Equity in Accounting: Definition, Types, and Use


When all liabilities have been deducted, Equity shall be the remainder of the value of the owner’s interest on a business. 

You can see that equity is referred to as ‘equity of stockholders’ (for companies) or ‘owner’s equity’ (for sole proprietorships). 

Equity can be calculated according to:

Equity = Assets – Liabilities

The word equity can be used for personal finances as well. For example, if someone has a home of $400,000 and a mortgage of $150,000, the owner can say “$250,000 of equity” in the property.

Here’s What We’ll Cover:

What Is Considered an Equity in Accounting?

Equity in a company may include tangible assets (assets in physical form) and intangible assets (assets you can’t touch but are valuable). Here are some examples:

Tangible Assets

  • Accounts Receivable
  • Building(s)
  • Cash
  • Equipment
  • Furniture
  • Inventory
  • Land
  • Stocks & Bonds
  • Supplies

Intangible Assets

  • Brand recognition
  • Copyrights
  • Customer lists
  • Goodwill (representation of a purchased company’s total assets).
  • Patents
  • Trademarks

The assets of a company are offset by its liabilities. Common liabilities include:

  • Accounts payable
  • Interest
  • Loans
  • Mortgages
  • Taxes
  • Unearned revenues
  • Wages and salaries
  • Warranties

Where is equity recorded?

For businesses, what counts as equity in accounting is recorded on the company’s balance sheet. This should be clearly displayed at the bottom of the statement, reflected as either “Stockholders’ Equity” or “Owner’s Equity” depending on ownership. Ideally, the equity figure will be positive. If it’s negative, this means that liabilities outweigh assets, and the business is “in the red” with outstanding debts. This is why it’s essential to keep a close eye on equity, whether your business is publicly or privately owned.

What are the Types of Equity?

There are two types of equity:

Book Value:

In accounting, equity is listed in its book value and calculated by the financial statement record and the balance sheet equation. The equation used to evaluate book value is Equity = Assets – Liabilities. However, the assets are the sum-up of all the company’s both non-current and current assets. Other details incorporated in the main account assets are fixed assets, cash, inventory, accounts receivable, property plant, intangible assets, etc.

Similarly, the liabilities are sum up of current and non-current liabilities on the balance sheet. Other accounts are short-term debt, credit, deferred revenue, accounts payable, long-term debt, fixed financial commitment, and capital leases.

Market Value:

In finance, equity is indicated as market value, which might be significantly lower or higher than the book value. The difference is because the accounting statement is looking at the past (past expenditures), while the financial statement is looking ahead and forecasting the company’s financial status.

For a publicly traded company, its equity market value is calculated as Market Value= Share Price X Shares Outstanding. Whereas, for a private company to analyze the market value, an investment banker, boutique valuation firm, or accounting firm are hired.

How is equity used by investors?

Equity is a very important concept for investors. For instance, in looking at a company, an investor might use shareholders’ equity as a benchmark for determining whether a particular purchase price is expensive. If that company has historically traded at a price to book value of 1.5, for instance, then an investor might think twice before paying more than that valuation unless they feel the company’s prospects have fundamentally improved. On the other hand, an investor might feel comfortable buying shares in a relatively weak business as long as the price they pay is sufficiently low relative to its equity.

What Are the Differences between Stocks and Equities?

All stock involves equity but not all equity is stocks

Equity exists in any business venture where value can be split among owners. This includes big business corporations and smaller company setups such as sole proprietorships and partnerships. However, not all equity ventures have stocks. Stocks are generally seen in companies and not in other forms of business structures.

Stock exchange trading

Equity includes stocks as well as other tangible assets, excluding debt. While it’s possible to trade stocks, not all equities can be traded. In other words, equity is generally not freely tradable in the market since it directly affects the holding of a business entity, but stocks can be traded in the market.


The total value of a company’s equity gives the book value of the company, and the total value of a company’s stocks gives the company’s total market value.

Price movements

Stocks attract supply and demand; hence their prices fluctuate daily, but the price of equity does not fluctuate.

Public involvement

While the general public doesn’t normally get involved in a company’s equity issues, the issuing, buying, and selling of stocks tend to involve general public participation.


Equity is comparatively riskier because it involves more than just stocks. While stockholders are only liable for amounts up to the value of the stocks they own, equity holders directly face all the complexities faced by a business entity.

Owning a stake in a company is not the same as trading stocks

Although investing in stocks and trading stocks involves trying to make some gains in the stock markets, they are two very different approaches. While investing involves getting a stake in a company by buying and holding stocks for the long term, stock traders typically buy and sell stocks to capitalize on market movements and make short-term profits.

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