The Portable MBA in Finance and Accounting - PDF Free Download (2024)


MBA in


The Portable MBA Series The Portable MBA, Third Edition, Robert Bruner, Mark Eaker, R. Edward Freeman, Robert Spekman and Elizabeth Olmsted Teisberg The Portable MBA Desk Reference, Second Edition, Nitin Nohria The Portable MBA in Economics, Philip K.Y. Young The Portable MBA in Entrepreneurship, Second Edition, William D. Bygrave The Portable MBA in Entrepreneurship Case Studies, William D. Bygrave The Portable MBA in Finance and Accounting, Third Edition, John Leslie Livingstone and Theodore Grossman The Portable MBA in Investment, Peter L. Bernstein The Portable MBA in Management, First Edition, Allan Cohen The Portable MBA in Market-Driven Management: Using the New Marketing Concept to Create a Customer-Oriented Company, Frederick E. Webster The Portable MBA in Marketing, Second Edition, Alexander Hiam and Charles Schewe The Portable MBA in New Product Development: Managing and Forecasting for Strategic Success, Robert J. Thomas The Portable MBA in Psychology for Leaders, Dean Tjosvold The Portable MBA in Real-Time Strategy: Improvising Team-Based Planning for a Fast-Changing World, Lee Tom Perry, Randall G. Stott, and W. Norman Smallwood The Portable MBA in Strategy, Second Edition, Liam Fahey and Robert Randall The Portable MBA in Total Quality Management: Strategies and Techniques Proven at Today’s Most Successful Companies, Stephen George and Arnold Weimerskirch Forthcoming: The Portable MBA in Management, Second Edition, Allan Cohen


MBA in


Edited by

John Leslie Livingstone and

Theodore Grossman

John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Copyright © 2002 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or other wise, except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written permission of the Publisher, or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee to the Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, (978) 750-8400, fax (978) 750-4744. Requests to the Publisher for permission should be addressed to the Permissions Department, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 605 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10158-0012, (212) 850-6011, fax (212) 850-6008, E-Mail: [emailprotected]. This publication is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering professional services. If professional advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. This title is also available in print as Bookz ISBN 0-471-06185-9. Some content that appears in the print version of this book may not be available in this electronic edition. For more information about Wiley products, visit our web site at


Do you know how to accomplish these important business tasks? • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Understand financial statements. Measure liquidity of a business. Analyze business profitability. Differentiate between regular income and extraordinary items. Predict future bankruptcy for an enterprise. Prepare a budget. Do a break-even analysis. Measure productivity. Figure out return on investment. Compute the cost of capital. Put together a business plan. Legitimately minimize income taxes payable by you or your business. Decide whether your business should be a limited partnership, a C or S corporation, or some other type of entity. Take your company public. Manage foreign currency exposure. Evaluate a merger or acquisition target. Serve as a director of a corporation. Build a successful e-business. Understand and use financial derivatives. Use information technology for competitive advantage. Value a business.

These are some of the key topics explained in this book. It is a book designed to help you learn the basics in finance and accounting, without incurring the considerable time and expense of a formal MBA program.


vi Preface The first edition of this book was published in 1992, and the second edition in 1997. Both editions, hardback and paperback, have been highly successful and have sold many, many copies. In addition, the book has been translated into Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), French, Indonesian, Portuguese, and Spanish. We are delighted that so many readers in various countries have found this book useful. Now, the entire book has been updated for the third edition. The following new chapters have been added: • • • • • • • •

Chapter 1: Using Financial Statements Chapter 3: Cost-Volume-Profit Analysis Chapter 5: Information Technology and You Chapter 6: Forecasts and Budgets Chapter 9: The Business Plan Chapter 10: Planning Capital Expenditure Chapter 17: Profitable Growth by Acquisition Chapter 18: Business Valuation

Also, there are eight new authors, substantial revisions of four chapters and complete updates of all remaining chapters. The book consists of valuable, practical how-to-do-it information, applicable to an entire range of businesses, from the smallest startup to the largest corporations in the world. Each chapter of the book has been written by an outstanding expert in the subject matter of that particular chapter. Some of these experts are full-time practitioners in the real world, and others are part-time consultants who also serve as business school professors. Most of these professors are on the faculty of Babson College, which is famous for its major contributions to the field of entrepreneurship and which, year after year, is at the top of the annual list of leading independent business schools compiled by U.S. News and World Report. This book can be read, and reread, with a great deal of profit. Also, it can be kept handy on a nearby shelf in order to pull it down and look up answers to questions as they occur. Further, this book will help you to work with finance and accounting professionals on their own turf and in their own jargon. You will know what questions to ask, and you will better understand the answers you receive without being confused or intimidated. Who can benefit from this book? Many different people, such as: • Managers wishing to improve their business skills. • Engineers, chemists, scientists and other technical specialists preparing to take on increased management responsibilities. • People already operating their own businesses, or thinking of doing so. • Business people in nonfinancial positions who want to be better versed in financial matters. • BBA or MBA alumni who want a refresher in finance and accounting.



• People in many walks of life who need to understand more about financial matters. Whether you are in one, some, or even none of the above categories, you will find much of value to you in this book, and the book is reader friendly. Frankly, most finance and accounting books are technically complex, boringly detailed, or just plain dull. This book emphasizes clarity to nonfinancial readers, using many helpful examples and a bright, interesting style of writing. Learn, and enjoy! JOHN LESLIE LIVINGSTONE THEODORE GROSSMAN


A book like this results only from the contributions of many talented people. We would like to thank the chapter authors that make up this book for their clear and informative explanations of the powerful concepts and tools of finance and accounting. In this world of technology and the Internet, while most of the underlying concepts remain fixed, the applications are ever changing, requiring the authors to constantly rededicate themselves to their professions. Our deepest appreciation goes to our wives, Trudy Livingstone and Ruth Grossman, and to our children Robert Livingstone, Aaron and Melissa Grossman, and Michael Grossman. They provide the daily inspiration to perform our work and to have undertaken this project. J. L. L. T. G.









1. Using Financial Statements John Leslie Livingstone 2. Analyzing Business Earnings Eugene E. Comiskey and Charles W. Mulford

3 35

3. Cost-Volume-Profit Analysis William C. Lawler


4. Activity-Based Costing William C. Lawler


5. Information Technology and You Edward G. Cale Jr.


6. Forecasts and Budgets Robert Halsey


7. Measuring Productivity Michael F. van Breda

199 xi

xii Contents



8. Choosing a Business Form Richard P. Mandel


9. The Business Plan Andrew Zacharakis


10. Planning Capital Expenditure Steven P. Feinstein


11. Taxes and Business Decisions Richard P. Mandel


12. Global Finance Eugene E. Comiskey and Charles W. Mulford


13. Financial Management of Risks Steven P. Feinstein




14. Going Public Stephen M. Honig


15. The Board of Directors Charles A. Anderson and Robert N. Anthony


16. Information Technology and the Firm Theodore Grossman


17. Profitable Growth by Acquisition Richard T. Bliss


18. Business Valuation Michael A. Crain




About the Authors








WHAT AR E FINANCIAL STATEMENTS? A CASE STUDY Pat was applying for a bank loan to start her new business, Nutrivite, a retail store selling nutritional supplements, vitamins, and herbal remedies. She described her concept to Kim, a loan officer at the bank. Kim: How much money will you need to get started? Pat: I estimate $80,000 for the beginning inventory, plus $36,000 for store signs, shelves, fixtures, counters, and cash registers, plus $24,000 working capital to cover operating expenses for about two months. That’s a total of $140,000 for the startup. Kim: How are you planning to finance the investment of the $140,000? Pat: I can put in $100,000 from my savings, and I’d like to borrow the remaining $40,000 from the bank. Kim: Suppose the bank lends you $40,000 on a one-year note, at 15% interest, secured by a lien on the inventory. Let’s put together projected financial statements from the figures you gave me. Your beginning balance sheet would look like what you see on my computer screen:


4 Understanding the Numbers Nutrivite Projected Balance Sheet as of January 1, 200X Assets Cash

Liabilities and Equity $ 24,000


Bank loan

$ 40,000


Current assets


Fixed assets:

Current liabilities





Total assets


Owner capital Liabilities and equity

100,000 $140,000

The left side shows Nutrivite’s investment in assets. It classifies the assets into “current” (which means turning into cash in a year or less) and “noncurrent” (not turning into cash within a year). The right side shows how the assets are to be financed: partly by the bank loan and partly by your equity as the owner. Pat: Now I see why it’s called a “balance sheet.” The money invested in assets must equal the financing available—its like the two sides of a coin. Also, I see why the assets and liabilities are classified as “current” and “noncurrent”—the bank wants to see if the assets turning into cash in a year or less will provide enough cash to repay the one-year bank loan. Well, in a year there should be cash of $104,000. That’s enough cash to pay off more than twice the $40,000 amount of the loan. I guess that guarantees approval of my loan! Kim: We’re not quite there yet. We need some more information. First, tell me, how much do you expect your operating expenses will be? Pat: For year 1, I estimate as follows: Store rent Phone and utilities Assistants’ salaries Interest on the loan

$36,000 14,400 40,000 6,000



(15% on $40,000)

Kim: We also have to consider depreciation on the store equipment. It probably has a useful life of 10 years. So each year it depreciates by 10% of its cost of $36,000. That’s $3,600 a year for depreciation. So operating expenses must be increased by $3,600 a year, from $96,400 to $100,000. Now, moving on, how much do you think your sales will be this year? Pat: I’m confident that sales will be $720,000 or even a little better. The wholesale cost of the items sold will be $480,000, giving a markup of $240,000—which is 331⁄3 % on the projected sales of $720,000.

Using Financial Statements


Kim: Excellent! Let’s organize this information into a projected income statement. We start with the sales, then deduct the cost of the items sold to arrive at the gross profit. From the gross profit we deduct your operating expenses, giving us the income before taxes. Finally we deduct the income tax expense in order to get the famous “bottom line,” which is the net income. Here is the projected income statement shown on my computer screen: Nutrivite Projected Income Statement for the Year Ending December 31, 200X Sales Less cost of goods sold

$720,000 480,000

Gross profit Less expenses Salaries Rent Phone and utilities Depreciation Interest Income before taxes Income tax expense (40%) Net income

240,000 $ 40,000 36,000 14,400 3,600 6,000

100,000 140,000 56,000 $ 84,000

Pat, this looks very good for your first year in a new business. Many business startups find it difficult to earn income in their first year. They do well just to limit their losses and stay in business. Of course, I’ll need to carefully review all your sales and expense projections with you, in order to make sure that they are realistic. But first, do you have any questions about the projected income statement? Pat: I understand the general idea. But what does “gross profit” mean? Kim: It’s the usual accounting term for sales less the amount that your suppliers charged you for the goods that you sold to your customers. In other words, it represents your markup from the wholesale cost you paid for goods and the price for which you sold those goods to your customers. It is called “gross profit” because your operating expenses have to be deducted from it. In accounting, the word gross means “before deductions.” For example “gross sales” means sales before deducting goods returned by customers. Sales after deducting goods returned by customers are referred to as “net sales.” In accounting, the word net means “after deductions.” So “gross profit” means income before deducting operating expenses. By the same token, “net income” means income after deducting operating expenses and income taxes. Now, moving along, we are ready to figure out your projected balance sheet at the

6 Understanding the Numbers end of your first year in business. But first I need to ask you how much cash you plan to draw out of the business as your compensation? Pat: My present job pays $76,000 a year. I’d like to keep the same standard of compensation in my new business this coming year. Kim: Let’s see how that works out after we’ve completed the projected balance sheet at the end of year 1. Here it is on my computer screen: Nutrivite Projected Balance Sheet as of December 31, 200X Assets Cash

$ 35,600


Bank loan

$ 40,000


Current assets


Fixed assets: Equipment Less depreciation

$36,000 3,600

Net equipment


Total assets

Liabilities and Equity

32,400 $148,000

Current liabilities


Equity: Capital: Jan 1 Add net income

100,000 84,000

Less drawings


Capital: Dec 31


Liabilities and equity


Let’s go over this balance sheet together, Pat. It has changed compared to the balance sheet as of January 1. On the Liabilities and Equity side of the balance sheet, the Net Income of $84,000 has increased Capital to $184,000 (because earning income adds to the owner’s Capital), and deducting Drawings of $76,000 has reduced Capital to $108,000 (because Drawings take Capital out of the business). On the asset side, notice that the Equipment now has a year of depreciation deducted, which writes it down from the original $36,000 to a net (there’s that word net again) $32,400 after depreciation. The Equipment had an expected useful life of 10 years, now reduced to a remaining life of 9 years. Last but not least, notice that the Cash has increased by $11,600 from $24,000 at the beginning of the year to $35,600 at year-end. This leads to a problem: The Bank Loan of $40,000 is due for repayment on December 31. But there is only $35,600 in Cash available on December 31. How can the Loan be paid off when there is not enough Cash to do so? Pat: I see the problem. But I think it’s bigger than just paying off the loan. The business will also need to keep about $25,000 cash on hand to cover two months operating expenses and income taxes. So, with $40,000 to repay the loan plus $25,000 for operating expenses, the cash requirements add up to $65,000. But there is only $35,600 cash on hand. This leaves a cash shortage of almost $30,000 ($65,000 less $35,600). Do you think that will force me to

Using Financial Statements


cut down my drawings by $30,000, from $76,000 to $45,000? Here I am opening my own business, and it looks as if I have to go back to what I was earning five years ago! Kim: That’s one way to do it. But here’s another way that you might like better. After your suppliers get to know you and do business with you for a few months, you can ask them to open credit accounts for Nutrivite. If you get the customary 30-day credit terms, then your suppliers will be financing one month’s inventory. That amounts to one-twelfth of your $480,000 annual cost of goods sold, or $40,000. This $40,000 will more than cover the cash shortage of $30,000. Pat: That’s a perfect solution! Now, can we see how the balance sheet would look in this case? Kim: Sure. When you pay off the Bank Loan, it vanishes from the balance sheet. It is replaced by Accounts Payable of $40,000. Then the balance sheet looks like this: Nutrivite Projected Balance Sheet as of December 31, 200X Assets Cash

$ 35,600


Accounts payable

$ 40,000


Current assets


Fixed assets: Equipment Less depreciation

$36,000 3,600

Net equipment


Total assets

Liabilities and Equity

32,400 $148,000

Current liabilities


Equity: Capital: Jan 1 Add net income

100,000 84,000

Less drawings


Capital: Dec 31


Liabilities and equity


Now the cash position looks a lot better. But it hasn’t been entirely solved: There is still a gap between the Accounts Payable of $40,000 and the Cash of $35,600. So you will need to cut your drawings by about $5,000 in year 1. But that’s still much better than the cut of $30,000 that had seemed necessary before. In year 2 the Bank Loan will be gone, so the interest expense of $6,000 will be saved. Then you can use $5,000 of this saving to restore your drawings back up to $76,000 again. Pat: That’s good news. I’m beginning to see how useful projected financial statements are for business planning. Can we look at the revised projected balance sheet now? Kim: Of course. Here it is:

8 Understanding the Numbers Nutrivite Projected Balance Sheet as of December 31, 200X Assets Cash

Liabilities and Equity $ 40,600


Accounts payable

$ 40,000


Current assets


Fixed assets: Equipment Less depreciation

$36,000 3,600

Net equipment


Total assets

32,400 $153,000

Current liabilities


Equity: Capital: Jan 1 Add net income

100,000 84,000

Less drawings


Capital: Dec 31


Liabilities and equity


As you can see, Cash is increased by $5,000 to $40,600—which is sufficient to pay the Accounts Payable of $40,000. Drawings is decreased by $5,000 to $71,000, which provided the $5,000 increase in Cash. Pat: Thanks. That makes sense. I really appreciate everything you’ve taught me about financial statements. Kim: I’m happy to help. But there is one more financial statement to discuss. Besides the balance sheet and income statement, a full set of financial statements also includes a cash f low statement. Here is the projected cash f low statement: Nutrivite Projected Cash Flow Statement for the Year Ending December 31, 200X Sources of Cash From Operations: Net income Add depreciation Add increase in current liabilities Total cash from operations

$ 84,000 3,600 40,000 (a)

From Financing: Drawings Bank loan repaid Net cash from financing Total sources of cash

(b) (a + b)

$ 127,600

$ (71,000) (40,000)

Negative cash Negative cash


Negative cash

$ 16,600

Using Financial Statements


Uses of Cash Total uses of cash Total sources less total uses of cash Add cash at beginning of year Cash at end of year

0 $ 16,600 24,000

Net cash increase

$ 40,600

Pat, do you have any questions about this Cash Flow Statement? Pat: Actually, it makes sense to me. I realize that there are only two sources that a business can tap in order to generate cash: internal (by earning income) and external (by obtaining cash from outside sources, such as bank loans). In our case the internal sources of cash are represented by the “Cash from Operations” section of the Cash Flow Statement, and the external sources are represented by the “Cash from Financing” section. It happens that the “Cash from Financing” is negative because no additional outside financing is received for the year 200X, but cash payments are incurred for Drawings and for repayment of the Bank Loan. I also understand that there are no “Uses of Cash” because no extra Equipment was acquired. In addition, I can see that the Total Sources of Cash less the Total Uses of Cash must equal the Increase in Cash, which in turn is the Cash at the end of the year less the Cash at the beginning of the year. But I am puzzled by the “Cash from Operations” section of the Cash Flow Statement. I can understand that earning income produces Cash. However why do we add back Depreciation to the Net Income in order to calculate Cash from Operations? Kim: This can be confusing, so let me explain. Certainly Net Income increases Cash, but first an adjustment has to be made in order to convert Net Income to a cash basis. Depreciation was deducted as an expense in figuring Net Income. So adding back depreciation to Net Income just reverses the charge for depreciation expense. We back it out because depreciation is not a cash outf low. Remember that depreciation represents just one year’s use of the Equipment. The cash outf low for purchasing the Equipment was incurred back when the Equipment was first acquired and amounted to $36,000. The Equipment cost of $36,000 is spread out over the 10-year life of the Equipment at the rate of $3,600 per year, which we call Depreciation expense. So it would be double counting to recognize the $36,000 cash outf low for the Equipment when it was originally acquired and then to recognize it a second time when it shows up as Depreciation expense. We do not write a check to pay for Depreciation each year, because it is not a cash outf low. Pat: Thanks. Now I understand that Depreciation is not a cash outf low. But I don’t see why we also added back the Increase in Current Liabilities to the Net Income to calculate Cash from Operations. Can you explain that? Kim: Of course. The increase in Current Liabilities is caused by an increase in Accounts Payable. These Accounts Payable are amounts owed to our suppliers

10 Understanding the Numbers for our purchases of goods for resale in our business. Purchasing goods for resale from our suppliers on credit is not a cash outf low. The cash outf low only occurs when the goods are actually paid for by writing out checks to our suppliers. That is why we added back the Increase in Current Liabilities to the Net Income in order to calculate Cash from Operations. In the future, the Increase in Current Liabilities will, in fact, be paid in cash. But that will take place in the future and is not a cash outf low in this year. Going back to the Cash Flow Statement, notice that it ties in neatly with our balance sheet amount for Cash. It shows how the Cash at the beginning of the year plus the Net Cash Increase equals the Cash at the end of the year. Pat: Now I get it. Am I right that you are going to review my projections and then I’ll hear from you about my loan application? Kim: Yes, I’ll be back to you in a few days. By the way, would you like a printout of the projected financial statements to take with you? Pat: Yes, please. I really appreciate your putting them together and explaining them to me. I picked up some financial skills that will be very useful to me as an aspiring entrepreneur.

POINTS TO R EMEMBER ABOUT FINANCIAL STATEMENTS When Pat arrived home, she carefully reviewed the projected financial statements, then made notes about what she had learned. 1. The basic form of the balance sheet is Assets = Liabilities + Owner Equity. 2. Assets are the expenditures made for items, such as Inventory and Equipment, that are needed to operate the business. The Liabilities and Owner Equity ref lect the funds that financed the expenditures for the Assets. 3. Balance sheets show the financial position of a business at a given moment in time. 4. Balance sheets change as transactions are recorded. 5. Every transaction is an exchange, and both sides of each transaction are recorded. For example, when a company obtains a bank loan, there is an increase in the asset cash that is matched by an increase in a liability entitled “Bank Loan.” When the loan is repaid, there is a decrease in cash which is matched by a decrease in the Bank Loan liability. After every transaction, the balance sheet stays in balance. 6. Income increases Owner Equity, and Drawings decrease Owner Equity. 7. The income statement shows how income for the period was earned. 8. The basic form of the income statement is: a. Sales − Cost of Goods Sold = Gross Income. b. Gross Income − Expenses = Net Income.

Using Financial Statements


9. The income statement is simply a detailed explanation of the increase in Owner Equity represented by Net Income. It shows how the Owner Equity increased from the beginning of the year to the end of the year because of the Net Income. 10. Net Income contributes to Cash from Operations after it has been adjusted to a cash basis. 11. Not all expenses are cash outf lows—for instance, Depreciation. 12. Changes in Current Assets (except Cash) and Current Liabilities are not cash outf lows nor inf lows in the period under consideration. They represent future, not present, cash f lows. 13. Cash can be generated internally by operations or externally from sources such as lenders or equity investors. 14. The Cash Flow Statement is simply a detailed explanation of how cash at the start developed into cash at the end by virtue of cash inf lows, generated internally and externally, less cash outf lows. 15. As previously noted: a. The Income Statement is an elaboration of the change in Owner Equity in the Balance Sheet caused by earning income. b. The Cash Flow Statement is an elaboration of the Balance-Sheet change in beginning and ending Cash. Therefore, all three financial statements are interrelated or, to use the technical term, “articulated.” They are mutually consistent, and that is why they are referred to as a “set” of financial statements. The threepiece set consists of a balance sheet, income statement, and cash f low statement. 16. A set of financial statements can convey much valuable information about the enterprise to anyone who knows how to analyze them. This information goes to the core of the organization’s business strategy and the effectiveness of its management. While Pat was making her notes, Kim was carefully analyzing the Nutrivite projected financial statements in order to make her recommendation to the bank’s loan committee about Nutrivite’s loan application. She paid special attention to the Cash Flow Statement, keeping handy the bank’s guidelines on cash f low analysis, which included the following issues: • Is cash from operations positive? Is it growing over time? Is it keeping pace with growth in sales? If not, why not? • Are cash withdrawals by owners only a small portion of cash from operations? If owners’ cash withdrawals are a large share of cash from operations, then the business is conceivably being milked of cash and may not be able to finance its future growth.

12 Understanding the Numbers • Of the total sources of cash, how much is being internally generated by operations versus obtained from outside sources? Normally wise businesses rely more on internally generated cash for growth than on external financing. • Of the outside financing, how much is derived from equity investors and how much is borrowed? Normally, a business should rely more on equity than debt financing. • What kind of assets is the company acquiring with the cash being expended? Are these asset expenditures likely to be profitable? How long will it take for these assets to repay their cost and then to earn a reasonable return? Kim ref lected carefully on these issues and then finalized her recommendation, which was to approve the loan. The bank’s loan committee accepted Kim’s recommendation and even went further. They authorized Kim to tell Pat that—if she met all her responsibilities in regard to the loan throughout the year—the bank would renew the loan at the end of the year and even increase the amount. Kim called Pat with the good news. Their conversation included the following dialogue: Kim: To renew the loan, the bank will ask you for new projected financial statements for the subsequent year. Also, the loan agreement will require you to submit financial statements for the year just past—that is, not projected but actual financial statements. The bank will require that these actual financial statements be reviewed by an independent CPA before you submit them. Pat: Let me be sure I understand: Projected financial statements are forwardlooking, whereas actual financial statements are backward looking, is that correct? Kim: Yes, that’s right. Pat: Next, what is an independent CPA? Kim: As you probably know, a CPA is a certified public accountant, a professional trained in finance and accounting and licensed by the state. Independent means a CPA who is not an employee of yours or a relative. It means someone in public practice in a CPA firm, someone who will likely make an objective and unbiased evaluation of your financial statements. Pat: And what does reviewed mean? Kim: Good question. CPAs offer three levels of service relating to financial statements: • An audit is a thorough, in-depth examination of the financial statements and test of the supporting records. The result is an audit report, which states whether the financial statements are free of material misstatements (whether caused by error or fraud). A “clean” audit report provides assurance that the financial statements are free of material misstatements. A “modified” report gives no such assurance and is cause

Using Financial Statements


for concern. Financial professionals always read the auditor’s report first, even before looking at any financial statement, to see if the report is clean. The auditor is a watchdog, and this watchdog barks by issuing a modified audit report. By law all companies that have publicly traded securities must have their financial statements audited as a protection to investors, creditors, and other financial statement users. Private companies are not required by law to have audits, but sometimes particular investors or creditors demand them. An audit provides the highest level of assurance that a CPA can provide and is the most expensive level of service. Less expensive and less thorough levels of service include the following. • A review is a less extensive and less expensive level of financial statement inspection by a CPA. It provides a lower level of assurance that the financial statements are free of material misstatements. • Finally, the lowest level of service is called a compilation, where the outside CPA puts together the financial statements from the client company’s books and records without examining them in much depth. A compilation provides the least assurance and is the least expensive level of service. So the bank is asking you for the middle level of assurance when it requires a review by an independent CPA. Banks usually require a review from borrowers that are smaller private businesses. Pat: Thanks. That makes it very clear. We now leave Pat and Kim to their successful loan transaction and move on.

FINANCIAL STATEMENTS: WHO USES THEM AND WHY Here is a brief list of who uses financial statements and why. This list gives only a few examples and is by no means complete. 1. Existing equity investors and lenders, to monitor their investments and to evaluate the performance of management. 2. Prospective equity investors and lenders, to decide whether or not to invest. 3. Investment analysts, money managers, and stockbrokers, to make buy/sell/hold recommendations to their clients. 4. Rating agencies (such as Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s, and Dun & Bradstreet), to assign credit ratings. 5. Major customers and suppliers, to evaluate the financial strength and staying power of the company as a dependable resource for their business.

14 Understanding the Numbers 6. Labor unions, to gauge how much of a pay increase a company is able to afford in upcoming labor negotiations. 7. Boards of directors, to review the performance of management. 8. Management, to assess its own performance. 9. Corporate raiders, to seek hidden value in companies with underpriced stock. 10. Competitors, to benchmark their own financial results. 11. Potential competitors, to assess how profitable it may be to enter an industry. 12. Government agencies responsible for taxing, regulating, or investigating the company. 13. Politicians, lobbyists, issue groups, consumer advocates, environmentalists, think tanks, foundations, media reporters, and others who are supporting or opposing any particular public issue the company’s actions affect. 14. Actual or potential joint venture partners, franchisors or franchisees, and other business interests who need to know about the company and its financial situation. This brief list shows how many people and institutions use financial statements for a large variety of business purposes and suggests how essential the ability to understand and analyze financial statements is to success in the business world.

FINANCIAL STATEMENT FORMAT Financial statements have a standard format whether an enterprise is as small as Nutrivite or as large as a major corporation. For example, a recent set of financial statements for Microsoft Corporation can be summarized in millions of dollars as follows: Income Statement Years Ended June 30




Revenue Cost of revenue Research and development Other expenses Total expenses

$15,262 2,460 2,601 3,787 $ 8,848

$19,747 2,814 2,970 4,035 $ 9,819

$22,956 3,002 3,775 5,242 $12,019

Operating income Investment income Income before income taxes Income taxes Net income

$ 6,414 703 7,117 2,627 $ 4,490

$ 9,928 1,963 11,891 4,106 $ 7,785

$10,937 3,338 14,275 4,854 $ 9,421

Using Financial Statements


Cash Flow Statement Years Ended June 30 Operations Net income Adjustments to convert net income to cash basis Cash from operations




$ 4,490



$ 9,421

3,943 $ 8,433

5,352 $ 13,137

4,540 $ 13,961

Financing Stock repurchased, net Stock warrants sold Preferred stock dividends Cash from financing

$(1,509) 538 (28) $ (999)

$ (1,600) 766 (28) $ (862)

$ (2,651) 472 (13) $ (2,192)

Investing Additions to property and equipment Net additions to investments Net cash invested Net change in cash

$ (656) (6,616) $(7,272) 162



(583) (10,608) $ (11,191) 1,084

(879) (11,048) $(11,927) (158)

Balance Sheet Years Ended June 30



Current Assets Cash and equivalents Short-term investments Accounts receivable Other Total current assets

$ 4,975 12,261 2,245 2,221 $21,702

$ 4,846 18,952 3,250 3,260 $30,308

Property and equipment, net Investments Total fixed assets

$ 1,611 15,312 $16,923

$ 1,903 19,939 $21,842

Total assets




$ 1,083 8,672 9,755 1,027 $10,782

Current Liabilities Accounts payable Other Total current liabilities Noncurrent liabilities Total liabilities

874 7,928 8,802 1,385 $10,187

Preferred stock Common stock Retained earnings Total equity


980 13,844 13,614 $28,438

$23,195 18,173 $41,368

Total liabilities and equity



Note: There are only two years of balance sheets but three years of income statements and cash f low statements. This is because the Microsoft financial statements above were obtained from filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the SEC requirements for corporate annual report filings are two years of balance sheets, plus three years of income statements and cash f low statements.

16 Understanding the Numbers The Microsoft financial statements contain numbers very much greater than those for Nutrivite. But there is no difference in the general format of these two sets of financial statements.

HOW TO ANALYZE FINANCIAL STATEMENTS Imagine that you are a nurse or a physician and you work in the emergency room of a busy hospital. Patients arrive with all kinds of serious injuries or illnesses, barely alive or perhaps even dead. Others arrive with less urgent injuries, minor complaints, or vaguely suspected ailments. Your training and experience have taught you to perform a quick triage, to prioritize the most endangered patients by their vital signs—respiration, pulse, blood pressure, temperature, and ref lexes. A more detailed diagnosis follows based on more thorough medical tests. We check the financial health of a company in much the same fashion by analyzing the financial statements. The vital signs are tested mostly by various financial ratios that are calculated from the financial statements. These vital signs can be classified into three main categories: 1. Short-term liquidity. 2. Long-term solvency. 3. Profitability. We explain each of these three categories in turn.

SHORT-TERM LIQUIDITY In the emergency room the first question is: Can this patient survive? Similarly, the first issue in analyzing financial statements is: Can this company survive? Business survival means being able to pay the bills, meet the payroll, and come up with the rent. In other words, is there enough liquidity to provide the cash needed to pay current financial commitments? “Yes” means survival. “No” means bankruptcy. The urgency of this question is why current assets (which are expected to turn into cash within a year) and current liabilities (which are expected to be paid in cash within a year) are shown separately on the balance sheet. Net current assets (current assets less current liabilities) is known as working capital. Because most businesses cannot operate without positive working capital, the question of whether current assets exceed current liabilities is crucial. When current assets are greater than current liabilities, there is sufficient liquidity to enable the enterprise to survive. However, when current liabilities exceed current assets the enterprise may well be in immanent danger of bankruptcy. The financial ratio used to measure this risk is current assets divided

Using Financial Statements


by current liabilities, and is known as the current ratio. It is expressed as “2.5 to 1” or “2.5⬊1” or just “2.5.” Keeping the current ratio from dropping below 1 is the bare minimum to indicate survival, but it lacks any margin of safety. A company must maintain a reasonable margin of safety, or cushion, because the current ratio, like all financial ratios, is only a rough approximation. For this reason, in most cases a current ratio of 2 or more just begins to provide credible evidence of liquidity. An example of a current ratio can be found in the current sections of the balance sheets shown earlier in this chapter: Nutrivite Selected Sections of Projected Balance Sheet as of December 31, 200X Assets

Liabilities and Equity

Cash Inventory

$ 40,600 80,000

Accounts payable


Current assets


Current liabilities


The current ratio is 120,600/40,000, or 3. This is only a rough approximation for several reasons. First, a company can, quite legitimately, improve its current ratio. In the earlier case of Nutrivite, assume the business wanted its balance sheet to ref lect a higher current ratio. One way to do so would be to pay off $20,000 on the bank loan on December 31. This would reduce current assets to $100,600 and current liabilities to $20,000. Then the current ratio is changed to $100,600/$20,000, or 5. By perfectly legitimate means, the current ratio has been improved from 3 to 5. This technique is widely used by companies that want to put their best foot forward in the balance sheet, and it always works provided that the current ratio was greater than 1 to start with. Current assets usually include: • Cash and Cash Equivalents. • Securities expected to become liquid by maturing or being sold within a year. • Accounts Receivable (which Nutrivite did not have, because it did not sell to its customers on credit). • Inventory. Current liabilities usually include: • Accounts Payable. • Other current payables, such as taxes, wages, or insurance. • The current portion of long-term debt. Some items included in Current Assets need a further explanation. These are:

18 Understanding the Numbers • Cash Equivalents are near-cash securities such as U.S. Treasury bills maturing in three months or less. • Accounts Receivable are amounts owed by customers and should be reported on the balance sheet at “realizable value,” which means “the amount reasonably expected to be collected in cash.” Any accounts whose collectibility is in doubt must be reduced to realizable value by deducting an allowance for doubtful debts. • Inventories in some cases may not be liquid in a crisis (except at fire-sale prices). This condition is especially likely for goods of a perishable, seasonal, high-fashion, or trendy nature or items subject to technological obsolescence, such as computers. Since inventory can readily lose value, it must be reported on the balance sheet at the “lower of cost or market value,” or what the inventory cost to acquire (including freight and insurance), or the cost of replacement, or the expected selling price less costs of sale—whichever is lowest. Despite these requirements designed to report inventory at a realistic amount, inventory is regarded as an asset subject to inherent liquidity risk, especially in difficult economic times and especially for items that are perishable, seasonal, high-fashion, trendy, or subject to obsolescence. For these reasons the current ratio is often modified by excluding inventory to get what is called the quick ratio or acid test ratio:  Current Assets − Inventory  Quick Ratio =   Current Liabilities  

• In the case of Nutrivite, the quick ratio as of December 31 is $40,600/ $40,000, or 1. This indicates that Nutrivite has a barely adequate quick ratio, with no margin of safety at all. It is a red f lag or warning signal. The current ratio and the quick ratio deal with all or most of the current assets and current liabilities. There are also short-term liquidity ratios that focus more narrowly on individual components of current assets and current liabilities. These are the turnover ratios, which consist of: • Accounts Receivable Turnover. • Inventory Turnover. • Accounts Payable Turnover. Turnover, which means “making liquid,” is a key factor in liquidity. Faster turnover allows a company to do more business without increasing assets. Increased turnover means that less cash is tied up in assets, and that improves liquidity. Moving to the other side of the balance sheet, slower turnover of liabilities conserves cash and thereby increases liquidity. Or more simply, achieving better turnover of working capital can significantly improve liquidity. Turnover ratios thus provide valuable information. The working capital turnover ratios are described next.

Using Financial Statements


Accounts Receivable Turnover The equation is: Accounts Receivable Turnover =

Credit Sales Accounts Receivable

So, if Credit Sales are $120,000 and Accounts Receivable are $30,000, then Accounts Receivable Turnover =

$120, 000 =4 $30, 000

On average, Accounts Receivable turn over 4 times a year, or every 91 days. The 91-day turnover period is found by dividing a year, 365 days, by the Accounts Receivable Turnover ratio of 4. This average of 91 days is how long it takes to collect Accounts Receivable. That is fine if our credit terms call for payment 90 days from invoice but not fine if credit terms are 60 days, and it is alarming if credit terms are 30 days. Accounts Receivable, unlike vintage wines or antiques, do not improve with age. Accounts Receivable Turnover should be in line with credit terms; turnover sliding out of line with credit terms signals increasing danger to liquidity.

Inventor y Turnover Inventory turnover is computed as follows: Inventory Turnover =

Cost of Goods Sold Inventory

If Cost of Goods Sold is $100,000 and Inventory is $20,000, then Inventory Turnover =

$100, 000 = 5 times a year $20, 000

or about 70 days. Note that the numerator for calculating Accounts Receivable Turnover is Credit Sales but for Inventory Turnover is Cost of Goods Sold. The reason is that both Accounts Receivable and Sales are measured in terms of the selling price of the goods involved. That makes Accounts Receivable Turnover a consistent ratio, where the numerator and denominator are both expressed at selling prices in an “apples-to-apples” manner. Inventory Turnover is also an “apples-to-apples” comparison in that both numerator, Cost of Goods Sold, and denominator, Inventory, are expressed in terms of the cost, not the selling price, of the goods. In our example, the Inventory Turnover was 5, or about 70 days. Whether this is good or bad depends on industry standards. Companies in the autoretailing or the furniture-manufacturing industry would accept this ratio. In the supermarket business or in gasoline retailing, however, 5 would fall far

20 Understanding the Numbers below their norm of about 25 times a year, or roughly every 2 weeks. As with Accounts Receivable Turnover, an Inventory Turnover that is out of line is a red f lag.

Accounts Payable Turnover This measure’s equation is: Accounts Payable Turnover =

Cost of Goods Sold Accounts Payable

If Cost of Goods Sold is $100,000 and Accounts Payable is $16,600, then Accounts Payable Turnover =

$100, 000 $16, 600

which is about 6, or around 60 days. Again, note the consistency of the numerator and denominator, both stated at the cost of the goods purchased. Accounts Payable Turnover is evaluated by comparison with industry norms. An Accounts Payable Turnover that is appreciably faster than the industry norm is fine, if liquidity is satisfactory, because prompt payments to suppliers usually earn cash discounts, which in turn lower the Cost of Goods Sold and thus lead to higher income. However, such faster-than-normal Accounts Payable Turnover does diminish liquidity and is therefore unwise when liquidity is tight. Accounts Payable Turnover that is slower than the industry norm enhances liquidity and is therefore wise when liquidity is tight but inadvisable when liquidity is fine, because it sacrifices cash discounts from suppliers and thus reduces income. This concludes our survey of the ratios relating to short-term liquidity— the current ratio; quick, or acid test, ratio; Accounts Receivable Turnover; Inventory Turnover; and Accounts Payable Turnover. If these ratios are seriously deficient, our diagnosis may be complete. The subject business may be almost defunct, and even desperate measures may be insufficient to revive it. If these ratios are favorable, then short-term liquidity does not appear to be a threat and the financial doctor should proceed to the next set of tests, which measure long-term solvency. It is worth noting, however, that there are some rare exceptions to these guidelines. For example, large gas and electric utilities typically have current ratios less than 1 and quick ratios less than 0.5. This is due to utilities’ exceptional characteristics: • They usually require deposits before providing service to customers, and they can shut off service to customers who do not pay on time. Customers are reluctant to go without necessities such as gas and electricity and therefore tend to pay their utility bills ahead of most other bills. These factors sharply reduce the risk of uncollectible accounts receivable for gas and electric utility companies.

