General purpose financial statements

General purpose financial statements are those financial statements released to a broad group of users. These statements include the following:

  • Income statement
  • Balance sheet
  • Statement of cash flows
  • Statement of shareholders' equity
  • Accompanying disclosures

If the financial statements have been audited, then they should also include the audit report.

General purpose financial statements are usually issued to the investment community and lenders. These statements are used to discern the financial condition and results of the issuing entity. The frequency of distribution of these statements can vary, depending on the demands of users. For example, a publicly-held company will issue general purpose statements once a quarter, while a lender might demand monthly statements, and a government might accept just annual statements.

More specific financial statements may also be released; these are not considered to be "general purpose." For example, the management team may want to see detailed departmental expense reports, while a condensed version of the income statement may be acceptable for credit reviews by suppliers. Other users may not require a complete set of the financial statements, perhaps requesting just the income statement. These statements are usually subsets of the general purpose statements, or they compress or expand the presentation of information.