# What Is Working Capital? How to Calculate and Why It’s Important

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Most major new projects, such as an expansion in production or into new markets, require an upfront investment. Therefore, companies that are using working capital inefficiently or need extra capital upfront can boost cash flow by squeezing suppliers and customers. As we’ve seen, the major working capital items are fundamentally tied to the core operating performance, and forecasting working capital is simply a process of mechanically linking these relationships. We describe the forecasting mechanics of working capital items in detail in our balance sheet projections guide. Put together, managers and investors can gain critical insights into the short-term liquidity and operations of a business. Once you have calculated your net working capital, you may wonder how to improve it.

1. As a working capital example, here’s the balance sheet of Noodles & Company, a fast-casual restaurant chain.
2. By understanding the correct formula and potential pitfalls to avoid, businesses can make informed decisions about managing their cash flow and meeting short-term financial obligations.
3. To calculate working capital, subtract a company’s current liabilities from its current assets.
4. Along the same lines, unearned revenue from payments received before the product is provided will also reduce the working capital.
5. At the end of 2021, Microsoft (MSFT) reported \$174.2 billion of current assets.

Therefore, ABC Corporation has a working capital of \$115,000 as of December 31, 2022. This means that the company has \$115,000 in excess of its current liabilities to fund its day-to-day operations. By knowing your numbers, you can keep tabs on the health of your business and make changes when needed.

## Does Working Capital Change?

Working capital indicates a company’s ability to meet its short-term financial obligations and manage its day-to-day operations. It measures the difference between a company’s current assets and its current liabilities, and provides insight into its liquidity and financial health. It’s a commonly used measurement to gauge the short-term health of an organization. Other examples include current assets of discontinued operations and interest payable. Working capital is the difference between a company’s current assets and current liabilities.

Similarly, what was once a long-term asset, such as real estate or equipment, suddenly becomes a current asset when a buyer is lined up. To avoid these common pitfalls, it’s important to ensure that all relevant accounts are included in the calculation, that accounting methods are consistent, and that up-to-date financial information is used. Taking these steps can help ensure accurate financial reporting and provide an accurate picture of a company’s working capital position. It’s important to note that what constitutes a good working capital ratio can vary depending on the industry, business model, and other factors. Therefore, it’s best to compare a company’s working capital ratio to its peers and competitors to determine if it is in a good financial position.

## Current liabilities

For example, when you get a new invoice from a supplier, your current liabilities rise, causing working capital to decrease. To measure your financial health, calculate your working capital ratio by dividing your current assets by your current liabilities. The Working Capital is a specific subset of balance sheet items, and calculated by subtracting current liabilities from current assets. A positive NWC occurs when a businessʻs current assets outweigh current liabilities. However, if you calculate your organizationʻs net working capital and your company’s current assets do not exceed current liabilities, your company could risk bankruptcy.

And, sometimes, unexpected business opportunities arise, and having cash on hand allows you to take advantage of them. For example, a supplier may be liquidating inventory or offering discounts for bulk orders. If it’s one of your bestsellers, you can stock up to improve your profit margin. It might indicate that the business has too much inventory or is not investing its excess cash. Alternatively, it could mean a company is failing to take advantage of low-interest or no-interest loans; instead of borrowing money at a low cost of capital, the company is burning its own resources. Imagine that in addition to buying too much inventory, the retailer is lenient with payment terms to its own customers (perhaps to stand out from the competition).

## Net working capital is the key to financial success

In fact, the option to account for leases as operating lease is set to be eliminated starting in 2019 for that reason. But for now, Noodles & Co, like many companies do it because it prevents them from having to show a debt-like capital lease liability on their balance sheets. That’s because the purpose of the section is to identify the cash impact of all assets and liabilities tied to operations, not just current assets and liabilities. Depending on the type of business, companies can have negative working capital and still do well. Examples are grocery stores like Walmart or fast-food chains like McDonald’s that can generate cash very quickly due to high inventory turnover rates and by receiving payment from customers in a matter of a few days.

## Cash and cash equivalents

Quick ratio looks at only things that can be turned into cash within 90 days rather than one year. That means quick ratio only looks at cash on hand, marketable securities, and accounts receivable.In general, assets will be lower under quick ratio than current ratio. Working capital is for your company’s short-term financial health and shouldn’t be confused with more permanent needs, such as multi-year loans that help you create a long-term business strategy. You’ll still need to look at a mix of both immediate and future goals for a more holistic business strategy.

Millions of companies use Square to take payments, manage staff, and conduct business in-store and online. Working capital can be very insightful to determine a company’s short-term health. However, there are some downsides to the calculation that make the metric sometimes misleading. It is worth noting that negative working capital is not always a bad thing; it can be good or bad, depending on the specific business and its stage in its lifecycle; however, prolonged negative working capital can be problematic.

## Positive vs. Negative Working Capital

Therefore, at the end of 2021, Microsoft’s working capital metric was \$96.7 billion. If Microsoft were to liquidate all short-term assets and extinguish all short-term debts, it would have almost \$100 billion of cash remaining on hand. Current assets are economic benefits that the company expects to receive within the next 12 months. The company has a claim or right to receive the financial benefit, and calculating working capital poses the hypothetical situation of the company liquidating all items below into cash. In the corporate finance world, “current” refers to a time period of one year or less. Current assets are available within 12 months; current liabilities are due within 12 months.