Using Financial Statements


• Inventories of gas and electric utility companies are not subject to much risk from changing fashion trends, deterioration, or obsolescence. • Under regulation, gas and electric utility companies are stable, low-risk businesses, largely free from competition and consistently profitable. This reduced risk and increased predictability of gas and electric utility companies make short-term liquidity and safety margins less crucial. In turn, the ratios indicating short-term liquidity become less important, because shortterm survival is not a significant concern for these businesses.

LONG-TERM SOLVENCY Long-term solvency focuses on a firm’s ability to pay the interest and principal on its long-term debt. There are two commonly used ratios relating to servicing long-term debt. One measures ability to pay interest, the other the ability to repay the principal. The ratio for interest compares the amount of income available for paying interest with the amount of the interest expense. This ratio is called Interest Coverage or Times Interest Earned. The amount of income available for paying interest is simply earnings before interest and before income taxes. (Business interest expense is deductible for income tax purposes; therefore, income taxes are based on earnings after interest, otherwise known as earnings before income taxes.) Earnings before interest and taxes is known as EBIT. The ratio for Interest Coverage or Times Interest Earned is EBIT/Interest Expense. For instance, assume that EBIT is $120,000 and interest expense is $60,000. Then: Interest Coverage or Times Interest Earned =

$120, 000 =2 $60, 000

This shows that the business has EBIT sufficient to cover 2 times its interest expense. The cushion, or margin of safety, is therefore quite substantial. Whether a given interest coverage ratio is acceptable depends on the industry. Different industries have different degrees of year-to-year f luctuations in EBIT. Interest coverage of 2 times may be satisfactory for a steady and mature firm in an industry with stable earnings, such as regulated gas and electricity supply. However, when the same industry experiences the uncertain forces of deregulation, earnings may become volatile, and interest coverage of 2 may prove to be inadequate. In more-turbulent industries, such as movie studios and Internet retailers, an interest coverage of 2 may be regarded as insufficient. The long-term solvency ratio that ref lects a firm’s ability to repay principal on long-term debt is the “Debt to Equity” ratio. The long-term capital structure of a firm is made up principally of two types of financing: (1) long-term debt and (2) owner equity. Some hybrid forms of financing mix characteristics of debt and equity but usually can be classified as mainly debt or equity in nature. Therefore the distinction between debt and equity is normally clear.

22 Understanding the Numbers If long-term debt is $150,000 and equity is $300,000, then the debtequity relationship is usually measured as: Long-Term Debt Long-Term Debt + Equity $150, 000 = ($150, 000 + $300, 000) 1 % 33 = 3

Debt to Equity Ratio =

Long-term debt is frequently secured by liens on property and has priority on payment of periodic interest and repayment of principal. There is no priority for equity, however, for dividend payments or return of capital to owners. Holders of long-term debt thus have a high degree of security in receiving full and punctual payments of interest and principal. But, in good times or bad, whether income is high or low, long-term creditors are entitled to receive no more than these fixed amounts. They have reduced their risk of gain or loss in exchange for more certainty. By contrast, owners of equity enjoy no such certainty. They are entitled to nothing except dividends, if declared, and, in the case of bankruptcy, whatever funds might be left over after all obligations have been paid. Theirs is a totally at-risk investment. They prosper in good times and suffer in bad times. They accept these risks in the hope that in the long run gains will substantially exceed losses. From the firm’s point of view, long-term debt obligations are a burden that must be carried whether income is low, absent, or even negative. But longterm debt obligations are a blessing when income is lush since they receive no more than their fixed payments, even if incomes soar. The greater the proportion of long-term debt and smaller the proportion of equity in the capital structure, the more the incomes of the equity holders will f luctuate according to how good or bad times are. The proportion of long-term debt to equity is known as leverage. The greater the proportion of long-term debt to equity, the more leveraged the firm is considered to be. The more leveraged the firm is, the more equity holders prosper in good times and the worse they fare in bad times. Because increased leverage leads to increased volatility of incomes, increased leverage is regarded as an indicator of increased risk, though a moderate degree of leverage is thus considered desirable. The debt-to-equity ratio is evaluated according to industry standards and each industry’s customary volatility of earnings. For example, a debt-to-equity ratio of 80% would be considered conservative in banking (where leverage is customarily above 80% and earnings are relatively stable) but would be regarded as extremely risky for toy manufacturing or designer apparel (where earnings are more volatile). The well-known junk bonds are an example of long-term debt securities where leverage is considered too high in relation to earnings volatility. The increased risk associated with junk bonds explains their higher interest yields. This illustrates the general financial principle that the greater the risk, the higher the expected return.

Using Financial Statements


In summary, the ratios used to assess long-term solvency are Interest Coverage and Long-Term Debt to Equity. Next, we consider the ratios for analyzing profitability.

PROFITABILITY Profitability is the lifeblood of a business. Businesses that earn incomes can survive, grow, and prosper. Businesses that incur losses cannot stay in operation, and will last only until their cash runs out. Therefore, in order to assess business viability, it is important to analyze profitability. When analyzing profitability, it is usually done in two phases, which are: 1. Profitability in relation to sales. 2. Profitability in relation to investment.

Prof itability in Relation to Sales The analysis of profitability in relation to sales recognizes the fact that: Income = Sales − Expenses

or, rearranging terms: Sales = Expenses + Income

Therefore, Expenses and Income are measured in relation to their sum, which is Sales. The expenses, in turn, may be broken down by line item. As an example, we use the Nutrivite Income Statement for the first three years of operation. Income Statements for the Years Ending December 31 Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Sales Less cost of goods sold

$720,000 480,000

$800,000 530,000

$900,000 600,000

Gross profit




Less expenses Salaries Rent Phone and utilities Depreciation Interest

$ 40,000 36,000 14,400 3,600 6,000

$ 49,600 49,400 19,400 3,600 6,000

$ 69,000 54,400 26,000 3,600 6,000

Total expenses




Income before taxes Income tax expense (40%)

$140,000 56,000

$142,000 56,800

$141,000 56,400

Net income

$ 84,000

$ 85,200

$ 84,600

24 Understanding the Numbers These income statements show a steady increase in Sales and Gross Profits each year. Despite this favorable result, the Net Income has remained virtually unchanged at about $84,000 for each year. To learn why this is the case, we need to convert expenses and income to percentages of sales. The income statements converted to percentages of sales are known as “common size” income statements and look like the following: Common Size Income Statements for the Years Ending December 31 Change Years 1–3

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

100.0% 66.7

100.0% 66.2

100.0% 66.7

0.0% 0.0





5.6% 5.0 2.0 0.5 0.8

6.2% 6.2 2.4 0.4 0.8

7.7% 6.0 2.9 0.4 0.7

2.1% 1.0 0.9 −0.1 −0.1

Total expenses





Income before taxes Income tax expense (40%)

19.4% 7.8

17.8% 7.2

15.6% 6.2

−3.8% −1.6

Net income





Sales Less cost of goods sold Gross profit Less expenses Salaries Rent Phone and utilities Depreciation Interest

From the percentage figures above it is easy to see why the Net Income failed to increase, despite the substantial growth in Sales and Gross Profit. Total Expenses rose by 3.8 percentage points, from 13.9% of Sales in Year 1 to 17.7% of Sales in Year 3. In particular, the increase in Total Expenses relative to Sales was driven mainly by increases in Salaries (2.1 percentage points), Rent (1 percentage point) and Phone and Utilities (0.9 percentage point). As a result, Income before Taxes relative to Sales fell by 3.8 percentage points from Year 1 to Year 3. The good news is that the drop in Income before Taxes caused a reduction of Income Tax Expense relative to Sales of 1.6 percentage points from Year 1 to Year 3. The net effect was a drop in Net Income, relative to Sales, of 2.2 percentage points from Year 1 to Year 3. This useful information shows that: 1. The profit stagnation is not related to Sales or Gross Profit. 2. It is entirely due to the disproportionate increase in Total Expenses. 3. Specific causes are the expenses for Salaries, Rent, and Phone and Utilities. 4. Action to correct the profit slump requires analyzing these particular expense categories.

Using Financial Statements


The use of percent-of-sales ratios is a simple but powerful technique for analyzing profitability. Generally used ratios include: • Gross Profit. • Operating Expenses: a. In total. b. Individually. • Selling, General, and Administrative Expenses (often called SG&A). • Operating Income. • Income before Taxes. • Net Income. The second category of profitability ratios is profitability in relation to investment.

Prof itability in Relation to Investment To earn profits, usually a firm must invest capital in items such as plant, equipment, inventory, and /or research and development. Up to this point we have analyzed profitability without considering invested capital. That was a useful simplification in the beginning, but, since profitability is highly dependent on the investment of capital, it is now time to bring invested capital into the analysis. We start with the balance sheet. Recall that Working Capital is Current Assets less Current Liabilities. So we can simplify the balance sheet by including a single category for Working Capital in place of the separate categories for Current Assets and Current Liabilities. An example of a simplified balance sheet follows: Example Company Simplif ied Balance Sheet as of December 31, 200X Assets

Liabilities and Equity

Working capital Fixed assets, net

$ 40,000 80,000

Long-term debt Equity

$ 30,000 90,000

Total assets


Liabilities and equity


A simplified Income Statement for Example Company for the year 200X is summarized below: Income before interest and taxes (EBIT) Less interest expense Income before income taxes Less income taxes (40%) Net income

$36,000 3,000 33,000 13,200 $19,800

26 Understanding the Numbers The first ratio we will consider is EBIT (also known as Operating Profit) to Total Assets. This ratio is often referred to as Return on Total Assets (ROTA), and it can be expressed as either before tax (more usual) or after tax. From the Example Company, the calculations are as follows: Return on Total Assets

Before Tax

EBIT/total assets = $36,000/$120,000 EBIT/total assets = $21,600/$120,000

After Tax

30% 18%

This ratio indicates the raw (or basic) earning power of the business. Raw earning power is independent of whether assets are financed by equity or debt. This independence exists because: 1. The numerator (EBIT) is free of interest expense. 2. The denominator, Total Assets, is equal to total capital regardless of how much capital is equity and how much is debt. Independence allows the ratio to be measured and compared: • For any business, from one period to another. • For any period, from one business to another. These comparisons remain valid, even if the debt to equity ratio may vary from one period to the next and from one business to another. Now that we have measured basic earning power regardless of the debt to equity ratio, our next step is to take the debt to equity ratio into consideration. First, it is important to note that long-term debt is normally a less expensive form of financing than equity because: 1. Whereas Dividends paid to stockholders are not a tax deduction for the paying company, Interest Expense paid on Long-Term Debt is. Therefore the net after-tax cost of Interest is reduced by the related tax deduction. This is not the case for Dividends, which are not deductible. 2. Debt is senior to equity, which means that debt obligations for interest and principal must be paid in full before making any payments on equity, such as dividends. This makes debt less risky than equity to the investors, and so debt holders are willing to accept a lower rate of return than holders of the riskier equity securities. This contrast can be seen from the simplified financial statements of Example Company above. The interest of $3,000 on the Long-Term Debt of $30,000 is 10% before tax. But after the 40% tax deduction the interest after tax is only $1,800 ($3,000 − 40% tax on $3,000), and this $1,800 represents an after-tax interest rate of 6% on the Long-Term Debt of $30,000. For comparison let us turn to the rate of return on the Equity. The Net Income, $19,800, represents a 22% rate of return on the Equity of $90,000. This 22% rate of return is a financial ratio known as Return on Equity, sometimes abbreviated ROE. Return on Equity is an important and widely used financial ratio.

Using Financial Statements


There is much more to be said about Return on Equity, but first it may be helpful to recap brief ly the main points we have covered about profitability in relation to investment. The EBIT of $36,000 represented a 30% return on total assets, before income tax, and this $36,000 was shared by three parties, as follows: 1. Long-Term Debt holders received Interest of $3,000, representing an interest cost of 10% before income tax, and 6% after income tax. 2. City, state, and /or federal governments were paid Income Taxes of $13,200. 3. Stockholder Equity increased by the Net Income of $19,800, which represented a 22% Return on Equity. If there had been no Long-Term Debt, there would have been no Interest Expense. The EBIT of $36,000 less income tax at 40% would provide a Net Income of $21,600, which is larger than the prior Net Income of $19,800 by $1,800. This $1,800 equals the $3,000 amount of Interest before tax less the 40% tax, which is $1,200. In the absence of Long-Term Debt, the Total Assets would have been funded entirely by equity, which would have required equity to be $120,000. In turn, with Net Income of $21,600, the revised Return on Equity would be Net Income $21, 600 = = 18% $120, 000 Equity

The increase in the Return on Equity, from this 18% to 22% was attributable to the use of Long-Term Debt. The Long-Term Debt had a cost after taxes of only 6% versus the Return on Assets after tax of 18%. When a business earns 18% after tax, it is profitable to borrow at 6% after tax. This in turn improves the Return on Equity from 18% to 22%, which illustrates the advantage of leverage: A business earning 18% on assets can, with a little leverage, earn 22% on equity. But what if EBIT is only $3,000? The entire $3,000 would be used up to pay the interest of $3,000 on the Long-Term Debt. The Net Income would be $0, resulting in a 0% Return on Equity. This illustrates the disadvantage of leverage. Without Long-Term Debt, the EBIT of $3,000 less 40% tax would result in Net Income of $1,800. Return on Equity would be $1,800 divided by equity of $120,000, which is 1.5%. A Return on Equity of 1.5% may not be impressive, but it is certainly better than the 0% that resulted with Long-Term Debt. Leverage is a fair-weather friend: It boosts Return on Equity when earnings are robust but depresses ROE when earnings are poor. Leverage makes the good times better but the bad times worse. Therefore, it should be used in moderation and in businesses with stable earnings. In businesses with volatile earnings, leverage should be used sparingly and cautiously. We have now described all of the main financial ratios, and they are summarized in Exhibit 1.1.

28 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 1.1

Summar y of main f inancial ratios.

Ratio Short-Term Liquidity Current ratio Quick ratio (acid test)



Receivables turnover Inventory turnover Payables turnover

Current assets Current assets (excluding inventory) Credit sales Cost of sales Cost of sales

Accounts receivable Inventory Accounts payable

Long-Term Solvency Interest coverage Debt to capital

EBIT Long-term debt

Interest on L / T debt L / T debt + equity

Profitability on Sales Gross profit ratio Operating expense ratio SG&A expense ratio EBIT ratio Pretax income ratio Net income ratio

Gross profit Operating expenses SG&A expenses EBIT Pretax income Net income

Sales Sales Sales Sales Sales Sales

Profitability on Investment Return on total assets: Before tax After tax Return on equity

EBIT EBIT times (1-tax rate) Net income: Commonb

Total assetsa Total assetsa Common equity

a b

Current liabilities Current liabilities

Total Assets = Fixed Assets + Working Capital (Current Assets less Current Liabilities) Net Income less Preferred Dividends

USING FINANCIAL RATIOS Some important points to keep in mind when using financial ratios are: • Whereas all balance sheet numbers are end-of-period numbers, all income statement numbers relate to the entire period. For example, when calculating the ratio for Accounts Receivable Turnover, we use a numerator of Credit Sales, which is an entire-period number from the income statement, and a denominator of Accounts Receivable, which is an end-ofperiod number from the balance sheet. To make this an apples-to-apples ratio, the Accounts Receivable can be represented by an average of the beginning-of-year and end-of-year figures for Accounts Receivable. This average is closer to a mid-year estimate of Accounts Receivable and therefore is more comparable to the entire-period numerator, Credit Sales. Because using averages of the beginning-of-year and end-of-year figures for balance sheet numbers helps to make ratios more of an apples-to-apples

Using Financial Statements


comparison, averages should be used for all balance sheet numbers when calculating financial ratios. • Financial ratios can be no more reliable than the data with which the ratios were calculated. The most reliable data is from audited financial statements, if the audit reports are clean and unqualified. • Financial ratios cannot be fully considered without yardsticks of comparison. The simplest yardsticks are comparisons of an enterprise’s current financial ratios with those from previous periods. Companies often provide this type of information in their financial reporting. For example, Apple Computer Inc., recently disclosed the following financial quarterly information, in millions of dollars: Quarter Net sales Gross margin Gross margin Operating costs Operating income Operating income





$1,870 $1,122 25% $ 383 $ 64 4%

$1,825 $1,016 30% $ 375 $ 168 9%

$1,945 $1,043 28% $ 379 $ 170 9%

$2,343 $1,377 28% $ 409 $ 100 4%

This table compares four successive quarters of information, which makes it possible to see the latest trends in such important items as Sales, and Gross Margin and Operating Income percentages. Other types of comparisons of financial ratios include: 1. Comparisons with competitors. For example, the financial ratios of Apple Computer could be compared with those of Compaq, Dell, or Gateway. 2. Comparisons with industry composites. Industry composite ratios can be found from a number of sources, such as: a. The Almanac of Business and Industrial Financial Ratios, authored by Leo Troy and published annually by Prentice-Hall (Paramus, NJ). This publication uses Internal Revenue Service data for 4.6 million U.S. corporations, classified into 179 industries and divided into categories by firm size, and reporting 50 different financial ratios. b. Risk Management Associates: Annual Statement Studies. This is a database compiled by bank loan officers from the financial statements of more than 150,000 commercial borrowers, representing more than 600 industries, classified by business size, and reporting 16 different financial ratios. It is available on the Internet at c. Financial ratios can also be obtained from other firms who specialize in financial information, such as Dun & Bradstreet, Moody’s, and Standard & Poor’s.

30 Understanding the Numbers COMBINING FINANCIAL RATIOS Up to this point we have considered financial ratios one at a time. However, there is a useful method for combining financial ratios known as Dupont1 analysis. To explain it, we first need to define some financial ratios, together with their abbreviations, as follows: Ratio



Profit margin2 Asset turnover Return on assets3 Leverage Return on equity

Net income/sales Sales/total assets Net income/total assets Total assets/common equity Net income/common equity


Now, these financial ratios can be combined in the following manner: Profit Margin × Asset Turnover = Return on Assets Net Income Sales Net Income × = Sales Total Assets Total Assets

and Return on Assets × Leverage = Return on Equity Net Income Total Assets Net Income × = Total Assets Common Equity Common Equity

In summary: N1 S TA N1 × × = S TA CE CE

This equation says that Profit Margin × Asset Turnover × Leverage = Return on Equity. Also, this equation provides a financial approach to business strategy. It recognizes that the ultimate goal of business strategy is to maximize stockholder value, that is, the market price of the common stock. This goal requires maximizing the return on common equity. The Dupont equation above breaks the return on common equity into its three component parts: Profit Margin (Net Income/Sales), Asset Turnover (Sales/ Total Assets), and Leverage (Total Assets/Common Equity). If any one of these three ratios can be improved (without harm to either or both of the remaining two ratios), then the return on common equity will increase. A firm thus has specific strategic targets: • Profit Margin improvement can be pursued in a number of ways. On the one hand, revenues might be increased or costs decreased by:

Using Financial Statements


1. Raising prices perhaps by improving product quality or offering extra services. Makers of luxury cars have done this successfully by providing free roadside assistance and loaner cars when customer cars are being serviced. 2. Maintaining prices but reducing the quantity of product in the package. Candy bar manufacturers and other makers of packaged foods often use this method. 3. Initiating or increasing charges for ancillary goods or services. For example, banks have substantially increased their charges to stop checks and for checks written with insufficient funds. Distributors of computers and software have instituted fees for providing technical assistance on their help lines and for restocking returned items. 4. Improving the productivity and efficiency of operations. 5. Cutting costs in a variety of ways. • Asset Turnover may be improved in ways such as: 1. Speeding up the collection of accounts receivable. 2. Increasing inventory turnover, perhaps by adopting “just in time” inventory methods. 3. Slowing down payments to suppliers, thus increasing accounts payable. 4. Reducing idle capacity of plant and equipment. • Leverage may be increased, within prudent limits, by means such as: 1. Using long-term debt rather than equity to fund additions to plant, property, and equipment. 2. Repurchasing previously issued common stock in the open market. The chief advantage of using the Dupont formula is to focus attention on specific initiatives that will improve return on equity by means of enhancing profit margins, increasing asset turnover, or employing greater financial leverage within prudent limits. In addition to the Dupont formula, there is another way to combine financial ratios, one that serves another useful purpose—predicting solvency or bankruptcy for a given enterprise. It uses what is known as the z score.

THE Z SCOR E Financial ratios are useful not only to assess the past or present condition of an enterprise, but also to reliably predict its future solvency or bankruptcy. This type of information is of critical importance to present and potential creditors and investors. There are several different methods of analysis for obtaining this predictive information. The best-known and most time-tested is the z score, developed for publicly traded manufacturing firms by Professor

32 Understanding the Numbers Edward Altman of New York University. Its reliability can be expressed in terms of the two types of errors to which all predictive methods are vulnerable, namely: 1. Type I error: predicting solvency when in fact a firm becomes bankrupt (a false positive). 2. Type II error: predicting bankruptcy when in fact a firm remains solvent (a false negative). The predictive error rates for the Altman z score have been found to be as follows: Years Prior to Bankruptcy

% False Positives

% False Negatives

1 2

6 18

3 6

Given the inherent difficulty of predicting future events, these error rates are relatively low, and therefore the Altman z score is generally regarded as a reasonably reliable bankruptcy predictor. The z score is calculated from financial ratios in the following manner: Working Capital Retained Earnings EBIT + 1.4 × + 3.3 × Total Assets Total Assets Total Assets Equity at Market Value Sales + 0.6 × + 1.0 × Debt Total Assets

z = 1.2 ×

A z score above 2.99 predicts solvency; a z score below 1.81 predicts bankruptcy; z scores between 1.81 and 2.99 are in a gray area, with scores above 2.675 suggesting solvency and scores below 2.675 suggesting bankruptcy. Since the z score uses equity at market value, it is not applicable to private firms, which do not issue marketable securities. A variation of the z score for private firms, known as the z′ score, has been developed that uses the book value of equity rather than the market value. Because of this modification, the multipliers in the formula have changed from those in the original z score, as have the scores that indicate solvency, bankruptcy, or the gray area. For nonmanufacturing service-sector firms, a further variation in the formula has been developed. It omits the variable for asset turnover and is known as the z′′ score. Once again, the multipliers in the formula have changed from those in the z′ score, and so have the scores that indicate solvency, bankruptcy, or the gray area. Professor Altman later developed a bankruptcy predictor more refined than the z score and named it ZETA. ZETA uses financial ratios for times interest earned, return on assets (the average and the standard deviation), and debt to equity. Other details of ZETA have not been made public. ZETA is proprietary and is made available to users for a fee.

Using Financial Statements


SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS Financial statements contain critical business information and are used for many different purposes by many different parties inside and outside the business. Clearly all successful businesspeople should have a good basic understanding of financial statements and of the main financial ratios. For further information and explanations about financial statements, see the following chapters in this book: Chapter 2: Analyzing Business Earnings Chapter 6: Forecasts and Budgets Chapter 15: The Board of Directors Chapter 18: Business Valuation

INTER NET LINKS Some useful Internet links on financial statements and financial ratios are:

Web site for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. This site lets users download financial statements and other key financial information filed with the SEC and maintained in Edgar (the name of its database) for all corporations with securities that are publicly traded in the United States. This service is free of charge. Another Web site,, displays financial ratios calculated from Provides free downloads of annual reports (which include financial statements) filed with the SEC for all corporations with securities that are publicly traded in the United States. Web site of the Risk Management Association (RMA) that contains financial ratios classified by size of firm for more than 600 industries. Information and instruction on many finance and accounting topics. Information and instruction on many finance and accounting topics. Information and instruction from public television on many finance and accounting topics.

34 Understanding the Numbers

The World Market Watch (wmw) provides business research information, including financial ratios, for many companies and 74 different industries.

FOR FURTHER R EADING Anthony, Robert N., Essentials of Accounting, 6th ed. (Boston, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1996). Brealey, Richard A., and Stewart C. Myers, Fundamentals of Corporate Finance, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001). Fridson, Martin S., Financial Statement Analysis: A Practitioner’s Guide, 2nd ed. (New York: John Wiley, 1995). Simini, Joseph P., Balance Sheet Basics for Nonfinancial Managers (New York: John Wiley, 1990). Tracy, John A., How to Read a Financial Report: Wringing Cash Flow and Other Vital Signs Out of the Numbers, 4th ed. (New York: John Wiley, 1994). Troy, Leo, Almanac of Business and Industrial Financial Ratios (Paramus, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Annual). Financial Studies of the Small Business (Winter Haven, FL: Financial Research Associates, Annual). Industry Norms and Key Business Ratios (New York: Dun & Bradstreet, Annual). RMA Annual Statement Studies (Philadelphia, PA: Risk Management Association, Annual). Standard and Poor’s Industry Surveys (New York: Standard & Poor ’s, Quarterly).

NOTES 1. The name comes from its original use at the Dupont Corporation. 2. After income taxes. 3. Ibid.


ANALYZING BUSINESS EARNINGS Eugene E. Comiskey Charles W. Mulford

A special committee of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) concluded the following about earnings and the needs of those who use financial statements: Users want information about the portion of a company’s reported earnings that is stable or recurring and that provides a basis for estimating sustainable earnings.1

While users may want information about the stable or recurring portion of a company’s earnings, firms are under no obligation to provide this earnings series. However, generally accepted accounting principles (GAAPs) require separate disclosure of selected nonrecurring revenues, gains, expenses, and losses on the face of the income statement or in notes to the financial statements. Further, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires the disclosure of material nonrecurring items. The prominence given the demand by users for information on nonrecurring items in the above AICPA report is, no doubt, driven in part by the explosive growth in nonrecurring items over the past decade. The acceleration of change together with a passion for downsizing, rightsizing, and reengineering have fueled this growth. The Financial Accounting Standards Board’s (FASB) issuance of a number of new accounting statements that require recognition of previously unrecorded expenses and more timely recognition of declines in asset values has also contributed to the increase in nonrecurring items. A limited number of firms do provide, on a voluntary basis, schedules that show their results with nonrecurring items removed. Mason Dixon Bancshares


36 Understanding the Numbers provides one such example. Exhibit 2.1 shows a Mason Dixon schedule that adjusts reported net income to a revised earnings measure from which nonrecurring revenues, gains, expenses, and losses have been removed. This is the type of information that the previously quoted statement of the AICPA’s Special Committee calls for. Notice the substantial number of nonrecurring items that Mason Dixon removed from reported net income in order to arrive at a closer measure of core or sustainable earnings. In spite of the number of nonrecurring items removed from reported net income, the revised earnings differ by only about 6% from the original reported net income. Firms that record either a large nonrecurring gain or loss frequently attempt to offset its effect on net income by recording a number of offsetting items. In the case of Mason Dixon, the large gain on the sale of branches if not offset may raise earnings expectations to levels that are unattainable. Alternatively, the recording of offsetting charges may be seen as a way to relieve future earnings of their burden. We do not claim that this was done in the case of Mason Dixon Bancshares, but its results are consistent with this practice. Though exceptions like the Mason Dixon Bancshares example do occur, the task of developing information on a firm’s recurring or sustainable results normally falls to the statement user. Companies do provide, to varying degrees, the raw materials for this analysis; however, the formidable task of creating—an analysis comparable to that provided by Mason Dixon—is typically left to the user. The central goal of this chapter is to help users develop the background and skills to perform this critical aspect of earnings analysis. The chapter will discuss nonrecurring items and outline efficient approaches for locating them in financial statements and associated notes. As key background we will also discuss and illustrate income statement formats and other issues of classification. Throughout the chapter, we illustrate concepts using information drawn from EXHIBIT 2.1

Core business net income: Mason Dixon Bancshares Inc., year ended December 31 (in thousands). 1998

Reported net income Adjustments, add (deduct), for nonrecurring items: Gain on sale of branches Special loan provision for loans with Year 2000 risk Special loan provision for change in charge-off policy Reorganization costs Year 2000 costs Impairment loss on mortgage sub-servicing rights Income tax expense on the nonrecurring items above


Core (sustainable) net income



(6,717) 918 2,000 465 700 841 1,128

Mason Dixon Bancshares Inc., annual report, December 1998. Information obtained from Disclosure, Inc., Compact D/SEC: Corporate Information on Public Companies Filing with the SEC (Bethesda, MD: Disclosure Inc., June 2000).

Analyzing Business Earnings


the financial statements of many companies. As a summary exercise, a comprehensive case is provided that removes all nonrecurring items from reported results to arrive at a sustainable earnings series.

THE NATUR E OF NONR ECURR ING ITEMS Defining nonrecurring items is difficult. Writers often begin with phrases like “unusual” or “infrequent in occurrence.” Donald Keiso and Jerry Weygandt in their popular intermediate accounting text use the term irregular to describe what most statement users would consider nonrecurring items.2 For our purposes, irregular or nonrecurring revenues, gains, expenses, and losses are not consistent contributors to results, in terms of either their presence or their amount. This is the manner in which we use the term nonrecurring items throughout this chapter. From a security valuation perspective, nonrecurring items have a smaller impact on share price than recurring elements of earnings. Some items, such as restructuring charges, litigation settlements, f lood losses, product recall costs, embezzlement losses, and insurance settlements, can easily be identified as nonrecurring. Other items may appear consistently in the income statement but vary widely in sign (revenue versus expense, gain versus loss) and amount. For example, the following gains on the disposition of f light equipment were reported over a number of years by Delta Air Lines:3 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996

$35 million 65 million 2 million 0 million 2 million

The gains averaged about $25 million over the 10 years ending in 1996 and ranged from a loss of $1 million (1988) to a gain of $65 million (1993). The more recent five years typify the variability in the amounts for the entire 10year period. These gains did recur, but they are certainly irregular in amount. There are at least three alternative ways to handle this line item in revising results to identify sustainable or recurring earnings. First, one could simply eliminate the line item based on its highly inconsistent contribution to results.4 Second, one could include the line item at its average value ($25 million for the period 1987 to 1996) for some period of time. Third, one could attempt to acquire information on planned aircraft dispositions that would make possible a better prediction of the contribution of gains on aircraft dispositions to future results. While the last approach may appear to be the most appealing, it may prove to be difficult to implement because of lack of information, and it may also be less attractive when viewed from a cost-benefit perspective. In general, we would normally recommend either removing the gains

38 Understanding the Numbers or simply employing a fairly recent average value for the gains in making earnings projections. After 1996, Delta Air Lines disclosed little in the way of nonrecurring gains on the sale of f light equipment. Its 2000 annual report, which covered the years from 1998 to 2000, did not disclose any gains or losses on the disposition of f light equipment.5 With hindsight, the first option, which would remove all of the gains and losses on f light equipment, may have been the most appropriate alternative. The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company provides a timeless example of the impact of nonrecurring items on the evaluation of earnings performance. Exhibit 2.2 shows pretax results for Goodyear, with and without losses on foreign exchange. As with Delta Air Lines, it may seem questionable to characterize as nonrecurring exchange losses that appear repeatedly. However, in line with the key characteristics of nonrecurring items given earlier, Goodyear’s foreign exchange losses are both irregular in amount and unlikely to be consistent contributors to results in future years. Across the period 1993 to 1995 the reduction in foreign exchange losses contributed to Goodyear’s pretax results by $35.5 million in 1994 and $60.2 million in 1995. That is, the entire $60.1 million increase in earnings for 1995 could be attributed to the $60.2 million decline in foreign exchange losses. The only way that the foreign exchange line could contribute a further $60.2 million to pretax earnings in 1996 would be for Goodyear to produce a foreign exchange gain of $42.8 million ($60.2 − $17.4).6 Other examples of irregular items of revenue, gain, expense, and loss abound. For example, there were temporary revenue increases and decreases associated with the Gulf War. (“Sales to the United States government increased substantially during the Persian Gulf War. However, sales returned to more normal levels in the second half of the year.”7) Temporary revenue increases have been associated with expanded television sales due to World Cup


The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, results with and without foreign-exchange losses, years ended December 31 (in millions). 1993



Income before income taxes, extraordinary item and cumulative effect of accounting change Add back foreign exchange losses

$784.9 113.1

$865.7 77.6

$925.8 17.4

Income exclusive of foreign-exchange losses




10.3% 5.0%

6.9% 0.0%

Percentage income increase: Income as reported Income exclusive on foreign-exchange losses SOURCE :

The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, annual report, December 1995, 24.

Analyzing Business Earnings


soccer. Temporary increases or decreases in earnings have resulted from adjustments to loan loss provisions resulting from economic downturns and subsequent recoveries in the financial services industry. Most recently, there have been widely publicized problems with tires produced for sports utility vehicles that will surely create substantial nonrecurring increases in legal and warranty expenses. Identifying nonrecurring or irregular items is not a mechanical process; it calls for the exercise of judgment and involves both line items and as the period-to-period behavior of individual income statement items.

THE PROCESS OF IDENTIFYING NONR ECURR ING ITEMS Careful analysis of past financial performance aimed at removing the effects of nonrecurring items is a more formidable task than one might suspect. This task would be fairly simple if (1) there was general agreement on just what constitutes a nonrecurring item and (2) if most nonrecurring items were prominently displayed on the face of the income statement. However, neither is the case. Some research suggests that fewer than one-fourth of nonrecurring items are likely to be found separately disclosed in the income statement.8 Providing guidance for locating the remaining three-fourths is a key goal of this chapter.

Identif ying Nonrecurring Items: An Eff icient Search Procedure The search sequence outlined in the following discussion locates a high cumulative percentage of material nonrecurring items and does so in a cost-effective manner. Search cost, mainly in time spent by the financial analyst, is an important consideration. Time devoted to this task is not available for another and, therefore, there is an opportunity cost to consider. The discussion and guidance that follows are organized around this recommended search sequence (see Exhibit 2.3). Following only the first five steps in this search sequence is likely to locate almost 60% of all nonrecurring items.9 Continuing through steps six and seven will typically increase this location percentage. However, the 60% discovery rate is higher if the focus is only on material nonrecurring items. The nonrecurring items disclosed in other locations through steps 6 and 7 are fewer in number and normally less material than those initially found through the first five.

NONR ECURR ING ITEMS IN THE INCOME STATEMENT An examination of the income statement, the first step in the search sequence, requires an understanding of the design and content of contemporary income statements. This knowledge will aid in the location and analysis of nonrecurring

40 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 2.3

Ef f icient search sequence for nonrecurring items.

Search Step 1 2 3

Search Location Income statement. Statement of cash f lows—operating activities section only. Inventory note, generally assuming that the firm employs the LIFO inventory method. However, even with non-LIFO firms, inventory notes may reveal inventory write-downs. Income tax note, with attention focused on the tax-reconciliation schedule. Other income (expense) note in cases where this balance is not detailed on the face of the income statement. MD&A of Financial Condition and Results of Operations—a Securities and Exchange Commission requirement and therefore available only for public companies. Other notes which often include nonrecurring items:

4 5 6

7 Note a. b. c. d.

Nonrecurring items revealed Property and equipment Long-term debt Foreign currency Restructuring

e. Contingencies f. Segment disclosures g. Quarterly financial data

Gains and losses on asset sales Foreign currency and debt-retirement gains and losses. Foreign currency gains and losses Current and prospective impact of of restructuring activities Prospective revenues and expenses Various nonrecurring items Various nonrecurring items

components of earnings. Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAPs) determine the structure and content of the income statement. Locating nonrecurring items in the income statement is a highly efficient and cost-effective process. Many nonrecurring items will be prominently displayed on separate lines in the statement. Further, leads to other nonrecurring items, disclosed elsewhere, may be discovered during this process. For example, a line item that summarizes items of other income and expense may include an associated note reference detailing its contents. These notes should always be reviewed—step 5 in the search sequence—because they will often reveal a wide range of nonrecurring items.

Alternative Income Statement Formats Examples of the two principal income statement formats under current GAAPs are presented below. The income statement of Shaw Industries Inc., in Exhibit 2.4 is single step and that of Toys “R” Us Inc. in Exhibit 2.5 is multistep. An annual survey of financial statements conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) reveals that about one-third of the 600 companies in its survey use the single-step format and the other two-thirds the multistep.10


Analyzing Business Earnings EXHIBIT 2.4

Consolidated single-step statements of income: Shaw Industries Inc. (in thousands). Year Ended Jan. 3 1998

Jan. 2 1999

Jan. 1 2000

Net sales




Cost of sales Selling, general and administrative Charge to record loss on sale of residential retail operations, store closing costs and write-down of certain assets Charge to record plant closing costs Pre-opening expenses Charge to record store closing costs Write-down of U.K. assets Interest, net Loss on sale of equity securities Other expense (income), net

$2,680,472 722,590

$2,642,453 620,878

$3,028,248 627,075

— — 3,953 36,787 47,952 60,769 — (7,032)

132,303 — — — — 62,553 22,247 4,676

4,061 1,834 — — — 62,812 — 1,319

Income before income taxes Provision for income taxes

30,283 5,586

57,092 38,407

382,387 157,361

Income before equity in income of joint ventures Equity in income of joint ventures

24,697 4,262

18,685 1,947

225,026 2,925


$ 227,951

Net income




Note: Per share amounts omitted. SOURCE : Shaw Industries Inc., annual report, January 2000, 24.

The distinguishing feature of the multistep statement is that it provides intermediate earnings subtotals that are designed to measure pretax operating performance. In principle, operating income should be composed almost entirely of recurring items of revenue and expense, which result from the main operating activities of the firm. In practice, numerous material nonrecurring items are commonly included in operating income. For example, “restructuring” charges, one of the most common nonrecurring items of the past decade, is virtually always included in operating income. Shaw Industries’ single-step income statement does not partition results into intermediate subtotals. For example, there are no line items identified as either “gross profit” or “operating income.” Rather, all revenues and expenses are separately listed and “income before income taxes” is computed in a single step as total expenses are deducted from total revenues. However, the Toys “R” Us multistep income statement provides both gross profit and operating income/(loss) subtotals. Note that Shaw Industries has a number of different nonrecurring items in its income statements. While they vary in size, the following would normally be considered to be nonrecurring: charges related to residential retail operations,

42 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 2.5

Consolidated multi-step statements of earnings: Toys “R” Us Inc. (in millions). Year Ended

Net sales Cost of sales

Jan. 31 1998

Jan. 30 1999

Jan. 29 2000

$11,038 7,710

$11,170 8,191

$11,862 8,321

3,328 2,231 253 —

2,979 2,443 255 294

3,541 2,743 278 —




Gross Profit Selling, general and administrative expenses Depreciation, amortization and asset write-offs Restructuring charge Total Operating Expenses Operating Income/(Loss) Interest expense Interest and other income

844 85 (13)

(13) 102 (9)

520 91 (11)

Interest Expense, Net




772 282

(106) 26

440 161


$ (132)

Earnings/(loss) before income taxes Income taxes Net earnings/(loss)




Note: Per share amounts omitted. SOURCE : Toys “R” Us Inc., annual report, January 2000, 25.

plant closing costs, record-store closing costs, write-down of U.K. assets, the loss on sale of equity investments, and the preopening expenses. There will usually be other nonrecurring items lurking in other statements or footnotes. Note the approximately $12-million change in the Other expense (income) net balance for the year ending January 2, 1999, compared to the year ending January 3, 1998. Also, there must be something unusual about income taxes in the year ending January 3, 1998. The effective tax rate ($5,586,000 divided by $30,283,000) is only about 18%, well below the 35% statutory federal tax rate for large companies. By contrast, the effective tax rate ($38,407,000 divided by $57,092,000) for the year ending January 2, 1999, is about 67%.

