I have a list of accounts and want to show the balances in a pie chart. That's pretty straightforward as long as all of the accounts have a positive balance.

When some of the accounts have negative balances (such as a loan or an overdraft checking account) is there some clever way to still present that data as a pie chart?

The best idea I've been able to come up with is to turn the pie chart into two semicircles, one which shows the assets on top of one which shows the liabilities, with the radius of each semicircle proportional to the total of assets/liabilities.

  • 3
    BTW, I know a pie chart doesn't really make sense in this case. Humor me. :) Jan 28, 2016 at 0:57
  • 1
    A pie chart is the wrong tool for the job even if you only had positive balances.
    – Crissov
    Jan 30, 2016 at 9:03
  • so what is the right tool for the job @Crissov
    – Boris G
    Jan 14, 2022 at 10:40

4 Answers 4


If by some reason you really have to show negative values in a pie chart (which in our project we do), you may consider using the following style:

a pie chart with negative values

In the above chart, the summation of all values is 19,000 and pie area only illustrate the comparison of the absolute values for each component.

  • This really is just a bar chart that has been curved into a circular shape, and it feels misleading in a similar way to the missing dollar riddle.
    – jamesdlin
    Jan 14, 2022 at 11:36
  • That said, I think this might be okay if you straightened it into a percentage bar chart with a clear dividing line separating positive and negative sides.
    – jamesdlin
    Jan 14, 2022 at 12:01

Use the right visualization

Pie charts represent constituents of a whole. As you've discovered, this doesn't work when numbers can go into the red.

Use bar or line charts for more flexible (and arguably more informative) visualization.


An inner ring showing liabilities and an outer one showing assets with the ratio of their thickness's set by the ratio of the total liabilities to assets.

enter image description here
(Don't comment on the ugly colours, just a picture to help explain what is in my head)

But I think in general that a pie chart is probably not the best choice for representing such data.

  • Don't rings just make a circular bar chart? Jan 28, 2016 at 7:02
  • They can, but I'm just talking about overlaying two pie charts of different sizes, which isn't really a circular bar chart.
    – LovesTha
    Jan 29, 2016 at 0:15
  • Would love to see an example. Sounds confusing. Jan 29, 2016 at 21:11
  • 2
    I think your illustration provides great support for not using a pie chart to visualize this data ;-) Jan 30, 2016 at 22:54
  • 2
    I agree, it aint the right format to display this data. But if for some insane reason you did, this would be the best way. Well I guess 3 pie charts would be best: assets, liabilities & ratio of them.
    – LovesTha
    Jan 31, 2016 at 3:54

enter image description here

So this topic just landed on my desk, and so far I have this solution, until I found this question and now I'm unsure.

There are the obvious solutions like bar or line graph. I have currently tried all solutions.

  • 1
    this is the same as the accepted answer, please don't post repeated info
    – Luciano
    Jan 14, 2022 at 11:08

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