What is the Difference Between a Trial Balance and a Balance Sheet?

Difference Between a Trial Balance and a Balance Sheet

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Difference Between a Trial Balance and a Balance Sheet

A trial balance and a balance sheet are two key reports in accounting, but they serve different purposes and contain different information:

  • Trial Balance:
    A trial balance is an internal report that lists all of the accounts in the general ledger at a particular point in time and their balances. It’s used primarily as an error-checking tool in the double-entry accounting system. The trial balance ensures that the total debits equal the total credits across all accounts, which should be the case if all transactions have been recorded correctly.A typical trial balance includes account names, debit balances, and credit balances. It doesn’t differentiate between types of accounts like assets, liabilities, or equity like the balance sheet does.
  • Balance Sheet:
    A balance sheet, on the other hand, is a key financial statement that provides a snapshot of a company’s financial condition at a specific point in time. It lists the company’s assets, liabilities, and shareholders’ equity, demonstrating the accounting equation (Assets = Liabilities + Equity).Unlike the trial balance, the balance sheet is often used by stakeholders outside the company (such as investors, creditors, or regulatory authorities) to assess the company’s financial health. It helps to show what a company owns, what it owes, and the amount invested by shareholders.

In summary, a trial balance is an internal report used for checking the accuracy of accounting transactions, while a balance sheet is a financial statement that presents a broader picture of a company’s financial condition to external stakeholders.

Example of the Difference Between a Trial Balance and a Balance Sheet

Let’s consider a very simplified example of both:

Example of a Trial Balance:

Let’s say that a small business has the following balances at the end of a fiscal period:

  • Cash: Debit $10,000
  • Accounts Receivable: Debit $5,000
  • Office Supplies: Debit $500
  • Office Equipment: Debit $2,000
  • Accounts Payable: Credit $3,000
  • Loan Payable: Credit $5,000
  • Owner’s Capital: Credit $9,500

The trial balance would list out these balances:

Accounts Receivable$5,000
Office Supplies$500
Office Equipment$2,000
Accounts Payable$3,000
Loan Payable$5,000
Owner’s Capital$9,500

You can see that the total of the debit balances ($17,500) equals the total of the credit balances ($17,500), indicating that all transactions have been correctly recorded in accordance with the double-entry accounting system.

Example of a Balance Sheet:

Using the same information, a balance sheet would present the information like this:


  • Cash: $10,000
  • Accounts Receivable: $5,000
  • Office Supplies: $500
  • Office Equipment: $2,000 Total Assets: $17,500


  • Accounts Payable: $3,000
  • Loan Payable: $5,000 Total Liabilities: $8,000

Owner’s Equity

  • Owner’s Capital: $9,500

Total Liabilities and Owner’s Equity: $17,500

Here you can see that the total assets ($17,500) equal the total of liabilities and owner’s equity ($17,500), which demonstrates the basic accounting equation: Assets = Liabilities + Equity. This balance sheet gives you a more comprehensive view of the business’s financial condition at the end of the fiscal period, showing what it owns, what it owes, and what the owner’s stake is.

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