Nonrecurring Items Located in Income from Continuing Operations Whether a single- or multistep format is used, the composition of income from continuing operations is the same. It includes all items of revenue, gain, expense, and loss except those (1) identified with discontinued operations, (2) meeting the definition of extraordinary items, and (3) resulting from the cumulative effect of changes in accounting principles. Because income from continuing operations excludes only these three items, it follows that all other nonrecurring items of revenues or gains and expenses or losses are included in this key profit subtotal.

Analyzing Business Earnings


The Nature of Operating Income Operating income is designed to ref lect the revenues, gains, expenses, and losses that are related to the fundamental operating activities of the firm. Notice, however, that the Toys “R” Us operating loss for the year ending January 30, 1999, included two nonrecurring charges. These were the asset write-offs and a restructuring charge. While operating income or loss may include only operationsrelated items, some of these items may be nonrecurring. Hence, operating income is not the “sustainable” earnings measure called for in our opening quote from the AICPA Special Committee on Financial Reporting. Even at this early point in the operations section of the income statement, nonrecurring items have been introduced that will require adjustment in order to arrive at an earnings base “that provides a basis for estimating sustainable earnings.”11 Also be aware that “operating income” in a multistep format is an earlier subtotal than “income from continuing operations.” Moreover, operating income is a pretax measure, whereas income from continuing operations is after tax. A more extensive sampling of items included in operating income is provided next.

Nonrecurring Items Included in Operating Income Reviewing current annual reports reveals that corporations very often include nonrecurring revenues, gains, expenses, and losses in operating income. A sample of nonrecurring items included in the operating income section of multistep income statements is provided in Exhibit 2.6. As is typical, nonrecurring expenses and losses are more numerous than nonrecurring revenues and gains. This imbalance is due in part to GAAP, which require firms to recognize unrealized losses but not unrealized gains. Moreover, fundamental accounting conventions, such as the historical cost concept and conservatism, may also provide part of the explanation. Many of the nonrecurring expense or loss items involve declines in the value of specific assets. Restructuring charges have been among the most common items in recent years in this section of the income statement. These charges involve asset write-downs and liability accruals that will be paid off in future years. Seldom is revenue or gain recorded as a result of writing up assets. Further, unlike the case of restructuring charges, the favorable future consequences of a management action would seldom support current accrual of revenue or gain. There is substantial variety in the nonrecurring expenses and losses included in operating income. Many of the listed items appear closely linked to operations, and their classification seems appropriate. However, some appear to be at the fringes of normal operating items. Examples related to expenses and losses include the f lood costs of Argosy Gaming, merger-related charges incurred by Brooktrout Technologies, the embezzlement loss of Osmonics, and the loss on the sale of Veeco Instruments’ leak detection business. Among the gains, the Fairchild and H.J. Heinz gains on selling off businesses would seem to be candidates for inclusion further down the income statement.

44 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 2.6

Nonrecurring items of revenue, gain, expense, and loss included in operating income.


Nonrecurring Item

Expenses and Losses Air T Inc. (2000) Akorn Inc. (1999) Amazon.Com Inc. (1999) Argosy Gaming Company (1995) Avado Brands Inc. (1999) Brooktrout Technologies Inc. (1998) Burlington Resources Inc. (1999) Cisco Systems Inc. (1999) Colonial Commercial Corporation (1999) Dean Foods Company (1999) Delta Air Lines Inc. (2000) Detection Systems Inc. (2000) Escalon Medical Corporation (2000) Gerber Scientific Inc. (2000) Holly Corporation (2000) JLG Industries Inc. (2000) Osmonics Inc. (1993) Saucony Inc. (1999) Silicon Valley Group Inc. (1999) Veeco Instruments Inc. (1999) Wegener Corporation (1999)

Start-up/merger expense Relocation costs Stock-based compensation Flood costs Asset revaluation charges Merger related charges Impairment of oil and gas properties Charges for purchased R&D Costs of an abandoned acquisition Plant closure costs Asset write-downs and other special charges Shareholder class action litigation charge Write-down of patents and goodwill Write-downs of inventory and receivables Voluntary early retirement costs Restructuring charges Embezzlement loss Write-down of impaired real estate Inventory write-downs Loss on sale of leak detection business Write-down of capitalized software

Revenues and Gains Alberto-Culver Company (2000) The Fairchild Corporation (2000) H.J. Heinz Company (1995) Luf kin Industries Inc. (1999) National Steel Corporation (1999) Praxair Inc. (1999) Tyco International Ltd. (2000)

Gain on sale of European trademark Gains on the sale of subsidiaries Gain on sale of confectionery business LIFO-liquidation benefit Benefit from property-tax settlement Hedge gain in Brazil and income-hedge gain Reversal of restructuring accrual


Companies’ annual reports. The year following each company name designates the annual report from which each example was drawn.

Comparing the items included in operating income to those excluded reveals a reasonable degree of f lexibility and judgment in the classification of many of these items. In any event, operating income may not be a very reliable measure of ongoing operating performance given the wide range of nonrecurring items that are included in its determination. Nonrecurring Items Excluded from Operating Income Unlike the multistep format, the single-step income statement omits a subtotal representing operating income. The task of identifying core or operating income is therefore more difficult. Nonrecurring items of revenue or gain and

Analyzing Business Earnings


expense or loss are either presented as separate line items within the listing of revenues or gain and expense or loss, or are included in an “other income (expense)” line. A sampling of nonrecurring items found in the other-income-andexpense category of the multistep income statements of a number of companies is provided in Exhibit 2.7. A comparison of the items in two exhibits reveals some potential for overlap in these two categories. The first, nonrecurring items in operating income, should be dominated by items closely linked to company operations. The nonrecurring items in the second category, below operating income, should fall outside the operations area of the firm. Notice that there is a litigation charge included in operating income (Exhibit 2.6, Detection Systems) as well as several excluded from operating income (Exhibit 2.7, Advanced Micro Devices, Cryomedical Sciences, and Trimark Holdings). Gains on the sale of investments are found far less frequently within operating income. Firms may avoid


Nonrecurring items of revenue or gain and expense or loss excluded from operating income.


Nonrecurring Item

Expenses or Losses Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (1999) Baltek Corporation (1997) Champion Enterprises (1995) Cryomedical Sciences Inc. (1995) Galey & Lord Inc. (1998) Global Industries (1993) Holly wood Casino Corporation (1992) Imperial Holly Corporation (1994) Trimark Holdings Inc. (1995)

Litigation settlement charge Foreign currency loss Environmental reserve Settlement of shareholder class action suit Loss on foreign-currency hedges Fire loss on marine vessel Write-off of deferred preacquisition costs Workforce reduction charge Litigation settlement

Revenues or Gains Artistic Greetings Inc. (1995) Avado Brands Inc. (1999) Colonial Commercial Corporation (1999) Delta Air Lines Inc. (2000) The Fairchild Corporation (2000) Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (1991) Gerber Scientific Inc. (2000) Imperial Sugar Company (1999) Meredith Corporation (1994) National Steel Corporation (1999) New England Business Service Inc. (1996) Noble Drilling (1991) Pollo Tropical Inc. (1995) Raven Industries Inc. (2000) Saucony Inc. (1999) SOURCES :

Unrealized gains on trading securities Gain on asset disposals Gain on land sale Gains from the sale of investments Gains on the sale of subsidiaries and affiliates Insurance settlement (tanker grounding) Litigation award Realized securities gains Sale of broadcast stations Gain on disposal of noncore assets Gain on sale of product line Insurance on rig abandoned in Somalia Business-interruption insurance recovery Gain on sale of investment in affiliate Foreign currency gains

Companies’ annual reports. The year following each company name designates the annual report from which each example was drawn.

46 Understanding the Numbers classifying these nonrecurring gains within operating income to prevent shareholders’ unrealistic expectations for earnings in subsequent periods. It is common to see foreign-currency gains and losses classified below operating income. This is somewhat difficult to rationalize because currency exposure is an integral part of operations when a firm does business with foreign customers and /or has foreign operations. The operating income subtotal should measure the basic profitability of a firm’s operations. It is far from a net earnings number because its location in the income statement is above a number of other nonoperating revenues, gains, expenses, and losses, as well as interest charges and income taxes. Clearly, the range and complexity of nonrecurring items create difficult judgment calls in implementing this concept of operating income. Management may use this f lexibility to manage the operating income number. That is, the classification of items either inside or outside operating income could be inf luenced by the goal of maintaining stable growth in this key performance measure. Some of the items in Exhibit 2.7 would seem to have been equally at home within the operating income section. An environmental reserve (Champion Enterprises) appears to be closely tied to operations, as are the workforce reduction charges, a common element of restructuring charges (Imperial Holly); the insurance settlement from the tanker grounding (Freeport-McMoRan); and business interruption insurance (Pollo Tropical).

Nonrecurring Items Located below Income from Continuing Operations The region in the income statement below income from continuing operations has a standard organization and is the same for both the single- and multistep income statement. This format is outlined in Exhibit 2.8. The income statement of AK Steel Holding Corporation, shown in Exhibit 2.9, illustrates this format. Each of the special line items—that is, discontinued operations, extraordinary


Income statement format with special items.

Income from continuing operations Discontinued operations Extraordinary items Cumulative effect of changes in accounting principles Net income Other comprehensive income Comprehensive income SOURCES :

$000 000 000 000 000 000 $000

Key guidance is found in Accounting Principles Board Opinion No. 30, Repor ting the Results of Operations (New York: AICPA, June 1973) and Statement of Financial Accounting Standards (SFAS), No. 130, Repor ting Comprehensive Income (Nor walk, CT: FASB, June 1997).


Analyzing Business Earnings EXHIBIT 2.9

Consolidated statements of income: AK Steel Holding Corp., years ended December 31 (in millions).

Net sales Cost of products sold Selling, general and administrative expense Depreciation Special charge Total operating costs Operating profit Interest expense







3,363.3 288.0 141.0 —

3,226.5 278.0 161.2 —

3,419.8 309.8 210.7 99.7




384.3 111.7

364.0 84.9

244.8 123.7

Other income Income from continuing operations before income taxes and minority interest Income tax provision Minority interest




321.0 127.5 8.1

309.4 105.5 8.1

141.9 63.9 6.7

Income from continuing operations Discontinued operations

185.4 1.6

195.8 —

71.3 7.5

187.0 1.9

195.8 —

78.8 13.4




Income before extraordinary item and cumulative effect of a change in accounting Extraordinary loss on retirement of debt, net of tax Cumulative effect of change in accounting, net of tax Net income Other comprehensive income, net of tax: Foreign currency translation adjustment Unrealized gains (losses) on securities: Unrealized holding gains (losses) arising during the period Less: reclassification for gains included in net income Minimum pension liability adjustment Comprehensive income

— 65.4







(0.2) —

(1.0) (2.6)

(1.9) 1.2

$ 185.6

$ 325.9



Note: Note references as well as earnings-per-share data included in the AK Steel income statement were omitted from the above. SOURCE : AK Steel Holdings Corp., annual report, December 1999, 20.

items, and changes in accounting principles—along with examples is discussed in the following sections. All of these items are presented in the income statement on an after-tax basis. Discontinued Operations The discontinued operations section is designed to enhance the interpretive value of the income statement by separating the results of continuing operations

48 Understanding the Numbers from those that have been or are being discontinued. Only the discontinuance of operations that constitute a separate and complete segment of the business have normally been reported in this special section. The current segmentreporting standard, SFAS 131, Disclosures about Segments of an Enterprise and Related Information, identifies the following as characteristics of a segment: 1. It engages in business activities from which it may earn revenues and incur expenses (including revenues and expenses relating to transactions with other components of the same enterprise). 2. Its operating results are regularly reviewed by the enterprise’s chief operating decision maker to allocate resources to the segment and assess its performance. 3. Discrete financial information is available.12 Some examples of operations that have been viewed as segments and therefore classified as “discontinued operations” are provided in Exhibit 2.10. Most of the discontinued operations that are disclosed in Exhibit 2.10 appear to satisfy the traditional test of being separate and distinct segments of the business. The retail furniture business of insurance company Atlantic American is a good example. The case of Textron is a somewhat closer call. Textron reports its operations in four segments: Aircraft, Automotive, Industrial, and Finance. The disposition of Avco Financial Services could be seen as a product line within the Finance segment. However, it may very well qualify as a segment under the newer guidance of SFAS No. 131, Disclosures about Segments of an Enterprise and Related Information, previously presented. The treatment of vegetables as a separate segment of the food processor Dean Foods also suggests that there are judgment calls in deciding whether a disposition is a distinct segment or simply a product line and thus only part of a segment. Extraordinary Items Income statement items are considered extraordinary if they are both (1) unusual and (2) infrequent in occurrence.13 Unusual items are not related to the typical activities or operations of the firm. Infrequency of occurrence simply implies that the item is not expected to recur in the foreseeable future. In practice the joint requirement of “unusual and nonrecurring” results in very few items being reported as extraordinary. GAAPs identify two types of extraordinary transactions the gains or losses from which do not have to be both unusual and nonrecurring. These are (1) gains and losses from the extinguishment of debt14 and (2) gains or losses resulting from “troubled debt restructurings.”15 Included in the latter type are either the settlement of obligations or their continuation with a modification of terms. A tabulation of extraordinary items, based on an annual survey of 600 companies conducted by the American Institute of CPAs, is provided in

Analyzing Business Earnings


EXHIBIT 2.10 Examples of discontinued operations. Discontinued Operation


Principal Business

American Standard Companies Inc. (1999)

Air conditioning, bathroom fixtures, and electronics

Medical systems

Atlantic American Corporation (1999)


Retail furniture

Bestfoods Inc. (1999)

Food preparations

Corn refining

Dean Foods Inc. (1999)

Food processor

Vegetables segment

Decorator Industries Inc. (1999)

Interior furnishing products

Manufacture and sale for the retail market

The Fairchild Corporation (2000)

Aerospace fasteners and aerospace parts distribution

Fairchild technologies business

Gleason Corporation (1995)

Gear machinery and equipment

Metal stamping and fabricating

Maxco Inc. (1996)

Manufacturing, distribution, and real estate

Automotive refinishing products

A.O. Smith Corporation (1999)

Motors and generators

Storage tank and fiberglass pipe markets

Standard Register Company (1999)

Document management and print production

Promotional direct mail operation

Textron Inc. (1999)

Aircraft engines, automotive parts, and finance

Avco Financial Services

Watts Industries Inc. (1999)

Valves for plumbing, heating and water quality industries

Industrial oil and gas businesses


Companies’ annual reports. The year following each company name designates the annual report from which each example was drawn.

Exhibit 2.11. This summary highlights the rarity of extraordinary items under current reporting requirements. Debt extinguishments represent the largest portion of the disclosed extraordinary items. This leaves only from two to five discretionary extraordinary items per year among the 600 companies surveyed. The small number of gains and losses classified as extraordinary is consistent with their definition. However, this rarity adds to the challenge of locating all nonrecurring items as part of a thorough earnings analysis. Few nonrecurring items will qualify for the prominent disclosure that results from display in one of the special sections, such as for extraordinary items, of the income statement. A sample of discretionary extraordinary items—that is, items not treated as extraordinary by a specific standard—is provided in Exhibit 2.12. Natural disasters and civil unrest are some of the more typical causes of extraordinary items. The extraordinary gain of American Building Maintenance may appear to fail the criterion of unusual since small earthquakes are

50 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 2.11 Frequency and nature of extraordinar y items.

Debt extinguishments Other Total extraordinary items Companies presenting extraordinary items Companies not presenting extraordinary items Total companies





60 5

62 3

73 2

56 6





63 537

64 536

74 526

61 539






American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Accounting Trends and Techniques (New York: AICPA, 1999), 392.

EXHIBIT 2.12 Discretionar y extraordinar y items. Company

Item or Event

American Building Maintenance Inc. (1989)

Gain on an insurance settlement for damage to a building from a San Francisco earthquake

Avoca Inc. (1995)

Insurance proceeds from the destruction of a building by a fire

BLC Financial Services Inc. (1998)

Settlement of a lawsuit

KeyCorp Ohio (1999)

Gain on the sale of residential mortgage loan-servicing operations

Noble Drilling Corporation (1991)

Insurance settlement due to deprivation of use of logistics and drilling equipment abandoned in Somalia due to civil unrest

NACCO Industries Inc. (1995)

Gain on a downward revision of an obligation to the United Mine Workers of America Combined Benefit Fund

NS Group Inc. (1992)

Loss from an accidental melting of radioactive substance in the steel-making operation

Phillips Petroleum Company (1990)

Gain from a settlement with the government of Iran over the expropriation of Phillips’ oil production interests

SunTrust Banks Inc. (1999)

Gain on the sale of the Company’s consumer credit portfolio

Weyerhaeuser Company (1980)

Losses from Mount St. Helens eruption


Companies’ annual reports. The year following each company name designates the annual report from which each example was drawn.

Analyzing Business Earnings


frequent in the Bay Area. However, the magnitude of this quake, at about 7.0 on the Richter scale, was probably enough for it to qualify as both unusual and nonrecurring. Earthquakes of such magnitude have not occurred since the San Francisco quake of 1906. The Mount St. Helens eruption (Weyerhaeuser) was certainly enormous on the scale of volcanic eruptions. The discretionary character of the definition of extraordinary items combined with the growing complexity of company operations results in considerable diversity in the classification of items as extraordinary. For example, Sun Company (not displayed in Exhibit 2.12) had a gain from an expropriation settlement with Iran. Unlike Phillips Petroleum, however, Sun did not classify the gain as extraordinary. Neither Exxon nor Union Carbide (also not in Exhibit 2.12) classified as extraordinary their substantial losses from what could be seen as accidents related to their operating activities.16 The classifications as extraordinary of gains on the sale of servicing operations by KeyCorp and on a consumer credit portfolio by SunTrust are rather surprising. These two items would seem to fail the unusual part of the test for extraordinary items. The task of locating all nonrecurring items of revenue or gain and expense or loss is aided only marginally by the presence of the extraordinary category in the income statement, because the extraordinary classification is employed so sparingly. Location of most nonrecurring items calls for careful review of other parts of the income statement, other statements, and notes to the financial statements. Changes in Accounting Principles The cumulative effects (catch-up adjustments) of changes in accounting principles are also reported below income from continuing operations (see Exhibit 2.8). Most changes in accounting principles result from the adoption of new standards issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). The most common reporting treatment when a firm changes from one accepted accounting principle to another is to show the cumulative effect of the change on the results of prior years in the income statement for the year of the change. Less common is the retroactive restatement of the prior-year statements to the new accounting basis. Under this method, the effect of the change on the years prior to those presented in the annual report for the year of the change is treated as an adjustment to retained earnings of the earliest year presented. As noted previously, in recent years accounting changes have been dominated by the requirement to adopt new generally accepted accounting principles (GAAPs). Discretionary changes in accounting principle are a distinct minority. Examples of discretionary changes would be a switch from accelerated to straight-line depreciation or from the LIFO to FIFO inventory method. Information on accounting changes in both accounting principles and in estimates is provided in Exhibit 2.13. This information is drawn from an annual survey of the annual reports of 600 companies conducted by the American

52 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 2.13 Accounting changes. Number of Companies Subject of the Change





Software development costs (SOP 98-1) Start-up costs (SOP 98-5) Inventories Revenue recognition (SAB 101) Depreciable lives Software revenue recognition Derivatives and hedging activities Market-value valuation of pension assets Bankruptcy code reporting (SOP 90-7) Recoverability of goodwill Depreciation method Business process reengineering (EITF 97-13) Impairment of long-lived assets (SFAS 121) Reporting entity Other

— — 5 — 3 — — — — — 4 — 134 1 28

1 2 4 — 3 — — — — — 3 28 39 1 57

37 29 5 — 4 4 — — — — — 10 3 2 13

66 39 5 5 4 3 3 3 3 2 2 2 — — 10


American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Accounting Trends and Techniques (New York: AICPA, 2000), 79.

Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The distribution of adoption dates across several years, especially for SFAS 121, occurs because some firms adopt the new statement prior to its mandatory adoption date. In addition, the required adoption date for new standards is typically for years beginning after December 15 of the year specified. This means that firms whose fiscal year starts on January 1 are the first to be required to adopt the new standard. Other firms adopt throughout the following year. Most recent changes in accounting principles have been reported on a cumulative-effect basis. The cumulative effect is reported net of tax in a separate section (see Exhibit 2.8) of the income statement. The cumulative effect is the impact of the change on the results of previous years. The impact of the change on the current year, that is, year of the change, is typically disclosed in a note describing the change and its impact. However, it is not disclosed separately on the face of the income statement. An example of the disclosure of both the cumulative effect of an accounting change and its effect on income from continuing operations is provided below: Cumulative effect Effective January 1, 1998, Armco changed its method of amortizing unrecognized net gains and losses related to its obligations for pensions and other postretirement benefits. In 1998, Armco recognized income of $237.5 million, or $2.20 per share of common stock, for the cumulative effect of this accounting change. Effect on income from continuing operations for the year of change

Analyzing Business Earnings


Adoption of the new method increased 1998 income from continuing operations by approximately $3.0 million or $0.03 per share of common stock.17

In analyzing earnings, the effect of an accounting change on the results of previous years will be prominently displayed net of its tax effect on the face of the income statement. However, the effect on the current year’s income from continuing operations appears only in the note describing the change. While not the case for the Armco example, the current-year effect of the change is often large and should be considered in interpreting the performance of the current year in relation to previous years. Most of the entries in Exhibit 2.13 represent the mandatory adoption of new GAAP. Two statements of position (SOP), SOP 98-1 and 98-5, produced most of the accounting changes in 1998. Statements of position are issued by the AICPA and are considered part of the body of GAAP. The same is true for EITF 97-13. An EITF represents a consensus reached on a focused technical accounting and reporting issue by the Emerging Issues Task Force of FASB. The item listed as SAB 101 is a document issued by the SEC and will continue to cause changes in the timing of the recognition of income by many companies.18 The single listed FASB statement, SFAS 121, illustrates the multiyear adoption pattern that ref lects early adopters in 1995, followed by mandatory adopters in subsequent years. Some of the items listed in Exhibit 2.13 represent changes in accounting estimates as opposed to accounting principles. Changes in depreciation method are changes in accounting principle, whereas changes in depreciable lives are changes in estimate. The accounting treatments of the two different types of changes are quite different. Changes in accounting estimates are discussed next. Changes in Estimates Whereas changes in accounting principles are handled on either a cumulativeeffect (catch-up) or retroactive restatement basis, changes in accounting estimates are handled on a prospective basis only. The impact of a change is included only in current or future periods; retroactive restatements are not permitted. For example, effective January 1, 1999, Southwest Airlines changed the useful lives of its 737-300 and 737-500 aircraft. This is considered a change in estimate. Southwest’s change in estimate was disclosed in the following note: Change in Accounting Estimate Effective January 1, 1999, the Company revised the estimated useful lives of its 737-300 and 737-500 aircraft from 20 years to 23 years. This change was the result of the Company’s assessment of the remaining useful lives of the aircraft based on the manufacturer ’s design lives, the Company’s increased average aircraft stage (trip) length, and the Company’s previous experience. The effect of this change was to reduce depreciation expense approximately $25.7 million and increase net income $.03 per diluted share for the year ended December 31, 1999.19

54 Understanding the Numbers The $25.7 million reduction in 1999 depreciation was not set out separately in Southwest’s 1999 income statement, as would be the case if the depreciation reduction resulted from a change to straight-line from the accelerated method. Unlike the case of AK Steel (Exhibit 2.9), there is no cumulativeeffect adjustment in the Southwest income statement. Southwest reported pretax earnings of $774 million in 1999. Pretax earnings in 1998 were $705 million. On an as-reported basis, Southwest’s pretax earnings grew by 10% in 1999. Without the $25.7 million benefit from the increase in aircraft useful lives, however, the pretax earnings increase in 1999 would have been only 6%. That is, on a consistent basis Southwest’s improvement in operating results is sharply lower than the as-reported results would suggest. Locating the effect of this accounting change and determining its contribution to Southwest’s 1999 net income is essential in any effort to judge its 1999 financial performance. Identifying nonrecurring items in the income statement as outlined above is a key first step in earnings analysis; many such items will be located at other places in the annual report. The discussion that follows considers other locations where additional nonrecurring items may be located.

NONR ECURR ING ITEMS IN THE STATEMENT OF CASH FLOWS After the income statement, the operating activities section of the statement of cash f lows is an excellent secondary source to use in locating nonrecurring items (step 2 in the search sequence in Exhibit 2.3). The diagnostic value of this section of the statement of cash f lows results from two factors. First, gains and losses on the sale of investments and fixed assets must be removed from net income in arriving at cash f low from operating activities. Second, noncash items of revenue or gain and expense or loss must also be removed from net income. All cash inf lows associated with the sale of investments and fixed assets must be classified in the investing activities section of the statement of cash f lows. This classification requires removal of the gains or losses typically nonrecurring in nature from net income in arriving at cash f low from operating activities. Similarly, because many nonrecurring expenses or losses do not involve a current-period cash outf low, such items must be adjusted out of net income in arriving at cash f low from operating activities. Such adjustments, if not simply combined in a miscellaneous balance, often highlight nonrecurring items. The partial statement of cash f lows of Escalon Medical Corporation in Exhibit 2.14 illustrates the disclosure of nonrecurring items in the operatingactivities section of the statement of cash f lows. The nonrecurring items would appear to be (1) the write-down of intangible assets, (2) the net gain on sale of the Betadine product line, (3) the net gain on the sale of the Silicone Oil product

Analyzing Business Earnings


EXHIBIT 2.14 Nonrecurring items disclosed in the statement of cash f lows: Escalon Medical Corporation, partial consolidated statements of cash f lows, years ended June 30. 1998




$ (862,652)

Cash Flows from Operating Activities Net income (loss) $ 171,472 Adjustments to reconcile net income (loss) to net cash provided from (used in) operating activities: Depreciation and amortization 331,987 Equity in net loss of joint venture — Income from license of intellectual laser property (75,000) Write-down of intangible assets — Net gain on sale of Betadine product line — Net gain on sale of Silicone Oil product line — Write-down of patents and goodwill — Change in operating assets and liabilities: Accounts receivable (353,113) Inventory 115,740 Other current and long-term assets (16,862) Accounts payable and accrued expenses (360,396) Net cash provided from (used in) operating activities SOURCE :


363,687 —

666,770 33,382

— 24,805 (879,159) — —

— — — (1,863,915) 417,849

(48,451) (410,476) (116,491) 519,764

586,424 162,862 (164,960) (416,506)



Escalon Medical Corporation, annual report, June 2000, F-6.

line, and (4) the write-down of patent costs and goodwill. The Escalon income statement also disclosed, on separate lines, each of the nonrecurring items revealed in the operating activities section, with the exception of the intangible assets write-down. The asset write-downs, items (1) and (4) above, are added back to net income or loss because they are noncash. The gains on the product-line sales are deducted from net income or loss because all cash from such transactions, including the portion represented by the gain, must be classified in the investing activities section of the cash f low statement. As the gains are part of net income or loss, a failure to remove them would both overstate cash f lows from operating activities and understate investing cash inf lows. Examples of nonrecurring items disclosed in the operating activities section of a number of different companies are presented in Exhibit 2.15. Frequently, nonrecurring items appear in both the income statement and operating activities section of the statement of cash f lows. However, some nonrecurring items are disclosed in the statement of cash f lows but not the income statement. Exhibit 2.15 provides examples of both types of disclosure.

56 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 2.15 Disclosure of nonrecurring items in both the income statement and operating activities section of the statement of cash f lows. Company

Nonrecurring Item

Separately disclosed in both the income statement and statement of cash f lows Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (1999) Air T Inc. (2000) AmSouth Bancorporation (1999) Armstrong World Industries Inc. (1999) Baycorp Holdings Ltd. (1999) Callon Petroleum Company (1999) Corning Inc. (1999) Delta Air Lines Inc. (2000) The Fairchild Corporation (2000) Gerber Scientific Inc. (2000) Hercules Inc. (1999) Raven Industries Inc. (2000)

Gain on sale of Vantis Loss on the sale of assets Merger-related costs Charge for asbestos liability Unrealized loss on energy trading contracts Impairment of oil and gas properties Nonoperating gains Asset write-downs and other special charges Restructuring charges Nonrecurring special charges Charge for acquired in-process R&D Gain on sale of investment in affiliate

Separately disclosed only in the statement of cash f low Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (1999) Brush Wellman Inc. (1999) Chiquita Brands International Inc. (1999) Dal-Tile International Inc. (1999) Evans & Sutherland Computer Corporation (1998) M.A. Hanna Company (1999) H.J. Heinz Company (1999) JLG Industries Inc. (2000) Kulicke & Soffa Industries Inc. (1999) Petroleum Helicopters Inc. (1999) Schnitzer Steel Industries Inc. (1999) Synthetech Inc. (2000)

Charge for settlement of litigation Impairment of fixed assets and related intangibles Write-down of banana production assets, net Impairment of assets and foreign-currency gain Inventory write-downs Provision for loss on sale of assets Gain on sale of bakery products unit Restructuring charges Provision for impairment of goodwill Gain on asset dispositions Environmental reserve reversal Realized gain on sale of securities


Companies’ annual reports. The year following each company name designates the annual report from which the example was drawn.

Interpreting Information in the Operating Activities Section The statement of cash f lows is an important additional source of information on nonrecurring items. It enables one to detect items that are not disclosed separately in the income statement but appear in the statement of cash f lows because of either their noncash or nonoperating character. To realize the diagnostic value of the statement of cash f lows, one must determine which items in the operating activities section of the statement of cash f lows are nonrecurring. The appearance in the statement of cash f lows as merely an addition to or deduction from net income or loss does not signify that the item is nonrecurring. Some entries in this section simply ref lect the noncash character of

Analyzing Business Earnings


certain items of revenue, gain, expense, and loss. For example, depreciation and amortization are added back to Escalon’s net income or loss (Exhibit 2.14) because they are not cash expenses.20 The two asset write-downs are likewise added back to net income or loss because of their noncash character. However, a separate judgment may also be made that, unlike depreciation, these two items are both noncash and nonrecurring. Also notice that two different gains on sales of product lines are deducted in arriving at operating cash f low. It would be tempting to assume that these are noncash gains. However, the investing activities section of the Escalon statement of cash f lows, a portion of which is included in Exhibit 2.16, reveals this not to be the case. Cash inf lows of $2,059,835 and $2,117,180 from the sales of Betadine and Silicone Oil, respectively, are disclosed in cash f lows from investing activities. The gains are fully backed by cash inf lows, but they are deducted from net income because they are not considered a source of operating cash f low. Whatever the specific basis for deducting these gains from net income to arrive at cash f low from operating activities, the process of deduction simultaneously discloses these nonrecurring items. Two other items in Escalon’s operating activities section (Exhibit 2.14) require comment. First, the addition to the 2000 net loss of $33,382 for “equity in net loss of joint venture” is required because of the noncash nature of this loss. GAAPs require that a firm (the investor) with an ownership position that permits it to exercise significant inf luence over another company (the investee) short of control must recognize its share of the investee’s results. This principle caused Escalon to recognize its share of its investee’s loss in 2000. However, there is no cash outf low on Escalon’s part associated with simply recognizing this loss in its income statement.21 Therefore, the addition of the loss to net income simply ref lects its noncash character. Determining whether the loss is nonrecurring would require an examination of the income statement of the underlying investee company. The second item is the $75,000 of “income from license of intellectual laser property.” This item is deducted from 1998 net income in arriving at

EXHIBIT 2.16 Investing cash f lows: Escalon Medical Corporation, partial investing cash f lows section, years ended June 30. 1998



$(470,180) 375,164

$ (259,000) 589,016

$(7,043,061) 7,043,061

— — —

(1,000,000) 2,059,835 —

1,000,000 — 2,117,180

Cash Flows from Investing Activities: Purchase of investments Proceeds from maturities of investments Net change in cash and cash equivalents—restricted Proceeds from the sale of Betadine product line Proceeds from sales of Silicone Oil product line SOURCE :

Escalon Medical Corporation, annual report, June 2000, F-6.

58 Understanding the Numbers operating cash f low. This deduction may indicate either that no cash was collected in connection with recording this income or that the income is not considered to be an operating cash-f low item. The absence of a cash inf low is the more likely explanation. But should the $75,000 be seen as nonrecurring? If this were a one-time licensing fee, then it should be treated as nonrecurring in evaluating the $171,472 of 1998 net income. Escalon has a substantial net-operating-loss carryforward, and its 1998 pretax and after-tax results are the same. As a result, this $75,000 of income amounted to 44% of Escalon’s 1998 net income. The absence of this item in the cash f lows statement in either 1999 or 2000 gives the licensing fee the appearance of being nonrecurring.

NONR ECURR ING ITEMS IN THE INVENTORY DISCLOSUR ES OF LIFO FI RMS The carrying values of inventories maintained under the LIFO method are sometimes significantly understated in relationship to their replacement cost. For public companies, the difference between the LIFO carrying value and replacement cost (frequently approximated by FIFO) is a required disclosure under SEC regulations.22 An example of a substantial difference between LIFO and current replacement value is found in a summary of the inventory disclosures of Handy and Harman Inc. in Exhibit 2.17. A reduction in the physical inventory quantities of a LIFO inventory is called a LIFO liquidation. With a LIFO liquidation a portion of the firm’s cost of sales for the year will consist of the carrying values associated with the liquidated units. These costs are typically lower than current replacement costs, resulting in increased profits or reduced losses. As with the differences between the LIFO cost and the replacement value of the LIFO inventory, SEC regulations also call for disclosures of the effect of LIFO liquidations.23 Handy and Harman had LIFO liquidations in both 1996 and 1997. In line with these SEC requirements, Handy and Harman provided the following disclosure of the effects of these inventory reductions: Included in continuing operations for 1996 and 1997 are profits before taxes of $33,630,000 and $6,408,000, respectively, from reduction in the quantities of

EXHIBIT 2.17 LIFO inventor y valuation dif ferences: Handy and Harman Inc. inventor y footnote, years ended December 31 (in thousands).

Precious metals stated at LIFO cost LIFO inventory—excess of year-end market value over LIFO cost SOURCE :



$24,763 97,996

$ 20,960 106,201

Data obtained from Disclosure Inc., Compact D/SEC: Corporate Information on Public Companies Filing with the SEC (Bethesda, MD: Disclosure Inc., June 1998).

Analyzing Business Earnings


precious metal inventories valued under the LIFO method. The after-tax effect on continuing operations for 1996 and 1997 amounted to $19,260,000 ($1.40 per basic share) and $3,717,000 ($.31 per basic share), respectively.24

The effect of the Handy and Harman LIFO liquidation is quite dramatic. Including the effects of the LIFO liquidations, Handy and Harman reported after-tax income from continuing operations of $33,773,000 in 1996 and $20,910,000 in 1997. Of the after-tax earnings from continuing operations 57% in 1996 and 18% in 1997 resulted from the LIFO liquidations. Handy and Harman reported benefits from LIFO liquidations for most years between 1991 and 1997. Although Handy and Harman reported LIFO liquidations with some regularity, an analysis of sustainable earnings should consider the profit improvements from the liquidations to be nonrecurring. The LIFO-liquidation benefits result from reductions in the physical quantity of inventory. There are obvious limits on the ability to sustain these liquidations in future years; as a practical matter, the inventory cannot be reduced to zero.25 Moreover, the variability in the size of the liquidation benefits argues for the nonrecurring classification. The profit improvements resulting from the LIFO liquidations simply represent the realization of an undervalued asset and are analogous to the gain associated with the disposition of an undervalued investment, piece of equipment, or plot of land. A statement user cannot rely on the disclosure requirements of the SEC when reviewing the statements of nonpublic companies, especially where an outside accountant has performed only a review or compilation.26 However, one can infer the possibility of a LIFO liquidation through the combination of a decline in the dollar amount of inventory across the year and an otherwise unexplainable improvement in gross margins. Details on the existence and impact of a LIFO liquidation could then be discussed with management.27

NONR ECURR ING ITEMS IN THE INCOME TAX NOTE Income tax notes are among the more challenging of the disclosures found in annual reports. They can, however, be a rich source of information on nonrecurring items. Fortunately, our emphasis on the persistence of earnings requires a focus on a single key schedule found in the standard income tax note. The goal is simply to identify nonrecurring tax increases and decreases in this schedule. The key source of information on nonrecurring increases and decreases in income taxes is a schedule that reconciles the actual tax expense or tax benefit with the amount that would have resulted if all pretax results had been taxed at the statutory federal rate. This disclosure for Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) is presented in Exhibit 2.18. Notice that ADM’s effective tax rate is reduced in 2000 by 17 percentage points as a result of redetermining taxes in prior years. This percentage reduction

60 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 2.18 Reconciliation of statutor y and actual federal tax rates: Archer Daniels Midland Company, years ended June 30. 1998



Statutory rate Prior years tax redetermination Foreign sales corporation State income taxes, net of federal benefit Indefinitely invested foreign earnings Litigation settlements and fines Other

35.0% — (4.7) 2.4 0.7 1.4 (1.0)

35.0% — (4.5) 2.2 (1.8) — 2.1

35.0% (17.0) (6.3) 2.7 (0.3) — 0.7

Effective rate





Archer Daniels Midland Company, annual report, June 2000, 32.

is expressed in terms of the relationship of the tax reduction to income from continuing operations before taxes. ADM’s 2000 pretax income from continuing operations is $353,237,000 and its total tax provision was $52,334,000. The 2000 effective tax rate, disclosed in Exhibit 2.18, is derived by dividing the total tax provision by income from continuing operations before taxes: $52,334,000 divided by $353,237,000 equals 14.8%. The dollar, as opposed to percentage tax savings, is found by multiplying 17% times the 2000 pretax earnings: $353,237,000 × 0.17 = $60 million. ADM explained that “The decrease in income taxes for 2000 resulted primarily from a $60 million tax credit related to a redetermination of foreign sales corporation benefits and the resolution of various other tax issues.”28 ADM had a dispute with tax authorities over taxes for previous years, and it won. While there may be some ongoing benefit from this outcome, the $60 million should be viewed as nonrecurring in evaluating ADM’s earnings performance. Ongoing tax savings from its foreign sales corporations will continue to be realized and will be ref lected in the reduced level of the ADM effective tax rate. ADM’s 1998 effective tax rate was also increased by 1.4 percentage points as a result of fines and litigation settlements being deducted in arriving at pretax earnings. For income tax purposes, however, these amounts are not deductible, which means that unlike most other expenses these fines and settlements reduce after-tax earnings by the full amount of the expenses. There are no associated income tax savings, and the 1.4-percentage-point increase in the effective tax rate for 1998 is due to the nondeductible character of the litigation settlements and fines. The nonrecurring item in this case is simply the total of the fines and settlements. The tax benefit not realized because of the nondeductibility of the fines and settlements is not a separate nonrecurring item. ADM’s net income increased from about $266 million in 1999 to about $301 million in 2000. Without the $60 million nonrecurring tax benefit, ADM’s 2000 net income would have declined to $241 million: $301 million − $60 million = $241 million. Identifying and adjusting 2000 earnings for this nonrecurring tax benefit results in a far different message: a decline in earnings in contrast to the reported increase.

