Differences between Debt and Equity

Debt and Equity are two ways a company can get the money it needs. Imagine a company as a person who needs money to buy something important like better equipment for daily operations. 

The company can either borrow the money (Debt) or get it from friends and family in exchange for a promise to share in the company (Equity).

Debt: This is like a loan. The company borrows money and must pay it back after some time with some extra (interest).

Equity: This is like getting money from friends or family to help buy the equipment, but instead of paying them back with interest, you promise to give them a part of any money you make from using the equipment.

Attributes Table

Here’s a table showing the main features of Debt and Equity:

Attribute Debt Equity
Legal documents Loan agreement Stock certificates
Repayment Fixed dates No fixed dates
Earnings Dependency Not tied to earnings Often tied to earnings
Ownership Impact No ownership given May give ownership
Risk Lower (for the lender) Higher (for the investor)
Influence on Management No influence Possible influence

How to Classify Debt or Equity

To decide if something should be considered Debt or Equity, look at how many attributes from the table match. More checks in the Debt column? It’s probably Debt. More checks in the Equity column? Likely Equity.

Depending on the classification, it can impact the business valuation and the determination of value.


In conclusion, the determination of the characterization of debt and equity, especially in litigation contexts, requires a rigorous and comprehensive approach to ensure accuracy and reliability.  For attorneys, the proper classification of financial instruments as debt or equity impacts legal documentation, taxation, corporate governance, dispute resolution, transaction structuring, and regulatory compliance.  It is a foundational element of business law that can influence the outcome of legal advice and litigation, shaping the financial and operational structure of enterprises.

Are you seeking expert business valuation services to strengthen your case and provide compelling evidence in litigation?  Look no further. As a seasoned business valuation expert with a deep understanding of the complexities involved in determining fair market value, I offer comprehensive solutions tailored to your specific legal needs.

I have earned a Master’s Degree in Business Valuations and apply those skills to my everyday business valuations.

Richard Claywell has been valuing closely held companies since 1985.  He has earned two of the highest designations in the business valuation field, the Certified Business Appraiser (“CBA”) and Accredited Senior Appraiser (“ASA”). Richard is a Certified Public Accountant, has a Master’s in Business Valuation (MBV), and holds ASA, CBA, ABV, ICVS, CVA, MAFF, CFD, ABAR, CVGA, and ICVS-A credentials.

I hold the Master Analyst in Financial Forensics and the Certified in Fraud Deterrence.  I have taught forensic accounting/fraud courses in the United States, China, and Taiwan.

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