What is the Meaning of Understated and Overstated in Accounting?


Inventory errors come in two forms, overstatements and understatements. An error in your inventory will affect both your income statement and your balance sheet — inventory is part of the cost of goods sold on your income statement account and an asset on your balance sheet. Calculating your inventory turnover will tell you how fast you sell your inventory and the rate at which you need to replace it. As a result of double-entry accounting or bookkeeping, another item is likely to have a reporting error. Ending income may be overstated deliberately, when management wants to report unusually high profits, possibly to meet investor expectations, meet a bonus target, or exceed a loan requirement.

An overstated balance is an account balance that is reported as having a greater balance than it actually does, while an understated balance is one that is reported as having a lesser balance than it actually does. In this scenario, a character is seen or imagined alone (solo) and thinking his/her thoughts out loud. Typically, the character detaches himself/herself from the reality and speak to the inanimate or imaginary character in his/her speech.

And if the manipulations are discovered, it’s easy for management to claim that they weren’t aware that an account should be written off or they weren’t aware that it was so far overdue. In the same play, Juliet can also be heard addressing to a dagger, i.e. ”O, happy dagger! As cited above, the main function of apostrophe is to personify abstract ideas or inanimate objects or to bring them to life. By employing this tool, the writers or authors are able to surface abstract emotions that the audience or readers can identify more easily with. In addition, the idea of a character talking to an inanimate object or imaginary character also adds humor, drama or color to the plot.

Double-posted entries, transposed numbers or incorrect amounts entered into the general ledger are often the most common errors. Two accounts will have the error, leading the accountant to discover both sides of the entry. Understated amounts indicate a reported amount is not correct and the reported amount is less than the true amount. For example, an accountant may release a statement saying a company’s inventory account has an understated balance. This indicates the reported balance — $13,000, for example — should actually be $15,000.

Accountants use this term to describe an incorrect reported amount that is higher than the true amount. Using the previous inventory example, an accountant determines the balance is $17,000; the balance should be $15,000, however, resulting in an overstated amount.


Accountants use these terms primarily when reviewing financial statements. The terms also apply to other situations, however, often found in a company’s general ledger or subsidiary journals. Accounting errors can mislead financial statements users when making decisions. When an accountant finds an understated or overstated balance, he needs to conduct research to discover the error.

If you overstated ending inventory, then cost of goods is understated, and gross profit and net income are overstated. Determine if you understated or overstated your inventory and if the error was for the beginning or ending inventory. In situational irony, both the characters and the audience are fully unaware of the implications of the real situation. In dramatic irony, the characters are oblivious of the situation, but the audience is not.

What does it mean to overstate something?

transitive verb. If you say that someone is overstating something, you mean they are describing it in a way that makes it seem more important or serious than it really is.


Find your cost of goods sold, gross profit and net income on your income statement. If you understated beginning inventory, your cost of goods sold will be understated by the error amount. Then, since cost of goods sold is understated, your net income and gross profit are overstated. If you understated ending inventory, your cost of goods sold will be overstated by the error amount, and net income and gross profit are understated. If you overstated beginning inventory, then cost of goods sold is overstated, and gross profit and net income are understated.

  • Another account will also have an error, due to the requirements for double-entry accounting.
  • Accountants use this term to describe an incorrect reported amount that is higher than the true amount.

The purpose is to highlight the importance of the object, idea or non-existent person in the story and to inject a dramatic effect. Find total assets and total stockholder’s equity on your balance sheet. If you understated inventory, then your total assets is understated and your stockholder’s equity is overstated. If you overstated inventory, then your total assets are overstated and your stockholder’s equity is understated.


Yet the accounting rules require these write-downs to be done when management is aware that an account is uncollectible. New calculations are necessary to determine the correct amount to enter into accounts. Accountants need paperwork to prove the validity of the entry prior to making the correction. In some cases, an accountant may need to have a manager authorize the correction to ensure it is accurate and valid for entering into the general ledger.

Failing to make these write-offs in a timely fashion is financial statement fraud, plain an dsimple. There can be a high level of activity in the area of accounts receivable, so auditors aren’t very likely to detect manipulations in these accounts.

Two accounts will have this error as double-entry accounting requires two accounts to be in every entry an accountant posts into the general ledger. Asset accounts are manipulated to enhance a company’s balance sheet, especially to positively impact important ratios involving assets. At higher risk of overstatement are current assets such as accounts receivable. Companies don’t always like to write down or reserve for outstanding balances that customers aren’t going to pay.

Let’s focus more on the literary device definition in this discussion, however. So in literature, apostrophe occurs when a character in the story speaks to an object, an idea, or someone who’s dead or nonexistent, as if it has feelings.


For example, in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, we know well before the characters that they are going to die. In real life circumstances, irony may be comical, bitter, or sometimes unbearably offensive. Learn more about financial statement fraud in my new book, Essentials of Corporate Fraud. In addition to years of corporate accounting experience, he teaches online accounting courses for two universities.


Another account will also have an error, due to the requirements for double-entry accounting. Understated and overstated are two terms that describe the inaccuracy of accounting figures.

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