Analyzing Business Earnings


The benefit from the tax redetermination is clearly a nonrecurring item. The tax reductions due to the foreign sales corporation feature of the tax law may or may not be sustainable. Any profit component that relies on a specific feature of the current tax law should be viewed as somewhat vulnerable. That is, its continuance requires that (1) this feature of the tax law be preserved and (2) that ADM continues to take the actions necessary to earn these tax benefits. The ADM disclosures provide one example of a nonrecurring tax benefit plus at least one example of a benefit that may be somewhat more vulnerable than other sources of operating profit. Exhibit 2.19 provides a sampling of other nonrecurring tax benefits and tax charges that were found in recent company tax notes. The tax benefits of both Biogen and Dana result from utilizing loss carryforwards whose benefits had not previously been recognized. The losses that produced the tax savings originated in earlier periods. Because the likelihood of their realization was not sufficiently high, the potential tax savings of the losses were not recognized in the income statements in the years in which these losses were incurred. The subsequent realization of these benefits occurs when the operating and capital loss carryforwards are used to shield operating earnings and capital gains, respectively, from taxation. These benefits should be treated as nonrecurring in analyzing earnings performance for the year in which the benefits are realized. Gerber Scientific’s effective tax rate was reduced as a result of its recognizing benefits from research and development tax credits. This feature of the tax law is designed to encourage R&D spending. As with all other tax credits, continuation of this source of tax reduction requires that the feature continue to be part of the tax law and that Gerber make the R&D expenditures necessary to earn future benefits. The nonrecurring items of First Aviation Services and Micron Technology both result from adjustments of their tax valuation allowances. The allowance balances represent the portion of tax benefits that have been judged unlikely to be realized.29 Increasing this balance will create a nonrecurring tax EXHIBIT 2.19 Examples of nonrecurring income tax charges and benef its. Company

Nonrecurring Charge or Benefit

Biogen Inc. (1999) Dana Corporation (1999) Detection Systems Inc. (2000) First Aviation Services Inc. (1999) The Fairchild Corporation (2000) Gerber Scientific Inc. (2000) M.A. Hanna Company (1999) Micron Technology Inc. (2000) Pall Corporation (2000)

Benefits from net operating loss utilization Capital loss utilization tax benefit Benefit from lower foreign tax rates Benefit from valuation allowance decrease Benefit from revision of estimate for tax accruals Research and development tax credit Benefit from reversal of tax liability—tax settlement Charge for valuation allowance increase Tax benefit of Puerto Rico operations


Companies’ annual reports. The year following each company name designates the annual report from which the example was drawn.

62 Understanding the Numbers charge; decreasing it, a benefit. The prospects for realization of the tax benefit must have declined for Micron Technology but improved for First Aviation Services. Both the Fairchild Corporation and M.A. Hanna Company tax benefits were the result of reducing previously recorded tax obligations. Subsequent information indicated that the liabilities where overstated. The liability reduction was offset by a comparable reduction in the tax provision. This benefit should also be viewed as nonrecurring. Pall Corporation has a tax reduction that is associated with operations located in Puerto Rico. In fact, most firms with operations in other countries produce such tax benefits. Foreign states offer these benefits to encourage companies, typically manufacturing companies, to locate within their borders. In many cases these benefits are for a limited period of time, though renewals are sometimes possible. As a result, while the benefits are real, there remains a possibility that they will cease at some point. In fact, Pall Corporation disclosed just such a change in its income tax note: The Company has two Puerto Rico subsidiaries that are organized as “possessions corporations” as defined in Section 936 of the Internal Revenue Code. The Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996 repealed Section 936 of the Internal Revenue Code, which provided a tax credit for U.S. companies with operations in certain U.S. possessions, including Puerto Rico. For companies with existing qualifying Puerto Rico operations, such as Pall, Section 936 will be phased out over a period of several years, with a decreasing credit being available through the last taxable year beginning before January 1, 2006.

This change in U.S. tax law means that previous tax benefits from the operations in Puerto Rico are not sustainable. When a company reports tax benefits because of operations in other countries, the possibility that the benefits might end or be reduced should be considered.

NONR ECURR ING ITEMS IN THE OTHER INCOME AND EX PENSE NOTE An “other income (expense), net,” or equivalent line item is commonly found in both the single- and multistep income statement. In the case of the multistep format, the composition of other income and expenses is sometimes detailed on the face of the income statement. In both the multi- and single-step formats, the most typical presentation is a single line item with a supporting note. Even though a note detailing the contents of other income and expense may exist, companies typically do not specify its location. Other income and expense notes tend to be listed close to the end of the notes to the financial statements. The other income and expense note of The Sherwin-Williams Company is provided in Exhibit 2.20. The balance (income) of the Sherwin-Williams other income and expense note shows a modest increase between 1997 to 1998 and

Analyzing Business Earnings


EXHIBIT 2.20 Composition of an other income and expense note: The Sherwin-Williams Company, years ended December 31 (in thousands).

Dividend and royalty income Net expense of financing and investing activities Provisions for environmental matters, net Provisions for disposition and termination of operations Foreign currency transaction losses Miscellaneous




$ (3,361) 3,688 107

$ (3,069) 2,542 695

$ (4,692) 7,084 15,402

4,152 15,580 3,199

12,290 11,773 1,815

3,830 3,333 4,583




Note: Note references included in the Sher win-Williams this schedule have been omitted. SOURCE :

The Sher win-Williams Company, annual report, December 1999, 30.

1998 to 1999. In the absence of sharp changes in the balance over time, an analyst would be less inclined to look for a note detailing the makeup of the balance on the face of the income statement. However, some large nonrecurring items underlie this net balance. Notice the very large increase in the provision for environmental matters. This increase is in turn offset in part by the sharp decline in the provision for disposition and termination of operations. Similarly, the foreign currency loss declined by about $12 million over the three years covered by the note. Some or all of the large 1999 increase in the provision for environmental matters should be considered to be nonrecurring. This would mean that results for 1999 would appear somewhat stronger with the provision added back to earnings. Some or all of the $12 million provision for disposition and termination of operations should also be added back to results for 1998. Foreign currency gains and losses usually are not treated as nonrecurring. However, the case was made in Exhibit 2.2 (Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company) for treating them as nonrecurring when they are very irregular, either in terms of amount or sign (i.e., gain versus loss). The Sherwin-Williams foreigncurrency loss declined by about $12 million between 1997 and 1999. Nonrecurring elements are included in at least three of the line items in the Sherwin-Williams other income and expense note. The net balance of the other income and expense line item has changed only modestly in the face of very substantial changes in the components of the net balance. The smooth and modest growth in this net balance contributes in turn to preserving the growth and stability of the bottom line, or net income. There is always the possibility that some of the offsetting balances in the Sherwin-Williams note were recorded for the purpose of producing smooth growth in this line item. The location and careful analysis of the other income and expense note is especially important in the case of income statements with very little detail. In this regard, firm size and the level of detail in the income statement appear to

64 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 2.21 Composition of the other income and expense note: C.R. Bard Inc., years ended December 31 (in thousands). 1997



Interest income Foreign exchange (gains) losses Legal and patent settlements, net Asset write-down Restructuring Gains from sale of product lines and other Acquired R&D Other, net

$ (3,500) — 2,000 8,500 44,100 (24,500) — —

$(6,000) (2,100) (48,600) 34,100 3,200 — 6,400 10,100

$(2,100) (900) — 9,700 — — — (200)




$ 6,500


C.R. Bard Inc., annual report, December 1999, 27.

be inversely related. For example, excluding subtotals and the bottom line of the income statement, C.R. Bard had a total of only eight line items on its 1997 to 1999 income statements. However, its other income and expense note (Exhibit 2.21) includes numerous nonrecurring items. A review only of C.R. Bard’s 1997 to 1999 income statements would have yielded a single nonrecurring item. Depending on what is judged to be nonrecurring, Bard’s other income and expense note yields an additional nine to eleven nonrecurring items. As with the Sherwin-Williams note, there is a tendency for nonrecurring items to offset each other. Notice that Bard booked a $24.5 million gain in 1997, when it also had a restructuring charge of $44.1 million. Also, an asset write-down of $34.1 million partially offset a $48.6 million gain from legal and patent settlements in 1998.30 Careful analysis of the composition of other income and expense line items is very important in locating nonrecurring items. As the disclosures of both Sherwin-Williams and C.R. Bard illustrate, this task is made far easier if a note is provided detailing the line item’s composition. However, you should not expect to be guided to the note by a reference attached to this line item in the income statement.

NONR ECURR ING ITEMS IN MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS (MD&A) Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations (MD&A) is an annual and a quarterly Securities and Exchange Commission reporting requirement. Provisions of this regulation have a direct bearing on the goal of locating nonrecurring items. As part of the MD&A, the SEC requires registrants to: Describe any unusual or infrequent events or transactions or any significant economic changes that materially affected the amount of reported income from

Analyzing Business Earnings


continuing operations and, in each case, indicate the extent to which income was so affected. In addition, describe any other significant components of revenues and expenses that, in the registrant’s judgment, should be described in order to understand the registrant’s results of operations.31

Complying with this regulation will require some firms to identify and discuss items that may have already been listed in other financial statements and notes. In reviewing the MD&A with a view to locating nonrecurring items, the analyst should focus on the section dealing with results of operations. Here management presents a comparison of results over the most recent three years; comparing, for example, 2001 with 2002 and 2002 with 2003 is standard. Locating nonrecurring items in MD&A is somewhat more difficult than locating them in other places. Typically the nonrecurring items in MD&A are discussed in text and are not set out in schedules or statements. However, a small number of firms do summarize nonrecurring items in schedules within MD&A. These tend to be more comprehensive and user-friendly than piecemeal disclosures embedded in text. The disclosure presented earlier in Exhibit 2.1 provided a restatement of the as-reported net income of Mason Dixon Bancshares. This restatement removed the effects of all items considered by Mason Dixon to be nonrecurring.32 This disclosure was found in the MD&A of Mason Dixon. An additional example of the disclosure of nonrecurring items from the MD&A of Phillips Petroleum Company is presented in Exhibit 2.22. Unlike Mason Dixon, Phillips Petroleum’s schedule simply presents a listing of their nonrecurring items. Phillips Petroleum uses the term “special items” to describe the items in Exhibit 2.22. The reluctance to refer to these items as “nonrecurring” is understandable. Four of the seven line items include amounts in each of the three EXHIBIT 2.22

Nonrecurring items included in MD&A of f inancial condition and results of operations: Phillips Petroleum Company, years ended December 31 (in millions). 1997



Kenai tax settlement Property impairments Tyonek prospect dry hole costs Net gains on asset sales Work force reduction charges Pending claims and settlements Other items

$83 (46) — 16 (3) 15 —

$115 (274) (71) 21 (60) 108 23

— $(34) — 73 (3) 35 (10)

Total special items




Note: The above numbers have been presented on an after-tax basis. Also, in a footnote to this schedule, not provided here, Phillips disclosed that the 1997 and 1998 numbers had been restated to exclude foreign-currency transaction gains and losses. That is, they were previously considered to be special (nonrecurring) items but now are not. SOURCE : Phillips Petroleum Company, annual report, December 1999, 33.

66 Understanding the Numbers years. This might seem inconsistent with the term nonrecurring. Phillips Petroleum provides the following explanation of the special items: Net income is affected by transactions defined by management and termed special items, which are not representative of the company’s ongoing operations. These transactions can obscure the underlying operating results for a period and affect comparability of operating results between periods.33

While Phillips Petroleum uses special to describe what we have referred to as nonrecurring, the above description of its special items is consistent with earlier discussion in this chapter. Phillips provided the following discussion of the effects of the information in Exhibit 2.22 on net income: Phillips’s net income was $609 million in 1999, up 157 percent from net income of $237 million in 1998. Special items benefited 1999 net income by $61 million, while reducing net income in 1998 by $138 million. After excluding these items, net operating income for 1999 was $548 million, a 46 percent increase over $375 million in 1998.34

The above comments reveal a sharply lower growth in profit in 1999 after adjusting for the effects of the nonrecurring (special) items. A 157% increase in net income drops to 46% after adjustment for the nonrecurring items. Notice that the above discussion refers to the adjusted net income numbers as the “net operating income.” This is consistent with the characterization of the special items as “not representative of the company’s ongoing operations.” Nevertheless, we will continue to use the term sustainable to refer to earnings that have been adjusted for nonrecurring items. Presenting information on nonrecurring items in MD&A schedules is still a fairly limited practice but may be on the rise.35 Though helpful in locating nonrecurring items, such schedules must be viewed as useful complements to but not substitutes for a complete search and restatement process. Textual discussion and disclosure of the effects on nonrecurring items on earnings is far more common than user-friendly schedules. The disclosures of C.R. Bard Inc. are illustrative: In 1999, Bard reported net income of $118.1 million or diluted earnings per share of $2.28. Excluding the impact of the after-tax gain on the sale of the cardiopulmonary business of $0.12 and the impact of the fourth quarter writedown of impaired assets of $0.11, diluted earnings per share was $2.27.36

Bard included information on revised results for each of the three years included in its 1999 annual report. The adjusted earnings-per-share series provides a better indicator of underlying trends in operating performance and is a more reliable base on which to develop projections of future earnings. The asreported and revised earnings-per-share information is summarized in Exhibit 2.23. As is common, the adjusted earnings, from which the effects of nonrecurring items have been removed, are less volatile.

Analyzing Business Earnings EXHIBIT 2.23

Reported and revised earnings per share: C.R. Bard Inc., years ended December 31.


As-Reported Earnings per Share

Adjusted Earnings per Share

1997 1998 1999

$1.26 4.51 2.28

$1.67 1.76 2.27



C.R. Bard Inc., annual report, December 1999.

The discussion to this point has taken us through the first six steps in the nonrecurring-items search process outlined in Exhibit 2.3. The seventh and last step illustrates how additional nonrecurring items may sometimes be located in other selected notes to the financial statements.

NONR ECURR ING ITEMS IN OTHER SELECTED NOTES Typically, most material nonrecurring items will have been located by proceeding through the first six steps of the search sequence in Exhibit 2.3. However, some additional nonrecurring items may be located in other notes. Nonrecurring items can surface in virtually any note to the financial statements. We will now discuss three selected notes that frequently contain other nonrecurring items: notes on foreign exchange, restructuring, and quarterly and segment financial data. Recall that inventory, income tax, and other income and expense notes have already been discussed in steps 3 to 5.

Foreign Exchange Notes Foreign exchange gains and losses can result from both transaction and translation exposure. Transaction gains and losses result from either unhedged or partially hedged foreign-currency exposure.37 This exposure is created by items such as accounts receivable and accounts payable resulting from sales and purchases denominated in foreign currencies. As foreign-currency exchange rates change, the value of the foreign-currency assets and liabilities will expand and contract. This results, in turn, in foreign currency transaction gains and losses. This is the essence of the concept of currency exposure. Translation gains and losses result from either unhedged or partially hedged exposure associated with foreign subsidiaries. Translation exposure depends on the mix of assets and liabilities of the foreign subsidiary. In addition, the character of the operations of the foreign subsidiary and features of the foreign economy are also factors in determining both exposure and the translation method applied. There are two possible statement translation methods, and of the two only one results in translation gains or losses that appear as

68 Understanding the Numbers part of net income. With the other method, the translation adjustment will be reported as part of other comprehensive income.38 Foreign-currency gains and losses can also result from the use of various currency contracts, such as forwards, futures, options, and swaps, entered into for both hedging and speculation. It is not uncommon to observe foreign exchange gains and losses year after year in a company’s income statement. The amounts of these items, however, as well as whether they are gains or losses are often very irregular, making them candidates for nonrecurring classification. To illustrate, a portion of a note titled “foreign currency translation” from the 1993 annual report of Dibrell Brothers Inc. follows: Net gains and losses arising from transaction adjustments are accumulated on a net basis by entity and are included in the Statement of Consolidated Income, Other Income—Sundry for gains, Other Deductions—Sundry for losses. For 1993, the transaction adjustments netted to a gain of $4,180,000. The transaction adjustments were losses of $565,000 and $206,000 for 1992 and 1991, respectively, and were primarily related to the Company’s Brazilian operations.39

The gains and losses disclosed above appeared as adjustments, ref lecting either their noncash or nonoperating character, in the operating activities of Dibrell’s statement of cash f lows. The effect of the 1993 currency exchange gain is also referenced in Dibrell’s MD&A as part of the comparison of earnings in 1993 to those in 1992.40 While appearing in each of the past three years, Dibrell’s foreigncurrency gains and losses were far from stable—two years of small losses followed by a year with a large gain. One way to gauge the significance of these exchange items is to compute their contribution to the growth in income before income taxes, extraordinary items, and cumulative effect of accounting changes. This computation is outlined for 1993 in Exhibit 2.24.

EXHIBIT 2.24 Contribution of foreign-currency gains to pretax income from continuing operations: Dibrell Brothers Inc., years ended December 31. Pretax income from continuing operations 1993 1992 Increase Foreign-currency gains and losses 1993 gain 1992 loss Improvement Contribution of the improvement in foreign currency results to 1993 pretax income from continuing operations: $4,745,000/$15,012,700

$58,259,560 43,246,860 $15,012,700 $ 4,180,000 565,000 $ 4,745,000


Analyzing Business Earnings


Dibrell’s currency gain made a major contribution to its profit growth in 1993. Hence, a separate note to the financial statements is devoted to its discussion and disclosure. Following the recommended search sequence, these items would be identified at step 2, the statement of cash f lows, or step 6, MD&A. If search failures occur at these steps, then examination of the foreign exchange note would be a backup to ensure that the important information contained in this note is available in assessing Dibrell’s 1993 performance.

Restructuring Notes The past decade has been dominated by the corporate equivalent of a diet program. Call it streamlining, downsizing, rightsizing, redeploying, or strategic repositioning—the end result is that firms have been recording nonrecurring charges of a size and frequency that are unprecedented in our modern economic history. The size and scope of these activities ensure that they leave their tracks throughout the statements and notes. Notes on restructuring charges are among the most common transaction-specific notes. The Fairchild Corporation’s restructuring note is provided in Exhibit 2.25. A number of different items make up the Fairchild restructuring charge. Included are severance benefits, asset write-offs, and integration costs. Fairchild declares that the charges recorded in fiscal 2000 “were the direct result of formal plans to move equipment, close plants and to terminate employees.” This point is made to counter criticism that some restructuring charges go well beyond restructuring activities to accrue unrelated costs plus costs that should properly be charged against future operations. A tendency to overaccrue restructuring charges has a number of possible explanations. First, firms facing a poor year for profits may decide to take a “big EXHIBIT 2.25 Sample restructuring note: The Fairchild Corporation, year ended June 30, 2000 (in thousands). In fiscal 1999, we recorded $6,374 of restructuring charges. Of this amount, $500 was recorded at our corporate office for severance benefits and $348 was recorded at our aerospace distribution segment for the write-off of building improvements from premises vacated. The remaining $5,526 was recorded as a result of the Kaynar Technologies initial integration into our aerospace fasteners segment, i.e., for severance benefits ($3,932), for product integration costs incurred as of June 30, 1999 ($1,334) and for the write-down of fixed assets ($260). In fiscal 2000, we recorded $8,578 of restructuring charges as a result of the continued integration of Kaynar Technologies into our aerospace fasteners segment. All of the charges recorded during the current year were a direct result of product and plant integration costs incurred as of June 30, 2000. These costs were classified as restructuring and were the direct result of formal plans to move equipment, close plants and to terminate employees. Such costs are nonrecurring in nature. Other than a reduction in our existing cost structure, none of the restructuring charges resulted in future increases in earnings or represented an accrual of future costs. As of June 30, 2000, significantly all of our integration plans have been executed and our integration process is substantially complete. SOURCE :

The Fairchild Corporation, annual report, June 2000, F-27.

70 Understanding the Numbers bath” and recognize excessive amounts of restructuring costs. The assumption is that simply increasing a current-period loss will not have additional negative consequences for share values. Moreover, by writing off costs currently, future profits are relieved of this burden and will therefore look stronger. Restructuring charges have attracted the attention of the SEC. Arthur Levitt, chairman of the SEC, has registered strong objections against the use of overstated restructuring accruals to increase the earnings of subsequent periods.41 The chairman refers to these excessive reserves as “cookie jar” reserves.42 There has also been some resistance to considering restructuring charges to be nonrecurring. The very need for restructuring charges indicates that earnings in previous periods were overstated. Moreover, restructuring charges commonly recur with some frequency. Note that the Fairchild disclosure in Exhibit 2.25 reveals a second charge following the initial charge for the restructuring of Kaynar Technologies. In some circles restructuring charges are referred to as “co*ckroach” charges—from the old saying that if you see one co*ckroach there are many more where that one came from. Restructuring charges will continue to be common in income statements until the level of restructuring activity in the economy subsides. In the meantime, restructuring charges and associated reversals of charges should typically be treated as nonrecurring, even though they may appear with some repetition. At some point firms will complete the bulk of their restructuring activities, and the charges will either disappear or drop to immaterial levels. The materiality of most restructuring charges is such that it would be difficult to miss them. In the case of The Fairchild Corporation (Exhibit 2.25), the restructuring charges were disclosed in at least five separate locations as follows: 1. On a separate line item within the operating income section of the income statement (step one in the nonrecurring items search sequence). 2. Within the operating activities section of the statement of cash f lows, with the noncash portion of the charges added back to net earnings or loss (step 2 in the search sequence). 3. Disclosed in the section of the MD&A dealing with earnings (step 6 in the search sequence). 4. Disclosed in a separate note to the financial statements on restructuring charges (step 7[d]). 5. Disclosed in a note dealing with segment reporting (step 7[f] in the search sequence).

Quarterly and Segmental Financial Data Quarterly and segmental financial disclosures frequently reveal nonrecurring items. In the case of segment disclosures, the goal is to aid in the evaluation of profitability trends by segments. The Fairchild Corporation discussion (Exhibit 2.25) disclosed its restructuring charges in the reports of segment results.

Analyzing Business Earnings


Quarterly financial data of Office Depot Inc. disclosed inventory writedowns of $56.1 million for the third quarter of 1999, a store closure and relocation charge of $46.4 million in the third quarter of 1999, and a $6.0 million reversal of the charge in the fourth quarter of 1999. Office Depot also disclosed merger and restructuring charges as part of the reporting for its segments.43 To complete this review of selected financial statement notes, we discuss one last item before illustrating the summarization of information on nonrecurring items and the development of the sustainable earnings series. This topic is the most recent standard-setting activity with a focus on the fundamental structure and content of the income statement.

EAR NINGS ANALYSIS AND OTHER COMPR EHENSIVE INCOME The last section in the AK Steel Holdings income statement in Exhibit 2.9 is devoted to the reporting of other comprehensive income. This is a relatively new feature of the income statement and was introduced with the issuance by the FASB of SFAS No. 130, Reporting Comprehensive Income.44 The goal of the standard is to expand the concept of income to included selected items of nonrecurring revenue, gain, expense and loss. Under the new standard, traditional net income is combined with a new component, “other comprehensive income,” to produce a new bottom line, “comprehensive income.” The principal elements of other comprehensive income are listed in the other comprehensive income section of the AK Steel Holdings comprehensive income statement (Exhibit 2.9). They include: 1. Foreign currency translation adjustments.45 2. Unrealized gains and losses on certain securities. 3. Minimum pension liability adjustments. Each one of these items was already recognized prior to the issuance of SFAS No. 130. However, they were reported not as part of net income but directly in shareholders’ equity. The items made their way into the income statement only if they became realized gains or losses by, for example, selling securities. Notice that the AK Steel disclosures in Exhibit 2.9 list the reclassification of gains on securities that had previously been recognized in other comprehensive income. When these gains were realized they were reported in net income. However, since they had earlier been included in other comprehensive income, avoiding double counting them requires an adjustment to other comprehensive income in the year of sale. SFAS No. 130 permitted other comprehensive income to be reported in three different ways. The preferred alternative was the income statement format of AK Steel, though reporting other comprehensive income in a separate income statement was also permitted. The third option permitted other comprehensive income to be reported directly in shareholders’ equity. It should

72 Understanding the Numbers come as no surprise that most firms have elected this third option. Firms have an aversion to including items in the income statement that have the potential to increase the volatility of earnings. Hence, given the option, firms can and did choose to avoid the income statement.46 There is scant evidence at this time that statement users pay any attention to other comprehensive income. Companies do not include other comprehensive income in discussions of their earnings performance, nor does the financial press comment on it when earnings are announced. Earnings per share statistics do not incorporate other comprehensive income. Other comprehensive income is not currently part of earnings analysis. Hence, we consider it no further. Attitudes may change, however, about the usefulness of other comprehensive income as analysts and others become more familiar with these relatively new disclosures. It seems worthwhile to at least be made aware of these disclosures as part of a thorough treatment of income statement structure and content. With the structure of the income statement and relevant GAAP now reviewed, the nature of nonrecurring items considered, and methods of locating nonrecurring items outlined and illustrated, we can turn to the task of developing the sustainable earnings series.

SUMMAR IZING NONR ECURR ING ITEMS AND DETERMINING SUSTAINABLE EAR NINGS The work to this point has laid out important background but is not complete. Still required is a device to assist in summarizing information discovered on nonrecurring items so that new measures of sustainable earnings can be developed. We devote the balance of this chapter to introducing a worksheet specially designed to summarize nonrecurring items and illustrating its development and interpretation in a case study.47

THE SUSTAINABLE EAR NINGS WOR KSHEET The sustainable earnings worksheet is shown in Exhibit 2.26. Detailed instructions on completing the worksheet follow: 1. Net income or loss is recorded on the top line of the worksheet. 2. All identified items of nonrecurring expense or loss, which were included in the income statement on a pretax basis, are recorded on the “add” lines provided. Where a prelabeled line is not listed in the worksheet, a descriptive phrase should be recorded on one of the “other” lines and the amounts recorded there. In practice, the process of locating nonrecurring items and recording them on the worksheet would take place at the same time. However, effective use of the worksheet calls for the background provided earlier in the chapter. This explains the separation of these steps in this chapter.

Analyzing Business Earnings


EXHIBIT 2.26 Adjustment worksheet for sustainable earnings base. Year



Reported net income or (loss) Add Pretax LIFO liquidation losses Losses on sales of fixed assets Losses on sales of investments Losses on sales of other asset Restructuring charges Investment write-downs Inventory write-downs Other asset write-downs Foreign currency losses Litigation charges Losses on patent infringement suits Exceptional bad-debt provisions Nonrecurring expense increases Temporary revenue reductions Other Other Other Subtotal Multiply by (1-combined federal, state tax rates) Tax-adjusted additions Add After-tax LIFO liquidation losses Increases in deferred tax valuation allowances Other nonrecurring tax charges Losses on discontinued operations Extraordinary losses Losses/cumulative-effect accounting changes Other Other Other Subtotal Total additions Deduct Pretax LIFO liquidation gains Gains on fixed asset sales Gains on sales of investments Gains on sales of other assets Reversals of restructuring accruals Investment write-ups (trading account) Foreign currency gains Litigation revenues (continued)

74 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 2.26 (Continued) Year



Gains on patent infringement suits Temporary expense decreases Temporary revenue increases Reversals of bad-debt allowances Other Other Other Subtotal Multiply by Times (1-combined federal, state tax rate) Tax-adjusted deductions After-tax LIFO liquidation gains Reductions in deferred tax valuation allowances Loss carryforward benefits from prior years Other nonrecurring tax benefits Gains on discontinued operations Extraordinary gains Gains/cumulative-effect accounting changes Other Other Other Subtotal Total deductions Sustainable earnings base

3. When all pretax nonrecurring expenses and losses have been recorded, subtotals should be computed. These subtotals are then multiplied times 1 minus a representative combined federal, state, and foreign income-tax rate. This puts these items on an after-tax basis so that they are stated on the same basis as net income or net loss. 4. The results from step 3 should be recorded on the line titled “tax-adjusted additions.” 5. All after-tax nonrecurring expenses or losses are next added separately. These items are either tax items or special income-statement items that are disclosed on an after-tax basis under GAAP, such as discontinued operations, extraordinary items, or the cumulative effect of accounting changes. The effects of LIFO liquidations are sometimes presented pretax and sometimes after-tax. Note that a line item is provided for the effect of LIFO liquidations in both the pretax and after-tax additions section of the worksheet.

Analyzing Business Earnings


6. Changes in deferred-tax-valuation allowances are recorded in the taxadjusted additions (or deductions) section only if such changes affected net income or net loss for the period. Evidence of an income-statement impact will usually take the form of an entry in the income tax ratereconciliation schedule. 7. The next step is to subtotal the entries for after-tax additions and then combine this subtotal with the amount labeled “tax adjusted additions.” The result is then recorded on the “total additions” line at the bottom of the first page of the worksheet. 8. Completion of page 2 of the worksheet, for nonrecurring revenues and gains, follows exactly the same steps as those outlined for nonrecurring expense and loss. 9. With the completion of page 2, the sustainable earnings base for each year is computed by adding the “total additions” line item to net income (loss) and then deducting the “total deductions” line item.

ROLE OF THE SUSTAINABLE EAR NINGS BASE The sustainable earnings base provides earnings information from which the distorting effects of nonrecurring items have been removed. Some analysts refer to such revised numbers as representing “core” or “underlying” earnings. Sustainable is used here in the sense that earnings devoid of nonrecurring items of revenue, gain, expense, and loss are much more likely to be maintained in the future, other things equal. Base implies that sustainable earnings provide the most reliable foundation or starting point for projections of future results. The more reliable such forecasts become, the less the likelihood that earnings surprises will result. Again, Phillips Petroleum captures the essence of nonrecurring items in the following: Net income is affected by transactions defined by management and termed “special items,” which are not representative of the company’s ongoing operations. These transactions can obscure the underlying operating results for a period and affect comparability of operating results between periods.48

APPLICATION OF THE SUSTAINABLE EAR NINGS BASE WOR KSHEET: BAK ER HUGHES INC. This case example of using the SEB worksheet is based on the 1997 annual report of Baker Hughes Inc. and its results for 1995 to 1997. The income statement, statement of cash f lows, management’s discussion and analysis of results of operations (MD&A), and selected notes are in Exhibits 2.27 through 2.34. Further, to reinforce the objective of efficiency in financial analysis, we adhere to the search sequence outlined in Exhibit 2.3.

76 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 2.27 Consolidated statements of operations: Baker Hughes Inc., years ended September 30 (in millions).

Revenues: Sales Services and rentals Total Costs and expenses: Costs of sales Costs of services and rentals Selling, general, and administrative Amortization of goodwill and other intangibles Unusual charge Acquired in-process research and development Total Operating income




$1,805.1 832.4

$2,046.8 980.9

$2,466.7 1,218.7




$1,133.6 475.1 743.0 29.9 —

$1,278.1 559.5 814.2 29.6 39.6 —

$1,573.3 682.9 966.9 32.3 52.1 118.0




$ 255.9

$ 306.7

$ 259.9

Interest expense Interest income Gain on sale of Varco stock

(55.6) 4.8 —

(55.5) 3.4 44.3

(48.6) 1.8 —

Income before income taxes and cumulative effect of accounting changes Income taxes

205.1 (85.1)

298.9 (122.5)

213.1 (104.0)




Income before cumulative effect of accounting changes Cumulative effect of accounting changes: Impairment of long-lived assets to be disposed of (net of $6.0 income tax benefit) Postemployment benefits (net of $7.9 income tax benefit) Net income SOURCE :

(12.1) (14.6) $ 105.4

— $ 176.4

— $


Baker Hughes Inc., annual report, September 1997, 37.

Most of the content of the Baker Hughes financial statements as well as relevant footnote and other textual information is provided. This is designed to make the exercise as realistic as possible.

THE BAK ER HUGHES WOR KSHEET ANALYSIS The nonrecurring items located in the Baker Hughes annual report are enumerated in the completed SEB worksheet in Exhibit 2.35. Each of the nonrecurring items is recorded on the SEB worksheet. When an item is disclosed for the first, second, third, or fourth time, it is designated by a corresponding superscript

Analyzing Business Earnings


EXHIBIT 2.28 Consolidated statements of cash f lows (operating activities only): Baker Hughes Inc., years ended September 30 (in millions). 1995






$114.2 40.4 44.8

$115.9 39.9 30.2 25.3

$143.9 42.1 (6.8) 32.7 118.0

Cash Flows from Operating Activities: Net income Adjustments to reconcile net income to net cash f lows from operating activities: Depreciation and amortization of: Property Other assets and debt discount Deferred income taxes Noncash portion of unusual charge Acquired in-process research and development Gain on sale of Varco stock Gain on disposal of assets Foreign currency translation (gain)/loss-net Cumulative effect of accounting changes Change in receivables Change in inventories Change in accounts payable Changes in other assets and liabilities Net cash f lows from operating activities SOURCE :

(18.3) 1.9 14.6 (94.7) (79.9) 51.7 (52.9) $127.2

(44.3) (31.7) 8.9 (84.1) (73.8) 22.6 9.4 $194.7

(18.4) (6.1) 12.1 (129.8) (114.9) 65.3 (35.6) $199.5

Baker Hughes Inc., annual report, September 1997, 40.

in a summary of the search process provided in Exhibit 2.36. For purposes of illustration, all nonrecurring items have been recorded on the SEB worksheet without regard to their materiality. We have followed this procedure because a materiality threshold would exclude a series of either immaterial gains or losses that could, in combination, distort a firm’s apparent profitability. An effort is made to consider the possible effects of materiality in a report on the efficiency of the search process presented in Exhibit 2.37. Without adjustment, Baker Hughes’s income statement reports net income of $105.4 million in 1995, $176.4 million in 1996, and $97.0 million in 1997. The impression obtained is a company with a volatile earnings stream and no apparent growth. However, the complete adjustment for nonrecurring items conveys quite a different message. After restatement, sustainable earnings amount to $97.4 million in 1995, $158.6 million in 1996, and $241.3 million in 1997. This suggests that profits are in fact growing, though acquisitions have contributed to this result. It should be clear that the number and magnitude of nonrecurring items identified in the Baker Hughes annual report caused its unanalyzed earnings data to be unreliable indicators of profit performance. Without the comprehensive identification of nonrecurring items and the development of the SEB

78 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 2.29 Income tax note: Baker Hughes Inc., years ended September 30 (in millions). The geographical sources of income before income taxes and cumulative effect of accounting changes are as follows: 1995



United States Foreign

$128.3 76.8

$116.4 182.5

$ 20.6 192.5








3.7 36.6

$ 40.1 52.2

$ 46.5 64.3




42.1 2.7

20.7 9.5

(.2) (6.6)




$ 85.1


The provision for income taxes is as follows:

Current: United States Foreign Total current Deferred: United States Foreign Total deferred Total provision for income taxes



The provision for income taxes differs from the amount computed by applying the U.S. statutory income tax rate to income before income taxes and cumulative effect of accounting changes for the reasons set forth below: 1995



Statutory income tax Nondeductible acquired in-process research and development charge Incremental effect of foreign operations 1992 and 1993 IRS audit agreement Nondeductible goodwill amortization State income taxes, net of U.S. tax benefit Operating loss and credit carryforwards Other, net

$ 71.8


$ 74.6



4.2 1.0 (13.1) (3.6)

5.4 2.1 (3.3) 1.2

Total provision for income taxes

$ 85.1


41.3 (6.5) (11.4) 4.5 2.9 (4.2) 2.8 $104.0

Deferred income taxes ref lect the net tax effects of temporary differences between the carrying amounts of assets and liabilities for financial reporting purposes and the amounts used for income tax purposes, and operating loss and tax credit carryforwards. The tax effects of the Company’s temporary differences and carryforwards are as follows:

Analyzing Business Earnings


EXHIBIT 2.29 (Continued)

Deferred tax liabilities: Property Other assets Excess costs arising from acquisitions Undistributed earnings of foreign subsidiaries Other Total Deferred tax assets: Receivables Inventory Employee benefits Other accrued expenses Operating loss carryforwards Tax credit carryforwards Other Subtotal Valuation allowance Total Net deferred tax liability



$ 62.3 57.7 64.0 41.3 37.4

$ 90.6 147.5 67.6 41.3 36.5


$ 383.5



4.1 72.4 44.0 20.2 16.6 30.8 15.9

$204.0 (13.1)

2.8 72.4 21.5 40.6 9.0 15.9 34.9

$ 197.1 (5.7)



$ 71.8

$ 192.1

A valuation allowance is recorded when it is more likely than not that some portion or all of the deferred tax assets will not be realized. The ultimate realization of the deferred tax assets depends on the ability to generate sufficient taxable income of the appropriate character in the future. The Company has reserved the operating loss carryforwards in certain non-U.S. jurisdictions where its operations have decreased, currently ceased or the Company has withdrawn entirely. Provision has been made for U.S. and additional foreign taxes for the anticipated repatriation of certain earnings of foreign subsidiaries of the Company. The Company considers the undistributed earnings of its foreign subsidiaries above the amounts already provided for to be permanently reinvested. These additional foreign earnings could become subject to additional tax if remitted, or deemed remitted, as a dividend; however, the additional amount of taxes payable is not practicable to estimate. SOURCE :

Baker Hughes Inc., annual report, September 1997, 48 – 49.

