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How to Prepare a Consolidated Cash Flow Statement for Your Company

A consolidated cash flow statement provides critical insights into the overall financial health and liquidity position of a parent company and its subsidiaries. By combining individual cash flow statements of the parent and majority-owned subsidiaries, it depicts the total cash inflows and outflows occurring across the consolidated entity during a period.


Understanding Why It Matters


Preparing a consolidated cash flow statement is especially vital for companies that have control over other legal entities. It presents a comprehensive view of net cash positions and movements that individual statements cannot. This helps stakeholders like management, investors, and lenders assess financial flexibility to fund operations, service debt, pursue growth opportunities, and withstand downturns.


Following GAAP Guidelines


When consolidating cash flow statements, it remains imperative to follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) to ensure standardized reporting. Key requirements 

per GAAP include:


  • Classifying cash flows into operating, investing, and financing activities
  • Reporting gross cash receipts and payments from transactions
  • Reconciling beginning and ending cash balances
  • Providing comparative reports over two fiscal periods
  • Disclosing non-cash investing and financing activities

These principles dictate the rules for consolidation calculations, classification of line items, and overall presentation format. Adhering to GAAP lends credibility and ensures the consolidated statement reflects the economic reality accurately.


The Step-By-Step Process


Constructing a consolidated cash flow entails a systematic methodology:


  • Prepare individual cash flow statements for the parent company and each majority-owned subsidiary per GAAP.
  • Identify and eliminate intercompany sales, transfers, loans, and investments between entities. Offset any receivables/payables.
  • Combine all adjusted individual direct method cash flow statements line-by-line under major activity heads.
  • Aggregate net cash flows across the enterprise to derive consolidated totals.
  • Include necessary disclosures and publish comparative reports over recent fiscal periods.


Properly Handling Key Transactions


When consolidating, certain intercompany transactions require special attention:


  • Dividends paid by subsidiaries to parent shareholders should not be reflected as cash outflows on the consolidated report. Only dividend payments to non-controlling interest holders are financing cash outflows.
  • Intercompany sales and cost transfers must reconcile completely or be eliminated through adjustments to prevent inflation of revenues/expenses.
  • Acquisitions must record cash paid to purchase subsidiaries as an investing outflow and make fair value adjustments to operating assets/liabilities purchased.


Leveraging Automation Software


Rather than preparing consolidated statements manually, companies can use specialized financial consolidation software tools. These help aggregate data, configure business rules, handle currency conversions, map intercompany transfers, and compute consolidation elimination entries automatically per GAAP. This improves efficiency, reduces errors, and provides audit trail transparency.


Understanding Challenges and Limitations


Despite software automation, some inherent challenges remain:


  • Managing different accounting policies, currencies, reporting formats, and fiscal year-ends between entities.
  • Precisely identifying and removing all intercompany transactions can be complex with decentralized systems.
  • Losing granular visibility into individual entities’ operating performance.
  • Balancing consolidation requirements with meeting local statutory regulations.
  • Updating systems when accounting standards get amended.

While consolidated reporting has limitations, the collective insights it provides into cash flows across controlled entities outweigh the challenges.


Implementing Consolidated Reporting


When implementing consolidated cash flow reporting, controllers should:


  • Assess existing systems, data availability, and intercompany reconciliation processes.
  • Evaluate consolidation tools that can aggregate and adjust diverse data automatically.
  • Develop clear policies and procedures for collecting data from entities and governing eliminations.
  • Maintain transparency through disclosures on consolidation principles and judgment areas.
  • Provide adequate training to preparers on updated regulations.


The Way Forward


Consolidated cash flow statements serve as crucial indicators of liquidity and financial flexibility for enterprise stakeholders. Companies owning multiple legal entities should invest in capabilities to generate consolidated reports compliant with the latest GAAP rules and leverage automation to scale this complex process. By institutionalizing robust consolidated cash flow reporting, corporate groups can unlock many long-term decision-making benefits.