Microsoft Excel: How to reference vertical cells horizontally

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q. I have an amortization schedule arranged vertically in Excel on Sheet 1 that I want to reference horizontally in my income statement on Sheet 2. Is there a way to write and copy/paste a single formula that will accomplish this task?

A. Yes, it is possible to reference vertical data using a single formula that can be copied horizontally. The trick is to use the INDEX and COLUMN functions together, as follows. In the screenshot below, the formula =INDEX($A$10:$F$23,COLUMN(B1),4) has been entered into cell A26 and then copied across to repeat the schedule's vertical column of Interest horizontally on row 26.

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Excel's INDEX function allows users to reference values in a range of data (or array of data) by their column and row number position within that range. As a simple example, the formula =INDEX(A1:F10, 4,4) would return the value in the fourth row of the fourth column in that specified data range. Excel's COLUMN function returns the number of the column in a referenced cell. For example, the formula =COLUMN(A1) returns the value 1 because cell A1 is located in the first column. The beauty of this formula is that when copied to the right, the value returned increments by one each time, so that the COLUMN function essentially becomes a counting tool.

Therefore, in our INDEX formula, instead of typing the numeral 2 to reference row 2, we can instead type the COLUMN function =COLUMN(B1), which returns the numeral 2. As this formula is copied to the right, the COLUMN function references cells C1, D1, E1, and so on, which equates to columns 3, 4, 5, and so on, respectively. The result is that each time the formula is copied to the right, the formula references the next row down on the amortization schedule. You can view a video on this technique below and download the Excel worksheet here.


About the author

J. Carlton Collins (carlton@asaresearch.com) is a technology consultant, a CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor.

Note: Instructions for Microsoft Office in “Technology Q&A” refer to the 2007 through 2016 versions, unless otherwise specified.

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