Business News Daily receives compensation from some of the companies listed on this page. Advertising Disclosure

See if your business is eligible for a tax credit of up to $26K per employee!

Call Now: 866-834-1218

Accounting Ratios and Formulas: The Basics You Need to Know

Matt D'Angelo
Matt D'Angelo

These accounting ratios and formulas can keep your business's finances in order.

  • Keeping good records is essential to running a small business, but the bookkeeping process can be time-consuming.
  • Accounting ratios and formulas allow you to evaluate your company’s financial condition quickly.
  • You can use accounting ratios on a quarterly or annual basis, depending on your business type. 
  • This article is for small business owners who want to use accounting ratios and formulas to understand their financial situation.

Having a basic understanding of accounting is essential to running a small business. Keeping up with various formulas and bookkeeping processes can be time-consuming, tedious work. But sticking with it can give you a clear picture of your company’s current financial health so you can make important decisions. 

The first step to good accounting practices is accurate recordkeeping on things like accounts receivable and accounts payable, inventory and other business transactions. If you’re looking to streamline your accounting process further, you should choose accounting software to do a lot of the hard work for you, but it’s still helpful to understand the accounting basics, including accounting ratios. 

Accounting ratios offer quick ways to evaluate your company’s financial condition. According to Accounting Scholar, ratios are the most frequently used accounting formulas regarding business analysis. Analyzing your finances with these ratios helps you identify trends and other data that guide important business decisions. 

Here are the most common types of ratios and the various formulas you can use within each category: 

  • Liquidity ratios
  • Profitability ratios
  • Leverage ratios
  • Turnover ratios
  • Market value ratios 

While it may not be possible to constantly analyze all of these ratios at a given time, it’s crucial to pick a few that are pertinent to your business’s operations so you can stay up to date on what’s happening within your company.


You can learn all the business vocabulary you need with this basic accounting terms infographic.

What are accounting ratios?

Before we get into the different types of accounting ratios, it’s helpful to define them. Accounting ratios measure your organization’s profitability and liquidity, and can show if it’s experiencing financial problems. 

graphic of people near a large calculator

You can use these ratios on a quarterly or annual basis, depending on your business. For example, a turnover ratio is important to a brick-and-mortar retailer. Using the right accounting ratios can give a high-level overview of your company’s performance. 

Let’s look at some of the most commonly used accounting ratios to see which could benefit your business. 

Liquidity ratios

These ratios are used to calculate how capable your company is of paying its debts, usually by measuring current liabilities and liquid assets. This determines how likely it is that your business will be able to pay off short-term debts. These are some common liquidity ratios: 

  • Current ratio = current assets ÷ current liabilities. The purpose of this ratio is to measure if your company can currently pay off short-term debts by liquidating your assets.
  • Quick ratio = quick assets ÷ current liabilities. This ratio is similar to the current ratio above, except that to measure “quick” assets, you only consider your accounts receivable plus cash plus marketable securities.
  • Net working capital ratio = (current assets – current liabilities) ÷ total assets. By calculating the net working capital ratio, you’re calculating the liquidity of your assets. An increasing net working capital ratio indicates that your business invests more in liquid assets than fixed ones.
  • Cash ratio = cash ÷ current liabilities. This ratio tells you how capable your business is of covering its debts using only cash. No other assets are considered in this ratio.
  • Cash coverage ratio = (earnings before interest and taxes + depreciation) ÷ interest. The cash coverage ratio is similar to the cash ratio, but it calculates how likely it is that your business can pay interest on its debts.
  • Operating cash flow ratio = operating cash flow ÷ current liabilities. This ratio tells you how your current liabilities are covered by cash flow.

Profitability ratios

Accountants use these ratios to measure a business’s earnings versus its expenses. These are some common profitability ratios: 

  • Return on assets = net income ÷ average total assets. The return-on-assets ratio indicates how much profit companies make compared to their assets.
  • Return on equity = net income ÷ average stockholder equity. This ratio shows your business’s profitability from your stockholders’ investments. 

graphic of people walking on an arrow toward a target

  • Profit margin = net income sales. The profit margin is an easy way to tell how much of your income is from sales.
  • Earnings per share = net income ÷ number of common shares outstanding. The earnings-per-share ratio is similar to the return-on-equity ratio, except that this ratio indicates your profitability from the outstanding shares at the end of a given period.

Leverage ratios

A leverage ratio is a good way to easily see how much of your company’s capital comes from debt, and how likely it is that your company can meet its financial obligations. Leverage ratios are similar to liquidity ratios, except that these consider your totals, whereas liquidity ratios focus on your current assets and liabilities. 

  • Debt-to-equity ratio = total debt ÷ total equity. This ratio measures your company’s leverage by comparing your liabilities – or debts – to your value as represented by your stockholders’ equity.
  • Total debt ratio = (total assets – total equity) ÷ total assets. Your total debt ratio is a quick way to see how much of your assets are available because of debt.
  • Long-term debt ratio = long-term debt ÷ (long-term debt + total equity). Similar to the total debt ratio, this formula lets you see your assets available because of debt for longer than a one-year period.

Turnover ratios

Turnover ratios are used to measure your company’s income against its assets. There are many different types of turnover ratios. Here are some common turnover ratios:  

  • Inventory turnover ratio = costs of goods sold ÷ average inventories. The inventory turnover rate shows how much inventory you’ve sold in a year or other specified period.
  • Assets turnover ratio = sales ÷ average total assets. This ratio indicates how good your company is at using your assets to produce revenue.
  • Accounts receivable turnover ratio = sales ÷ average accounts receivable. You can use this ratio to evaluate how quickly your company can collect funds from its customers.
  • Accounts payable turnover ratio = total supplier purchases ÷ ((beginning accounts payable + ending accounts payable) ÷ 2). This ratio measures the speed at which a company pays its suppliers.

Market value ratios

Market value ratios deal entirely with stocks and shares. Many investors use these ratios to determine if your stocks are overpriced or underpriced. These are a couple of common market value ratios:

  • Price-to-earnings ratio = price per share ÷ earnings per share. Investors use the price-to-earnings ratio to see how much they pay for each dollar earned per stock.
  • Market-to-book ratio = market value per share ÷ book value per share. This ratio compares your company’s historic accounting value to the value set by the stock market.

Why look at financial ratios?

Accounting is the language of business: It tells a story. While these formulas may seem like arcane number crunching, the results are the core of your company’s health. 

Running a successful business means learning from past mistakes and making healthy decisions for your future. You can’t plan for your firm’s future without a basic understanding of accounting. 

By taking the time to investigate and understand your business’s financial health, you can make accurate decisions about your future and set your business up for success. For example, the total debt ratio can be a key indicator of whether it’s the right time to take out a new loan. 

The asset turnover ratio shows how valuable your assets are in relation to what you’re producing. This can persuade how you increase business efficiency or whether you invest in new assets. 


To improve your accounting process, consider one of the best accounting software solutions; check out our review of FreshBooks or our Zoho Books review.

Financial accounting vs. cost accounting

There is a key difference between financial accounting and cost accounting: Financial accounting addresses the current financial health of your company, while cost accounting assesses only costs associated with the production of your business. Both can be used to better understand your organization’s financial standing, but cost accounting focuses on profit and efficiency. 

Jamie Johnson contributed to the writing and research in this article.

Image Credit: Jirapong_Manustrong / Getty Images
Matt D'Angelo
Matt D'Angelo
Contributing Writer
I've worked for newspapers, magazines and various online platforms as both a writer and copy editor. Currently, I am a freelance writer living in NYC. I cover various small business topics, including technology, financing and marketing on and Business News Daily.