Financial Accounting Concepts

Indirect Method of Preparing Cash-Flow Statement

A cash flow statement is a crucial financial statement that provides insights into a company’s liquidity and its ability to generate cash. When it comes to preparing a cash flow statement, there are two methods: direct and indirect.

In this article, we will focus on the indirect method and explore its significance in reconciling net income with net cash provided from operations.

Structure and Components of a Cash Flow Statement

A typical cash flow statement consists of three main sections: operating activities, investing activities, and financing activities. These sections play a pivotal role in understanding the inflow and outflow of cash within a company.

Difference between the Direct and Indirect Method

While both the direct and indirect methods serve the purpose of preparing a cash flow statement, they differ in their approach and level of detail. The direct method outlines specific sources and uses of cash in operating activities, aiming for a more precise representation. However, many companies prefer the indirect method due to its comprehensive approach.

Understanding the Direct Method

The direct method provides a direct breakdown of cash inflows and outflows in various operating activities. Listing all cash receipts from customers and cash paid to suppliers and employees, it offers a more detailed view of a company’s cash flow. However, the direct method has limitations; it is often considered more time-consuming, harder to implement, and less relevant for understanding the underlying business dynamics.

The Indirect Method Demystified

The indirect method, on the other hand, starts with net income and then adjusts various non-cash items to derive net cash provided from operations. This method indirectly illustrates the cash flow by reconciling net income with cash movements. The indirect method is widely accepted because it provides a clearer understanding of how net income affects the cash position of a company.

Let’s dive into the steps involved in preparing a cash flow statement using the indirect method:

Step 1: Start with Net Income

The starting point for the indirect method is the net income reported on the income statement. Net income represents the profitability of a company but does not necessarily reflect the amount of cash generated or used during a specific period.

Step 2: Adjust Non-Cash Expenses

The next step involves adjusting non-cash expenses, such as depreciation and amortization, which are included in net income but do not result in cash outflows.

Step 3: Account for Changes in Working Capital

Working capital, which includes current assets and liabilities, plays a crucial role in cash flow. Adjustments are made for changes in working capital accounts to accurately reflect the cash impact of these activities.

Step 4: Consider Other Operating Activities

Additional adjustments are made for non-cash operating activities, such as gains or losses from the sale of assets and changes in deferred taxes. These adjustments align the cash flow statement with the underlying cash movements.

Advantages of the Indirect Method

The indirect method simplifies the process of preparing a cash flow statement by starting with the net income and reconciling it with cash movements. This straightforward approach eliminates the need to track cash flows for each specific operating activity separately.

Identification of Non-Cash Operating Activities

The indirect method helps identify non-cash operating activities, such as depreciation and changes in accounts payable or receivable. Understanding these non-cash elements enables a more accurate assessment of a company’s cash position.

Changes in Working Capital

By accounting for changes in working capital, the indirect method highlights shifts in a company’s liquidity. It demonstrates how the company manages its assets and liabilities and can generate sufficient cash flow.


Preparing a cash flow statement is a critical exercise for a company’s financial management. The indirect method offers a comprehensive approach that reconciles net income with net cash provided from operations. By utilizing this method, businesses can obtain a clearer understanding of their cash position, identify non-cash operating activities, and assess changes in working capital effectively. Implementing the indirect method unlocks the secrets hidden within a company’s cash flow, enabling better financial decision-making and ultimately aiding in the long-term success and sustainability of the organization.

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