Direct or Indirect Cash Flow: Which Is the Right Fit for Your Business?

If your cash flow conversion is too slow, you won’t have the money you need to pay for essential expenditures, like rent or employee wages. For example, you could use surplus cash to pay off old debts or put some excess funds into investments. You can take a look at how they differ as well as their advantages and disadvantages to help you decide which is right for your business. Over 1.8 million professionals use CFI to learn accounting, financial analysis, modeling and more. Start with a free account to explore 20+ always-free courses and hundreds of finance templates and cheat sheets. You’ll see the key differences between approaches, their advantages and downsides, and recommendations to adopt a flexible hybrid method for efficiency and insights.

  • However, surveys indicate that nearly all large U.S. corporations use the indirect method.
  • Drawbacks of the direct method are that it requires detailed cash transaction tracking and is more time consuming to prepare.
  • Accounting with the direct cash flow method is ideal for small businesses, partnerships, and sometimes sole proprietors.
  • Under the direct cash flow method, the company considers only actual cash paid and received when determining operating cash flows.

It offers investors and other stakeholders a clear picture of all the transactions taking place and the overall health of the business. This method is very precise because it uses real cash payments and receipts from the given period. It accurately calculates the cash used or received through business activities. While the two methods only apply to the operating section of the cash flow statement, the method you choose to utilize will have important implications for your business.

Which of these is most important for your financial advisor to have?

Because most companies keep records on an accrual basis, it can be more complex and time-consuming to prepare reports using the direct method. By automating cash flow reports, businesses can gain instant insights into cash movements between months, and quickly equip decision-makers with the numbers they need to make the best business decisions. Under GAAP and IFRS, the indirect method is preferred or sometimes required, so many companies opt for it to save time and comply with regulations. Having the right technology and automation can play a big role in your decision of whether to use the direct or indirect method. Although the direct method can be time consuming and tough for large businesses, with the right technology it can be done fast with a very low risk of errors.

This is in comparison to the tedious nature of the direct method, where preparers need to monitor and document each cash inflow and outflow for the business. You do not need to go through each transaction during the period to determine its impact on the cash balance for the business. This excludes any items like accrued expenses or earned revenues that have not yet resulted in a cash outflow or inflow.

Conclusion: direct vs. indirect method of cash flow

It’s particularly suitable for larger corporations with intricate operations, as it offers a summarized perspective that might be easier to manage. The choice of method often rests on the intended audience and the specific insights a business wishes to convey. Understanding the preferences and needs of different stakeholders can guide this choice, ensuring the cash flow statement serves its intended purpose effectively. Learn how automated accounting provides businesses with accurate cash flow reporting and other bookkeeping records, without the need for manual data entry.

When to Use the Direct vs. Indirect Methods

Also called a statement of cash flows (SCF), this statement is essential to a company’s ability to make cash flow forecasts that help in planning for sustainable and strategic growth. Synder automates the synchronization of transactions from various platforms (like ecommerce and payment processors) directly into accounting software, ensuring that all revenue and expenses are accurately recorded. Preparing the indirect cash flow method is simpler because it relies on data easily obtained from the income statement and balance sheet. Simply start with net income, then add or subtract non-cash items like depreciation. The indirect method for calculating cash flow from operations uses accrual accounting information, and it always begins with the net income from the income statement. The net income is then adjusted for changes in the asset and liability accounts on the balance sheet by adding to or subtracting from net income to derive the cash flow from operations.

The Direct Method

Our team of reviewers are established professionals with decades of experience in areas of personal finance and hold many advanced degrees and certifications. A decrease in creditors or bills payable will reduce cash, whereas an increase top 11 small business accounting tips to save you time and money in creditors and bills payable will increase cash. All sales and purchases were made on credit during the last quarter of the financial year. Therefore, no cash was paid to creditors or collected from debtors during the year.

See why the world’s top growth companies choose Cube for a fast implementation and quick time to value. Sync data, gain insights, and analyze business performance right in Excel, Google Sheets, or the Cube platform. As you’ve seen above, for which method to use, and whichever you opt for, there will be negatives that balance out the positives. However, there will be scenarios where it will be advantageous to choose one over the other. For public firms, it also means there will be an open record of their exact cash flow available, which competitors could use to their advantage. Both methods use distinct calculations to reach the same end result, but they use different details during the process.

The accrued transactions are recorded in future cash flows when the incomes are actually received, and the payments are actually made. Conversely, preparing the direct method is more complex since it requires classifying all cash transactions related to operations by type – cash received from customers, cash paid to suppliers, etc. This shows the major operating cash inflows and outflows that contributed to $250,000 in net operating cash flow during the period. The direct method provides transparency into what is driving the cash flow changes.

How to Calculate Cash Flow Using the Direct Method

Listing out information this way provides the financial statement user with a more detailed view of where a company’s cash came from and how it was disbursed. For this reason, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) recommends companies use the direct method. If you own a busy retail store, for example, you have tons of transactions on any given day. In this situation, a disadvantage of the direct method is the time it takes to capture and record information necessary for the cash flow statement. Another disadvantage of the direct method is that if, say, you’re a publicly held corporation, your cash flow statements are publicly available.

The difference between the direct and indirect cash flow methods

The indirect method is simpler to do but lacks accuracy for short to medium-term planning. When comparing direct and indirect methods, look at the amount of money you’ve received and spent during the period. Either way, both will show you how much cash you’ve earned, lost, or invested. But it’s important to note that the direct method will give you a better understanding of your business’ cash position.

Operating activities is perhaps the key part of the cash flow statement because it shows whether (and to what extent) a business can generate cash from its operations. Depending on the depth of reporting you’re looking for, you may want to commit the work to a direct reporting method. While compiling takes longer, the direct method gives a more transparent view of your cash inflows and outflows.

Not only does the indirect method match the structure of larger companies’ general ledgers, it also provides a higher-level overview of cash flow to allow for more accurate cash flow forecasting and long-term planning. The direct method of cash flow offers clear visibility into actual cash transactions, presenting a detailed view of a company’s cash sources and expenditures. This method is especially beneficial for internal management as it provides a comprehensive insight into operational cash flows without the need for additional adjustments or interpretations. And, this is also where your long-term liabilities and stockholder equity are recorded.