Capital expenditure

Page written by AI. Reviewed internally on June 26, 2024.


Capital expenditure refers to the funds a company spends to buy, upgrade, or maintain physical assets with the intention of generating future benefits or returns over an extended period. 

What is capital expenditure?

Capital expenditures are investments made by companies to improve their long-term productive capacity or efficiency. It typically involves significant monetary outlays and is characterised by its long-term impact on the business. These expenditures are generally aimed at enhancing the company’s ability to generate revenue, increase efficiency, or expand operations.

Types of capital expenditure:

  • Acquisition of fixed assets: This includes purchases of property, plant, and equipment, such as machinery, vehicles, buildings, and land.
  • Capitalised costs: Certain costs associated with the development of long-term assets, such as research and development (R&D) expenses.
  • Improvements and upgrades: Expenditures incurred to improve the efficiency, capacity, or functionality of existing assets.
  • Software and intangible assets: Investments in software licences, patents, trademarks, and other intangible assets are also classified as capital expenditures.

Capital expenditures are reflected as assets on the balance sheet and are typically depreciated or amortised over their useful life. While capital expenditures do not directly impact the income statement in the period they are incurred, they affect profitability indirectly through depreciation or amortisation expenses over time. Lastly, capital expenditures are reflected as cash outflows in the investing activities section of the cash flow statement.

Furthermore, capital expenditures play a vital role in driving growth, competitiveness, and sustainability for businesses across various industries. They enable companies to modernise infrastructure, adopt new technologies, expand production capacity, and stay ahead of market trends.

Example of capital expenditure

An example of capital expenditure is when a manufacturing company invests in purchasing new machinery to increase production capacity. Suppose Company XYZ decides to buy advanced manufacturing equipment costing £500,000. Since this investment is aimed at improving the company’s long-term productivity and generating future benefits, it qualifies as a capital expenditure. The £500,000 expenditure would be recorded as an asset on the balance sheet and depreciated over the useful life of the machinery, impacting the company’s financial statements over time.

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