Initial investment in capital budgeting decisions

Within context of capital budgeting decisions, initial investment refers to the cash outflow at the beginning of the project and is calculated by taking the total cost of the new asset (cost plus all expenses required to make asset operational), less after-tax proceeds from sale of the old assets and further adding or subtracting change in the net working capital, as shown below.

Initial investment (Initial cash outflow) determined as follows:

Total cost of the new asset (cost plus installation)

Less: After-tax proceeds from sale of the old asset (proceeds from sale of the old asset less cost of removing asset less tax on sale of the old assets.

Less or Add: Change in net working capital

Tax on the sale of the old asset is only paid if the asset sold for more than asset’s book value. Book value of an asset refers to the total cost of the asset (cost of the asset at the time it was purchased + installation cost) less accumulated depreciation.

Accumulated depreciation refers to the collective depreciation of an asset up to a point under consideration. For example, if asset were bought exactly 5 years ago, than accumulated depreciation will include sum of individual depreciation amounts for each of the five years.

If the asset sold for more than its book value than any value above original total cost of asset referred to as capital gain and any value above book value and up to original total cost of asset referred to as recaptured depreciation.

If asset is sold for less than book value than tax credit is generated, provided the country specific legal requirements for such tax credit to be effective are met.

As stated above, an initial investment is affected by the change in net working capital. This occurs because organization’s working capital requirements will change if project will be undertaken and it should be incorporated into calculations. A change in net working capital is calculated as change in current assets (e.g. accounts receivable and inventories) less change in current liabilities (e.g. accounts payable and accruals).

If net working capital increased (increase in current assets larger than increase in current liabilities) than we treat it as cash outflow and add it to the initial investment amount in calculation of the initial cash out flow. This is because the company’s investment in current assets increased due to the new project being undertaken. Therefore, it is an additional cash outflow.

If, however, an increase in current liabilities was higher than increase in current assets (if net working capital decreased) than we subtract this change in net working capital from the initial investment amount in calculating initial investment (outflow at time zero).

Commonly, there is an increase in net working capital (cash outflow) at the beginning of the project life. Such cash outflow is recovered at the end of the project when the terminal cash flow is calculated.

When determining cash flows we also need to consider opportunity and sunk costs.

Opportunity costs

Opportunity costs refer to the cash inflows that could have been earned in case of alternative employment of the asset. Therefore, it should be taken into consideration when determining cash flows.

For example, if success of the proposed project requires use of the equipment which organization already owns, the usage of equipment should be considered as a cost as if it would have to be bought or rented. Moreover, if such equipment could generate higher cash inflows in alternative use than this also should be incorporated.

Sunk costs

Sunk costs refer to the costs associated with the asset which is already was incurred in the past and cannot be recovered in spite of whether the particular project is undertaken or not.

An example of sunk costs is the feasibility study cost or marketing expenses which were already incurred for the project. In other words, any past costs that were incurred are not pertinent. Since sunk cost cannot be recovered – it should not affect decision regarding whether proposed project should be undertaken. In other words, sunk costs are not taken into account when cash flows for the potential project are calculated.


An understanding of how the initial investment is calculated is an important first step in understanding how to properly make capital budgeting decisions. Make sure you gained a good understanding of concepts discussed above before moving on to further sub-sections on capital budgeting decisions. is powered by Firmsconsulting is a training company that finds and nurtures tomorrow’s leaders in business, government and academia via bespoke online training to develop one’s executive presence, critical thinking abilities, high performance skill-set, and strategy, operations and implementation capabilities. Learn more at

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