What is Capital Expenditure CapEx and How to Calculate: Meaning, Examples, and Formula

What is Capital Expenditure CapEx and How to Calculate: Meaning, Examples, and Formula

Capital Expenditure

Among the most effective approaches for businesses to accelerate their trajectory and growth is investing in or improving assets, resources, and intellectual property (IP) to enhance their capability to operate efficiently at scale.

Capital expenditure, or CapEx, is the process by which businesses make strategic investments. Capital expenditure is a widespread method utilized by larger businesses to take it to the next level and, on many occasions, to increase their market share. 

In this brief guide, we will define what is capital expenditure and explain why understanding it is vital, irrespective of the industry in which your business operates.

Capital Expenditure Meaning

Capital expenditures are resources used by a business to purchase, strengthen, or maintain long-term assets in order to increase the business's efficiency as well as capacity. Long-term assets are typically fixed, tangible, and non-consumable assets like property, machinery, or infrastructure that have a usable life of more than a single accounting period.

CapEx allows businesses to grow and maintain operations by investing in new property, plant, hardware (PP&E), products, and software. Financial investors and analysts closely monitor capital expenditures because they do not show up on the income statement but may substantially impact cash flow.

Capital Expenditures Formula

Capital expenditures can be calculated using the formula below based on your company's balance sheet and income statement.

CapEx = PPE (prior period) - PPE (current period) + depreciation (current period)

PPE stands for "property, plant, and equipment."

While the formula is relatively simple, it is firmly advisable that you seek the advice of both a financial and tax professional to make sure you are calculating your capital expenses correctly.

Types Of CapEx

Capital expenditures are taken as long-term investments because the assets bought have a usable life of one fiscal year or more. There are three types of capital expenditures listed below.

  • Funds required to keep existing assets operationally viable.
  • Funds required for future expansion.
  • Non-economic spending is done without the intention of monetary gain. Examples include spending on social activities and investing in research.

Capital expenses include all costs incurred by a company before the completion of an asset. For instance, freight, excise tax, and installation fees add to the machines and equipment cost.

Though the term CapEx is widely used for physical assets, intangible assets such as patents may also be seen as CapEx because they increase the business's book value. They are classified as capital assets because a company can sell them if needed.

Capital Expenditure Examples

Capital expenditure is one of several types of expenses that businesses must understand at a high level. 

CapEx investments must fall into one of the following categories to qualify:

  1. Purchasing a fixed tangible asset, such as a house, or an intangible asset, like a patent or license. 
  2. Increasing the capacity or capability of an existing asset, like a computer system or significant equipment. 
  3. Bringing an obsolete or non-functional asset back into service.
  4. Making an asset usable again by repairing it. 
  5. Changing the purpose of an asset from what it was previously used. 
  6. Investing in establishing or purchasing a new business.

Again, capital expenditures pertain to long-term investments in your business that span multiple years. Any asset with a usable life expectancy of less than a year would not be eligible.

The Difference Between Capital and OpEx or Revenue Expenditures

Operating expenses are the expenditures incurred by the business to cover the business's day-to-day expenditures. It is a one-time expense that can be completely deducted from the business's taxes incurred during the year. Capital expenditure, in contrast, is an expense that lasts more than a year and extends the useful lifespan of an asset. Furthermore, capital expenditures aren't tax deductible but can be deducted indirectly through depreciation.

Importance Of CapEx

Capital Expenditure decisions regarding how much to invest are critical decisions an organization makes. They are significant for the following reasons:

Long-term Impact

Capital expenditure decisions generally have long-term consequences. The variety of current manufacturing or production activities is primarily due to capital expenditures in the past. Similarly, current capital expenditure rulings will significantly impact the business's future actions.


When capital hardware is purchased, there is less leeway to reverse the decision because the cost is often not recouped. Wrong decisions regarding capital investment are frequently irreversible and result in significant losses. Once capital equipment is purchased, it must be used by the company itself.

Large Initial Investment

Capital expenditures are typically very costly as an investment in physical assets such as buildings, equipment, or real estate. Although they can provide long-term benefits, they require a significant monetary outlay at the outset, far greater than standard operating outlays.


Capital expenditures cause an increase in a company's asset accounts. When capital assets are in service, they depreciate and continue to lose value throughout their expected useful life.

CapEx Challenges

Capital expenditure decisions are complex. They are also critical to a company's success.

The three significant challenges of CapEx planning are:

  • Unpredictability: When it relates to investing in capital assets, nobody can look into the future, so predictions are impossible. Although businesses can and must use risk management techniques and insurance to forecast and mitigate the probability of capital asset losses, it's impossible to eliminate the uncertainty.
  • Problems with measurement: Some capital expenditure outcomes, such as increased employee morale, are intangible and thus will not be reflected on a balance sheet. Furthermore, calculating all associated costs can take time and effort.
  • Measurement issues: Some benefits of capital expenditures, such as increased employee morale, are intangible and thus cannot be recorded on a balance sheet. It can also be difficult to calculate all associated costs. Consider the delivery truck: a driver's wage is an OpEx expense that needs to be considered alongside fuel, insurance, and other costs to determine whether buying is better than employing a contractor.
  • Spread: The benefits of capital expenditures are typically spread over a more extended period, which can cause issues when establishing equilibrium and estimating discount rates. Simply put, funds invested in machinery and equipment are no longer accessible for potentially more beneficial opportunities.


Capital expenditure decisions are essential to an organization due to their irreversibility, high upfront costs, and long-term consequences. As a result, capital expenditure planning and implementation must be done carefully and smartly.