Understanding the Cash Flow Statement

The statement of cash flows, or the cash flow statement (CFS), is a financial statement that summarizes the amount of cash and cash equivalents entering and leaving a company. Like the income statement, it also measures the performance of a company over a period of time. However, it differs because it is not as easily manipulated by the timing of non-cash transactions.

For example, the income statement includes depreciation expense, which does not have an actual cash outflow associated with it. It is simply an allocation of the cost of an asset over its useful life. A company has some leeway to choose its depreciation method, which modifies the depreciation expense reported on the income statement. The CFS, on the other hand, is a measure of true inflows and outflows that cannot be as easily manipulated.

The CFS measures how well a company manages its cash position, meaning how well the company generates cash to pay its debt obligations and fund its operating expenses. As one of the three main financial statements, the CFS complements the balance sheet and the income statement.