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Capital Vs. Non-Capital Expenditures

by Tim Burris ; Updated September 26, 2017
Investments in plant and equipment are examples of capital expenditures.

Business capital expenditures are defined as cash outlays for revenue producing-projects that are expected to have a return over a year into the future. Businesses apply different rules to classify certain equipment costs as capital expenditures, such as dollar values and expected revenue producing life. Non-capital expenditures are those that do not meet capital expenditure criteria.

Exanples of Non-Capital Expenditures

Non-capital expenditures generally have a lower cost and shorter useful life. An example of a lower-cost item that would be classified as a non-capital expenditure would be machinery components. Regular maintenance on a piece of revenue-producing machinery would also be considered a non-capital expense.

Capital Expenditure Examples

Purchase of a property parcel, a building to house a plant, or machinery for manufacturing purposes would be examples of capital expenditures. Each have the potential to increase income and aid in long-term financial growth. With respect to capital purchases and capital budgeting, a period of longer than one year is considered long term.

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Non-Tangible Capital Expenditures

Purchase of a non-tangible item or asset can also be a capital expenditure. Things such as research and development projects or extensive advertising campaigns can meet the definition by adding to the financial health of a business for more than one year in the future. An example would be a multi-year expenditure to sponsor a professional sports team. The expenditure is made with the expectation of future financial reward based on the exposure the sponsorship will bring.

Capital Budgeting

Capital budgeting differs from normal business budgeting in that capital budgeting is performed to make decisions on which capital projects will be funded. If a company has two potential revenue-producing business projects with similar capital requirements, the expected return for each project is examined to determine which project has the highest reward potential. Several measures of financial return can be used to make this determination.

About the Author

Tim Burris has over seven years experience writing and editing formal sales proposals and marketing materials. Tim has also worked as a freelance journalist for two news organizations. His cover story in "NUVO Newsweekly," Financial Disclosure, May 5, 2004, won an award from the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists. Tim has a Bachelor of Science degree in business, finance from Indiana University.

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