A balance sheet, in formal bookkeeping and accounting, is a statement of the book value of a business or other organization or person at a particular date, often at the end of its "fiscal year," as distinct from an income statement, also known as a profit and loss account (P&L), which records revenue and expenses over a specified period of time.
A balance sheet is often described as a "snapshot" of the company's financial condition on a given date. Of the four basic financial statements, the balance sheet is the only statement which applies to a single point in time, instead of a period of time.
A simple business operating entirely in cash could measure its profits by simply withdrawing the entire bank balance at the end of the period, plus any cash in hand. However real businesses are not paid immediately, they build up inventories of goods to sell and they acquire buildings and equipment. In other words: businesses have assets and so they could not, even if they wanted to, immediately turn these into cash at the end of each period. Real businesses also owe money to suppliers and to tax authorities, and the proprietors do not withdraw all their original capital and profits at the end of each period. In other words businesses have liabilities.
A modern balance sheet usually has three parts: assets, liabilities and shareholders' equity. The main categories of assets are usually listed first and are followed by the liabilities. The difference between the assets and the liabilities is known as the 'net assets' or the 'net worth' of the company.
The net assets shown by the balance sheet equals the third part of the balance sheet, which is known as the shareholders' equity. This balance is not a coincidence. Records of the values of each account in the balance sheet are maintained using a system of accounting known as double-entry bookeeping.
The original entry was based on [this Wikipedia entry].