What is Equity?

In the intricate landscape of finance, equity stands as a testament to ownership, value, and stakeholder participation. Varied in forms and significance, equity encapsulates the essence of an entity’s financial structure and ownership relationships.

What is Equity?

Equity, in the context of finance and accounting, refers to the residual interest in the assets of an entity after deducting its liabilities. It represents the ownership claim that the entity’s owners (shareholders or proprietors) have on the entity’s assets. Equity is often referred to as “net assets” or “owner’s equity.” It reflects the difference between an entity’s total assets and total liabilities, showcasing the value that remains for the owners.

Equity represents the accumulated contributions of owners, retained earnings, and other comprehensive income over time. It is a crucial element in assessing an entity’s financial health, solvency, and book value.

How does Equity work?

Equity operates as a financial concept that reflects the residual interest in an entity’s assets after accounting for its liabilities. Here’s how it works:


Equity is calculated as the difference between an entity’s total assets and total liabilities. The equation “Equity = Assets – Liabilities” represents this relationship.

Ownership Stake

Equity represents the ownership stake of shareholders or proprietors in the entity. It signifies the value that belongs to the owners after all obligations are settled.

Contributions and Retained Earnings

Equity encompasses contributions made by owners (such as initial investments) and the entity’s retained earnings. Retained earnings accumulate over time from the entity’s net income.

Changes Over Time

Equity changes as the entity generates income, incurs expenses, pays dividends, and experiences changes in the value of its assets and liabilities.

Financial Statements

Equity is reported on the balance sheet as “Owner’s Equity” for sole proprietorships and partnerships, or as “Shareholder’s Equity” for corporations. It is divided into components like common stock, retained earnings, and additional paid-in capital.

What are the types of Equity?

Equity can be categorized into different types based on the sources of ownership and the nature of contributions. The main types of equity include:

Common Equity

This represents ownership in a company available to common shareholders. It includes common stock, which gives shareholders voting rights and the potential for dividends.

Preferred Equity

Preferred shareholders have a higher claim on assets and dividends than common shareholders. They are typically entitled to fixed dividends and may have limited voting rights.

Owner’s Equity

In sole proprietorships and partnerships, owner’s equity represents the owner’s investment in the business and the accumulation of retained earnings.

Shareholder’s Equity

In corporations, shareholder’s equity includes common and preferred stock, retained earnings, additional paid-in capital, and other comprehensive income.

Retained Earnings

This is the portion of earnings that a company has not distributed as dividends but has retained to reinvest in the business. It contributes to the growth of equity over time.

Additional Paid-In Capital

Also known as contributed capital in excess of par, this represents the amount shareholders paid for shares that exceeds the nominal (par) value.

Treasury Stock

This represents shares of a company’s own stock that it has repurchased from shareholders. It is subtracted from equity and represents a reduction in ownership.

Reserves and Surplus

These are appropriations from profits that are not distributed as dividends. They include general reserves, specific reserves, and capital reserves.

Comprehensive Income

This includes changes in equity from non-owner sources, such as unrealized gains and losses on investments, foreign currency translation adjustments, and changes in pension plans.


If accumulated losses exceed accumulated profits, it results in a deficit in equity, indicating financial challenges.

Is Equity debit or credit?

Equity has a normal credit balance. This means that when you increase an equity account, you would record a credit entry, and when you decrease an equity account, you would record a debit entry. This practice follows the double-entry accounting system, where every transaction affects at least two accounts with equal debits and credits to maintain the accounting equation’s balance.


From the realm of common and preferred shares to retained earnings and reserves, equity weaves a narrative of ownership, growth, and prosperity. It resides on the credit side of ledgers, embodying the collective contributions and retained earnings that shape the financial destiny of entities, offering a window into their solvency, potential, and resilience.

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