80 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 2.30 Management’s discussion and analysis (excerpts from results of operations section): Baker Hughes Inc., years ended September 30 (in millions). Revenues 1997 versus 1996 Consolidated revenues for 1997 were $3,685.4 million, an increase of 22% over 1996 revenues of $3,027.7 million. Sales revenues were up $419.9 million, an increase of 21%, and services and rental revenues were up $237.8 million, an increase of 24%. Approximately 64% of the Company’s 1997 consolidated revenues were derived from international activities. The three 1997 acquisitions contributed $192.1 million of the revenue improvement. Oilfield Operations 1997 revenues were $2,862.6 million, an increase of 19.4% over 1996 revenues of $2,397.9 million. Excluding the Drilex acquisition, which accounted for $70.5 million of the revenue improvement, the revenue growth of 16.4% outpaced the 14.4% increase in the worldwide rig count. In particular, revenues in Venezuela increased 37.6%, or $58.6 million, as that country continues to work towards its stated goal of significantly increasing oil production. Chemical revenues were $417.2 million in 1997, an increase of 68.5% over 1996 revenues of $247.6 million. The Petrolite acquisition was responsible for $91.6 million of the improvement. Revenue growth excluding the acquisition was 31.5% driven by the strong oilfield market and the impact of acquiring the remaining portion of a Venezuelan joint venture in 1997. This investment was accounted for on the equity method in 1996. Process Equipment revenues for 1997 were $386.1 million, an increase of 9.4% over 1996 revenues of $352.8 million. Excluding revenues from 1997 acquisitions of $32.7 million, revenues were f lat compared to the prior year due to weakness in the pulp and paper industry combined with delays in customers’ capital spending. 1996 versus 1995 Consolidated revenues for 1996 increased $390.2 million, or 14.8%, over 1995. Sales revenues were up 13.4% and services and rentals revenues were up 17.8%. International revenues accounted for approximately 65% of 1996 consolidated revenues. Oilfield Operations revenues increased $325.7 million or 15.7% over 1995 revenues of $2,072.2 million. Activity was particularly strong in several key oilfield regions of the world including the North Sea, Gulf of Mexico and Nigeria where revenues were up $93.4 million, $56.8 million and $30.1 million, respectively. Strong drilling activity drove a $35.5 million increase in Venezuelan revenues. Chemical revenues rose $23.9 million, or 10.7% over 1995 revenues as its oilfield business benefited from increased production levels in the U.S. Process Equipment revenues for 1996 increased 10.4% over 1995 revenues of $319.6 million. Excluding revenues from 1996 acquisitions of $21.5 million, revenues increased 3.7%. The growth in the minerals processing and pulp and paper industry slowed from the prior year. Costs and Expenses Applicable to Revenues Costs of sales and costs of services and rentals have increased in 1997 and 1996 from the prior years in line with the related revenue increases. Gross margin percentages, excluding the effect of a nonrecurring item in 1997, have increased from 39.0% in 1995 to 39.3% in 1996 and 39.4% in 1997. The nonrecurring item relates to finished goods inventory acquired in the Petrolite acquisition that was increased by $21.9 million to its estimated selling price. The Company sold the inventory in the fourth quarter of 1997 and, as such, the $21.9 million is included in cost of sales in 1997.

Analyzing Business Earnings


EXHIBIT 2.30 (Continued) Selling, General, and Administrative Selling, general and administrative (“SG&A”) expense increased $152.7 million in 1997 from 1996 and $71.2 million in 1996 from 1995. The three 1997 acquisitions were responsible for $54.3 million of the 1997 increase. As a percent of consolidated revenues, SG&A was 26.2%, 26.9% and 28.2% in 1997, 1996 and 1995, respectively. Excluding the impact of acquisitions, the Company added approximately 2,500 employees during 1997 to keep pace with the increased activity levels. As a result, employee training and development efforts increased in 1997 as compared to the previous two years. These increases were partially offset by $4.1 million of foreign exchange gains in 1997 compared to foreign exchange losses of $11.4 million in 1996 due to the devaluation of the Venezuelan Bolivar. The three-year cumulative rate of inf lation in Mexico exceeded 100% for the year ended December 31, 1996; therefore, Mexico is considered to be a highly inf lationary economy. Effective December 31, 1996, the functional currency for the Company’s investments in Mexico was changed from the Mexican Peso to the U.S. Dollar. Amortization Expense Amortization expense in 1997 increased $2.7 million from 1996 due to the Petrolite acquisition. Amortization expense in 1996 remained comparable to 1995 as no significant acquisitions or dispositions were made during those two years. Unusual Charge 1997: During the fourth quarter of 1997, the Company recorded an unusual charge of $52.1 million. In connection with the acquisitions of Petrolite, accounted for as a purchase, and Drilex, accounted for as a pooling of interests, the Company recorded unusual charges of $35.5 million and $7.1 million, respectively, to combine the acquired operations with those of the Company. The charges include the cost of closing redundant facilities, eliminating or relocating personnel and equipment and rationalizing inventories that require disposal at amounts less than their cost. A $9.5 million charge was also recorded as a result of the decision to discontinue a low margin, oilfield product line in Latin America and to sell the Tracor Europa subsidiary, a computer peripherals operations, which resulted in a write-down of the investment to its net realizable value. Cash provisions of the unusual charge totaled $19.4 million. The Company spent $5.5 million in 1997 and expects to spend substantially all of the remaining $13.9 million in 1998. Such expenditures relate to specific plans and clearly defined actions and will be funded from operations and available credit facilities. 1996: During the third quarter of 1996, the Company recorded an unusual charge of $39.6 million. The charge consisted primarily of the write-off of $8.5 million of Oilfield Operations patents that no longer protected commercially significant technology, a $5.0 million impairment of a Latin America joint venture due to changing market conditions in the region in which it operates and restructuring charges totaling $24.1 million. The restructuring charges include the downsizing of Baker Hughes INTEQ’s Singapore and Paris operations, a reorganization of EIMCO Process Equipment’s Italian operations and the consolidation of certain Baker Oil Tools manufacturing operations. Noncash provisions of the charge totaled $25.3 million and consist primarily of the write-down of assets to net realizable value. The remaining $14.3 million of the charge represents future cash expenditures related to severance under existing benefit arrangements, the relocation of people and equipment and abandoned leases. The Company spent $4.2 million of the cash during 1996, $6.3 million in 1997 and expects to spend the remaining $3.8 million in 1998. (continued)

EXHIBIT 2.30 (Continued) Acquired In-Process Research and Development In the Petrolite acquisition, the Company allocated $118.0 million of the purchase price to in-process research and development. In accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, the Company recorded the acquired in-process research and development as a charge to expense because its technological feasibility had not been established and it had no alternative future use at the date of acquisition. Interest Expense Interest expense in 1997 decreased $6.9 million from 1996 due to lower average debt levels, primarily as a result of the maturity of the 4.125% Swiss Franc Bonds in June 1996. Interest expense in 1996 remained comparable to 1995 as slightly higher average debt balances were offset by a slightly lower weighted average interest rate. Gain on Sale of Varco Stock In May 1996, the Company sold 6.3 million shares of Varco International, Inc. (“ Varco”) common stock, representing its entire investment in Varco. The Company received net proceeds of $95.5 million and recognized a pretax gain of $44.3 million. The Company’s investment in Varco was accounted for using the equity method. Equity income included in the Consolidated Statements of Operations for 1996 and 1995 was $1.8 million and $3.2 million, respectively. Income Taxes During 1997, the Company reached an agreement with the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) regarding the audit of its 1992 and 1993 U.S. consolidated income tax returns. The principal issue in the examination related to intercompany pricing on the transfer of goods and services between U.S. and non-U.S. subsidiary companies. As a result of the agreement, the Company recognized a tax benefit through the reversal of deferred income taxes previously provided of $11.4 million ($.08 per share) in the quarter ended June 30, 1997. The effective income tax rate for 1997 was 48.8% as compared to 41.0% in 1996 and 41.5% in 1995. The increase in the rate for 1997 is due in large part to the nondeductible charge for the acquired in-process research and development related to the Petrolite acquisition offset by the IRS agreement as explained above. The effective rates differ from the federal statutory rate in all years due primarily to taxes on foreign operations and nondeductible goodwill amortization. The Company expects the effective income tax rate in 1998 to be between 38% and 39%. SOURCE :

Baker Hughes Inc., annual report, September 1997, 30–32.

EXHIBIT 2.31 Summar y of signif icant accounting policies note (partial): Baker Hughes Inc., years ended September 30 (in millions). Impairment of assets: The Company adopted Statement of Financial Accounting Standards (“SFAS”) No. 121, Accounting for the Impairment of Long-lived Assets and for Long-lived Assets to be Disposed Of, effective October 1, 1996. The statement sets forth guidance as to when to recognize an impairment of long-lived assets, including goodwill, and how to measure such an impairment. The methodology set forth in SFAS No. 121 is not significantly different from the Company’s prior policy and, therefore, the adoption of SFAS No. 121 did not have a significant impact on the consolidated financial statements as it relates to impairment of long-lived assets used in operations. However, SFAS No. 121 also addresses the accounting for long-lived assets to be disposed of and requires these assets to be carried at the lower of cost or fair market value, rather than the lower of cost or net realizable value, the method that was previously used by the Company. The Company recognized a charge to income of $12.1 million ($.08 per share), net of a tax benefit of $6.0 million, as the cumulative effect of a change in accounting in the first quarter of 1997. SOURCE :

Baker Hughes Inc., annual report, September 1997, 41.

Analyzing Business Earnings


EXHIBIT 2.32 Acquisitions and dispositions note: Baker Hughes Inc., years ended September 30 (in millions). 1997 Petrolite In July 1997, the Company acquired Petrolite Corporation (“Petrolite”) and Wm. S. Barnickel & Company (“Barnickel”), the holder of 47.1% of Petrolite’s common stock, for 19.3 million shares of the Company’s common stock having a value of $730.2 million in a three-way business combination accounted for using the purchase method of accounting. Additionally, the Company assumed Petrolite’s outstanding vested and unvested employee stock options that were converted into the right to acquire 1.0 million shares of the Company’s common stock. Such assumption of Petrolite options by the Company had a fair market value of $21.0 million resulting in total consideration in the acquisitions of $751.2 million. Petrolite, previously a publicly held company, is a manufacturer and marketer of specialty chemicals used in the petroleum and process industries. Barnickel was a privately held company that owned marketable securities, which were sold after the acquisition, in addition to its investment in Petrolite. The purchase price has been allocated to the assets purchased and the liabilities assumed based on their estimated fair market values at the date of acquisition as follows (millions of dollars): Working capital Property Prepaid pension cost Intangible assets Other assets In-process research and development Goodwill Debt Deferred income taxes Other liabilities Total

$ 64.5 170.1 80.3 126.0 89.6 118.0 263.7 (31.7) (106.7) (22.6) $751.2

In accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, the amount allocated to inprocess research and development, which was determined by an independent valuation, has been recorded as a charge to expense in the fourth quarter of 1997 because its technological feasibility had not been established and it had no alternative future use at the date of acquisition. The Company incurred certain liabilities as part of the plan to combine the operations of Petrolite with those of the Company. These liabilities relate to the Petrolite operations and include severance of $13.8 million for redundant marketing, manufacturing and administrative personnel, relocation of $5.8 million for moving equipment and transferring marketing and technology personnel, primarily from St. Louis to Houston, and environmental remediation of $16.5 million for redundant properties and facilities that will be sold. Cash spent during the fourth quarter of 1997 totaled $7.7 million. The Company anticipates completing these activities in 1998, except for some environmental remediation that will occur in 1998 and 1999. The operating results of Petrolite and Barnickel are included in the 1997 consolidated statement of operations from the acquisition date, July 2, 1997. The following unaudited pro forma information combines the results of operations of the Company, Petrolite and Barnickel assuming the acquisitions had occurred at the beginning of the periods presented. The pro forma summary does not necessarily ref lect the results that would have occurred had the acquisitions been completed for the periods presented, nor do they purport to be indicative of the results that will be obtained in the future, and excludes certain nonrecurring charges related to the acquisition which have an after tax impact of $155.2 million. (continued)

EXHIBIT 2.32 (Continued) (Millions of dollars, except per share amounts)

Revenues Income before accounting change Income per share before accounting change



$3,388.4 189.3 1.16

$3,944.0 283.9 1.69

In connection with the acquisition of Petrolite, the Company recorded an unusual charge of $35.5 million. See Note 5 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements. Environmental Technology Division of Deutz AG In July 1997, the Company acquired the Environmental Technology Division, a decanter centrifuge and dryer business, of Deutz AG (“ETD”) for $53.0 million, subject to certain postclosing adjustments. This acquisition is now part of Bird Machine Company and has been accounted for using the purchase method of accounting. Accordingly, the cost of the acquisition has been allocated to assets acquired and liabilities assumed based on their estimated fair market values at the date of acquisition, July 7, 1997. The operating results of ETD are included in the 1997 consolidated statement of operations from the acquisition date. Pro forma results of the acquisition have not been presented as the pro forma revenue, income before accounting change and earnings per share would not be materially different from the Company’s actual results. For its most recent fiscal year ended December 31, 1996, ETD had revenues of $103.0 million. Drilex In July 1997, the Company acquired Drilex International Inc. (“Drilex”) a provider of products and services used in the directional and horizontal drilling and workover of oil and gas wells for 2.7 million shares of the Company’s common stock. The acquisition was accounted for using the pooling of interests method of accounting. Under this method of accounting, the historical cost basis of the assets and liabilities of the Company and Drilex are combined at recorded amounts and the results of operations of the combined companies for 1997 are included in the 1997 consolidated statement of operations. The historical results of the separate companies for years prior to 1997 are not combined because the retained earnings and results of operations of Drilex are not material to the consolidated financial statements of the Company. In connection with the acquisition of Drilex, the Company recorded an unusual charge of $7.1 million for transaction and other one time costs associated with the acquisition. See Note 5 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements. For its fiscal year ended December 31, 1996 and 1995, Drilex had revenues of $76.1 million and $57.5 million, respectively. 1996 In April 1996, the Company purchased the assets and stock of a business operating as Vortoil Separation Systems, and certain related oil /water separation technology, for $18.8 million. In June 1996, the Company purchased the stock of KTM Process Equipment, Inc., a centrifuge company, for $14.1 million. These acquisitions are part of Baker Hughes Process Equipment Company and have been accounted for using the purchase method of accounting. Accordingly, the costs of the acquisitions have been allocated to assets acquired and liabilities assumed based on their estimated fair market values at the dates of acquisition. The operating results are included in the consolidated statements of operations from the respective acquisition dates. In April 1996, the Company exchanged the 100,000 shares of Tuboscope Inc. (“Tuboscope”) Series A convertible preferred stock held by the Company since October 1991, for 1.5 million shares of Tuboscope common stock and a warrant to purchase 1.25 million shares of Tuboscope common stock. The warrants are exercisable at $10 per share and expire on December 31, 2000. SOURCE :


Baker Hughes Inc., annual report, September 1997, 43– 45.

EXHIBIT 2.33 Unusual charges note: Baker Hughes Inc., years ended September 30 (in millions). 1997 During the fourth quarter of 1997, the Company recognized a $52.1 million unusual charge consisting of the following (millions of dollars): Baker Petrolite: Severance for 140 employees Relocation of people and equipment Environmental Abandoned leases Integration costs Inventory write-down Write-down of other assets Drilex: Write-down of property and other assets Banking and legal fees Discontinued product lines: Severance for 50 employees Write-down of inventory, property and other assets Total

$ 2.2 3.4 5.0 1.5 2.8 11.3 9.3 4.1 3.0 1.5 8.0 $52.1

In connection with the acquisitions of Petrolite and Drilex, the Company recorded unusual charges of $35.5 million and $7.1 million, respectively, to combine the acquired operations with those of the Company. The charges include the cost of closing redundant facilities, eliminating or relocating personnel and equipment and rationalizing inventories that require disposal at amounts less than their cost. A $9.5 million charge was recorded as a result of the decision to discontinue a low margin, oilfield product line in Latin America and to sell the Tracor Europa subsidiary, a computer peripherals operation, which resulted in a write-down of the investment to net realizable value. Cash provisions of the unusual charge totaled $19.4 million. The Company spent $5.5 million in 1997 and expects to spend substantially all of the remaining $13.9 million in 1998. 1996 During the third quarter of 1996, the Company recognized a $39.6 million unusual charge consisting of the following (millions of dollars): Patent write-off Impairment of joint venture Restructurings: Severance for 360 employees Relocation of people and equipment Abandoned leases Inventory write-down Write-down of assets Other Total

$ 8.5 5.0 7.1 2.3 2.8 1.5 10.4 2.0 $39.6

The Company has certain oilfield operations patents that no longer protect commercially significant technology resulting in the write-off of $8.5 million. A $5.0 million impairment of a Latin America joint venture was recorded due to changing market conditions in the region in which it operates. The Company recorded a $24.1 million restructuring charge including the downsizing of Baker Hughes INTEQ’s Singapore and Paris operations, a reorganization of EIMCO Process Equipment’s Italian operations and the consolidation of certain Baker Oil Tools manufacturing operations. Cash provisions of the charge totaled $14.3 million. The Company spent $4.2 million in 1996, $6.3 million in 1997 and expects to spend the remaining $3.8 million in 1998. SOURCE :

Baker Hughes Inc., annual report, September 1997, 45.


86 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 2.34 Segment and related information note: Baker Hughes Inc., years ended September 30 (in millions). NOTE 10 Segment and Related Information The Company adopted SFAS No. 131, Disclosures about Segments of an Enterprise and Related Information, in 1997 which changes the way the Company reports information about its operating segments. The information for 1996 and 1995 has been restated from the prior year ’s presentation in order to conform to the 1997 presentation. The Company’s nine business units have separate management teams and infrastructures that offer different products and services. The business units have been aggregated into three reportable segments (oilfield, chemicals and process equipment) since the long-term financial performance of these reportable segments is affected by similar economic conditions. Oilfield: This segment consists of five business units—Baker Hughes INTEQ, Baker Oil Tools, Baker Hughes Solutions, Centrilift and Hughes Christensen—that manufacture and sell equipment and provide services and solutions used in the drilling, completion, production and maintenance of oil and gas wells. The principle markets for this segment include all major oil and gas producing regions of the world including North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa and the Far East. Customers include major multinational, independent and national or state-owned oil companies. Chemicals: Baker Petrolite is the sole business unit reported in this segment. They manufacture specialty chemicals for inclusion in the sale of integrated chemical technology solutions for petroleum production, transportation and refining. The principle geographic markets for this segment include all major oil and gas producing regions of the world. This segment also provides chemical technology solutions to other industrial markets throughout the world including petrochemicals, steel, fuel additives, plastics, imaging and adhesives. Customers include major multinational, independent and national or state-owned oil companies as well as other industrial manufacturers. Process Equipment: This segment consists of three business units—EIMCO Process Equipment, Bird Machine Company and Baker Hughes Process Systems—that manufacture and sell process equipment for separating solids from liquids and liquids from liquids through filtration, sedimentation, centrifugation and f loatation processes. The principle markets for this segment include all regions of the world where there are significant industrial and municipal wastewater applications and base metals activity. Customers include municipalities, contractors, engineering companies and pulp and paper, minerals, industrial and oil and gas producers. The accounting policies of the reportable segments are the same as those described in Note 1 of Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements. The Company evaluates the performance of its operating segments based on income before income taxes, accounting changes, nonrecurring items and interest income and expense. Intersegment sales and transfers are not significant. Summarized financial information concerning the Company’s reportable segments is shown in the following table. The “Other” column includes corporate related items, results of insignificant operations and, as it relates to segment profit (loss), income and expense not allocated to reportable segments (millions of dollars). 1997 Revenues Segment profit (loss) Total assets Capital expenditures Depreciation and amortization

$2,862.6 416.8 3,014.3 289.7 143.2

$417.2 41.9 1,009.5 24.8 20.5

$386.1 36.3 363.7 6.4 8.4

$19.5 (281.9) 368.8 21.8 4.1

$3,685.4 213.1 4,756.3 342.7 176.2

Analyzing Business Earnings


EXHIBIT 2.34 (Continued) 1996 Revenues Segment profit (loss) Total assets Capital expenditures Depreciation and amortization

$2,397.9 329.1 2,464.6 157.5 123.6

$247.6 23.3 270.3 16.6 12.2

$352.8 31.2 258.9 6.6 6.7

$29.4 (84.7) 303.6 1.5 3.0

$3,027.7 298.9 3,297.4 182.2 145.5

1995 Revenues Segment profit (loss) Total assets Capital expenditures Depreciation and amortization

$2,072.2 249.6 2,423.7 119.1 123.9

$223.7 17.8 259.8 11.0 12.4

$319.6 29.7 187.3 5.0 5.4

$22.0 (92.0) 295.8 3.8 2.4

$2,637.5 205.1 3,166.6 138.9 144.1

The following table presents the details of “Other” segment profit (loss). Corporate expenses Interest expense-net Unusual charge Acquired in-process research and development Nonrecurring charge to cost of sales for Petrolite inventories Gain on sale of Varco stock Other Total



$(39.7) (50.8)

$(40.2) (52.1) (39.6)

1997 $(44.3) (46.8) (52.1) (118.0) (21.9)

(1.5) $(92.0)

44.3 2.9 $(84.7)

1.2 $(281.9)

The following table presents revenues by country based on the location of the use of the product or service. 1995 United States United Kingdom Venezuela Canada Norway Indonesia Nigeria Oman Other (approximately 60 countries) Total

$972.9 207.6 122.7 157.5 104.2 54.5 33.5 45.7 938.9 $2,637.5

1996 $1,047.2 277.9 160.0 165.1 145.6 92.7 64.1 56.8 1,018.3 $3,027.7

1997 $1,319.7 288.0 244.2 204.5 175.0 128.0 83.5 77.2 1,165.3 $3,685.4

The following table presents property by country based on the location of the asset. United States United Kingdom Venezuela Germany Norway Canada Singapore Other countries Total SOURCE :



$353.0 67.6 19.0 18.4 11.3 8.0 25.0 72.8 $575.1

$359.9 77.7 25.1 19.3 10.9 9.1 17.7 79.3 $599.0

Baker Hughes Inc., annual report, September 1997, 49–51.

1997 $593.3 145.3 33.3 21.4 20.0 16.9 11.7 141.0 $982.9

88 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 2.35 Adjustment worksheet for sustainable earnings base: Baker Hughes Inc., years ended September 30 (in millions). 1995 Reported net income or (loss)








Add Pretax LIFO liquidation losses Losses on sales of fixed assets Losses on sales of investments Losses on sales of “other” assets Restructuring charges (unusual charge) Investment write-downs Inventory write-downs (included in cost of sales) Other asset write-downs Foreign currency losses Litigation charges Losses on patent infringement suits Exceptional bad debt provisions Temporary expense increases Temporary revenue reductions Other Other Other Subtotal

21.9 1.9





(1 – Combined federal and state tax rates)




Tax-adjusted additions




Multiply by

Add After-tax LIFO liquidation losses Increases in deferred tax valuation allowances Other nonrecurring tax charges Losses on discontinued operations Extraordinary losses Losses/cumulative-effect accounting changes Other (acquired in-process R&D) Other Other Subtotal Total additions


12.1 118.0






Analyzing Business Earnings


EXHIBIT 2.35 (Continued) 1995



Deduct Pretax LIFO liquidation gains Gains on sales of fixed assets (disposal of assets) Gains on sales of investments (Varco stock) Gains on sales of other assets Reversals of restructuring charges Investment write-ups (trading account) Foreign currency gains Litigation revenues Gains on patent infringement suits Temporary expense decreases Temporary revenue increases Reversals of bad-debt allowances Other Other Other Subtotal


31.7 44.3















Multiply by (1 – Combined federal and state tax rate) Tax-adjusted deductions Deduct After-tax LIFO liquidation gains Reductions in deferred tax valuation allowances Loss carryforward benefits—from prior periods Other nonrecurring tax benefits (IRS audit agreement) Gains on discontinued operations Extraordinary gains Gains/cumulative-effect accounting changes Other Other Other Subtotal Total deductions Sustainable earnings base


$13.1 $23.7 $97.4

$3.3 $47.4 $158.6

$15.6 $28.7 $241.3

90 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 2.36 Summar y of nonrecurring items search process: Baker Hughes Inc. Step and Search Location 1. Income statement

Nonrecurring Item Revealed Unusual charge (1996-1997)1 Acquired in-process research and development (1997)1 Gain on sale of Varco stock (1996)1 Cumulative effect of accounting changes (1995, 1997)1

2. Statement of cash f lows

Acquired in-process research and development (1997)2 Gain on sale of Varco stock (1996)2 Gain on disposal of assets (1995–1997)1 Foreign currency translation (gain)/loss, net (1995–1997)1 Cumulative effect of accounting changes (1995, 1997)2

3. Inventory note

No nonrecurring items located

4. Income tax note

1992 and 1993 IRS audit agreement (1997)1 Operating loss and credit carryforwards (1995–1997)1

5. Other income (expense) note

No note provided

6. MD&A

Petrolite inventory writedown in cost of sales (1997)1 Unusual charge (1996-1997)2 Acquired in-process research and development (1997)3 Gain on sale of Varco stock (1996)3 1992 and 1993 IRS audit agreement (1997)2 Foreign currency translation (gain)/loss, net (1996 –1997)2

7. Other notes revealing nonrecurring items: a. Significant accounting policies

Cumulative effect of accounting changes (1995, 1997)3

b. Acquisitions and dispositions

Acquired in-process research and development (1997)4 Unusual charges (1996-1997)3 Gain on sale of Varco stock (1996)4

c. Unusual charge

Unusual charges (1996-1997)4

d. Segment information

Unusual charges (1996-1997)5 Acquired in-process research and development (1997)5 Petrolite inventory writedown in cost of sales (1997)2 Gain on sale of Varco stock (1996)5

Note: The superscripts 1, 2, 3, and so on indicate the number of times the nonrecurring item was found. For instance, “Gain on sale of Varco stock” was found in the income statement (first location); in the statement of cash f lows (second location); in MD&A (third location); in the “Acquisitions and dispositions” note (fourth location); and in the “Segment and related information” note (fifth location).

Analyzing Business Earnings


EXHIBIT 2.37 Ef f iciency of nonrecurring items search process: Baker Hughes Inc. Incremental Nonrecurring Items Discovered (1) All Nonrecurring Items

Income statement Statement of cash f lows Inventory note Income tax note Other income (expense) note MD&A Significant accounting policies note 7b. Acquisitions and dispositions note 7c. Unusual charge note 7d. Segment and related information note Total nonrecurring items


Step and Search Location 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7a.


(2) Cumulative % Located

(3) All Materiala Items

Cumulative % Located

6 6 0 4 0 1

35% 71 71 94 94 100

6 3 0 2 0 1

50% 75 75 92 92 100



0 0

100 100

0 0

100 100







Five percent or more of the amount of the net income or net loss, on a tax-adjusted basis.

worksheet, the company’s three-year operating performance is virtually impossible to discern. The efficient search sequence for identifying nonrecurring items in Exhibit 2.3 was based on the experience of the authors supported by a large-scale study of nonrecurring items by H. Choi. While the recommended search sequence may not be equally effective in all cases, Exhibit 2.37 demonstrates that most of Baker Hughes’s nonrecurring items could be located by employing only steps 1 to 5, a sequence that is very cost-effective. In fact, 92% of all material nonrecurring items were located through the first four steps of the search sequence. Further, locating these items requires reading very little text, and the nonrecurring items are generally set out prominently in either statements or schedules. Exhibit 2.37 presents information on the efficiency of the search process. The meaning of each column in the exhibit is as follows: Column 1:

Column 2:

The number of nonrecurring items located at each step in the search process. This is based on all 17 nonrecurring items without regard to their materiality. The cumulative percentage of all nonrecurring items located through each step of the search process. Ninety four percent of the total nonrecurring items were located through the first five steps of the search process. All nonrecurring items were located by step 6.

92 Understanding the Numbers Column 3:

Column 4:

Same as column 1 except only material nonrecurring items (those items exceeding 5% of net income on an after-tax basis). Same as column 2 except that only material nonrecurring items were considered.

SOME FURTHER POINTS ON THE BAK ER HUGHES WOR KSHEET The construction of an SEB worksheet always requires a judgment call. One could, of course, avoid all materiality judgments by simply recording all nonrecurring items without regard to their materiality. However, the classification of items as nonrecurring, as well as on occasion their measurement, calls for varying degrees of judgment. Some examples of Baker Hughes items that required the exercise of judgment, either in terms of classification or measurement, are discussed next.

The Petrolite Inventor y Adjustment A pretax addition was made in Exhibit 2.35 for the effect on 1997 earnings of inventory obtained with the Petrolite acquisition (see Exhibits 2.30 and 2.34). Accounting requirements for purchases call for adjusting acquired assets to their fair values. This adjustment required a $21.9 million increase in Petrolite inventories to change them from cost to selling price. This meant that there was no profit margin on the subsequent sale of this inventory in the fourth quarter of 1997. That is, cost of sales was equal to the sales amount. Baker Hughes labeled this $21.9 million acquisition adjustment “nonrecurring charge to cost of sales for Petrolite inventories” (see segment disclosures in Exhibit 2.34). This Petrolite inventory charge raised the level of cost of sales in relationship to sales. However, this temporary increase in the cost-of-sales percentage (cost of sales divided by sales) was not expected to persist in the future. We concurred with the Baker Hughes judgment and treated this $21.9 million cost-of-sales component as a nonrecurring item in developing sustainable earnings.

Foreign Exchange Gains and Losses Information on foreign exchange gains and losses was disclosed in the statement of cash f lows (Exhibit 2.28) and in the MD&A (Exhibit 2.30). The statement of cash f lows disclosed foreign-currency losses of $1.9 million in 1995 and $8.9 million in 1996. A $6.1 million gain was disclosed in 1997. However, the MD&A disclosed a foreign-currency loss of $11.4 million for 1996 and a gain of $4.1 million for 1997. The foreign-currency items in the statement of

Analyzing Business Earnings


cash f lows represent recognized but unrealized gains and losses. As such, there are no associated cash inf lows and outf lows. However, the disclosures in the MD&A represent all of the net foreign-exchange gains and losses, both realized and unrealized. These are the totals that would have been added or deducted in arriving at net income and also represent the nonrecurring foreign currency gains and losses. For 1996 and 1997, the Baker Hughes worksheet includes the foreign currency gain and loss disclosed in the MD&A, a loss of $11.4 million for 1996 and a gain of $4.1 million for 1997. In the absence of a disclosure of any foreign currency gain or loss in the MD&A for 1995, the worksheet simply included the $1.9 million loss disclosed in the statement of cash f lows. Adjusting the foreign-currency gains and losses out of net income is based on a judgment that comparative performance is better represented in the absence of these irregular items.

The Tax Rate Assumption and Acquired R&D The tax rate used in the Baker Hughes worksheet was a combined (state, federal, and foreign) 42%. This is the three-year average effective tax rate for the company once nonrecurring tax items were removed from the tax provision. Two nonrecurring tax items stand out in the income tax disclosures in Exhibit 2.29. First is the increase in the tax provision because of the lack of tax deductibility of the $118 million of acquired in-process research and development in 1997.49 The tax effect of this nonrecurring item, $41.3 million, pushed the effective rate up to 49% for 1997. Because of this lack of deductibility for tax purposes, the pretax and after-tax amounts of this charge are the same, $118 million. Therefore, we recorded the $118 million charge with the other tax and after-tax items in the bottom section of the SEB worksheet. Because this item is added back to net income on its after-tax basis, no additional adjustment was needed for the $41.3 million tax increase resulting from the lack of deductibility. The second adjustment was for the $11.4 million nonrecurring tax reduction that resulted from an IRS audit agreement. The tax rate scales the numbers in the worksheet to their after-tax amounts. The goal should be a rate that is a reasonable representation of this combined rate. It is usually not cost beneficial to devote an inordinate amount of time to making this estimate.

Equity Earnings and Disposal of the Varco Investment The MD&A included discussion of the gain on the sale of the Varco investment. This is a clear nonrecurring item, and it was adjusted from results in the Baker Hughes SEB worksheet. Baker Hughes accounted for its investment in Varco by using the equity method. This indicates that its ownership was sufficient to provide it with the capacity to exercise significant inf luence over Varco. Baker

94 Understanding the Numbers Hughes disclosed that it recognized equity income from Varco of $3.2 million in 1995 and $1.8 million in 1996. However, the disposal of the Varco investment did not qualify as a discontinued operation. If it had been so classified, then the Baker Hughes share of earnings would have been removed from income from continuing operations of 1995 and 1996 and reported with discontinued operations—along with the gain on the disposition of the investment. Clearly, a case could be made for treating the 1995 and 1996 equity earnings as nonrecurring and removing them from earnings in developing the SEB worksheet. This would not alter the message conveyed by the SEB worksheet in this particular case. However, if the effect were more material, then a judgment to treat as nonrecurring the equity earnings from the Varco investment would be in order.

Using the Summar y Disclosures of Unusual Charges In completing the worksheet, the summary totals from the unusual-charge disclosures (Exhibit 2.33) were used. Alternatively, the detail on the charges could have been recorded in appropriate lines in the worksheet. We saw this as offering no advantage here. Having the detail on the makeup of the unusual charges is helpful in determining whether other additional nonrecurring items have already been included in these totals. Recall that the 1997 Petrolite inventory adjustment of $21.9 million was not included in the unusual charges total (it was included in cost of sales). Summaries for unusual charges, it should be noted, usually do not include all items that could reasonably be considered nonrecurring. In addition, care should be taken not to duplicate the recording of items already included in summary totals for unusual charges.

SUMMARY An estimation of the sustainable portion of earnings should be the centerpiece of analyzing business earnings. This task has become a far greater challenge over the past decade as the number of nonrecurring items has increased dramatically. This explosion has been driven by corporate reorganizations and associated activities. Some of the labels attached to these producers of nonrecurring items are restructuring, rightsizing, downsizing, reengineering, redeployment, repositioning, reorganizing, rationalizing, and realignment. The following are some key points for the reader to consider: • An earnings series from which nonrecurring items have been purged is essential in order to both evaluate current trends in operating performance and make projections of future results. • The identification and measurement of nonrecurring items will typically require the exercise of judgment.

Analyzing Business Earnings


• There are no agreed-upon definitions of nonrecurring items as part of GAAP. Moreover, a variety of labels are used beyond the term nonrecurring and they include special, unusual, nonoperating, and noncore. • It is common to treat items as nonrecurring even though they may appear with some regularity in the income statement. However, these items are usually very irregular in terms of their amount as well as whether they are revenues/gains or expenses/losses. • The key question to pose in making the nonrecurring judgment is: Will underlying trends in operating performance be obscured if the item remains in earnings? • Many material nonrecurring items will be separately disclosed on the face of the income statement. However, a substantial number will be disclosed in other statements and locations. It is typically necessary to extend the search for nonrecurring items well beyond the income statement. • In response to reductions in the time available for a whole range of important activities, an efficient and abbreviated search sequence is presented in the chapter and illustrated with a comprehensive case example. While a comprehensive review of all financial reporting is the gold standard, reliable information on sustainable earnings can typically be developed while employing only a subset of reported financial information.

FOR FURTHER R EADING Bernstein, L., and J. Wild, Financial Statement Analysis: Theory, Application, and Interpretation, 6th ed. (Homewood, IL: Irwin McGraw-Hill, 1998). Comiskey, E., and C. Mulford, Guide to Financial Reporting and Analysis (New York: John Wiley, 2000). Comiskey, E., C. Mulford, and H. Choi, “Analyzing the Persistence of Earnings: A Lender ’s Guide,” Commercial Lending Review (winter 1994–1995). White, G., A. Sondhi, and D. Fried, The Analysis and Use of Financial Statements (New York: John Wiley, 1997). Mulford, C., and E. Comiskey, Financial Warnings (New York: John Wiley, 1996). Special Committee on Financial Reporting of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Improving Business Reporting—A Customer Focus (New York: AICPA, 1994).


This site provides updates on the agenda of the FASB. It also includes useful summaries of FASB statements and other information related to standard setting. This site provides a very convenient alternative source of SEC filings.

96 Understanding the Numbers

A source for accessing company Securities and Exchange Commission filings. This site also includes Accounting and Auditing Enforcement Releases of the SEC. These releases provide very useful examples of the actions sometimes taken by companies to misrepresent their financial performance or position.

