What is profit and loss statement?

Do you want a better understanding of your business's financial health? Lets dive into Profit and Loss statements, the key to informed decision-making for sustained growth and success.


Do you want a better understanding of your business’s financial health? Lets dive into Profit and Loss statements, the key to informed decision-making for sustained growth and success.

As a business owner in Australia, one of the most critical tools for monitoring your company’s financial health is the Profit and Loss (P&L) statement. Also known as the income statement, this financial record provides a clear and concise snapshot of your business’s revenues, expenses, and profitability over a specific period. 

Whether you’re running a burgeoning startup or managing a seasoned sole trader operation, mastering the P&L statement is key to making informed decisions that drive business success. Let’s explore the components of a Profit and Loss statement, how to create one, interpret the data, and apply this knowledge specifically to small businesses and sole traders in Australia.

What is a profit and loss statement?

A Profit and Loss statement is a financial document that summarises the revenues, costs, and expenses incurred during a specified period, usually a fiscal quarter or year. It begins with an entry for revenue (the top line), from which it subtracts the costs of doing business, including the cost of goods sold, operating expenses, taxes, and more, to calculate the net profit or loss (the bottom line).

Read also: What is double entry bookkeeping?

How to do a profit and loss statement

Creating a P&L statement involves several steps that can be summarsed as follows:

1. Compile all revenue sources to determine your total income.

2. Itemise your cost of goods sold (COGS), which includes all expenses directly associated with the production of goods or services your business sells.

3. Deduct COGS from your total revenue to find your gross profit.

4. List and calculate operating expenses, which could range from rent and utilities to marketing and employee salaries.

5. Subtract operating expenses from gross profit to reach operating profit.

6. Include any other income or expenses, such as investments or interest.

7. Calculate your net profit or loss by accounting for taxes.

The resulting figure will give you a clear insight into your business’s profitability during the reporting period.

How to read a profit and loss statement

Interpreting a P&L statement involves looking beyond the numbers to understand the story they tell about your business:

Revenue: Assess whether sales figures are growing or declining over time.

COGS and Gross Profit: Consider the margins and whether they are sufficient to cover operating expenses.

Operating Expenses: Look for areas where costs might be reduced.

Net Profit or Loss: This final number tells you if your business is profitable or operating at a loss.

Read also: How to create a budget

Profit and loss statement for small businesses

For small businesses, a P&L statement is an invaluable tool for tracking performance, identifying trends, and making strategic business decisions. It helps small business owners to focus on key areas of their business that can be optimised for better financial performance, from controlling costs to increasing sales revenue.

Profit and loss statement for sole trader

Sole traders in Australia will find a P&L statement particularly useful for reporting their business income in their individual tax return. The simplicity or complexity of the P&L statement can vary according to the size and transactions of the business. As a sole trader, a P&L statement not only helps in tax preparation but also serves as an essential gauge for the business’s viability and sustainability.

Whether you’re a small business owner or a sole trader in Australia, understanding how to create, read, and interpret a Profit and Loss statement is essential for financial management and strategic planning. With it, you can understand the profitability of your business, make informed decisions, and set your enterprise up for long-term success. Remember that the P&L statement is not just a retrospective tool but a forward-looking compass that can guide you toward a more profitable future.