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Capital expenditures are the funds used by a company to purchase assets or to upgrade and maintain physical assets such as property, plants, buildings, technology, or equipment. Capital expenditures are used to start new company projects or can be used by the company for investment opportunities. Some examples of capital expenditures can include things like new equipment, machinery, land, plant, buildings or warehouses, furniture and fixtures, business vehicles, software, or intangible assets such as a patent or license. 

It is important to understand how Capital expenditures are used because of their long-term effects, irreversibility, high initial costs, and depreciation. Capital expenditures can have long-term effects because the decisions made on which asset to purchase can extend well into the future of a company. It is also very difficult to reserve the decision of a Capital expenditure without the company experiencing some type of loss. Capital expenditures can be very expensive to purchase for companies that specialize in production, manufacturing, and utilities. Physical assets such as buildings and equipment can provide a company with future benefits but may need initial renovations to be functional. Also, it is important to consider the depreciation of a capital expenditure when deciding what to purchase. 

What are Capital Expenditures?

Capital expenditure can also be referred to as a capital expense and is often abbreviated as (CapEx), and as mentioned above are the funds a company uses to purchase long-term assets for the improvement and efficiency of the company. Capital expenditures are listed on the balance sheet as an investment for a particular accounting period. Capital expenditures normally have a large impact on the company’s short-term and long-term financial standing. So, it is important to make wise capital expenditure decisions for the financial health of a company.

What are the Examples of Capital Expenditures?

Capital expenditures are often considered in two types: the expenses needed to maintain the levels of operation within a company, and the expenses needed to enable the company to increase in future growth. 

A capital expense can either be tangible, such as a machine, or intangible, such as a patent. Both tangible capital and intangible expenditures are usually considered assets since they can be sold when there is a need. Below is a list of just a few examples of what can be considered a capital expenditure: 

  • Land 
  • Buildings 
  • Office Furniture
  • Computers 
  • Office Equipment
  • Computers 
  • Office Equipment 
  • Machinery 
  • Vehicles 
  • Patents 
  • Copyrights 
  • Trademarks 
  • Licensing and rights
  • Software

What is the Importance of Capital Expenditures in a Company?

It is important to understand how capital expenditures are used in a company because of their impact on the company’s finances, but capital expenditures can also depreciate over time. The decision on how much to invest in capital expenditures is extremely important because of the following: 

  • Long-term Effects

The decisions on what type of capital expenditure to purchase can have major effects on a company long into the future. A company’s present production or manufacturing is a direct result of the decisions made on past capital expenditure purchases. These decisions are the forces that help steer a company in a particular direction. 

  • Irreversibility 

The decision to purchase a particular capital expenditure may be difficult to reverse without causing the company to experience some type of loss. Capital expenditures are often made to meet a company’s specific needs or requirements, making it difficult to sell the product to other companies once it is no longer needed or useful. 

  • High Initial Costs 

Capital expenditures are characteristically very expensive, especially for companies in industries such as production, manufacturing, telecom, utilities, and oil exploration. Capital investments in physical assets like buildings, equipment, or property offer the potential of providing benefits in the long run but will need a huge monetary outlay initially, and much greater than regular operating outlays. 

  • Depreciation 

Capital expenditures can help to increase a company’s assets in the beginning but once they are in service they can quickly start to depreciate. 

How to Calculate Capital Expenditures?

The cash flow statement of a company will show what type of capital expenditures were made during a period. You can also use a formula to calculate capital expenditures. You will need to locate items on the income statement and balance sheet. Below is a list of the items you will need and where to find them. 

  1. The depreciation and amortization are located on the income statement. 
  2. The current period property, plant & equipment (PP&E) is located on the balance sheet. 
  3. The prior period PP&E is located on the same balance sheet.  
  4. The formula below is how you will arrive at CapEx. 

The formula for finding a company’s capital expenditures from the income statement and balance sheet is: 

CapEx = PP&E (current period) – PP&E (prior period) + Depreciation (current period) 

The current period PP&E on the balance sheet is equal to the prior period PP&E plus capital expenditures less depreciation. 

