AFS (Available-For-Sale)

AFS, an abbreviation for Available-For-Sale, is a classification used in financial accounting to categorize certain types of financial assets that are held by a company or an individual investor. AFS assets are marked-to-market, meaning their fair values are regularly updated on the balance sheet to reflect their current worth.


Available-for-sale (AFS) is an accounting term used to describe financial instruments, primarily marketable securities, that are not classified as held for trading (HFT) or held to maturity (HTM). AFS assets are typically long-term investments that an entity is not planning to actively trade, but which may be sold in the future.


When an entity purchases an AFS asset, it is recorded on the balance sheet at its fair value. Subsequently, any changes in the fair value of these assets are recorded in a separate component of equity called the available-for-sale reserve or unrealized gain/loss account. This means that unrealized gains or losses on AFS investments do not impact the income statement until the asset is sold.

AFS assets include various types of investments such as stocks, bonds, derivatives, mutual funds, and certain types of non-marketable securities. These assets differ from trading securities because they are not actively bought and sold for short-term profits. AFS assets are also distinct from held-to-maturity investments, which are held until their maturity date.


AFS assets are carried on the balance sheet at fair value, which is determined in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Fair value represents the estimated amount that the asset could be sold for in a transaction between knowledgeable and willing parties. For most marketable securities, fair value is determined based on quoted market prices. However, in the absence of an active market or for certain derivatives, fair value may be estimated using valuation models and techniques.


The classification of an asset as AFS has several implications for financial reporting. Firstly, any unrealized gains or losses on AFS assets are reported as a separate component of equity on the balance sheet. This treatment provides a clearer distinction between realized and unrealized gains or losses. Secondly, the fair value changes on AFS assets are disclosed in the footnotes to the financial statements, allowing users of the financial statements to assess the volatility and inherent risks associated with these investments.

Disclosure and Presentation:

AFS assets are generally presented separately on the balance sheet, with their fair values reported either individually or in aggregated form. Additionally, the fair value changes of these assets are disclosed in the footnotes to the financial statements. The footnotes may also provide additional information about the types of AFS investments held, their maturity profiles, and any restrictions on their sale.


The AFS classification provides transparency and enhances the accuracy of financial reporting, allowing investors, creditors, and other stakeholders to make informed decisions. By separating the unrealized gains or losses on AFS assets from the income statement, it presents a more accurate reflection of a company or individual’s financial position. Understanding the concept of AFS is critical for anyone involved in finance, accounting, or investment management, as it enables them to comprehend the nuances of financial statements and make informed judgments about the value and risk profile of an entity’s investment portfolio.

This glossary is made for freelancers and owners of small businesses. If you are looking for exact definitions you can find them in accounting textbooks.

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