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What are profit and loss statements?

A profit and loss statement is a birds eye view summary of all the general ledger accounts which relate to either revenue and expenses. All the line items on a P&L can take many forms depending on the context. Generally speaking, financial statements that are used for internal management purposes will be much more detailed that ones published for the general public. The basic skeleton of the P&L would look something like this: Sales Cost of Sales Gross Margin Operating Expenses Earnings from Operations Non-Operating Expenses/(Income) Pretax Income Provision for Income Taxes Net Earnings/(Loss)