ANNUAL R EPORTS R EFER ENCED IN THE CHAPTER Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (1999) Air T Inc. (2000) Akorn Inc. (1999) AK Steel Holdings Corporation (1999) Alberto-Culver Company (2000) Amazon.Com Inc. (1999) American Building Maintenance Inc. (1989) American Standard Companies Inc. (1999) AmSouth Bancorporation (1999) Archer Daniels Midland Company (2000) Argosy Gaming Company (1995) Armco Inc. (1998) Armstrong World Industries Inc. (1999) Artistic Greetings Inc. (1995) Atlantic American Corporation (1999) Avado Brands Inc. (1999) Avoca Inc. (1995) Baker Hughes Inc. (1997) Baltek Corporation (1997) C.R. Bard Inc. (1999) Baycorp Holdings Ltd. (1999) Bestfoods Inc. (1999) Biogen Inc. (1999) BLC Financial Services Inc. (1998) Brooktrout Technologies Inc. (1998) Brush Wellman Inc. (1999) Burlington Resources Inc. (1999) Callon Petroleum Company (1999) Champion Enterprises Inc. (1995) Chiquita Brands International Inc. (1999)

Analyzing Business Earnings

Cisco Systems Inc. (1999) Colonial Commercial Corporation (1999) Corning Inc. (1999) Cryomedical Sciences Inc. (1995) Dal-Tile International Inc. (1999) Dana Corporation (1999) Dean Foods Company (1999) Decorator Industries Inc. (1999) Delta Air Lines Inc. (1996, 2000) Detection Systems Inc. (2000) Dibrell Brothers Inc. (1993) Escalon Medical Corporation (2000) Evans and Sutherland Computer Corporation (1998) The Fairchild Corporation (2000) First Aviation Services Inc. (1999) Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (1991) Galey & Lord Inc. (1998) Geo. A. Hormel & Company (1993) Gerber Scientific Inc. (2000) Gleason Corporation (1995) Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company (1995, 1998) Handy and Harman Inc. (1997) M.A. Hanna Company (1999) Hercules Inc. (1999) H.J. Heinz Company (1995) Holly Corporation (2000) Hollywood Casino Corporation (1992) Imperial Holly Corporation (1994) Imperial Sugar Company (1999) JLG Industries Inc. (2000) KeyCorp Ohio Inc. (1999) Kulicke & Soffa Industries Inc. (1999) Lufkin Industries Inc. (1999) Mason Dixon Bancshares Inc. (1999) Maxco Inc. (1996) Meredith Corporation (1994) Micron Technology Inc. (2000) NACCO Industries Inc. (1995) National Steel Corporation (1999)


98 Understanding the Numbers New England Business Services Inc. (1996) Noble Drilling Inc. (1991) NS Group Inc. (1992) Office Depot Inc. (1999) Osmonics Inc. (1993) Pall Corporation (2000) Petroleum Helicopters Inc. (1999) Phillips Petroleum Company (1990) Pollo Tropical Inc. (1995) Praxair Inc. (1999) Raven Industries Inc. (2000) Saucony Inc. (1999) Schnitzer Steel Industries Inc. (1999) Shaw Industries Inc. (1999) The Sherwin-Williams Company (1999) Silicon Valley Group Inc. (1999) Southwest Airlines Inc. (1999) Standard Register Company (1999) SunTrust Banks Inc. (1999) Synthetech Inc. (2000) Textron Inc. (1999) Toys “R” Us Inc. (1999) Trimark Holdings Inc. (1995) Tyco International Ltd. (2000) Watts Industries Inc. (1999) Wegener Corporation (1999)

NOTES 1. The American Institute of CPA’s Special Committee on Financial Reporting, Improving Business Reporting—A Customer Focus (New York: AICPA, November 1993), 4. 2. Donald Kieso and Jerry Weygandt, Intermediate Accounting, 9th ed. (New York: John Wiley, 1998), 154–161. 3. Delta Air Lines, annual reports, June 1996, 50–51, and June 2000. 4. Some might also remove these gains because they do not represent operating items. However, the ongoing disposition of f light equipment is an inherent feature of being in the airline business. It is not what they are in the business to do, but it does come with the territory. 5. Delta Air Lines does disclose some proceeds from the sale of f light equipment in its 1998–2000 statements of cash f low. The gains and losses were probably too small

Analyzing Business Earnings


to receive separate disclosure. Delta Air Lines, annual report, June 2000, 36. Delta does disclose balances for deferred gains on sale and leaseback transactions. These balances declined by $50 million in 2000, suggesting that gains equal to this amount were included in earnings for 2000. They are treated as a reduction in lease expense and do not appear on a line item as gains on the disposition of f light equipment. 6. In fact, 1996 saw a loss of $7.4 million, followed by gains of $34.1 in 1997 and $2.6 million in 1998. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, annual report on Form 10-K to the Securities and Exchange Commission, December 1998, 32. 7. George A. Hormel & Company, annual report, 1993, 58. 8. H. Choi, Analysis and Valuation Implications of Persistence and CashContent Dimensions of Earnings Components Based on Extent of Analyst Following, unpublished PhD thesis, Georgia Institute of Technology, October 1994, 80. 9. Ibid. The authors of this chapter served as committee member and committee chair for Dr. Choi’s thesis guidance committee. 10. AICPA, Accounting Trends and Techniques (New York: AICPA, 2000), 311. 11. AICPA’s Special Committee on Financial Reporting, Improving Business Reporting—A Customer Focus (New York: AICPA, November 1993), 4 12. SFAS 131, Disclosures about Segments of an Enterprise and Related Information (Norwalk, CT: Financial Accounting Standards Board, June 1997), para. 10. 13. APB Opinion No. 30, Reporting the Results of Operations (New York: AICPA, July 1973), para. 20. 14. SFAS 4, Reporting Gains and Losses from the Extinguishment of Debt (Stamford, CT: FASB, March 1975). 15. SFAS 15, Accounting by Debtors and Creditors for Troubled Debt Restructurings (Stamford, CT: FASB, June 1977). 16. Exxon’s accident took the form of a massive oil spill in Alaska, and Union Carbide’s was a release of toxic fumes in India. 17. Armco Inc. annual report, December 1998. Information obtained from Disclosure Inc., Compact D/SEC: Corporate Information on Public Companies Filing with the SEC (Bethesda, MD: Disclosure Inc., June 2000). 18. Securities and Exchange Commission, Staff Accounting Bulletin No. 101 (Washington, DC: SEC, 1999). 19. Southwest Airlines Inc., annual report, December 1999. 20. This statement needs some expansion. With the exception of barter transactions, almost all expenses involve a cash outf low at some point in time. In the case of depreciation, the cash outf low normally takes place when the depreciable assets are acquired. At that time, the cash outf low is classified as an investing cash outf low in the statement of cash f lows. If the depreciation were not added back to net income in computing operating cash f low, then cash would appear to be reduced twice—once when the assets were purchased and a second time when depreciation is recorded, and with it net income is reduced. 21. To keep the books in balance, the recognition of the loss in the income statement is matched by a reduction in the carrying value of the investment in the balance sheet. 22. SEC Reg. S-X, Rule 5-02.6 (Washington, DC: SEC, 2001). 23. SEC, Staff Accounting Bulletin No. 40 (Washington, DC: SEC, February 8, 1981).

100 Understanding the Numbers 24. Handy and Harman Inc., annual report, December 1997. Information obtained from Disclosure Inc., Compact D/SEC: Corporate Information on Public Companies Filing with the SEC (Bethesda, MD: Disclosure Inc., June 1998. 25. Even with great improvements in supply chain management, it is still difficult to get along without any inventories. 26. Reviews and compilations represent a level of outside accountant service well below that of an audit. Compilations typically provide only an income statement and balance sheet. Neither notes nor a statement of cash f lows are part of the standard compilation disclosures. 27. Absent disclosures, the effect of a LIFO liquidation can be estimated. This requires the assumption that the observed increase in the gross margin is due largely to the LIFO liquidation. The pretax effect of the LIFO liquidation can then be approximated by multiplying sales for the period of the liquidation times the increase in the gross margin percentage. 28. Archer Daniels Midland Company, annual report, June 2000, 20. 29. Guidance in this area is found in SFAS No. 109, Accounting for Income Taxes (Norwalk, CT: FASB, February 1992). 30. The offsetting of gains and losses in the 1998 other income and expense note is swamped by a $329 million nonrecurring gain on the disposition of C.R. Bard’s cardiology business. 31. Reg. S-K, Subpart 229.300, Item 303(a)(3)(i) (Washington, DC: SEC, 2001). 32. Mason Dixon Bancshares might take issue with this characterization. Financial firms tend to characterize these disclosures as designed to measure core earnings. However, our experience is that the end product is very similar to sustainable earnings, where the focus is on purging nonrecurring items from reported net income. 33. Phillips Petroleum, annual report, December 1999, 33. 34. Ibid., 33. 35. Other companies that have provided similar presentations in recent years include Amoco Corp., Carpenter Technology, Chevron Corp., Deere & Company Inc., Halliburton Co. Inc., Maxus Energy Corp., and Raychem Corp. 36. C. R. Bard Inc., annual report, December 1999, 17. 37. A hedge of foreign-currency exposure is achieved by creating an offsetting position to the financial statement exposure. The most common offsetting position is established by the use of a foreign-currency derivative. These issues are discussed more fully in Chapter 12. 38. These alternative translation methods are discussed and illustrated in Chapter 12. 39. Dibrell Brothers Inc., annual report, December 1993, 35. 40. Ibid., 14. 41. Arthur Levitt, The Numbers Game, speech given at the NYU Center for Law and Business, September 28, 1998 (available at: /spch220.txt). 42. The earnings of a subsequent period are increased by reducing the previously accrued restructuring charge on the basis that the accrual was too large. The amount by which the liability is reduced is also included in the income statement as either an item of income or an expense reduction.

Analyzing Business Earnings


43. Office Depot Inc., annual report, December 1999, 57, 56. 44. SFAS No. 130, Reporting Comprehensive Income (Norwalk, CT: FASB, June 1997). 45. Translation (remeasurement) gains and losses that result from the application of the temporal (remeasurement) method continue to be included in the income statement as part of conventional net income. Only translation adjustments that result from application of the all-current translation method are included in other comprehensive income. Recent changes in the accounting for financial derivatives also result in the inclusion of certain hedge gains and losses in other comprehensive income: SFAS No. 133, Accounting for Derivative Instruments and Hedging Activities (Norwalk, CT: FASB, November 1998). 46. An annual survey conducted by the AICPA reveals the following pattern of adoption of the alternative reporting methods of SFAS No. 130 for 497 firms: (1) a combined statement of income and comprehensive income, 26 firms; (2) a separate statement of comprehensive income, 65 firms; and (3) reporting comprehensive income directly in shareholders’ equity, 406 firms. AICPA, Accounting Trends and Techniques (New York: AICPA, 2000), 429. 47. An earlier version of the Baker Hughes case study also appeared in E. Comiskey and C. Mulford, Guide to Financial Reporting and Analysis (New York: John Wiley, 2000), chapter 3. 48. Phillips Petroleum, annual report, December 1999, 33. 49. Research and development costs must be written off immediately—even if the in-process R&D is purchased from another firm. Whether this expense is deductible for tax purposes turns on the manner in which the acquisition is structured. Generally, the expense is deductible in transactions structured as asset acquisitions but not in the case of stock acquisitions.



Abigail Peabody was a very well-known nature photographer. Over the years she had had a number of best-sellers, and her books adorned the coffee tables of many households worldwide. On this particular day she was contemplating her golden years, which were fast approaching. In particular she was reviewing her year-end investment report and wondering why she was not better prepared. After all, she had been featured in the Sunday New York Times book section, had discussed her works with Martha Stewart, and had been the keynote speaker at the Audubon Society’s annual fund-raiser. She knew it was not her investment advisers’ fault. Their performance over the past years had been better than many of the market indixes. She wondered if she was just a poor businessperson. The last thought struck a pleasant chord. She had a grandson who was a junior at a well-known business school just outside Boston. It was time, anyway, to catch up to his latest business idea. She dialed the number from memory. He was as lively as usual. “Hi, Abbey, I was just going to call you. How’s the new bird book coming?” [Of her many grandchildren, he had the most irresistible charm.] How she loved his ability to make her feel young—and his ability to remember never to call her anything that began with Grand-. “Actually, Stephen, that’s why I’m calling. I was just reviewing my retirement portfolio, and I think it’s time for me to renegotiate my royalty structure with my publisher. I could use some help from a bright business mind.” “Love to help you. What’s wrong with the current contract? Haven’t you been with them since the beginning?” “Yes I have, but things have changed. In the old days, they provided me with many services. They brainstormed projects with me, suggested different


Cost-Volume -Profit Analysis


ideas such as the Baskets of Nantucket best-seller, and edited my work wordby-word and frame-by-frame. They worked hard for me and earned every penny they made on me. I was not the easiest artist to put up with.” Stephen was interested. “Go on.” “Well, now I barely talk with them. I am at the point where loyal readers suggest many of my projects. I design them myself, edit them myself, and even help my publisher prepare the promotion materials. They don’t work so hard anymore. I think I have paid my dues. I want a bigger piece of the pie.” “That could be a problem, Abbey. I just finished a case study on that industry, and it is very competitive. There are many parts to the industry value system that ultimately ends with someone buying a book (see Exhibit 3.1). It starts with people like you who have the intellectual capital. The next piece of the system is the publisher, who manages the creativity process, supplies the editing, prints the book, and markets it. Wholesalers like Ingram add value to this system by buying books in large quantity from publishers, warehousing them, and selling in smaller quantities to bookstores. Of course, the last piece is the bookstore, where in-store promotion and the final sales process takes place. On, say, a $50 book, the bookstore buys it from the wholesaler for about $35, netting about $15 to cover its costs such as rent and salespeople. The wholesaler buys the book from the publisher in large lot sizes for about $30 a book, giving the wholesaler about $5 to cover its logistics costs. Of the $30 the publisher sells it for, 15% of the retail price, or $7.50 ($50 × 15%) is your royalty, and the rest covers printing, client development, returned books, administrative expenses, and a profit. The publisher really can’t give you too much more since its margin is already very slim. Sorry to disappoint you but that’s how it is.” Abbey was disappointed. “Stephen, for all that money your parents are paying, doesn’t that business school teach creativity? You have to look at the world and think of what it could be, not what it is today.” Unembarrassed by Abbey’s chastisem*nt, Stephen, reacted positively. “How much risk do you want to take on this new project, Abbey?”


Publishing industr y value system. Author





Intellectual Capital

Development Editing Printing

Logistics Warehousing

Promotion Sales

Revenue: Purchase cost: Gross margin:



$35.00 30.00 $ 5.00

$50.00 35.00 $15.00


104 Understanding the Numbers “That’s more like it. For now, let’s ‘roll the bones’—I mean, assume risk is not an issue. What do you have in mind?” “Well, this semester I have a Web-marketing course and I need a project. Are you familiar with the World Wide Web?” “I spend a good part of the day corresponding with friends on it.” “Good. What you just said to me is that you don’t see too many pieces of the publishing system adding value commensurate with the value they extract. How about setting up your own Web site and selling your latest project yourself? We would have to contract with others to provide the necessary parts of the chain, but selling the book through our Web site is possible. It could fail, and you would have one very unhappy publisher.” Abbey thought she was now getting somewhere. “As long as you are getting credit for it, why don’t you develop this idea further. See if it’s possible and what my risks would be. I might even give you a piece of the action.”

COST STRUCTUR E ANALYSIS A month later Abbey met Stephen for lunch in Boston. He was excited. “Abbey, this is what I have found so far. Setting up a Web site is very easy, but maintaining it and keeping it fresh and exciting so that people want to revisit it is the challenge. Neither you nor I want to do that, trust me. I have talked with a number of companies who offer this type of service. Many of them were excited when I showed them copies of your past books. To set up and maintain the site, the offers ran anywhere from a low of $25,000 a year to four times that. The high-end ones also charge a 5% fee on all revenues generated. I think we want a high-end site that is creative, custom designed, and exciting so I lean toward the more expensive ones. They are good.” Abbey liked how he used the word we. And being an artist, she too thought that her Web site should be exciting, creative, and different. “Go on.” “I also found a number of printers who specialize in small run sizes, typically less than 50 books in any one printing. Their technology is called printon-demand, and they also work with photographs. I brought some samples of printed photos.” Abbey was impressed with the quality. It looked no different than her previous books. “What would they charge?” “They said they could print your books on demand and guarantee the quality for about $35 each. Now, this is much more than what traditional printers charge, but they always run large volumes, a minimum of 5,000 copies in one printing, and want to be paid for every one of them even before we could sell them. Bottom line, we would be at risk if this doesn’t work.” Abbey was disappointed that she was again making someone else rich, but moved on. “How would we do all the promotion and sales?” “Two ways. Once your readers learn of your site, they will visit it. If the Web-design company delivers what they promise, we should be able to sell

Cost-Volume -Profit Analysis


directly to them. Until that traffic happens, the Web designers will develop links with all the major sites that might be interested.” “How does that work?” “Well, your newest project is a Florida bird book for all the retired baby boomers down there, right? So we develop what is called a link with the Audubon’s Web site and maybe AARP and the Florida Tourism Bureau. When people see your book on those sites, they click on a link and get transferred to our site. If they buy the book, we pay the site a 10% royalty.” “Does that mean I spend all my days, assuming we are successful, mailing books all over the world? That doesn’t interest me.” “No. I also talked with logistics companies like UPS and FedEx. They will do all of that. When we sell a book, we just notify them electronically. They work with the printer to obtain the book and with the credit card company to get paid, and they ship it. They even collect the money, pay everyone involved with the sale, and electronically deposit the remainder in your account. They would charge about $10 per book for all of this, assuming we can guarantee a certain minimal volume.” “Now that sounds like your parents are getting their money’s worth. Have you summarized all of this?” “Sure have. You’re still thinking about a price of $80 for this book?” “My others have sold for that, and I think the demand for this might even be greater. So $80 is a good assumption.” “Okay. First, all business models have only two types of costs, variable and fixed. Each is defined by the behavior of the total cost function. Variable costs are those that increase proportionately with volume—basically, the more books we sell the higher these total costs will be. They can be expressed either on a per-unit basis or as a percentage of the selling price. Notice we have both types. Our printing and logistics costs total $45 for each book sold—$35 printing plus $10 logistics. Our Web-site sales referral cost of 10% and Web-design cost of 5% for every dollar of revenue are examples of the latter kind of variable cost. For the targeted price of $80, these costs come to $12 for each book sold ($80 × 15%). Note this type of variable cost is a little more complicated than the simple $45 per book—here if we change selling price, the variable cost will change. Given the $80 selling price, the total variable cost per book is then $57 per unit ($45 + $12). Unlike these costs, the Web-site design cost is a mixed cost1 and has to be broken into a variable and a fixed component. We have already treated the 5% variable cost component. There is also a fixed charge per year of about $100,000 if we go high-end. Note the difference in behavior of this cost. Here the total cost is not dependent on a volume factor such as “books sold.” Fixed costs are often called period costs since they are time dependent. So in summary, we have a time-dependent fixed charge of $100,000 per year, which remains the same regardless of the number of books sold, and a variable cost, which is better understood on a per-unit or, in this case, per-book rate of $57. I made a graph of this—what businesspeople call cost structure (see Exhibit 3.2).”2

106 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 3.2

Web site cost structure.


Dollars (thousands)

1,600 1,400 1,200 1,000 800 600

Relevant range

400 200 0







Abbey thought she understood. “So this structure will always be the same?” “With one proviso,” Stephen affirmed. “Although my chart looks the same from zero volume to an infinite amount sold, we really should only be talking about a smaller relevant range. Both the printer and the logistics company are assuming an annual volume of between 10,000 and 25,000 books—essentially what your past books sold. Outside this range, especially on the high side, the costs probably will change. I don’t think the printer can do much more than 25,000 a year for us. Likewise, at greater than this volume, we would probably have to redesign the Web site. So the cost structure could change if we were to move outside the range.” “Okay. So now I think I do understand what the cost structure would be given our plans for the Web site. All that you said makes sense, and I’m sure my new book will sell in that range. So tell me why I shouldn’t do this.”

COST-VOLUME-PROFIT ANALYSIS “If we add a revenue line to my first exhibit,” said Stephen, “we will start to get a better picture of the answer to this question (see Exhibit 3.3). First, you must understand the concept of contribution margin. For us, it is simple. For every $80 book we sell, there is a variable cost to print, sell, and deliver that book of $57. This means that the net contribution of each book sold is $23. Does this make sense?” “Sure does,” Abbey answered, delighted. “This is wonderful. I was only making $12 with my publisher, and now I can make almost double that.” “Not quite. You forgot one thing. Contribution margin must first go toward covering the fixed costs before we can realize any profit. Each year we have to cover the Web-site designer’s charge of $100,000. At a contribution margin of $23 per book, it will take about 4,350 books sold to do this (see

Cost-Volume -Profit Analysis EXHIBIT 3.3


Web site CVP analysis.

Dollars (thousands)

2,500 Total revenue line


Total cost line


Break-even point Profit area

1,000 500 0

Fixed cost







Exhibit 3.4). On my graph, this is the point where the revenue line intersects the total cost line and is called the break-even point. After that, you are correct. For any additional book we sell, the $23 contribution per book is all profit. So, as I see it, there is little risk since you are sure that we will sell at a minimum 10,000 copies per year.” Abbey became a bit uncomfortable. “Actually, I think this book will sell about 20,000 copies per year at a minimum. But isn’t my alternative to stay with my publisher? And if so, shouldn’t we be talking about whether I would be better off with the Web site?” Stephen was suddenly not so co*cky. Abbey thought that maybe some remedial work on those tuition dollars was needed. “I have some work to do. Why don’t you get back to me on that, Stephen?” Two nights later, after faxing her two charts, Stephen phoned Abbey. “I sent you a different type of chart, called a profit chart, which shows the two EXHIBIT 3.4

Break-even calculations. Sales Revenue = Fixed Costs + Variable Costs $80 x = $100, 000 + $57 x

Solving for x, $80 x − $57 x = $100, 000 $23 x = $100, 000 x=

General Rule: Break-even point =

$100, 000 = 4, 348 books 23

Fixed Costs Contribution Margin

108 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 3.5

Prof it chart.

600 Stay with publisher

Dollars (thousands)

500 400 Sell through Web site

300 200 100 0






–100 –200


alternatives (see Exhibit 3.5). ‘Stay with the publisher’ shows that you make $12 for every book sold. ‘Sell through the Web site’ is a bit more involved in that it shows that you first must cover your fixed cost before making any profit. Note that they intersect at about 9,100 books sold, which means that you would be indifferent to which business model you chose at this volume of books sold.3 But at less than the 9,100 you should stay with your publisher; at greater than that volume, build your own Web site. At the 20,000 books-per-year level you said you are sure this project will hit, you make $240,000 per year (20,000 × $12 royalty per book) if you stay with your publisher, and $360,000 with the Web site (20,000 × [$80 − $57] − $100,000 fixed costs). Another way to think about this is that if we set up our own Web site there is an additional variable cost for each book we sell—the $12 we could have made from the publisher (see Exhibit 3.6). This is called an opportunity cost. It is a relative measure—


Revised Web site CVP analysis.


Dollars (thousands)

Total revenue line 2,000 Break-even now indifference point

1,500 1,000

Revised total cost line $69x + $100,000

500 0



15,000 Units



Cost-Volume -Profit Analysis


what is sacrificed when we choose one alternative, selling through the Web site, over the next best alternative, staying with the publisher. If we think this way, our contribution margin is now only $11 ($80 selling price less $57 variable costs less $12 royalty per book sacrificed). We do arrive at the same indifference point using this method—using the general rule: Fixed Costs Contribution Margin $100, 000 = $11 = 9, 091 units

CVP Point =

I think this is the better way to think about the Web-site alternative. Note, using this method, at 20,000 books per year we make a total contribution of $220,000 (20,000 × $11), which covers our fixed costs and yields the $120,000 incremental profit—same as ($360,000 − $240,000).” Abbey was becoming very interested in this business opportunity. She liked the 50% greater return ($120,000/$240,000). “How fast can we get this Web site up and running?” “Let’s talk a bit more. I also presented today in class what we have done so far. Many students liked the idea. The only criticism was that Web customers expect lower prices since they know the middle person has been eliminated. The class agreed that a 10% to 15% price decline would be very likely, resulting in a price closer to $70. This is not so good for us. Even though our variable cost will fall to $67.50 since part of it is price dependent ($35 printing + $10 logistics + $12 opportunity cost + [15% × $70]), our contribution margin would now only be $2.50 per book. Just to match what you could make with your publisher, we would have to sell about 40,000 books a year ($100,000/$2.50 per book). At the 20,000-book level, we would now be worse off by $50,000 ([20,000 × $2.50] − $100,000). Well, you asked about the risks and here they are. The price could even be lower, so there is a high probability we could wind up worse off.” “So, you’re my business partner, what do you suggest?” was Abbey’s reply. “That’s a hard one,” was all Stephen could say.

CVP for Decision Mak ing The next day Abbey called Stephen for more advice. “Public Broadcasting System of Florida called me after our talk yesterday. They just began planning their end-of-year membership drive and heard about my book project. They want to offer a free copy of my book to any member who donates $250 or more.” Stephen thought that was great. “Unfortunately, since they are a public company they have constraints on their spending. They can give a gift equivalent to only 20% of the donation.

110 Understanding the Numbers Fifty dollars a book for 5,000 books was their offer to me. Since we just went over the numbers, I said I couldn’t possibly do this since our variable costs alone were greater than $50 a unit. This analysis we did does help with decision making. Last year I might have agreed to the deal. I am starting to feel like a businessperson.” Stephen asked whether the PBS group accepted her decision. When Abbey said that they were very persistent and would call back next week, Stephen suggested he and Abbey meet again for lunch. He needed to review some of his class notes on relevant cost analysis, specifically on something he remembered as “special orders.” At lunch Stephen explained some analysis he had done. “Abbey, this is called a special order situation. These types of business decisions are shortrun decisions that have no long-term ramifications.4 Assuming that we have the Web site up by that time, we have to be careful in identifying only those costs that are relevant to the decision. For instance, the $100,000 we will spend on our site per year is not relevant, since regardless of whether we accept this special order, those costs will still be there. The rule that we use is: A cost is relevant if and only if it will change due to the decision being analyzed, in this case our special order. Let’s review the relevant costs. First, there’s the $35 charge to print the books on demand. Since this is a 5,000-unit order the printer’s costs to prepare the run, called set-up costs, will be spread over a much larger number of books. I talked with him, and he would be willing to do this run for $30 per book. Likewise, UPS or FedEx will ship these books all at once and not individually, so the $10 charge per book will be avoided. A one-time fixed charge of $250 for shipment of the 5,000-book order is closer to the correct number. Since this order was not sold through a


Relevant cost analysis of special order. Accept the Order, No Adjustments to Costs

Number of books sold

Accept the Order, Adjusted Costs






Relevant costs: Printing Logistics 10% site referral 5% Web site expense

$175,000 50,000 25,000 12,500

Total relevant costs Nonrelevant costs Web site design Profit from order

Reject the Order





$150,000 250 0 12,500


0 0 0 0

$150,000 250 0 12,500









$ 87,250

Cost-Volume -Profit Analysis


site reference, the 10% commission can also be avoided. I looked into the Web-site contract, and I do think we will have to pay this charge of $2.50 per book (5% × $50). Summing up, the variable cost per book for this special order will be only $32.50 ($30 printing charge plus $2.50 Web-site fee)—less than the $50 PBS is willing to pay. The end result is a $17.50 contribution margin per book for this special order. There is an incremental fixed charge of $250 but we still will make just over $87,000 (5,000 × [$50 − $32.50] − $250 = $87,250). So we should think about reconsidering the offer” (see Exhibit 3.7). Though Abbey was beginning to appreciate the complexity of this type of analysis, all the numbers did make sense. She had only one question: “What happens if customers I would have sold to anyway get their books this way? Don’t I lose money?” Stephen had done that analysis. “In the business world, we call that cannibalization. On every book sold through this special offer, you could potentially lose the $23 contribution margin per book sold through the regular Web site if these people would have bought anyway. To solve for the potential number of regular customers that would have to be cannibalized in order for us to lose money on this special order, follow this procedure: $23x = $87, 250

Solving for x, we get $87, 250 $23 = 3, 793 customers


This means that if about 3,800 of the 5,000 books sold by PBS go to customers that would have bought anyway, we are indifferent to accepting this order. If more than 3,800 would have bought anyway, we lose on this special order. Do you think 76% (3,800/ 5,000) of these people would buy from our Web site? I don’t think it is anywhere near that. And, on the positive side, these 5,000 people would now be advertising our Web site with your book on their coffee tables all over Florida.” Abbey was searching for the PBS phone number before Stephen had finished the last sentence. She made a mental note to understand this “relevant cost” analysis a bit more.

Price Discrimination In the above special order situation, there was a legitimate reason to offer PBS the lower price. As Exhibit 3.7 illustrates, the relevant cost analysis justified the lower price. When offering different prices to different customers, one must be aware of the laws regarding price discrimination. Under the federal Robinson-Patman Act and many state laws, it is illegal to price discriminate unless there are mitigating circ*mstances. One must be very careful to do a

112 Understanding the Numbers relevant cost analysis before granting any price concessions to customers on a selective basis.

CVP in a Multiple Product Situation The special order was a great opportunity, but both Abbey and Stephen knew that the success of the Web site ultimately would depend on the regular, dayto-day business activity. The two of them were still worried about the potential Web discount resulting in a $70 price point. As an artist Abbey understood risk and had learned long ago to accept risk and figure a way to minimize it. She decided to talk with some of her artist friends. In two weeks she and Stephen met again. Stephen was desperate to finish his project since semester end was right around the corner. Abbey walked in wearing a rather stylish straw hat. “I think I have the solution, Stephen. I do not want to drop my price from $80. My other books sold at this price, and to drop the price on this one might send the wrong message to my loyal following. This book will not be in any manner inferior to my past works. But I do have an idea. We are going to expand our product offerings. I have a dear friend who makes these hats, and I think this would be a perfect complement to my bird book. After all, if you are going out bird-watching in Florida you need both to look good and to have sun protection. We are going to package the book with a hat and a Peterson’s Florida Bird Guide at a very reasonable price for those that are more price conscious.” Stephen was stunned. “Whoa, do you want all this complexity in your business, Abbey?” She smiled. “I, too, can do some field research. My friend will package the three items as orders come in. I don’t have to do any more work than before. She was happy to build demand for her hats.” “So, how about the costs?” “This is how I see it. We sell the hats for $50 by themselves; the books for $80 by themselves; and then offer the package for $140. A Peterson’s Guide typically sells for $20, so this package price is a deal—you could say I’m selling my book for $70 as part of this package, although I would never admit to it. I coerced my friend to give us her hats for $24 each, and the book costs when included in this package will change a bit. I put your relevant cost technique to work here. My friend and I think we can assemble the package for a variable cost of about $100 (see Exhibit 3.8). Peterson will give us the guide for $10 to get the exposure, and since we are still shipping only one item, I’m hoping that the logistics charge will not change too much. I had some problems figuring out what we have to sell since there were now multiple items—hats, books, and packages. But I have faith in you.” As his laptop was booting Stephen began. “CVP analysis for multiple products is very common since few companies sell just one item. Instead of

Cost-Volume -Profit Analysis EXHIBIT 3.8


Variable package cost estimates.

Hat Book printing 10% site referral fee 5% Web site commission Peterson Guide Package logistics

$ 24 35 14 7 10 10 $100

focusing on a contribution margin per unit, when we have multiple products we must base our calculations on the percentage contribution margin for each dollar of revenue.” “Sounds complicated.” “Not really, Abbey. It’s probably easier, though, for me to show you how it works than to explain it. All I need is your estimate of the sales mix. For every book you sell individually, how many hats will you sell and how many packages will you sell? These estimates do not have to be exact—businesspeople typically talk about ballpark estimates.” “My friend and I did discuss this. We were not sure, so we came up with a range. We think that for every 100 books we sell individually, we will sell 50 packages. A surprisingly large number of people are active in this regard. They actually do enjoy seeking these birds out in the wild. And, of course, everyone knows you need a wide-brimmed hat in Florida. We guessed that we might also sell 20 hats individually for every 100 books sold. If things go really well, we might sell as many as 70 packages and 30 hats for every 100 books. On the pessimistic side, we could sell as few as 30 packages and 10 hats for the same 100 books. Is this okay?” “Actually, that’s even better. If you’re sure of these ranges, then we can do a sensitivity analysis to see how our profits will change as the mix changes. We need to know how much our profit will vary with changes in the mix. Are you comfortable with these ranges?” “Yes.” “To do this analysis we must first build a product mix analysis. Here, I’ll show you.” Abbey was very impressed as Stephan built the analysis on his laptop (see Exhibit 3.9). “Just as we analyzed the unit costs before, we build a similar cost analysis. The only difference is that this time we build it for a composite unit defined by the mix. For your expected mix, 100 books plus 50 packages plus 20 hats, we see that for every $16,000 in sales you will have $11,180 in variable costs. This means that on a percentage basis your variable costs are 69.9% of sales as long as you sell in that mix. Note that we now have a percentage definition of contribution margin, not a unit definition—contribution margin

114 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 3.9

Mix contribution estimates. Books Per Unit

Low Mix Revenue Variable Cost Contribution

$80 $57 71.3%

Expected Mix Revenue Variable Cost Contribution

$80 $57 71.3%

High Mix Revenue Variable Cost Contribution

$80 $57 71.3%


Total 100 $8,000 $5,700

100 $8,000 $5,700

100 $8,000 $5,700

Per Unit $140 $100 71.4%

$140 $100 71.4%

$140 $100 71.4%

Total 30 $4,200 $3,000

50 $7,000 $5,000

70 $9,800 $7,000

Hats Per Unit $50 $24 48.0%

$50 $24 48.0%

$50 $24 48.0%

Mix Total 10 $ 500 $ 240

20 $1,000 $ 480

30 $1,500 $ 720

Total $12,700 $ 8,940 70.4%

$16,000 $11,180 69.9%

$19,300 $13,420 69.5%

percentage of 30.1%. Our fixed costs are still $100,000 per year, so we now adjust the general rule for CVP point as follows:5 Sales − Variable Costs − Fixed Costs = 0 x − (69.9%) x − $100, 000 = 0

Solving for x, (30.1%) x = $100, 000 $100, 000 30.1% = $332, 226 in sales revenue


To test this model, assume that we have $332,226 in sales revenue and we did sell the planned mix. Our contribution margin will be 30.1%, which yields the $100,000 necessary to cover the fixed costs. We do, in fact, break even. The key, of course, is to be able to forecast the correct mix and then to attain it.” Abbey was quick to correct Stephen. “Don’t forget, I still want to be at least as well off as if I chose to stay with my publisher—say the 20,000 books at my $12 royalty.” “Easy enough. We just revise the equation by adding a necessary profit requirement—this is why they call it cost-volume-profit analysis: Sales − Variable Costs − Fixed Costs = Profit x − (69.9%) x − $100, 000 = $240, 000

Cost-Volume -Profit Analysis


Solving for x, (30.1%) x = $340, 000 $340, 000 30.1% = $1,128, 631 (with no rounding)


We find that you must do about $1.130 million in sales to be as well-off.” “Hmm. I’m not sure what this means. So how much of what do I have to sell? That’s what I want to know.” “What we do is take the total required sales of $1.130 million and split it by your revenue mix percentages. Given your expected mix estimates, half of your revenues will come from sales of books, or $564,315; seven-sixteenths from packages, or $493,776; and the other one-sixteenth from sales of hats, or $70,539. Dividing by the selling price of each item, we can also compute the necessary unit sales levels—7,054 books, 3,527 packages, and 1,411 hats. With our variable cost estimates, if you meet these targets we will indeed meet the targeted profit level (see Exhibit 3.10). In summary, we were worried that our 9,100-book target was too optimistic because price cuts were possible. With this mix we will have to sell 10,581 books—7,054 individually and 3,527 in packages—but one-third of them will essentially sell for around $70. This seems more realistic if the packages are marketed correctly.” “What does the sensitivity analysis tell us?” “Since the contribution percentage for the package is about equal to an individual book, this solution is not very sensitive to variation in mix. If you do meet your ‘optimistic’ mix projection, your contribution percentage increases by less than 1%—30.1% to 30.5% (see Exhibit 3.11). As a result your EXHIBIT 3.10 Required unit revenues and sales volumes expected mix. Books Per Unit Expected mix Revenue Percentage of total CVP target Mix % allocation Variable cost Contribution margin Divide by unit price to find unit sales needed



Packages Total


100 8,000

Per Unit $140


Total $

50 7,000

Per Unit $50


Total 20 $ 1,000




$564,315 402,075

$493,776 352,697

$70,539 33,859






Books 7,054

Packages 3,527

Hats 1,411

Total $

16,000 100.00%

$1,128,631 $1,128,631

$ 340,000

116 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 3.11 Mix sensitivity analysis optimistic mix. Books Per Unit Expected mix Revenue Percentage of total CVP target Mix % allocation Variable cost Contribution margin Divide by unit price to find unit sales needed



Packages Total


100 8,000

Per Unit $140


Total $

70 9,800

Per Unit $50


Total 30 $ 1,500




$462,585 329,592

$566,667 404,762

$86,735 41,633






Books 5,782

Packages 4,048

Hats 1,735

Total $

19,300 100.00%

$1,115,986 $1,115,986

$ 340,000

sales revenue target to meet your profitability goal will drop only a small amount—from about $1.130 million ($340,000/30.1%) to $1.120 million ($340,000/30.5%). Basically, we would have to sell only 9,830 books with 41% at discount. This would mean, though, that we would have to sell substantially more packages. All in all, our answer is not that sensitive to the mix.” Abbey now asked Stephen if he wanted to partner with her.

METHODS OF COST BEHAVIOR ESTIMATION CVP analysis is a rough, first-pass analytic technique. Businesspeople use it to make some initial profitability estimates of potential opportunities and to cull those that show the most promise. More in-depth analysis would then follow.6 The key to CVP analysis is correctly identifying the cost structure of the business opportunity being analyzed. Without a proper knowledge of the cost behaviors—identification of the fixed period costs and the variable costs per unit or as a percentage of sales revenue—business planning cannot be done properly. There are four methods used to analyze cost behavior. Three are analytic approaches that require historical data, and the other is more judgmental. Abbey’s Web-site example discussed above is an example of the latter. Since the business was not yet operating, there was no database to study. Rather, the cost structure was estimated by analyzing the processes on which Abbey’s business would be based. The data came from discussions with process partners such as the Web-site designer and the logistics company and from Abbey’s firsthand knowledge of the book business. This procedure depends on correctly identifying all the necessary business processes and the experience

Cost-Volume -Profit Analysis


and ability of those who provide accurate process cost estimates. Since Abbey’s business model was relatively simple and many of the processes were outsourced to experienced third-party providers, the resulting cost structure estimates are probably relatively accurate. Given a more complex business opportunity that might require many internal process steps that are not yet well understood, this methodology might not yield such accurate results. The three analytic approaches are techniques used when historical data is available. Unfortunately, many firms first develop this analysis after they have begun operations—an inopportune time. For instance, now that the bloom is off the Internet rose, there are many such firms scrambling to do this analysis after the fact. Investors are withholding later-round financing until these firms can develop the analysis we illustrated above. Assume that Books “R” Us is one of those firms. Since it has not yet broken even, its investors want to better understand the cost structure and when, if ever, they can expect a return. The company has been in business for two years and over the past 12 months has shifted from building infrastructure to its primary focus, selling books.7 All agree that these past 12 months would be a good basis on which to develop the analysis.8 The relevant data are given in Exhibit 3.12. There are many ways to analyze this data. They all assume the following first-order cost equation: Total Cost = Variable Cost + Fixed Cost = (Variable Cost Percentage × Sales Revenue) + Fixed Cost

The first of the three databased techniques is simply to plot the data in an x-y coordinate system with costs on the y-axis and sales revenues on the x-axis. It EXHIBIT 3.12

Books “R” Us data. Revenue $(000)

Total Costs $(000)

Profit $(000)

January February March April May June July August September October November December

$ 12,250 14,500 15,000 16,250 15,250 13,750 11,500 17,500 23,750 15,500 16,000 22,500

$ 13,500 16,000 16,500 17,250 16,500 15,500 13,000 18,250 25,000 16,500 17,250 22,000

$ (1,250) (1,500) (1,500) (1,000) (1,250) (1,750) (1,500) (750) (1,250) (1,000) (1,250) 500





118 Understanding the Numbers is called visual fit because one simply draws a straight line through the data that “best fits” the pattern (see Exhibit 3.13). The point where this line intersects the y-axis yields an estimate of the fixed cost component—those costs that exist even without any sales activity. The slope of the line drawn is defined mathematically as: rise over run or change in y-axis values divided by the change in x-axis values. Using business rather than mathematical terminology, how much the total costs change (the y-axis or rise) as the sales volume changes (the x-axis or run). As was discussed above, this is simply the variable cost expressed as a percentage of sales. For the Books “R” Us example, given the line I’ve drawn subjectively, the result would be: Fixed Cost Estimate: line crosses y-axis at about $4 million dollars Variable Cost Percentage of Sales Estimate = Slope: about 85.2% 9

With today’s computer software, this method is easy and time efficient. Unfortunately, it lacks verifiability. If 20 people were to analyze this same data set, you could end up with twenty different cost structure estimates. The second method is called high-low analysis. It also is time efficient and has the added advantage of verifiability. Since it is rule based, all twenty people in this case would arrive at the same estimate. It has four steps: 1. On the x-axis, identify the high and the low points of the data set. 2. Identify the historical costs for each of those points. 3. Assume a straight line through these two points and calculate the variable cost component using the traditional slope equation: Slope =

Change in y-Axis Values Change in x-Axis Values

4. For either the high or the low set of data points, plug the values into the cost equation and solve for the fixed cost component. EXHIBIT 3.13

Books “R” Us scatter plot.


