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Retained Earnings

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Retained earnings are accumulated earnings that have not been distributed to shareholders but rather reinvested in the business. Put simply, the net income a company earns, less the dividends it pays, is the net addition to retained earnings for the accounting period. A company's retained earnings are disclosed at or near the bottom of the shareholders equity section of the balance sheet. Accountants may prepare a separate "statement of retained earnings" that shows the change in retained earnings during the accounting period; however, the statement of retained earnings is often combined with the income statement. Retained earnings may be appropriated for specific purposes (like bond payments) or unappropriated; only unappropriated retained earnings are available to be distributed as dividends. An appropriation of retained earnings may be disclosed on the balance sheet or in the footnotes to the financial statements. Note, however, that an appropriation of retained earnings does not imply that the amount is held and segregated as cash.

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