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A quick guide to noncash expenses

Posted by Carol Mahamedi

May 2, 2022    |     3-minute read (589 words)

Noncash expenses have nothing to do with the payment of cash, even though they are reported on a business’s income statement in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. In short, they are the amounts paid for items that don’t require money to be taken out of the business. The most common type of noncash expense is depreciation, which will be defined below along with other forms of noncash expenses.

Noncash expenses must be recorded

As previously stated, in order to comply with GAAP, businesses must subtract noncash expenses to assess profits. Additionally, investors often seek to determine a business’ actual value versus its net income. To perform the valuation, they need to analyze its cash flow.

This is significant because noncash expenses can reduce the business’s actual income if not taken into consideration. Noncash expenses will be added back to determine its actual cash inflow and outflow.


Common forms of noncash expense

1. DepreciationSome businesses own fixed assets, like machinery and electronics, that are used during daily operations. Over time, the value of such assets depreciates gradually. When the amount of depreciation is deducted from the income statement, it reduces the business’s net profit, recognizing a loss of value in the business, although no monetary transaction occurred.

2. Amortization – Amortization is like depreciation but for intangible assets. It accounts for the cost of these assets over the duration of their anticipated lifetime by letting businesses spread the costs of maintenance and upgrading. For example, a company develops a patent portfolio for $1 million. If it lasts for a hypothetical 10 years, the company has to record an amortization expense of $100,000 each year. Businesses record amortization costs as noncash expenses because they don’t necessitate an immediate cash payment. 

3. Unrealized gains and lossesUnrealized gain is an increase in the value of a business’s assets or investments not yet sold. Unrealized loss occurs when the value of a company's asset or investment declines. Businesses report such noncash profits or losses on the income statement as noncash expenses.

4. Stock-based compensation – Many businesses pay their employees stock options as part of their compensation package. The value of these options can be recorded as a noncash expense on the income statement as it doesn’t involve an actual cash payment. Businesses can also report losses in the value of stock awarded to workers.

5. Provisions for future losses – If a company sells a portion of their total sales on credit, there’s a chance that it won’t receive the full amount in cash. A few customers may not pay, which is why companies can list provisions for expected losses like bad debt as a noncash expense, because the expense is hypothetical. Companies that anticipate a future revenue loss therefore may estimate the total value of the loss and allocate funds to cover those losses, known as contingencies or provisions.

Benefits of recording noncash expenses

By recording noncash expenses, business owners glean a better understanding of the money that is available for operations. An income statement that includes noncash expenses also provides investors a more precise view of a business’s financial viability and long-term prospects. Finally, recording noncash expenses may help reduce total taxable income. 

Disadvantages of recording noncash expenses

Since companies don't actually spend money on noncash expenses, they frequently have to estimate the value of these costs. Portraying an inaccurate picture of the firm’s financial situation or calculating income incorrectly by overvaluing or undervaluing noncash expenses could mislead investors.

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