Total Cost ($)

25,000 20,000 15,000 10,000 5,000 0


10,000 15,000 Revenue ($)



Cost-Volume -Profit Analysis


For the example and data set in Exhibit 3.12, the steps would be as follows: 1. High and low points = September sales or $23.75 million and July sales of $11.5 million. 2. Historical costs for each point = $25,000 (September) and $13,000 (July). 3. Slope = Rise/Run = ($25,000 − 13,000)/($23,750 − $11,500) = 98%. 4. Fixed component: Total Cost = Variable Cost + Fixed Cost. For high data points: $25, 000 = 98% ($23, 750) + Fixed Cost Fixed Cost = $25, 000 − 98% ($23, 750) = $1.725 million (rounded)

For low data points: $13, 000 = 98% ($11, 500) + Fixed Cost Fixed Cost = $13, 000 − 98% ($11, 500) = $1.725 million (rounded)

This method has two weaknesses. First, the high and low data points chosen are assumed to ref lect the pattern of all data points. Often, however, either or both of these points may not be such, and the analysis is f lawed.10 The second weakness is an extension of the first. We had 12 data points but chose to analyze only two of them, ignoring the other 10. This method is data inefficient; if you have 12 data points, all 12 should be considered for the analysis. The third databased technique is called regression analysis. Here a function is fit through all data points in a manner that minimizes the total squared error between each data point and the fitted line. The mathematics underlying this technique are beyond the scope of this chapter, but the method is widely used and preferred when the data set has problems such as a stepped fixed cost or variable costs based on multiple factors. All spreadsheet software packages have a function that performs simple regression analysis.11 Exhibit 3.14 is an example of what the output would look like for a least-squares regression analysis using Excel. The estimate for the fixed cost is $2.73 million, and the variable cost is 90% per sales dollar. The adjusted R2 of 98% means that 98% of the variance of the Total Cost data is explained by this equation. The drawback of this analysis is that it is not intuitive. One must trust the output from the statistical package. If the user does not understand the statistical technique and the assumptions of the software package, the output is often f lawed.12 This approach needs a sound grounding in statistical analysis. In summary, for the data set being analyzed, the three databased techniques yield results that vary considerably (see Exhibit 3.15). The key to correctly using databased techniques, however, is not choosing the right technique but beginning with a data set that truly ref lects the cost structure being

120 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 3.14 Least-squares regression output (Books “R” Us data). SUMMARY OUTPUT Regression Statistics Multiple R R square Adjusted R square Standard error Observations

99.1% 98.2% 98.0% 471.36 12 ANOVA df




Significance F

Regression Residual

1 10

119,835,495 2,221,797

119835495 222179.69






Coefficients Intercept X variable 1

$2,733 90%

analyzed. To emphasize this, the cost function, Total Cost = (76%)Revenue + $5 million, was used to generate the data set in Exhibit 3.12. A randomized error term was then added to these data estimates, they were rounded to the nearest quarter million, and then the high and low data points, July and September, were purposely changed. For instance, assume September was a very busy month for Books “R ” Us because of the many college-student book orders. This rush caused overtime and other disruptive cost behavior. Without the analyst first adjusting the data point for this aberrant behavior, the results are skewed. For databased techniques such as these, the adage “Garbage in, garbage out” holds true. Before employing any of these techniques first ensure that your data does truly ref lect the cost structure being studied.


Visual fit High-low Least squares

Databased cost structure estimates. Variable Cost Percentage

Fixed Cost (in millions)

85 98 90

$4.0 1.725 2.733

Cost-Volume -Profit Analysis


THE ROLE OF PR ICING IN CVP ANALYSIS CVP analysis is often erroneously used to set prices. The P in CVP does not stand for “price”; it stands for “profit.” A rule to remember: There is no such thing as “cost-based pricing.” Prices are market driven. If a firm finds itself in a competitive market where competition among rivals is based on delivering comparable value to customers at the lowest cost, the market sets the price. As Adam Smith wrote centuries ago, only the most efficient firms will survive. To use CVP analysis in this situation, one starts with estimates of the marketdriven price and then calculates the profitability given probable unit demand and the current cost structure. If the forecasted profit is not sufficient to satisfy investors, one must then focus on reducing costs, not raising prices. Incumbent firm behavior in the U.S. health care industry after deregulation in the 1980s is a perfect example of incorrect use of this technique. New entrants into the lower, more profitable segments of this industry—for example, the walk-in clinics that have sprung up in metropolitan areas—gave patients (and insurance providers) a lower-cost option than traditional hospitals for minor health-care procedures. Large hospitals responded to this loss of segment revenue by spreading their costs (mostly fixed) over their remaining health-care offerings and raising prices. With those higher prices, the clinics were able to offer lower-priced alternatives for more complex procedures. With the loss of these revenues, the hospitals responded in the same manner. This is called the “doom loop,” and it led to the closing of many such institutions. The proper move for the hospitals should have been to pare expenses on the noncompetitive offerings. For firms that compete by differentiating themselves from rivals by offering additional value to customers at comparable cost, pricing should be based on value to the customer, not cost. Microsoft certainly does not price its products on the costs to develop and deliver them. Bill Gates long ago understood the value of an industry-standard PC operating system and has priced Microsoft’s offerings accordingly. The key here, of course, is that the additional value must exceed the costs to create it. CVP analysis in this situation is basically no different than previous examples. Only here, one starts with estimates of the value-based price and then calculates the profitability given probable unit demand and the current cost structure. If the forecasted profit is not sufficient to satisfy investors, one must then focus not simply on raising prices but on reducing costs or increasing the willingness of consumers to pay more.

Predator y Pricing In recent years a legal battle raged between two of the nation’s largest tobacco companies.13 The Brooke Group Inc. (previously known as Liggett Group Inc.) accused Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation of predatory pricing in the wholesale cigarette market. At trial in federal court the jury decided that Brown & Williamson had indeed engaged in predatory pricing against Brooke.

122 Understanding the Numbers The jury awarded damages of $150 million to be paid to Brooke by Brown & Williamson. However, the presiding judge threw out this verdict. Brooke then filed an appeal, and the case continued. Predatory pricing cases are not unusual, and damage awards as large as $150 million are not unheard of. Predatory pricing, as the name implies, is a tactic where the predator company slashes prices in order to force its competitors to follow suit. The purpose is to wage a price war and inf lict upon the competition losses of such severity that they will be driven out of business. After destroying the competition, the predator company will be free to raise prices so that it can recover the losses it sustained in the price war and also rake in profits that will greatly exceed normal earnings at the competitive level. This final result is harmful to competition, and predatory pricing has therefore been made unlawful. To determine whether a firm has engaged in predatory pricing, the courts need a test that will supply the correct answer. One of the usual tests is whether there is a sustained pattern of pricing below average variable cost. If the answer is yes, this indicates predatory pricing. Let us examine the logic underlying this widely used test. First, recall that contribution is the margin between selling price and variable cost. Contribution goes toward paying fixed costs and providing a profit. If price is less than variable cost, contribution is negative. In that case, the firm cannot fully cover its fixed costs, and certainly it will suffer losses. Therefore, it makes no sense for the firm to charge a price that is below variable cost unless the firm is engaging in predatory pricing in order to destroy competing firms. That is why pricing below variable cost is considered to be consistent with predatory pricing. We should bear in mind that the variable cost used in the test is that of the alleged predator, not of the alleged victim. The reason is that the alleged predator may be an efficient low-cost producer, whereas the alleged victim may be an inefficient high-cost producer. Therefore, a price below the alleged victim’s variable cost may be above that of the alleged predator, in which case it could be a legitimate price and simply a ref lection of the superior efficiency of the alleged predator. The antitrust laws are designed to protect competition, but not competitors (especially those competitors who are inefficient). Of course, this is only one indicator of predatory pricing, and all of the relevant evidence must be considered. There should also be a pattern of sustained pricing below variable cost. Prices that are slashed only sporadically or occasionally are probably legitimate business tactics, such as loss-leader pricing to attract customers or clearance sales to get rid of obsolete goods. Predatory pricing is an important topic and has been the subject of major lawsuits in a wide variety of industries. Because it is a common test for predatory pricing, variable cost is also a very important topic that all successful businesspeople will benefit from thoroughly understanding. Predatory pricing is usually thought of in a regional sense, or perhaps on a national scale. But it can also occur on an international basis. In that case, it is known as dumping.

Cost-Volume -Profit Analysis


Dumping If a foreign company is the predator, there is no inherent difference in the tactics or the goal of predatory pricing. Pricing below variable cost would still remain a valid test. However, U.S. law imposes a stricter test on foreign than on domestic companies. The legal test for dumping does not involve variable cost. Rather, it focuses on whether the foreign company is selling its product here at a price less than the price in its home market. Dumping is simply predatory pricing by a foreign company. So the logic that supported using variable cost as a test for predatory pricing would also support using the same test for dumping. But the test actually used is the domestic selling price (usually higher than variable cost). This test makes it easier to prove dumping than to prove predatory pricing. It favors the domestic firms and is harder on the foreign company. This may be a matter of politics as well as one of economics. Perhaps the best-known cases of dumping have involved the textile and steel industries. Another recent case of dumping concerned Japanese auto companies accused by U.S. competitors of dumping minivans in this country. Also, the Japanese makers of f lat screens for laptop computers (active matrix liquid crystal displays) were alleged to have sold their products in the United States at prices below those in the home market. It is not always easy to ascertain the home market selling price. Even if there are list prices or catalog prices in the home market, there may be discounts or rebates that are difficult to detect. Therefore, instead of using the home market selling price as the test, the production cost may be used instead. This is reasonable, because the production cost is likely to be below the home market selling price. Therefore a dumping price below production cost is virtually certain to be also below the home market selling price. But production cost includes both fixed and variable costs and is therefore above variable cost. Also, it may be arguable as to what should be included in production cost. For example, some may include interest expense on money borrowed to purchase manufacturing material inventories. Others may believe that interest is not part of production cost. If it is determined that dumping has indeed taken place, then the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) will impose an import duty on the foreign product involved. This duty will be sufficiently high to boost the U.S. selling price to the same level as the home market price. Dumping has a large potential impact on businesses and industries in our economy. By extension, production cost is also a subject that successful businesspeople will find profitable to understand.

FOR FURTHER R EADING Garrison, Ray, and Eric Noreen, Managerial Accounting, 8th ed. (New York: McGrawHill, 1999). Hilton, Ronald, Managerial Accounting, 4th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998).

124 Understanding the Numbers Horngren, Charles, Cost Accounting: A Managerial Emphasis, 9th ed. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1998). Zimmerman, Jerold, Accounting for Decision Making and Control, 3rd ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999).

NOTES 1. Mixed simply means that it has both a variable- and a fixed-cost component. Mixed costs are very common—note your monthly phone bill or many car rental contracts. 2. Economists argue that variable costs should not be represented by linear functions, since economies and diseconomies of scale do exist. For instance, price discounts are often given if one buys inputs such as paper for book printing in large quantities. They are better represented by quadratic functions. Most agree, however, that if we are analyzing a narrow enough range the assumption of linearity does not lead to material error. 3. This can be expressed in an algebraic equation as follows. Since the indifference point is where the two alternatives are equal: $12 x = $23x − $100, 000 Solving for x yields: $11 x = $100, 000 $100, 000 x= $11 = 9, 091 units 4. Defining the parameters of a “short-run” decision is often difficult. For this special offer, if accepted, will PBS assume that this will be the price in the future? Will other customers learn of this offer and expect the same terms? Short-run decisions often have hidden long-run effects—they should always be scrutinized. 5. In this format, x represents required dollar sales volume, not required unit sales volume. 6. ABC analysis, which is covered in the following chapter, is one such technique. 7. When estimating cost structure from historical data the analyst must first ascertain that the structure has not changed during the period being analyzed. If Books “R ” Us made major additions to its infrastructure, it would make little sense to aggregate the costs pre- and postaddition and consider them to be representative of a single cost structure. 8. For this simple example we will assume that there are none of the seasonalities in the fixed cost one would expect, say, for heating costs during the winter in New England. Likewise, we will assume that the variable cost per dollar of revenue is the same for all types of books.

Cost-Volume -Profit Analysis


9. To compute the slope, find a point that the line intersects and then measure the “rise-over-run” using the y-axis intercept and that point. For this calculation my line intersected the June data at point ($13,500, $15,500) so my rise was $11,500 ($4,000 to $15,500 in Total Cost) and my run was $13,500 ($0 to $13,500 in Revenue). The slope, therefore, was $11,500/$13,500 or 85.2%. 10. To avoid this shortcoming, many analysts first plot the data and then select high and low data points that “best fit” the data set. This technique is a melding of the first two databased techniques discussed. 11. For instance, Excel has a function that will perform a simple least-squares regression on a given data set. Other regression techniques that relax the linear fit assumption are also available on many statistical software packages. 12. For instance, infrastructure may have been expanded over the period the data set covers. The regression software will assume a constant fixed cost rather than some type of step function unless otherwise told. This can be treated using dummy variables, but the user needs to have a working knowledge of the statistical technique. 13. The final two sections of this chapter were written by John Leslie Livingstone for earlier editions of this book. They are reproduced here in their entirety.



Dave Roger, CEO of Electronic Transaction Network (ETN/ W), sat stunned in his office. He had just come out of a preliminary third-round financing meeting with potential investors. Six months ago his CFO had assured him that third-round financing would not be a problem. Much had happened since that date. The Internet stocks had crashed. Money for the technology sector was now tight. In the two rounds before the crash, ETN/ W had so many prospective investors, the company had to turn some away. Since then their business model had not changed; ETN/ W had a solid revenue stream, and the forecast was for continued revenue growth—unlike many of the recently failed Internet companies, ETN/ W had real customers who were happy with its services. Yet the meeting had concluded without closure on the third round for one simple reason. When Dave started talking about their “proven” business model the potential investors immediately asked for specific details—“Explain your business model in terms of how you will create wealth for us, your investors.” As he fumbled to explain how ETN/ W would create shareholder wealth, they stopped him and suggested an approach with which they were all comfortable. If you were a manufacturer we would expect you to tell us how you will use our investment—some goes to infrastructure such as plant and equipment and some to working capital such as inventory and receivables. You would then tell us how much it would cost you to build your product, how much to market it, how much to service it, and what customers would be willing to pay for it. Our first two rounds of investment would have given you sufficient experience to gather this type of data. With this information, you could explain your business model— how you would create enough wealth to pay back our principal plus our required


Activity-Based Costing


return. Now, since you are a service provider rather than a manufacturer, explain your business model in like terms. What infrastructure is necessary for your business? What does it cost you to provide your service? How much does it cost to market these services? What are customers willing to pay for it?

As he sat there now, Dave wondered if the analogy the investors had used was appropriate. In a manufacturing environment these questions were more easily answered than in a service company like ETN/ W. Yet after two rounds of investment and eighteen months in business he had fumbled the most important question in the meeting. In his hand he had the business card of a consultant suggested by his investors. They said this person had worked with a number of their clients and could help him develop the appropriate analysis. As much as he disliked being pushed by anyone to make decisions, he knew that 25 employees were counting on him. He lifted the phone to call Denise Pizzi.

PR EPAR ING FOR DENISE Denise was very professional on the phone. She was awaiting his call and suggested that he prepare some documentation for their first meeting: a brief history of the company, their customer value proposition (she called it CVP), a blueprint of the value system for their industry, and their strategy—what was it that ETN/ W could offer clients that was distinct and value producing? Much of this had already been prepared.

ETN/ W Histor y Three MBA classmates with extensive experience in electronic commerce had founded ETN/ W in Dallas, Texas, 18 months ago. Two came from a Houston computer giant—Carol Kelly from the hardware side and Eric Rock, a senior software applications manager. The third, Dave Roger, came from a well-known Dallas IT consultancy, a company focused on the Internet and e-commerce. The idea had come from Dave. Many of his clients were in e-commerce, and all had the same problem—transaction processing. Although most people think online commerce is a relatively simple process—point and click—it is actually quite complicated (see Exhibit 4.1). Assume customer A buys an item at Books “R” Us. When the order comes in, the company must first ascertain A’s creditworthiness. This means a credit check with a payment processor. If credit is okay, then Books “R” Us has to contact the book wholesaler it partners with to see if the book is in stock (this is called fulfillment). If the answer is in the affirmative, Books “R” Us gives the wholesaler the appropriate shipping information, gets the tracking information from the shipper, and contacts the payment processor once more to charge customer A. Books “R” Us then relays this information to A. This all has to be done in real time. Customer A does not want to wait and will quickly move to a competitor if not satisfied. In addition,

128 Understanding the Numbers E-Commerce transaction detail. #1



Customer A

Credit company






Credit company



#5 Summary from ETN/W to Web-merchant

#6 Update customer profile

Batch process

Books “R” Us will update Customer A’s buying profile (or open a new one) in order to better serve that person in the future. Books “R” Us’s focus is on retail sales and Web-site design; this is the key to its success. The transaction processing is a necessary evil. In order to do this, Web merchants typically, purchase three to four software systems—one each for credit and payment processing, inventory management and fulfillment, tracking, and customer-information storage and mining. All these systems must talk to one another, which means that interfaces must be maintained. This interfacing is a nightmare because updates for each of these software systems are constantly being brought to market, requiring all interfaces to be rewritten. IT personnel in this area are highly valued, and retention is a major issue, especially for the smaller Web merchants. This nightmare blossomed into a business opportunity during a golf match. Carol was complaining about a new assignment—setting up a server farm.1 She was given the task of transforming her company from a provider of “boxes” (servers) to a provider of the services embedded in the box. This meant that her company had to get closer to customers, understand their computing needs, and meet those needs with a bundle of services delivered by the “server farm” she would be running. Basically this was a hardware outsourcing service similar to an offering of one of Dave’s sister divisions. Although he understood the move, and although servers were becoming commodified and margins were falling, he doubted that Carol could change the culture of her company. Maintaining customer relationships was expensive, much like the required maintenance on any hardware system; but unlike hardware maintenance they also required a unique set of people skills. On the next hole it was Dave’s turn to complain about his customers and how he had to hold their hands every time one of their transaction processing systems needed updating—every day the same thing only a different customer and a different software system. Eric laughed at this since he had much the same problems within his software applications group. Yet all three realized

Activity-Based Costing


that this was how software companies made their money. Once they captured a customer with an installed software system, that client was treated as an annuity. Every update required an additional payment to move each installed customer to the new system. They all agreed that this would never change. The golf round continued, as did the complaining about both work and golf. It was not until later, over libations in the 19th Hole, that they realized this could be a real opportunity. Dave was convinced that his customers would be more than willing to outsource their transaction-processing headaches. If a company could provide an integrated service that would perform all the tasks, it would be a winner. A customer value proposition (CVP) that said, “All your e-commerce transactions will be processed with the latest technology, and you will never have to worry about a customer waiting, updating your interfaces, or hiring and training another IT person,” would be music to their ears. Eric insisted that most application service providers (ASPs), much like Carol’s hardware company, were focused on selling their software packages, not on service. They were not capable of providing such a service. Carol agreed with both Eric and Dave—although she would try her hardest, her new assignment was like pushing a boulder uphill. All systems inside her company were focused on selling product; engineers designed the latest bells and whistles into their hardware and avoided customer contact whenever possible. All commission systems were based on dollar revenues; the top salespeople only sold what made them money, high priced items. They were not interested in selling low-commission service contracts. Within a month the threesome was working almost full-time on developing the business model. Carol was focused on designing the necessary hardware infrastructure—N/ T and UNIX servers, hubs and routers, firewalls, disk arrays, frame relays, and the like—and identifying the staffing requirements. Eric was researching the software offering for payment, fulfillment, tracking, and storage and attempting to identify which systems would likely become industry standards. Dave was running focus groups with a number of potential customers, trying to refine the CVP—exactly what should they offer these Web merchants?—and measure their willingness to pay. The business plan came together rather quickly. As expected, Dave found that customers would highly value the ability to focus all their attention on their primary activity, Web-based marketing and selling, rather than transaction processes and the hiring and training of people involved in these processes. In addition, the avoidance of investment in this type of infrastructure was important since capital was becoming scarce for many Web-based merchants and obsolescence was always a problem. An additional value that potential customers asked about involved the nature of the charge: Was it to be a variable per-transaction charge or a fixed fee? For this type of business, scalability was always a problem. No one knew what size system to build, but to have a system crash due to excess demand was fatal. As a result, idle infrastructure charges were always a problem. Many customers were ready to sign on immediately if the charge was on a per-transaction basis.

130 Understanding the Numbers Carol found that the infrastructure build-out would not be cheap. She estimated that it would cost approximately $8 million in the startup mode and require about a dozen people. She estimated that this would give them the capacity to process about 120,000 transactions per day, which would be about 10 average-sized customers in a peak demand period such as Christmas or Valentines Day. Eric found that the software system would be cheaper. He also found some additional interesting information. Many ASPs such as Yantra, Oracle, and Cybersource offered to work with them in an alliance if they could advertise their applications, say, like the “Intel inside” model in the PC industry. He estimated that to build a totally integrated software platform would cost around $600,000 to $800,000. In this manner ETN/ W (Electronic Transaction Network) was started. Angel investors and alliance partners contributed $20 million, and the doors were open for business 18 months ago. Within a year they had nine customers and added another three in the following six months. Various pricing schemes were tried, but ETN/ W seemed to be gravitating toward a market-based, purely per-transaction charge between $0.10 and $0.15. Although transaction volume had not met the projected 120,000-per-day level, they were currently in the process of identifying potential new customers.

ETN/ W CVP The group provided Denise the following from one of their marketing brochures: Web merchants should spend the majority of their time on their primary mission, creating value through innovative marketing and sales to customers and clients.2 You should avoid spending both scarce managerial talent and investor capital on any activity that could best be performed by third-party partners such as ETN/ W. Do investors see the value in your using their investment dollars and your creative energy to build transaction-processing systems that are suboptimal in scale and soon obsolete? In you spending your scarce time to hire and train high-cost personnel to manage and run these inefficient systems? The answer is clearly no. Join our network and get all these services seamlessly provided with stateof-the-art applications run by highly trained IT professionals. We will convert a difficult-to-manage fixed infrastructure cost into a totally scaleable variable cost that you pay only on a per-transaction basis. With us as your partner, you can spend your creative energies on tasks of value to your investors.

ETN/ W Value System & Strategy This part of preparing for their meeting with Denise was an interesting task for the threesome, one that they had not previously performed. After referring to some of their old MBA notes, they prepared the following:

Activity-Based Costing


Value System. ETN/ W is an intermediary providing services to the Web merchant and its fulfillment, payment, and shipping partners. Although ETN/ W charges the merchant for the service, who ultimately pays for the service could be left to negotiation amongst the parties (see Exhibit 4.2). This exercise did open some interesting discussion regarding our narrowly defined CVP. We recalled Metcalf ’s Law: The value of a network is equal to the square of the number of nodes. Clearly, as our network expands, fulfillers such as Ingram, a $2 billion wholesaler of books, PCs, and home electronics, would see value in joining because it could provide fulfillment services to a number of the network’s Web merchants. Likewise, UPS and FedEx would want to join ETN/ W to offer their services if there was enough commerce going over the network. We did not have time to fully develop this thought, but discussion of an expanded scope for our CVP and potential pricing schemes is on the agenda for an upcoming meeting. This process might really be worth your fee. Strategy. ETN/ W will be the global cost leader in transaction processing for ecommerce providers. Exactly what is it that ETN/ W offers that others cannot copy? A sustainable strategy is based on doing things differently or doing different things, not simply doing the same thing as other competitors only better. As noted above, it would be difficult for any of the hardware companies and ASPs to copy our model, since their culture and internal systems are so geared to selling hardware or software rather than servicing customers. Hewlett Packard coined the term solution provider almost thirty years ago but still struggles in making the requisite transition. We all feel that ETN/ W can successfully compete with hardware providers and ASPs. The problem is the low barriers to entry: If all it takes is building an infrastructure with hardware and software technology that are readily available, what is to stop others from imitating our model? The only advantage we see is to be the first mover; once someone joins our network, why join another? We understand the urgency of building the network as quickly as possible to be recognized as the industry standard for transaction processing.


ETN/ W value system. Visa, AmExp, MasterCard




FedEx, UPS

Transaction flow Physical flow


132 Understanding the Numbers THE FI RST MEETING Denise was very happy with the work they had done. She had reviewed the materials and asked a few questions. Within an hour all felt comfortable that she understood ETN/ W in sufficient detail to aid them in preparing an answer for the investment group. They then turned to this phase of the meeting. Denise began. The value system analysis you did is a map at an aggregate level of the many firm-level value chains that together form this industry. It identifies all the processes that create value for an end customer or set of end customers and maps all the players and who adds what to the system. Our focus is on ETN/ W, but we cannot lose sight of how it interacts with other members of the system. The next step is to add another layer of detail—what are the process steps that ETN/ W performs, and do their values exceed the costs to perform them?

Dave, Carol, and Eric did not understand what she meant and asked for clarification. “Simply stated,” Denise replied, “what is it that you do? Map the valueproducing processes you add to the system.” Carol was quick to answer: “We already told you—we process e-commerce transactions.” “Okay. So that is all you do? If I were to talk to any number of your people spread throughout this building, they would say, ‘I process transactions’?” Dave jumped in this time: “Well, not really. While most of us are involved in this in some form, we also have marketing and sales people.” “What do they do?” This dialog went on for another hour, with Denise at a blackboard capturing their discussion. After many edits the group arrived at the following. The process map for ETN/ W had three sequential steps: 1. Customer Capture. 2. Customer Loading onto the network. 3. Transaction Processing. Denise then stated: The next phase of this analysis is critical. Although most accounting systems capture costs by function—for example, manufacturing costs such as direct material, labor, and overhead and operating costs such as sales, marketing, R&D, and administrative—we can understand and forecast them only if we identify their causes. This analysis is called activity-based costing, or ABC. Not everyone believes the cost of ABC is worth the benefit, but higher cost is, I believe, more often due to how it is implemented rather than to the approach itself. Too many firms have limited it to manufacturing situations, yet it is appropriate also for service companies such as yours. ABC is also often too narrowly applied— some now argue that ABC begins too late and ends too soon in many companies. We have to analyze costs across the value system since causal factors for one

Activity-Based Costing


company’s costs often are found within another company in the value system. Although this may sound confusing, I will of course show you examples as we analyze your costs. Let’s start with what I think will be the easiest process—customer capture. Exactly what activities do you perform that result in a capture, which we defined as a signed contract?

Again, the discussion went on for at least an hour. Denise nearly drove the group crazy asking the most basic questions, “Why?” and “How?” By the end, all three agreed that the first activity was customer identification. This was accomplished either through cards filled out at trade shows or responses from their advertising campaign. The next activity was customer qualification, which entailed basic research on these companies to identify those with enough size and creditworthiness to pursue. And the final one was customer sale, where an inside salesperson first made contact with each customer to see if there still was interest. Few were ready to sign contracts at this point, and often multiple site visits were necessary before contracts were signed to assure the customer that ETN/ W understood their business. Denise then gave them a template to be filled in for the next meeting (see Exhibit 4.3). What you have to do is reformat the way your costs are compiled. For external reporting your financial statements are sufficient, but for decision making and communicating your business model they are worthless. As I have drawn in the template, we need to build the total costs for each activity we identified above. To do this, some of my past clients estimated as best they could from historical data, and others, if they perform the activity frequently enough, develop the


Activity-based costing process.

General Ledger Cost Format

ABC Cost Format

Corporate costs


Customer identification


Labor costs


Customer qualification


Marketing costs


Customer sale


Outside consultants


Sales costs


Travel costs



Activity n


134 Understanding the Numbers activity costs by studying their processes real time. I suggest you recreate from past data as best you can what you spent to capture the clients you already have on your system, since you’re currently selling to only a few—a sample size too small to study real time. A detailed discussion with all those involved with the process typically is sufficient to develop a crude analysis. I can meet next week—Okay?

THE SECOND MEETING Dave, Carol, and Eric did a lot of work that week. After many false starts they agreed to use the financial statement data from the past 12 months for the analysis. Discussions with a number of their employees resulted in some interesting analyses. Although unsure of a few of their assumptions, they walked in with deeper insight into customer identification, qualification, and sale. The activities we initially agreed upon needed some refinement. The first, customer identification, was correct. There are actually three subactivities, trade show attendance, trade show preparation, and advertising, which lead to an identified customer. These activities are not mutually exclusive; often people respond to the advertising after seeing us at a trade show, or, vise versa, they come to our booth because they remember one of our advertising pieces. Using your template, we arrived at some interesting results. First, you were correct, customer identification does draw on many resources within the company. People from across ENT/ W attend the trade shows: our sales and marketing people as you would expect; our corporate officers, who typically talk with the top management of potential customers; and our operations people, who demonstrate the system and answer the technical questions. In addition, for each show there is quite a bit of preparation: Collateral materials such as brochures have to be produced, booths have to be designed and built, and site contracts negotiated. Aside from the trade shows, we also spend a large amount on advertising in trade journals. In the last 12 months, we spent approximately $875,000 on these three subactivities, which resulted in 1,200 customer leads (potential customers). We arrived at this number by talking with just about everybody in the organization, checking travel itineraries, expense reports, ad agency vouchers, and the like. It’s not an exact number, so we decided to round all our numbers to the nearest $5,000; but we think it’s close. This comes out to about $730 per lead ($875,000/1,200, rounded). We think this is a reasonable number given some industry benchmarks. Is that OKAY?

Denise was excited; these could be good clients. “Yes, ABC analysis does sacrifice some accuracy for relevance. So, when you divided by the 1,200, you implicitly assumed that each of these leads were the same. Is this true?” Dave answered since he had done most of this analysis. “Yes, each lead is about the same. When people show interest, either at a show or from answering an ad, we do about the same thing: talk with them, take down their information, and pass it on to the next step.” Denise thought it was now time to do a little process review. “Good, you have just concluded your first activity-based cost analysis. Let me review the

Activity-Based Costing


steps. First, we drilled down from a high-level value system view to a process map and then ultimately into an activity and subactivity analysis. I have only one question: After identifying subactivities, why did you pool the costs together; why not analyze them separately?” “We initially did it separately but then found that there was no additional value to this added work. Ultimately, we were concerned with what it cost us to generate a lead, and, since we found that the subactivities were not mutually exclusive, we think the $730 number is sufficient,” Dave replied. Let that be you first lesson. ABC involves pooling costs from various functions within the company into hom*ogeneous activity pools, as you have just done. The $875,000 ref lects your best estimate of the total customer identification cost pool for the last 12 months. ABC analysis is often done at too fine a level of detail. You could have tried to identify the cost of identifying each customer by having your people keep a log and entering the exact time they spent with each customer—in essence, 1,200 cost pools. Would this additional level of accuracy be worth the effort? Certainly not. The first key to ABC is to find the correct level of disaggregation of cost information: too little and the system does not provide relevant information; too much and the system becomes too complex and hard to communicate. I once saw a system installed by a consulting group with over 6,000 cost pools. No one understood it but the consultants that designed it, and when they left no one was able to explain the information from it or update it. It died in less than six months. Okay, what was your next step?

Carol had done the customer qualification analysis. “This was an easy one. We outsource this function to a credit agency that gives us a report on each lead—credit history, sales history, and any other relevant information. We paid them about $210,000 for the 1,200 reports—about $175 per report, which is about the contract rate.” Denise thought, “Can I do one more lesson without overreaching? Why not try?” Note the difference between these two cost pools. This pool is very much a variable cost—the more customer reports, the greater the total cost pool. And the manner in which we apply the total costs to the object we wish to cost—a customer cost report—is obvious—the number of cost reports, since each is the same. ABC is a two-step process. First we identify the appropriate level of disaggregation—that is, the cost pools—and then we identify the appropriate “driver” for each pool. A driver is the method we use to take the total cost pool and trace it to the object we wish to cost. It’s the causal factor for the cost pool. For customer qualification, the total pool of $210,000 was spread over its causal factor, the 1,200 cost reports, to arrive at the $175 per cost report. This is what it costs to qualify a customer, the cost object. ABC is nothing more than pools and drivers. Are you totally comfortable with our first two analyses?”

Dave answered: “We did argue about this. Now I think we are beginning to understand. The first activity we discussed, customer identification, is more a fixed cost pool—it doesn’t vary with the number of customer leads. Once we agree on how many trade shows we will present at and what our budget is with the ad agency, this cost is relatively fixed. Maybe one person more or less might

136 Understanding the Numbers travel to the show, but the cost is budgeted. As a result, the cost per lead decreases as we become more successful in generating leads. We have already talked about ways of being more effective in this regard.” “Exactly,” said Denise. “We will no doubt go more deeply into proper identification of drivers for fixed and variable cost pools. What you should understand, though, is that ABC is just a first stage in a long journey. Most people, as you did, move quickly into ABM—activity-based management. Once you make your cost system transparent, you then naturally seek to optimize it as you are doing with customer identification. So, our end objective of this ‘long journey’ is simply that, transparency of the cost system. And the final piece?” Eric had this one. This was my responsibility and it was a lot more difficult than Carol’s piece. The final activity, customer sale, also has subactivities. We review the consultant reports and identify those we want to pursue. Of the 1,200, we identified eighty as “high potential” and tried to sell to them. Although all the effort did not fall neatly into the 12-month window, essentially we went through the full process to a signed contract for the equivalent of 10 customers. The process included phone conversations and site visits. In total, we spent $410,000 to bring to contract these 10—many of the others went through part of the process before either they or we lost interest. As with the other two activities, the costs that loaded into this pool came from across the company. Often we had to f ly out technicians to explain how the system works as well as salespeople. For larger clients, they expected a visit from a corporate officer for the formal signing. So in the end it cost us about $41,000 each to sign them to contracts.”

Denise asked only one question: “Would you say this is a variable- or a fixed-cost pool?” After a lengthy discussion, the consensus was that it clearly was both a variable and a fixed cost since more high-potential leads meant more resources dedicated to pursuing them. But it was not a pure variable cost since once you hire someone to do this work, they can handle a certain number of leads rather than just one. At the end, they agreed on the following: Unlike setting a budget for a year, this cost was a step function. Within certain steps, defined as the number of high potentials a sales person could pursue—say, eight at a time—the cost was fixed. In essence, the cost was step fixed in units of eight. They also agreed that this thinking should also be applied to the customer-identification cost analysis, but left that for later. Denise then asked, “Is the $41,000 roughly the same for each potential customer sale?” Eric was quick to respond, “Absolutely not. Some require a lot more work than others.” They were at the end of the agreed meeting time but Denise thought one more lesson would not hurt. When this happens, it is an indication that you have improperly identified the driver for the pool. You must drill down to a more detailed driver definition. As

Activity-Based Costing


we discussed last meeting, on one hand, you could keep an individual log on each customer to identify the cost to sell them, but this would be time-consuming and few people take the time to accurately enter this information. On the other hand, you could aggregate the cost and average it over the 10 customers sold. But it seems that this is also not appropriate. A reasonable midpoint is to identify a separate driver defined as your best-case and worst-case customer and see if this gives you the required amount of detail. Why don’t you do that for next time and also develop a summary of the total cost to capture a customer.

THE THI RD MEETING Denise watched as the group approached the room. They were arguing something in a manner that indicated they were enjoying themselves. This was a good sign. Dave began: It’s amazing to us as an organization how much we didn’t know we knew about our business. When we relayed your first assignment for this meeting to those that work with potential customers, they immediately began identifying characteristics that made some more expensive to sell than others. Large ones expect to meet our management team before signing a contract, whereas smaller ones do not. Flying one of us to these customers is expensive given our larger salaries and what it takes to backfill in our absence. Also, customers who do not really understand e-commerce and the complexity of transaction processing require on average twice as many trips as those who do. They want us to demonstrate what is wrong with their systems and to see how ours works better. Since we are not familiar with their systems, this takes a while. For the selling process, the best-case customer is a midsized company familiar with e-commerce and the headaches caused by transaction processing. We can sell them on the first trip. Unfortunately, of the 10 we signed to a contract in our sample, only 3 were of this type. The other 7 were worst-case customers—larger with less knowledge of the intricacies of e-commerce. In summary, when we trace the $410,000 using these driver definitions we estimate that the best-case customers cost about $18,300 each and the worst-case about $50,700 ($18,300 × 3 + $50,700 × 7 ≈ $410,000). What amazed us is that, once we asked these questions, our people had a number of good suggestions on how to reengineer this process. They knew these worst-case people were a problem, but never saw how much more they cost. Transparency does help. The answer to your second assignment, to calculate the total cost to capture a customer, is also amazing. This customer capture process is like a funnel. Last time we said that the activity cost per lead of $730 was reasonable, as was the $175 for each research report. But when you recognize that the process ended with only 10 signed contracts, you get a different picture. The overall process cost us a total of $1.495 million ($875 for identification, $210 for qualification, and $410 for selling) or about $150,000 per signed contract ($1.495/10, rounded)—quite a bit less for best case and a bit more for worst case. Some of these costs are variable, some fixed, and some step fixed, but all of them can be

138 Understanding the Numbers better managed. Although our accountant classified these costs as expenses, they are really an investment, and, at this amount, we would have to do a lot of transactions just to recoup our investment in each customer. The key for us is to identify better-qualified customers in the first stage and then to convert a greater number of these to signed contracts.

Denise had only one question: “Why did you charge the costs of the 70 customers you failed to convert to the 10 that you sold?” Dave answered, “Actually, initially we broke out the cost of the 70, but we felt that, as with any business process, you spoil some units in order to get good ones (see Exhibit 4.4). It really cost us only about $8,000 to sell each best-case customer and almost three times that for the worst-case one. But when you allocated the cost of the 70 customers dropped during the process, these costs increase dramatically. Don’t you agree?” The depth of the analysis impressed Denise. She thought she might even invest in this company. It was time for another summary. There is no right answer, since we could argue over the correct way to allocate the dropped-customer costs. But that is not what is important here. You have to be careful with any reallocation procedure since this is a strategic analysis. You have already noted that your only advantage was being first to enter. By your actions, I am not sure you know what that means. Since all of your technology comes from third-party suppliers, the only way you will win in this industry is to become the low-cost provider. Your first-mover advantage means simply that you are first down the experience curve. Research has shown that as one repeats an activity, one can become more efficient and thus lower the cost of the activity. This, however, does not happen automatically; one must manage the learning process. Until we began the ABC analysis it seems that you had not leveraged your first-mover advantage. Do you agree? Remember saying, “As an organization, we were amazed at how much we didn’t know we knew”?

