Prepare a Statement of Cash Flows Using the Direct Method

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The Statement of Cash Flows has three parts, and the direct and indirect methods of developing the this financial statement are primarily different in the first section the Cash Flows from Operating Activities section.

Development Method

The direct method of developing the cash flow statement uses major classes of cash receipts from customers as its starting point and reports all cash receipts in the operating section of the cash flow statement from any source, including customers. This method then reports all cash payments or disbursements (i.e. payments to employees, suppliers, operations, etc.) in the operating section. Any interest the company has paid on outstanding debt is reported along with all income taxes paid in this section.

Using the direct method, you end up with essentially cash receipts minus cash disbursements, and your final figure is net cash flows from operations.

Issues With the Direct Method

One of the problems with the direct method of preparing the Statement of Cash Flows is the level of complexity required. If your business is small, then listing your cash receipts and cash payments is a simple matter. As a business gets larger and larger, imagine for a moment all the cash receipts and cash payments from different sources that would have to be listed. The direct method becomes very complex, which is why the majority of companies use the indirect method of developing a cash flow statement.

Another problem with the complexity of the direct method is that all accounting transactions affect two accounts. In addition to the complexity of all the cash transactions you deal with using the direct method, each cash transaction affects another account such as inventory, accounts receivable, or others and you have to consider those accounts as well if you are developing the statement of cash flows with the direct method.

Operating Section Format

The direct method is also called the income statement method. The simplest format of the direct method looks something like this:

Cash Flow from Revenue

Minus: Cash Payments for Expenses

Minus: Cash Payment for Income Taxes

Equals: Net Cash Flow From Operating Activities

The first two line items, cash flow from revenue and cash payments from expenses, are subject to the problems of complexity discussed above.

Here's an example of the complexity you will encounter. Let's say you are accounting for all your payment to suppliers for the time period. In addition to keeping the level of detail required to do that via the direct method, you have to keep the same level of detail in the other two accounts that particular transaction affects - ​inventory accounts payable and cost of goods sold. When you think of every transaction in that kind of detail, few firms can manage it even though the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) prefers this method.

Operating Section Format: Indirect Method

The information to prepare the Statement of Cash Flows using the indirect method comes from three sources: comparative balance sheets for the last two years of firm data, data from the firm's current income statement, and selected data from the general ledger.

Using the indirect method to calculate net cash from operating activities is easily computed using this method. You take the net revenue from the income statement and add back depreciation. You then look at the comparative balance sheet and record the changes in a source and uses format for the asset and liabilities accounts. There you have it - the net cash flow from operating activities.