# Horizontal analysis definition

The percentage change is calculated by first dividing the dollar change between the comparison year and the base year by the line item value in the base year, then multiplying the quotient by 100. Last, a horizontal analysis can encompass calculating percentage changes from one period to the next. As a company grows, it often becomes more difficult to sustain the same rate of growth, even if the company grows in pure dollar size. This percentage method is most useful when identifying changes over a longer period of time where there may be significant deviations from the base period to the current period. Financial Analysis is helpful in accurately ascertaining and forecasting future trends and conditions.

1. Horizontal analysis looks at certain line items, ratios, or factors over several periods to determine the extent of changes and their trends.
2. This type of analysis reveals trends in line items such as cost of goods sold.
3. A further advantage is that it requires little skill to spot anomalies in a trend, while other forms of analysis may require extensive experience to discern whether the numbers in a presentation are indicative of problems.
4. It’s best to do so for all of the financial statements at once so you can understand the full influence of operational outcomes on a company’s financial situation across the review period.

When it comes to management, it determines the actions to take in order to improve the future performance of the firm. In general, the method aids in understanding a company’s performance so that educated decisions may be made. The investor may desire to understand how the firm has altered over time to decide. For example, if that Company XYZ’s net income was \$10 million and retained earnings were \$50 million at the start of its existence, as depicted by example. In the final section, we’ll perform a horizontal analysis on our company’s historical balance sheet.

## Horizontal analysis helps you spot trends

Analyzing a company’s financial statements investors and comparing company performance with other companies in the same industry helps analysts to make informed decisions about whether or not to invest in the company. Indeed, sometimes companies change the way they break down their business segments to make the horizontal analysis of growth and profitability trends more difficult to detect. Horizontal analysis is used in financial statement analysis to compare historical data, such as ratios, or line items, over a number of accounting periods.

This type of question guides itself to selecting certain horizontal analysis methods and specific trends or patterns to seek out. With the help of this analysis, the percentages so computed can be directly compared with the result of the equivalent percentages of the past years or other companies operating in the same industry, irrespective of their size. So, common size financial statement not only helps in intra-firm comparison but also in inter-firm comparison.

## Overview: What is horizontal analysis?

This means that every line item on an income statement is stated as a percentage of gross sales, while every line item on a balance sheet is stated as a percentage of total assets. Horizontal analysis is a great way to examine past performance and identify growth and profitability trends. Many factors can affect business performance, and it’s impossible to predict the future with 100% accuracy. For example, you can use vertical analysis to compare a company’s net income from last year to its net income from this year as a percentage of revenue. This information can help you identify whether or not your company is becoming more or less profitable over time. Horizontal analysis is one of the most fundamental financial analyses that you can perform.

At least two accounting periods are required for a valid comparison, though in order to spot actual trends, it’s better to include three or more accounting periods when calculating horizontal analysis. Horizontal analysis is valuable because analysts assess past performance along with the company’s current financial position or growth. Horizontal analysis can also be used to benchmark a company with competitors in the same industry.

## Horizontal Analysis

Analysis on the horizontal level allows investors and analysts to examine a firm’s performance over several years and identify trends and growth patterns. This sort of study permits analysts to observe changes in various line items over time and project them into the future. To perform horizontal analysis, you will need to gather financial data for your company over a specific period.

## Formulas for horizontal analysis

It allows you to compare different data sets over a specific period to identify trends and patterns. Horizontal analysis of the balance sheet is also usually in a two-year format, such as the one shown below, with a variance showing the difference between the two years for each line item. An alternative format is to add as many years as will fit on the page, without showing a variance, so that you can see general changes by account over multiple years. A less-used format is to include a vertical analysis of each year in the report, so that each year shows each line item as a percentage of the total assets in that year.

The major distinction between horizontal and vertical analysis is that horizontal analysis compares numbers from multiple reporting periods, whereas vertical analysis compares figures from a single reporting period. The main difference between horizontal analysis and vertical analysis is that a horizontal analysis is used to judge performance over a number of reporting periods, while vertical analysis is used to compare numbers within one reporting period. For example, a horizontal analysis of the cost of insurance might list the cost on a quarterly basis for the past few years, while a vertical analysis would present it as a percentage of sales only for the current period. Vertical analysis expresses each line item on a company’s financial statements as a percentage of a base figure, whereas horizontal analysis is more about measuring the percentage change over a specified period.

Ideally, every business within an industry should apply an accounting framework in the same way, so that their reported financial information can be compared. When a business takes an unusual position in regard to reporting standards, its financial statements will not be as readily comparable to those of its competitors. The unusual application of accounting standards may be described in the footnotes that accompany a firm’s financial statements. Horizontal Analysis measures a company’s operating performance by comparing its reported financial statements, i.e. the income statement and balance sheet, to the financial results filed in a base period.