Corporations: Paid-in Capital, Retained Earnings, Dividends, and Treasury Stock

Read this chapter, which outlines the different sources of paid-in capital and how they are presented on the balance sheet. This chapter also covers treasury stock, dividends, stock splits, and price-per-share and price-per-earnings ratios.

Retained earnings

The retained earnings portion of stockholders' equity typically results from accumulated earnings, reduced by net losses and dividends. Like paid-in capital, retained earnings is a source of assets received by a corporation. Paid-in capital is the actual investment by the stockholders; retained earnings is the investment by the stockholders through earnings not yet withdrawn.

The balance in the corporation's Retained Earnings account is the corporation's net income, less net losses, from the date the corporation began to the present, less the sum of dividends paid during this period. Net income increases Retained Earnings, while net losses and dividends decrease Retained Earnings in any given year. Thus, the balance in Retained Earnings represents the corporation's accumulated net income not distributed to stockholders.

When the Retained Earnings account has a debit balance, a deficit exists. A company indicates a deficit by listing retained earnings with a negative amount in the stockholders' equity section of the balance sheet. The firm need not change the title of the general ledger account even though it contains a debit balance. The most common credits and debits made to Retained Earnings are for income (or losses) and dividends. Occasionally, accountants make other entries to the Retained Earnings account. We discuss some of these entries later in the chapter.