What is Unappropriated Retained Earnings?
Unappropriated Retained Earnings are the portions of the total retained earnings that have not been kept aside by the board of directors of the company for the purpose of using them for the specific purpose and they are usually distributed as the dividends to the shareholders of the company.
In simple terms, Unappropriated retained earnings is that part of the net income earned by the firm with no specific use outlined for it in the current time frame.
The management might have an idea of how they want to use it. They might like to work on all scenarios and simulate future cash flows before executing this idea. If it works out, then it’s good, but it does not, the management is not legally bound to disclose or implement this idea. In any case, all or part of this money can be distributed to the shareholders as dividends.
How does Unappropriated Retained Earnings Work?
Consider an IT consulting firm – Photon, which has $ 5,000,000 of reported revenue and eventually $1,000,000 in retained earnings. The company will not automatically offer all this amount as payment to the shareholders in the form of dividends. The board of directors believes that it will be in the best interest of the firm to expand and hence decide to keep $ 600,000 to reinvest in the business by buying a piece of land for its new office. Then, this $ 600,000 will be called as appropriated retained earnings. Since there are no such plans for $ 400,000 as of now, this will be called as Unappropriated retained earnings. The whole or part of this amount can be distributed to shareholders as dividends. Consider the following table:
Why is it Important for Investors?
Unappropriated retained earnings are the profits that have not been spent, nor is there a plan to do so. Since they are not directed towards a specific purpose by the board, they are available to be paid out as dividends. It helps to determine the maximum dividend that can be paid out to shareholders. The greater it is, the higher the dividend that can be rewarded. Mathematically, it can be expressed as:
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Dividend = max (Unappropriated retained earnings, 0)
These earnings are distributed among all the outstanding shareholders of the company and paid out as dividends as per the predetermined dividend payment schedule.
Why Unappropriated Retained Earnings Matters?
Changes in the level of unappropriated retained earnings can send a signal to investors about the plans of the company. An increase in value, for example, could mean that the company is planning to invest less in the business in the near future. Though this releases the cash that could be paid out to shareholders, this might not be the best course of action. I.e., if the sector in which the company operates demands better machinery equipment, talent, or other assets to remain competitive.
In simple terms, the company has run out of ideas that can help it grow, and both inorganic and organic growth looks upper-capped. In such a scenario, the company might not be able to deliver the healthy growth rate that it was delivering till yet. It would eventually affect the return on equity and share price as investors would like to withdraw their investment and park it in companies that can offer better growth.
- It can be restrained, especially when the firm has both preferred and common stock. For example, the preferred stockholders can have priority over the holders of common stock. In this case, the payment of dividends from unappropriated retained earnings is said to be restricted.
- Practically speaking, all balances in the accounts of retained earnings belong to owners until they’re paid out for other purposes. In the event of company insolvency or bankruptcy, both unappropriated and restricted earnings would be used to pay off creditors, with any remaining amounts distributed to owners.
- Unappropriated retained earnings are reported in the owner equity section of the balance sheet. These are regulated via Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. For example, if a firm’s subsidiary issues dividends after the parent company have issued financial statements, then the subsidiary company should disclose via formal documentation like pro forma financials.
- It only specifies earnings but does not specify the circumstances in which they were earned. Under GAAP, companies should specify the concerning information related to earnings in the form of notes on corporate documents. For example, if they have reduced due to the change in the accounting method, such information should be duly disclosed.
Financial statements, both explicitly and implicitly, say a lot about the company. Unappropriated Retained earnings form an essential section of these statements as they express a lot about the management, its growth strategy, and the firm’s growth prospects. If appropriately evaluated, these can be important for an investor before they park their money on the firm.
Unappropriated Retained Earnings Video
This article has been a guide to what is Unappropriated Retained earnings. Here we discuss how it works, why it is crucial for investors, along with Accounting Implications and Exceptions. You can learn more about accounting from the following articles –