How -Should Capital Expenditures Be Considered?

Capital expenditures are used by a company for several ratio analyses. For example, the cash-flow-to-capital expenditures ratio is tied to how a company is able to acquire long-term assets using free cash flow. It often fluctuates as a business goes through different periods of large and small capital expenditures. 

What is the Difference Between Capital and Revenue Expenditures?

Capital expenditures are not the costs of running a business on a regular basis. They are significant expenses incurred once in a while to increase or improve the fixed assets of a business. Capital expenditures are not immediately expensed in the income statement because the business derives its benefit for several years. Revenue expenditures are recurring costs that are necessary for running the day-to-day operations of the business and maintaining the existing assets. Revenue expenditures are short-term costs that are charged to the income statement as soon as they are incurred. 


Capital Expenditures  Revenue Expenditures 
The amount spent to acquire new assets or upgrade present assets. The amount spent on the day-to-day operations. 
The time span is long-term. The time span is limited or is for the current accounting period only. 
Capital expenditures are recorded in the cash flow statement.  Revenue expenditures are recorded in the income statement. 
Capital expenditures are recorded in the balance sheet under fixed assets. Revenue expenditures are not recorded on the balance sheet. 
Capital expenditures’ main purpose is to increase the current capacity.   

Revenue expenditures’ main purpose is to sustain its profitability. 


Capital expenditures are long-term in nature with no limit for expenses.  Revenue expenditures often have limits. 
Capital expenditures are not recurrent.  Revenue expenditures are recurrent expenses. 
Capital expenditures are capitalized.  Revenue expenditures are not capitalized. 
Depreciation of assets is charged.  Depreciation of assets is not charged. 

What is the Difference Between Capital and Operating Expense?

Operating expense (OpEx) is an expense that is required for the daily operation of a business. The business incurs operating expenses on a recurring basis. Operating expenses are things like insurance, payroll, and marketing. A capital expense, on the other hand, is incurred to create a benefit in the future. They are long-term and are generally used to acquire things like property, equipment, and technology. 


Capital Expenditure Operating Expenditure
For capital expenditure, throughput is whatever money is spent on the inventory. For operating expenditure, the money that is used to convert inventory into throughput. 
Capital expenses cannot be deducted during the accounting period in which they are incurred. Some capital expenses such as machinery, buildings, and other fixed assets will undergo depreciation, while non-physical assets such as patents and copies can be amortized Operating expenses can be deducted during the accounting period that they are incurred. 
Capital expenses can help with taxes because the expenses are entered as an asset for the future.  Operating expenses are taxed because the expenses are not registered as future assets, so they do not depreciate in value. 
Capital expenses are the money that is spent on buying property.   

Operating expenses are the money that is spent on maintaining the property. 

Some examples of capital expenses include machinery, vehicles, buildings, furniture, computer systems, lab apparatus, patents, etc.  Some examples of operating expenses include rent, utilities, machinery repair, worker wages, pension plans, advertising costs, accounting fees, legal expenditures, etc. 

When is it Appropriate to Record Capital Expenditure as an Asset?

Capital expenditures are recorded on the balance sheet of a company under the heading fixed assets. Capital expenditures are not recorded as an expense because of their large outlay as well as their ability to provide benefits in future periods, so they are not a part of the income statement. Capital expenditures are reported in the cash flow statement for the financial period in which they occur. 

Is Capital Expenditure Used to Acquire a Company’s Fixed Assets?

Yes. Capital expenditure is used to acquire a company’s fixed assets by purchasing, improving, or maintaining the efficiency or capacity of the company. Fixed assets are usually physical, and non-consumable assets such as property, equipment, or infrastructure. Fix assets are useful and last longer than one accounting period. 

Is Investment Considered Capital Expenditures?

Investments can be considered capital expenditures when the money is used by a business to purchase fixed assets, such as land, machinery, or buildings. These items may be purchased using cash, assets, or loans. Capital-intensive businesses require a large financial investment to start and run, whereas companies that don’t need much money to start or maintain are not capital intensive.