What Is Off-Balance Sheet?

What Is Off-Balance Sheet?

By Charles Joseph | Editor, Financial Affairs
Reviewed by Corey Michael | Senior Financial Analyst

Off-Balance Sheet refers to items that are effectively assets or liabilities of a company, but not manifested on the company’s balance sheet. These involve certain leases, joint ventures, and other entities, depending upon the details of the contractual agreements. This can be deceptive for investors, as the off-balance sheet items can often carry substantial financial impact, but aren’t easily observable from standard financial statements.

Related Questions

1. Why do companies use off-balance sheet financing?

Companies use off-balance sheet financing to keep liabilities off their balance sheets, thereby making the company appear more financially stable. This can also allow companies to manage their debt-to-equity ratio and maintain compliance with existing covenants.

2. Are off-balance sheet items risky?

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Yes, off-balance sheet items can be risky. They can lead to an inflated sense of a company’s financial health and shield the true level of risk or debt a company possesses. If not appropriately managed, this can ultimately lead to financial instability.

3. What is an example of off-balance sheet items?

An example of off-balance sheet items are operating leases. Before the adoption of the new lease accounting standards, lessees generally accounted for these leases off-balance sheet, recording only rent expense.

4. How are off-balance sheet items disclosed?

Off-balance sheet items must be disclosed in the notes to a company’s financial statements. Even though they are not included on the balance sheet, they do have a potential impact on a company’s financial status, and therefore must be made known to stakeholders.

5. Can off-balance sheet financing be beneficial?

Yes, off-balance sheet financing can be beneficial in some situations. It allows a company to obtain additional financing that doesn’t appear as a liability on the balance sheet, which can improve the company’s financial ratios and make it potential to secure more traditional forms of financing.