a percentage of total revenue. Horizontal analysis allows investors and analysts to see what has been driving a company’s financial performance over several years and to spot trends and growth patterns. This type of analysis enables analysts to assess relative changes in different line items over time and project them into the future. For the balance sheet, total assets or total liabilities and shareholders’ equity are typically used as the base amount.

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Advantages and Limitations of Horizontal Analysis

Using both analysis techniques can lead to better-informed business decisions. For example, horizontal analysis of the revenue line on an income statement would calculate the percentage change in revenue from 2020 to 2021. Vertical analysis would express revenue earned in 2021 as a percentage of total revenue earned that year. In horizontal horizontal analysis is also known as analysis, the changes in specific financial statement values are expressed as a percentage and in U.S. dollars. To calculate the percentage change, first select the base year and comparison year. Subsequently, calculate the dollar change by subtracting the value in the base year from that in the comparison year and divide by the base year.

Occupancy is one of these metrics, so let’s use it as an example to clarify the issue. From the horizontal analysis, you can be quite optimistic about the 2018 performance. The operation seems to have become more efficient, with all revenues increasing, except for Other Operated Departments, and all departmental expenses on the fall. Undistributed expenses show more mixed results, albeit the total has remained nearly stable.

Difference between horizontal and vertical analysis

It is also possible to perform this analysis with time series data to make direct comparisons with other companies. Horizontal, or trend, analysis is used to spot and evaluate trends over a specific period of time. Luckily, there are two straightforward analysis techniques—horizontal and vertical—that provide clarity on financial performance when applied properly. Even though the Illustration Hotel’s Operating Revenue shows an upward trend, it is not nearly as positive as its competitors’ average. Expenses seem to be more aligned with the set’s trend, but with revenues lagging far behind the average, this isn’t very good news either.

The value of horizontal analysis enables analysts to assess the company’s past performance and current financial position or growth and project the useful insights gained into the future. However, when using the analysis technique, the comparison (current) period can be made to appear uncommonly bad or good. It depends on the choice of the base year and the chosen accounting periods on which the analysis starts. Vertical analysis helps assess a company’s financial health by examining the proportion of each item in the financial statements.

It also provides a useful benchmark for comparing against industry standards and detecting any irregularities in financial statements. By analyzing financial data over time, businesses can gain valuable insights into their performance and make informed strategic decisions. To ensure accuracy, it is important to use consistent data sources and methodologies.

For instance, if a most recent year amount was three times as large as the base year, the most recent year will be presented as 300. This type of analysis reveals trends in line items such as cost of goods sold. You can choose whatever interval (month-over-month, year-over-year, etc.), but each iterative financial statement should be equal distance away regarding when it was issued compared to other bits of financial information. The analysis of critical measures of business performance, such as profit margins, inventory turnover, and return on equity, can detect emerging problems and strengths. For example, earnings per share (EPS) may have been rising because the cost of goods sold (COGS) has been falling or because sales have been growing steadily. To calculate 2014, we DO NOT go back to the baseline to do the calculations; instead, 2013 becomes the new baseline so that we can see percentage growth from year-to-year.


Horizontal analysis (also known as trend analysis) is a financial statement analysis technique that shows changes in the amounts of corresponding financial statement items over a period of time. While vertical analysis offers advantages such as easy comparison and trend identification, it also has limitations related to its inability to measure profitability and reliance on accurate data. For example, a horizontal analysis of the cost of insurance might list the cost on a quarterly basis for the past few years, while a vertical analysis would present it as a percentage of sales only for the current period. Horizontal analysis of the income statement is usually in a two-year format, such as the one shown below, with a variance also shown that states the difference between the two years for each line item. An alternative format is to simply add as many years as will fit on the page, without showing a variance, so that you can see general changes by account over multiple years.

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Choosing an appropriate base amount allows the vertical analysis to show the composition of key financial statement items. This means Mistborn Trading saw an increase of $20,000 in revenue in the current year as compared to the prior year, which was a 20% increase. The same dollar change and percentage change calculations would be used for the income statement line items as well as the balance sheet line items. The figure below shows the complete horizontal analysis of the income statement and balance sheet for Mistborn Trading. By analyzing year-to-year changes in your financial statements, you gain valuable insights into the performance and trajectory of your company’s finances.

Additionally, vertical analysis benefits include providing insights into the relative importance of different line items and helping identify areas that may require further investigation or improvement. Imagine yourself standing in front of a towering skyscraper, as you delve into the definition and purpose of vertical analysis. Vertical analysis, also known as common-size analysis, is a financial tool used to assess the relative proportions of different line items within a company’s financial statements. It involves expressing each line item as a percentage of a base value, typically total assets or net sales.

If you work in corporate finance, you need to know how to analyze financial statements to evaluate the performance and position of a company. Two common methods of financial statement analysis are horizontal and vertical analysis. In this article, you will https://business-accounting.net/ learn what they are, how they differ, and when to use them. There’s a wealth of data lurking inside your company’s financial statements—and if you know how to analyze it effectively, you can transform financial information into actionable insights.

In this post and the next we will describe the two most widely known methods to analyze financial data – horizontal and vertical analysis – and provide examples to clarify their uses and calculations. On the other hand, horizontal analysis enables you to evaluate a company’s performance over multiple periods. By comparing key financial figures side by side, it becomes easier to spot any significant changes or fluctuations that may impact decision-making. A horizontal analysis is most useful when the underlying financial information is consistently reported, based on the applicable financial reporting framework.

For example, suppose you are examining the income statements of a company over three years. In a horizontal analysis, you would calculate the percentage change in revenue, costs, profits, and other line items from one year to the next. This method is most commonly used to analyze trends in financial statement data over time. Each line item is listed as a percentage of another, typically the first year of the period under review, which allows for easy analysis of growth or decline. The main difference between horizontal and vertical analysis is the perspective they provide. Horizontal analysis focuses on the changes over time, while vertical analysis focuses on the composition within a period.

Examples of these frameworks are generally accepted accounting principles and international financial reporting standards. Ideally, every business within an industry should apply an accounting framework in the same way, so that their reported financial information can be compared. When a business takes an unusual position in regard to reporting standards, its financial statements will not be as readily comparable to those of its competitors. The unusual application of accounting standards may be described in the footnotes that accompany a firm’s financial statements.

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