None of the three were willing to argue with her. The key number in your exhibit is the $8,000 cost to sell a best-case customer. If you were able to identify only those that understood your CVP and wanted to


Customer-sale activity analysis.

Number of customers Estimated cost pool Cost /customer Reallocation* Adjusted cost pool Full cost /customer





3 $24,000 $ 8,000 $31,000 $55,000 $18,300

7 $154,000 $ 22,000 $201,000 $355,000 $ 50,700

70 $ 232,000 N/A $(232,000) —

80 $410,000 N/A

* Dropped Cost total was allocated based on relative total cost /customer ratios:

$8, 000 $24, 000 $31, 000 × $22, 000 = ≅ 7 $154, 000 $201, 000


Activity-Based Costing


buy, this would be the cost, not the average of $41,000 or the higher one for worst-case. Are you getting better? Is your cost of this activity decreasing? The research from the Chasm Group seems relevant here.3 They found that newtechnology buyers over the product life cycle fall into four segments. Each responds to a different CVP and requires a different selling approach. The first product life-cycle segment, called early adopters, is the smallest but the most important. They seek new technology, are risk takers, and are probably much like your three best-case customers. This customer group is important because you can use their results as validation of your new offering. The later life-cycle segments are larger, less technologically savv y, and more risk averse. They are skeptics and need to see validation before they buy. If you studied your seven worst-case data points they probably fall into this segment. If you learn to use the experiences of your first customers to sell to these more risk-averse segments, your cost should approach the $8,000, and you would have a true firstmover advantage.

Denise didn’t like to further dampen their spirits but knew she had to. “We haven’t finished yet. Don’t forget you also have to load the customers on the network. What does this process cost?” After a collective groan, the group got to work. The customer loading process involves the activities necessary to enter a Web merchant and its fulfiller(s) onto the ETN/ W network. Although the activities are much different than for customer capture, the analysis is similar. The activities in this process are customer business operations review, system design, and implementation and certification. Over the past 12 months seven customers had been loaded. The analysis was a bit easier since there was no funnel effect; seven went through each activity.4 Business operations review was outsourced to a number of subcontractors that ETN/ W used. Their report detailed the customer’s IT systems and how transactions were treated. While most handled them real time, some batched the orders and dealt with these at the end of the business day, sending confirmation to customers on the next business day. For the seven customers loaded, ETN/ W paid $25,000, or about $3,600 each. System design—writing the necessary software interfaces and configuring hardware linkages for the payment processing, fulfillment, and shipping systems—was done by ETN/ W technical staff, as was implementation and certification. System design cost $35,000, and implementation and design, $160,000. Both the business operations review and system design activities were relatively hom*ogeneous—they did not vary from customer to customer. The final activity, however, implementation and certification, was much like the customer sale activity. Depending upon the customer, the cost could vary greatly. From discussions with those involved with these activities, the threesome recognized this variability and did the necessary analysis. A best-case customer was one that understood the process, had compiled the necessary documentation, had their IT group prepared, and had only one or two fulfillers. As before, the worst-case was unprepared, unresponsive, and had numerous fulfillment agreements. Of the seven studied, three fell in the former

140 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 4.5

Customer-capture and customer-loading cost summar y.


Average Cost

Ideal Cost

Customer identification Customer qualification Customer sale Business process review System design Implementation & certification

$ 87,500 21,000 41,000 3,600 5,000 23,000

$00,730 175 8,000 3,600 5,000 13,000

Total (rounded)

[$875,000/10] [$210,000/10] [$410,000/10] [$ 25,000/7] [$ 35,000/7] [$160,000/7]



group and four in the latter with the following result: best-case cost to load onto network approximately $13,000, and worst-case a bit, under $30,000 ($13,000 × 3 + $30,000 × 4 ≈ $160,000). Dave reported that this result necessitated adding a penalty clause to their standard contract to emphasize the importance of the customer prework for the implementation team. Denise thought there was time for a quick summary. She went to the board and drew the following chart (see Exhibit 4.5). “As I see it there is a lot of room for improvement. Granted, you will never reach the ideal cost of $30,500, which is the total of the activity costs to capture and load a customer. But the transparency you now have given these activities means that, as an organization, you should make steady progress down the experience curve. Next time, let’s tackle transaction processing.”

TRANSACTION PROCESSING—MEETING 1 Since Carol was the hardware guru, she had taken the lead in this analysis. Our transaction-processing system has three front-end N/ T systems that do the order entry, transaction-processing, and fulfillment inventory management. They sit on a UNIX backbone system that also runs the database. It made little sense to go back and compile the costs for these systems over the past 12 months, since we were expanding them continually. What we did was take the costs of the system for the last month and annualize it. The costs fall into two groupings—people and system depreciation. I have one systems manager and three shifts of two people—don’t forget, we do provide service on a 365-by-24-by-7 basis. One person monitors the system and troubleshoots any transaction-related problems, and the other handles all hardware-related problems. Fully loaded, these seven people cost us approximately $750,000 per year. Ideally, we would have cost the N/ T systems independently of the UNIX backbone. We didn’t have that fine a separation of costs in this area, however, and we ultimately grouped all of them together. Since the UNIX system

Activity-Based Costing


represents the large majority of the cost, this probably doesn’t cause us any material error. In total we estimate that at the current level our systems cost us about $1.35 million a year in depreciation of hardware and amortization of software. We are writing off the technology over a three-year life, which is reasonable. So we estimate that it will cost us in total about $2.1 million a year ($1.35 million in systems and 0.75 million in personnel) at our current level of operations. This pool is a fixed pool since both the people and systems costs are independent of volume—our people now are nowhere near capacity but you can’t hire a half-person. The driver for this cost pool is clearly the number of transactions processed, but arriving at the proper measure was difficult. For the order-entry and payment-processing systems a transaction is measured at the order level. But for the fulfillment and database systems, transactions are dependent on the line items in the order. Once that was understood we found that we were currently handling about 20,000 transactions per day on average, which annualizes to about 7.3 million per year (20,000 × 365). Dividing this total into the cost to run the system—people and systems—we estimate that it costs us just under $0.30 for each transaction that is processed by our system ([$750 + 1,350]/7,300 ≈ $0.29). This cost is far above our target price of between $0.10 and $0.15 per transaction.

“How do you plan to become more competitive?” Denise asked. “We were hoping you could help us,” was the answer. Denise had a number of questions. “Okay, first, a lesson. Driver identification is different for variable- and fixed-cost pools. For variable pools, drivers are usage based—for ETN/ W, the customer-qualification cost pool driver was the number of reports outsourced; for materials cost pools in car manufacturing, it is cars produced; and for fuel cost pools in freight hauling, it is miles driven. But for fixed-cost pools, the causal factor is capacity, not usage—the $2.1 million gives you the capacity to handle a given number of transactions; the number that you do deal with is not meaningful other than as an indication of the capacity utilized. And when we talk about capacity, we have to be aware of the distinction between used and useful. You said that you are processing about 20,000 transactions per day. Is every day the same? “Absolutely not,” Dave shot back. “Christmas and special holidays such as Mother’s Day are our busy time.” Denise then asked Carol, “How does this impact your area?” Carol thought she understood. “When I planned the system, I had to use our peak demand forecasts as the long-run target for the capacity. Unfortunately, just as you can’t build an apartment complex apartment by apartment to meet demand, you cannot build a system such as ours in small increments. Right now our system is larger than what is needed, and it is built to meet a projected peak demand, not today’s average demand.” Denise asked, “Do you have that data?” “No, but I can get it within the week. Why don’t you let us build this into our model, and we will have a “version 2.0” transaction processing cost for you next week?”

142 Understanding the Numbers Denise said she could meet then and added one more piece of advice. “When you do your cost estimates, do them from the customer’s viewpoint. Assume that your system is fully transparent to your customer and that they must see the value of anything you charge to them.”

TRANSACTION PROCESSING—MEETING 2 The group started by explaining their transaction-processing chart (see Exhibit 4.6). “Right now,” said Carol, “the data discussed last time, 20,000 transactions per day on average, is correct, but our current peak demand is closer to 80,000. Our system today can process close to 120,000 transactions per day, so we do have excess capacity because of the cost of acquiring technology in certain sizes. Likewise, the 80,000 peak demand represents about 50% of the capacity of our personnel because of the decision we made in hiring and training the six people in anticipation of future demand. As we said last week, using part-time people may have been cheaper in the short run, but we decided to fully staff for the future. “So, we have developed the following analysis (see Exhibit 4.7). For the personnel costs, we took 50% of them and charged it to an idle-capacity account. Clearly, the other $375,000 is, to our customers, value added. “Likewise, we have some idle capacity in our hardware and software systems. From a customer point of view, we feel that the amount they should see as value added is our peak capacity of 80,000. Although they only average 20,000 transactions per day, when they have their peaks they need us to be ready, so this is value added and not excess. Only 40,000 currently is idle (120,000 capacity less the 80,000 peak). This means that $450,000 of the systems costs ($1.35 million × [40,000/120,000]) is not adding value to our current customers. So we feel that currently about $825,000 ($375,000 personnel and $450,000 systems) is idle and not chargeable to our customers. The other


Transaction-processing volume.

System capacity per day 120,000 transactions Peak demand per day 80,000 transactions Average per day 20,000 transactions


Activity-Based Costing EXHIBIT 4.7

Personnel H/ W & S/ W


Transaction-processing cost summar y. Value Add Portion

Idle Portion


Value Add Portion

$0,375,000 900,000

$375,000 450,000

$0,750,000 1,350,000

$0.051 0.123

[$375/7,300] [$900/7,300]








System usage 20,000 × 365 days 7,300,000 transactions/day Useful capacity 80,000 × 365 days 29,200,000 transactions/day

$1.275 million ($375,000 in personnel and $900,000 in systems) is of value to our customers, and they should be willing to pay for this. Unfortunately, if we charge these costs to the current annual level of transactions, 7.2 million, we arrive at a cost per transaction of about $0.175 ($1.275 million/7.2 million transactions). Our research shows that the maximum we can charge is $0.15. The peak demand problem is killing us.” Denise agreed. “Your work is well thought out and your results seem correct. Your problem is a classic one for all systems operators. Electric utilities have studied this peak load problem for decades and have developed demand-management solutions such as off-peak discounts. Can you do anything like this?” Dave answered this one. “Some of our current customers do not need their transactions dealt with on a real-time basis. They send us their orders at end of day in batches, and we treat them by the next business day. I’m sure that others would do this if given some type of incentive.” Denise asserted that this could be the key to their profitability. “If you were able to decrease the peak demands, your costs per transactions would decrease. In the extreme, assume that there was no peak loads and the 80,000 was utilized every day. Your analysis shows that when your $1.275 million system costs are spread over useful capacity of 29.2 transactions per year, this results in an ideal systems cost under $0.05 per transaction.” Eric then summarized: “This would mean that if we could sell it for $0.15, we could be very profitable. And given the growth rate forecasts for e-commerce, we could get rich.” Denise then tied it all together. “Let’s see. Assume that with some management focus, you could get your costs to acquire and load a customer onto your network down to about, say, $35,000. If you make a nickel profit on a transaction, you would need 700,000 transactions to recoup your investment. Given that your average customer now does about 3,000 transactions per day (average demand of 20,000 per day/7 customers current on network), this means that you cover your investment in about 240 days (700,000/3,000) or eight months. After that, it’s pure profit. For larger customers, this payback happens sooner, meaning you become profitable more quickly.”

144 Understanding the Numbers Denise concluded: “So, it looks like the keys to success for ETN/ W are threefold. First, study your customer capture and customer loading processes and make them more efficient. Second, figure out a way to minimize your peak periods such that you run your transaction processing systems at capacity most of the time. And last, focus your business model on large-volume e-commerce retailers such that you recoup your front-end investment sooner. If you can address these three issues, your investors should grant your third-round request. Of course, we could not have come to these action steps until we achieved transparency of your cost systems through ABC analysis. Good luck.

A R EVIEW OF THE ABC METHODOLOGY There are a number of lessons to be taken from the ETN/ W example. ABC is a strategic model. The strategy literature states in various ways that a company will achieve a strategic advantage over rivals if it can deliver (1) additional value to customers at a cost comparable to rivals or (2) comparable value at a cost lower than rivals. This advantage is sustainable if and only if the company does this in a manner different than its rivals. The myth that all companies have a strategic cost model that provides the necessary information unfortunately, in today’s world, does not hold true. Most cost systems mainly provide aggregated cost information for estimating inventory valuation and cost of goods sold—they focus on external financial reporting. ABC, if done correctly, can provide the necessary strategic information. The earlier ABC is done in the strategic planning process, the more value it creates. In the mid-1980s, when ABC analysis was being touted as the key tool in making the United States more competitive on a global basis, some researchers focused their studies on Japanese companies. Their hypothesis was that, since the Japanese have dominated many key industries over the last two decades, they must have some type of ABC methodologies. These researchers found exactly the opposite; costing systems for Japanese companies had even more arbitrary cost allocations than their U.S. rivals. Further research, however, unveiled a key competitive advantage.5 Japanese product development was very cost based. They employed a technique, called target costing, in which prices were first set for new products through extensive market research, then profitability targets based upon investor capital requirements for the new product were estimated, yielding cost targets which were set at the design stage. Techniques such as value engineering and experiencecurve analysis were employed to ensure that when the production began, the product would meet its target cost. The Japanese understood that this type of activity-cost analysis was best done very early in the product development stage. An interesting additional insight was that these

Activity-Based Costing


strategic cost systems were more often under the responsibility of the engineering rather than the finance department in Japanese companies. When done after the strategy implementation stage, ABC becomes ABM. Much research has demonstrated that about 85% of costs for a new product are committed in the design stage. As a result, it can be argued that performing an ABC analysis after this point is of little value—once a system is in place, operational efficiency should be the goal.6 The challenge is to maximize output given the constraints of the system.7 Note that by optimizing output, the fixed costs are minimized on a per-unit basis leading to the lowest-cost situation and the best possible shareholder value position. Since pricing is not cost dependant, detailed cost information is not really necessary.8 This is not quite correct since no business situation is static. Note in the ETN/ W example, we did do an ABC analysis after the fact. But also note that the final result of the analysis was not an ABC model. The key to the analysis was the managerial decisions that were implemented to make ETN/ W more competitive. When done after the fact, the focus of ABC is not costing—it is to gain transparency of the business model so that it can be reengineered to create additional shareholder value. When done after the fact ABC necessarily leads to ABM, activity-based management. The value of ABC analysis is the “journey” rather than the final result. As was stated in the ETN/ W example, the purpose of ABC is ultimately to gain business-wide transparency of your business model. It is important that every function within the organization understand the strategic logic of how your company is going to create shareholder value. This includes how it is positioned in the industry-level value system, how its processes link to those of upstream and downstream partners, as well as a detailed activity-by-activity understanding of internal processes. The steps are as follows. 1. Develop a cross-functional team to do the analysis and assign ownership of the final ABC system to one function within your organization. If an outside consulting group is used, its role should be facilitator rather than designer of the system. It is important that ownership of the ABC model be internal since it will have to be updated on a regular basis. Because this is a strategic tool, ownership need not reside in the finance function. Many companies have found that, since this analysis requires business-wide vision, the strategy function is a more appropriate owner. 2. Begin with a map of the industry-level value system that shows all participants in the value creation process. Before moving to the next step, ensure that each member of the team understands and agrees with the strategic positioning logic for your company. This is necessary because all members must agree upon the strategic underpinnings of the analysis. In addition, cost drivers for one company often

146 Understanding the Numbers





reside within another in the chain. For instance, the driver for the ETN/ W customer sale cost pool was the technical sophistication of the potential customer. Those that did not understand the costs of transaction processing and what ETN/ W could provide were much more difficult to sell, and more costly. Once ETN/ W understood this, it developed a short video that explained the transaction processing side of e-commerce and the cost and complexity of performing this function internally. This video made the selling process much easier for those customers—and less costly. Once the industry-level value system is understood, prepare a process map for your company. Identify what value pieces of the overall system your company contributes. Although most people assume that everyone “knows what we do,” this is most often not the case. Like the Hindu parable of the blind men trying to describe an elephant by feeling only one piece—trunk, ear, leg—few managers within an organization truly understand how all processes are integrated across the firm. Prepare a detailed activity analysis for each internal process—exactly what steps are taken, who does them, and with what resources. Since this will be the basis for determining your cost pools, activities must first be identified at a granular level—if you are too fine you always can aggregate them later.9 Activity identification can be done from a historical perspective or by studying the activity real time. In either case this stage will require discussion with those people responsible for the process to identify the activity steps. Since these steps often are performed by many functions within an organization, it is sometimes necessary to gather all participants such that a true cross-functional activity map be drawn and agreed upon. Estimate the cost pools for each activity and identify their behavior— variable or fixed. If an activity has both fixed and variable costs, use two pools for that activity. Often secondary support functions such as payroll and human resources are first “allocated” to primary ledger accounts such as manufacturing labor or sales salaries accounts before being traced to activities.10 At the end of this step a reconciliation should be performed. All of the costs from the general ledger should be traced to activity pools using the activity map. Typically some costs such as corporate administration and R&D do not get traced to activity pools since they have little to do with current operations. This is acceptable, and the key parameter one looks at is what percentage of overall costs is ultimately charged to activity pools. Rather than being discouraged by the 10% to 20% of costs not traced to any activity pool, focus on the 80% to 90% of which you now have a better understanding. To reiterate, this analysis is a strategic one; the acceptable percentage of unknowns is dependent on how good your rivals’ cost systems are. Select drivers for each pool—that is, the method to be used to transfer the costs from the pool to the object we wish to cost. Note the different

Activity-Based Costing


“objects” we developed costs for in the ETN/ W example—capturing and loading a customer onto the network and processing a transaction. • For variable cost pools, drivers should be usage based since this is the causal factor for a variable cost. Note how we used Outsourced Credit Reports as a driver for the customer-qualification cost pool. • For fixed-cost pools, the driver should be capacity based since this is the causal factor for a fixed cost. Capacity drivers are often more complex than usage drivers. Since fixed-cost pools are “chunkier” than variable ones that increase in a proportionate fashion,11 idle costs are often a problem. Only that portion of the fixed cost pool that is “useful” to a cost object should be charged to it—note how peak demand was used to define that portion of the transactionprocessing system that was deemed idle in the ETN/ W example. 7. Develop the final cost estimates for your system. Understand that there are no right answers. Since this is a strategic analysis, the longrun value of your results is dependent upon actions of rivals. For ETN/ W we found that the current cost for each transaction processed was $0.175. Can it make any money at this cost level? Probably there are a few customers who understand that their costs are higher than this and would be willing to pay ETN/ W a price today that is in excess of the $0.175. But in the long run, rivals could enter and provide services at a lower price. Given that ETN/ W set its pricing target in the $0.10 to $0.15 range, it understands that it currently has no sustainable advantage. By figuring out how to better manage the peak problem, it thinks it can attain that advantage. The main goal of an ABC analysis is a set of activity-based target costs that everyone in the organization may see. The message should be: “If we as an organization achieve these, we will be successful.” Progress towards these goals is the key strategic performance indicator.

FOR FURTHER R EADING Brimson, James, Activity Accounting: An Activity-Based Costing Approach (New York: John Wiley, 1997). co*kins, Gary, Activity-Based Cost Management: Making It Work: A Manager’s Guide to Implementing and Sustaining an Effective ABC System (Chicago: Irwin, 1996). Forrest, Edward, Activity-Based Management: A Comprehensive Implementation Guide (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996). Kaplan, Robert, and Robin Cooper, Cost and Effect: Using Integrated Cost Systems to Drive Profitability and Performance (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1997). Player, Steve, and David Keys, Activity-Based Management: Arthur Andersen’s Lessons From the ABM Battlefield, 2nd ed. (New York: John Wiley, 1999).

148 Understanding the Numbers NOTES 1. A server farm is a new service-offering concept in the IT industry enabled by advances in optic fiber connectivity. NT- and UNIX-based IT computer systems (i.e., servers) are housed in a service facility, and customers are given the option of buying the service on a usage basis rather than buying the computer itself. Customers are then supplied this service through a fiber-optic telecommunication network. 2. Clients are also called fulfillers. An apt analogy in the non-ebusiness world is the role played by Wal-Mart for its suppliers (“fulfillers” in the e-commerce world), such as a Procter & Gamble. 3. See Geoffrey Moore, Crossing the Chasm (New York: HarperCollins, 1990) and Inside the Tornado (New York: HarperCollins, 1995). 4. As discussed previously, some of these had been started but not finished at the beginning of the period, and at the end some were still in process; but on average they estimated that the equivalent of seven customers were loaded onto the network during this period. 5. See Womack et al., The Machine That Changed the World (New York: Macmillan, 1990), chapter 5 particularly. 6. See Eli Goldratt, Theory of Constraints (Croton on Hudson: North River Press, 1990). 7. Where output is defined by any parameter—units produced for a manufacturing system, units sold for a sales infrastructure, customers serviced for a service infrastructure, and so on. 8. Economists argue that in a competitive market prices are set by the marketplace, and in a market where there is product differentiation, prices are value based— i.e., dependent on the perceived value to the customer, not on cost to produce. 9. Many companies today do not limit their analysis to within company walls. This type of activity analysis is often done across the value system to understand how much value is being developed as a whole and who is capturing the majority of it. This understanding can be very valuable when negotiating with partners. See Gadlesh & Gilbert, “How to Map Your Industry’s Profit Pool,” Harvard Business Review, May–June 1998, pp. 149–162. 10. Quotation marks are used here to emphasize that this analysis needs to have causal underpinnings. The key here is to allocate these costs using some type of a logical procedure; avoid doing it in an arbitrary manner. The simple rule is: If there is no logical manner in which to trace the cost, don’t! 11. Note in the ETN/ W example, the customer-qualification activity pool increased with each additional outsourced report while the customer-sale pool increased with each additional person hired. It increased in larger increments, thus the descriptor chunky is often used.



Amazing though it may seem, the personal computer has only been around for about 20 years. Before 1980 the world of computing belonged to highly trained technical people who worked their wizardry wearing white coats in hermetically sealed rooms. Today kindergarten students use personal computers to learn the alphabet, grade school students use the Internet to research term papers, and on-the-go executives are always in touch with their beepers, Webenabled cell phones, cellular personal digital assistants (PDAs), and laptop computers. However, many people are not yet comfortable with these technologies. The range of people’s acceptance and knowledge of information technology is wide, with the technical novice at one end of the continuum and the “techie” at the other end. Where you fall in this range will dictate what you gain from this chapter. If you are fortunate to fall near the techie side, skim this chapter for ideas which you might find interesting. Technology has changed the way people conduct business. Computers have replaced pencil and paper in contemporary business life. In the past, when a new employee was hired, he or she was shown to a desk and given pen, pencil, paper, and a telephone. Today, the new hire is given a computer, usually attached to a network; a cellular phone; a beeper; and possibly a laptop computer for portable use. People’s lives have been turned upside down as they learn to manage the latest technology. E-mail is replacing U.S. Mail. Secretaries are being replaced by personal productivity technology such as voice


150 Understanding the Numbers mail and Internet-based calendaring. People question how much more productive they as workers can be. Technology will allow managers’ and workers’ productivity to reach the next plateau and enable them to find better and alternative modes for working and succeeding. Information technology has changed not only the way people work but also in some cases the venue from which they perform their work. No longer are workers chained to their desks. The number of telecommuters—people who work from home via computer and telephone communications—is increasing dramatically. Business people who travel with their portable computers have become so prevalent that hotels have installed special hardware on their hotel room telephones that allows guests to plug their computers into the telephone system and communicate with their home offices. Sometimes people even connect their laptop computer modems to the airline telephones at their seats! How much do you need to understand about the technology to become technologically enabled? The answer to this question will depend in part on the job you hold and the organization for which you work. However, at this time, when information technology is having a dramatic impact on the very definition of many industries, the material covered in this chapter and in Chapter 16 has to be considered essential.

HARDWAR E Computer hardware comes in several shapes and sizes. This chapter concentrates on personal computers (PCs). Over the past 15 years, Microsoft and Intel have become so dominant in the software and hardware ends of the PC business that they have, de facto, set the worldwide standard for PCs, which is referred to as the Wintel standard, short for Microsoft Windows and the Intel CPU chip. More than 90% of all personal computers use the Wintel standard, affecting both the hardware marketplace and the applications software that is developed. Currently, Dell and Compaq are the largest producers of personal computers, with Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM following closely. Personal computers come in two basic shapes: desktop and laptop. Regardless of their shape, all PCs have the same basic components. When you buy a computer, you usually have a choice on the size, speed, or amount of any given component that will be a part of your system. The basic components with which users must concern themselves are the CPU, RAM, hard disk, CD ROM/DVD ROM, modem, various adapters, and the monitor. Most of the rest of this section deals with the basic options you will have to choose in selecting these components. However, beyond personal computers, we are also seeing the emergence of a whole range of small digital products for supporting effective managers. These products as a group are called personal digital assistants, or PDAs, and will be discussed brief ly.

Information Technology and You


Desktop Computers Underneath their covers, most desktop computers are very similar. Many of the various manufacturers of desktop machines use parts from the same suppliers because there are only a handful of companies that manufacture hard disk drives and many other desktop components. Before buying a machine, compare the attributes and capabilities of many different ones. Also, check the warranty offered by the different manufacturers. Though one-year warranties are fairly typical, some computers come with two- or three-year warranties. Beware of hype advertising and read the fine print. Most advertised specials do not include the monitor, which will cost upward of $200 depending on the size and quality.

Laptop Computers The laptop has become a mainstay for the traveling worker. It provides all the functionality and most of the power of most desktop units, in a package that weighs approximately six pounds. Laptops are powered by standard electricity or, for about two hours, by their self-contained batteries. Unlike desktop units, under the covers all laptops are not the same. While they all utilize either an Intel or Intel clone chip, the majority of the electronics are frequently custom designed. Consequently, servicing laptops is more complicated and more expensive, and laptop parts are not necessarily interchangeable. The display screen is one of the most important features of the laptop computer. Display quality and size are rapidly approaching that of desktop machines. Although laptops provide the luxury of portability, that is their only advantage over desktop machines. Desktops offer better displays, more memory, and higher speed—higher performance for far less money. A laptop computer will cost between twice and three times as much as a comparable desktop unit.

Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) PDAs are small digital devices that can be used to take notes, to manage tasks, to keep track of appointments and addresses, and even to send and receive email. Similar to PCs, PDAs have CPUs, RAM, displays, and keyboards of sorts, and some even have modems. However, a PDA can typically fit easily into a pocket or purse. Today, the most popular PDA is made by Palm Inc. and has its own proprietary software. However, there are a number of competing PDAs, some of which use a stripped-down version of Windows software called Windows CE. As miniaturization continues to develop and as cellular and computer technologies continue to be woven together, we can expect a further blurring of the line between PDAs and PCs. Probably the two most popular capabilities of PDAs are their ability to keep track of appointments and to store and retrieve contact information such

152 Understanding the Numbers as phone numbers and addresses. These same capabilities are also available on PCs, most typically in software products such as Microsoft Outlook, which also includes e-mail. Most PDAs come with the ability to transfer appointments and contact information bidirectionally between the PDA and a PC.

Computer Components Exhibit 5.1 shows a schematic rendition of the components in a computer system. This section of Chapter 5 will explain the basic functioning of these components and present some of the tradeoffs that you will face in making an intelligent decision to buy a computer system. CPU All basic computers have a central processing unit (CPU). The CPU is the basic logical unit that is the computer’s “brain.” As mentioned earlier, it is usually provided by Intel Corporation or one of the clone-chip manufacturers such as AMD. While Intel enjoys the lion’s share of the market, the clones have recently made significant inroads by offering lower prices for comparable products. State-of-the-art CPUs manage to integrate onto one thumbnail sized silicon chip tens of millions of electronic components. CPUs such as the Pentium come in different speeds, expressed in megahertz or gigahertz (millions or billions of cycles per second). Speed represents how fast the CPU is capable of performing its various calculations and data manipulations. A typical CPU today operates at between 800 MHz and 1.5 GHz.


Layout of a personal computer. Monitor Hard drive

CD ROM/ DVD drive Disk controller Display adapter Network adapter

Network jack



Phone jack

Sound card




Information Technology and You


RAM Random access memory (RAM) is the space that the computer uses to execute programs. The amount of RAM required is dictated by the number of applications that the computer is asked to run simultaneously as well as by the systems software in use (e.g., Windows 98, Windows XP). For most average users, 128 megabytes of RAM is an appropriate amount (a megabyte is 1,048,576 bytes of data). You can never have too much RAM, though, so the more, the better. While RAM prices f luctuate widely with supply and demand, you should plan on spending about a dollar per megabyte. Hard Disk All programs and data are stored on the hard disk. Disk technology has advanced greatly in the past five years. Recording density has enabled disk capacity to approach numbers previously unheard of except in large mainframe commercial systems. In 1992 the typical disk stored 80 megabytes. Today typical disk capacity on desktop machines ranges from 10 to 20 gigabytes. Although it seems unimaginable to fill up an entire 10-gigabyte disk, it happens faster than one might think. Typical office applications require 100 megabytes of storage for the application alone, not including any associated data. Multimedia applications (sound and video) are very data intensive and quickly consume disk space. For example, CD-quality music recordings consume roughly 10 megabytes per minute! Again, the more storage the better. Reminder: Hard disk failures do occur. Always back up your data onto a removable disk or tape! CD ROM/DVD ROM Today an increasing amount of data and number of applications are being supplied on digital, compact disk (CD) technology. Using this technology, large amounts of data can be stored inexpensively. CD ROMs, which have the storage capacity for approximately 700 megabytes of data, are usually sold as “read only.” Recently, however, inexpensive recordable CD drives have become popular, allowing people to store massive databases or record music on their own. Other than the speed at which they access and transfer data, all CD ROMs are very similar. Speed is expressed as a multiple of the speed of the original CD ROMs, which were produced in the early 1990s. Today, typical CD ROMs transfer data 32 or 48 times faster than the original CD ROMs and are referred to as 32X or 48X CD ROMs. Again, the faster, the better. There are numerous information databases available on CD that would interest the accountant or finance executive. For example, most census data is available on CD. Also, historical data on stock and bond prices, copies of most trade articles, IRS regulations, state tax regulations, tax forms, recent court

154 Understanding the Numbers decisions, tax services, accounting standards (GAAP and GAAS), continuing education courses, and many other topics are available on CD. Today, DVD ROMs, which have roughly ten times the capacity of CD ROMs, are becoming popular and in many cases replacing CD ROMs. DVD popularity is being driven at least in part by the fact that a single DVD can accommodate the massive amount of data necessary to digitally store the sound and pictures of a full-length feature movie. Recordable DVD drives are now becoming reasonably priced. With their ability to read both CDs and DVDs and their ability to record DVDs, one would expect that recordable DVD drives will soon replace CD drives in new computer systems. Modems Modems are devices that allow computers to communicate with each other using standard telephone lines. In the past few years, modem technology has increased the speed of data communications over standard telephone lines to speeds more than 10 times higher than in 1990. However, there is a practical limit to how fast computers can transmit data over ordinary telephone lines— currently about 56 KB (kilobit—a thousand bits) per second. Because of the limitations of telephone lines, alternatives have been and are being developed. Cable modems, which use cable television wires, and DSL connections, which use regular telephone wires but with a new technology, both have the capability of transmitting data at rates higher than 1 MB (megabit) per second. While both technologies are spreading quickly, neither is yet available in all geographic locations. In addition, satellite data service, similar to satellite television service, is an available high-speed possibility for data communications. Network Adapter Whereas modems connect computers using phone lines, network adapters allow computers to directly communicate with each other over wires or cables that physically connect the computers. In most office environments, the various computers are interconnected through a local area network (LAN) so that they can share printers, data, access to the Internet, and other capabilities. Today, the dominant type of LAN is called an Ethernet network, and most network adapters are Ethernet adapters. In addition, Ethernet adapters are the most common form of hardware connection between PCs and cable modems or DSL connections. An Ethernet network adapter typically costs between $30 and $50. Multimedia By the latter half of the 1990s, most new personal computers came equipped for multimedia, the ability to seamlessly display text, audio, and full-motion

Information Technology and You


video. To be capable of multimedia, a computer must be equipped with a high-resolution monitor and a CD or DVD drive and have audio capabilities. Because of the amount of storage that video requires, full-motion video is somewhat difficult to accomplish on a personal computer. For it to look smooth, video requires roughly 30 frames (pictures) per second, and each frame requires about 500,000 characters of information. In other words, one minute of smooth video could require as much as 900,000,000 characters of storage. In order to manage the large amount of storage that video processing requires, the video data is compressed. Data compression examines the data and, using an algorithm or formula, reduces the amount of storage space needed by eliminating redundancies in the data. Then, before the data is displayed, it is inf lated back to its original form with little or no loss of picture quality. Printers Printer technology has stabilized in recent years, with two standards having emerged, laser printers and inkjet printers. Laser printers offer the best quality and speed. They are, for the most part, black-and-white and offer high print resolution. There are several speed and memory options, and models range in price from $400 for the individual user to several thousand dollars for a fast unit that offers printer sharing and color. Inkjet printers offer the lowest price. Models cost as little as $100. In higher-priced inkjet printers, print quality is excellent in black-and-white and color. Today many people are using high-end inkjet printers to print pictures taken with digital cameras. With high-end inkjet printers and digital cameras, the results can be virtually indistinguishable from prints produced from film cameras. Laser printers are the clear choice for network sharing, whereas inkjets have become the mainstay of the individual user. In either case HewlettPackard is the market leader in the development of printers. Monitors The most common type of computer monitor is a cathode ray tube, or CRT, which physically resembles a television. In recent years, however, f lat-panel or LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) have emerged. The major advantage of the f latpanel display is that it takes up much less space on a desktop than does the CRT. This advantage comes at a cost roughly three times as much as a comparably sized CRT. Whether CRT or f lat panel, there are significant advantages to having a display that is as large as space and budget allow. Some of the real power of windowing software is the ability to view several windows of data at the same time. Small displays make such windowing much more difficult. A 17-inch display (the screen measured diagonally) is about the minimum acceptable size.

156 Understanding the Numbers OPERATING SYSTEMS The operating system is the basic software that makes the computer run. Applications software is the software that runs a particular user function. Some say that the operating system is the software closest to the machine, while the applications software is the software closest to the user. Microsoft Windows is the predominant operating-system software for the personal computer. In the past 10 years, Microsoft has become the acknowledged leader in the development of both operating-system and officeautomation software. The Windows operating system provides a graphical format for communicating between the computer and the user, while a pointing device, such as a mouse, is used to point to the icon of the folder or application that the user wishes to open.

APPLICATIONS SOFTWAR E Applications software is the personal computer’s raison d’être. Although there are a multitude of applications available for the PC, this chapter focuses on the following personal-productivity programs: • • • • • •

Word processing. Spreadsheets. Presentation graphics. Databases. Personal finance. Project management.

Most of the popular packages are available as application suites that include word processing, spreadsheets, graphics, and sometimes database management systems. Microsoft Office is one of the most widely used suites; it includes Word for Windows (word processing), Excel (spreadsheet), PowerPoint (presentation graphics), Access (database), as well as several other applications. The original spreadsheet application was developed at the very beginning of the PC revolution and was called VisiCalc. It was later replaced by Lotus 1-2-3, which became the standard until the tremendous success of Microsoft Office and Excel.

Word Processing One of the two most popular applications, word processing and spreadsheets, word processing has increased people’s ability to communicate more effectively. With word processing software, the user can create, edit, and produce a high-quality document that appears as professional as that of any large organization. Thus, word processing has become the great business equalizer, making

Information Technology and You


it difficult to decipher a small company or single practitioner from the large, Fortune 500 company with a dedicated media department. Today’s word processing is as powerful as most desktop publishing software, and it is so simple to use that any novice equipped with simple instructions can master the software. Not only can documents include text, but they can also contain spreadsheet tables, drawings, and pictures; be specially formatted; and be black-and-white or color. Most word processing applications come with clip art, which consists of drawings, cartoons, symbols, and /or caricatures that can be incorporated into the document for emphasis.

Spreadsheet Sof tware For the accounting and finance executive, spreadsheet software has had the greatest impact on productivity. Imagine a company controller who has been asked to prepare the budget for the coming year. The company manufactures in over a thousand products with special pricing depending on volume. The controller not only has to make assumptions about material costs, which might change over time, but also has a history of expense levels that must be factored into the analysis. Using pencil and paper (usually a columnar pad), the controller calculates and prepares all of the schedules necessary to produce the final page of the report, which contains the income statement and cash f low. Confident that all calculations are complete, the controller presents the findings to management, only to be asked to modify some of the underlying assumptions to ref lect an unexpected change in the business. As a result, the controller must go back over all of the sheets, erasing and recalculating, then erasing and recalculating some more. Computer spreadsheets rendered this painful process unnecessary. Spreadsheets allow the user to create the equivalent of those columnar sheets, but with embedded formulas. Consequently, any financial executive can create a financial simulation of a business. Thus, merely by changing any of a multitude of assumptions (formulas), one can immediately see the ramifications of those changes. Spreadsheets allow for quick and easy what-if analyses. What if the bank changes the interest rate on my loan by 1%? What impact will that have on my cash f low and income? In addition, most of the packages provide utilities for graphing results, which can be used independently or integrated into a word processing report or graphics presentation. A spreadsheet is composed of a series of columns and rows. The intersection of a row and column is referred to as a cell. Columns have alphabetic letters, while rows have numbers. Cell reference “B23” indicates the cell in column B and row 23. Exhibit 5.2 provides an example of a simple spreadsheet application. A company’s pro forma income statement, the sample spreadsheet is a plan for what the company expects its performance to ref lect. In this example, the company expects to earn $275,475 (cell H18) after tax on $774,000 (cell H3) of sales revenues. At the bottom of the exhibit, there is a series of assumptions

158 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 5.2

Pro forma income statement (in dollars). Pro Forma Income Statement March

100,000 32,750

125,000 40,938

135,000 127,000 132,000 155,000 44,213 41,593 43,230 50,763





88,770 104,238


Salaries Benefits Rent Utilities Advertising Supplies

22,800 11,200 3,200 4,300 12,000 1,300

28,500 14,000 3,200 4,750 15,000 1,400

30,780 15,120 3,200 3,790 16,200 1,270

28,956 14,224 3,200 4,100 15,240 1,500

30,096 14,784 3,200 3,100 15,840 1,550

35,340 17,360 3,200 2,800 18,600 1,600

176,472 86,688 19,200 22,840 92,880 8,620

Total operating expenses








Net profit before taxes Income taxes

45,200 11,300

58,150 14,538

64,640 16,160

59,780 14,945

63,430 15,858

76,100 19,025

367,300 91,825

Net profit after taxes








Sales Cost of goods sold Gross profit




Year to Date

January February

774,000 253,485

Operating Expenses

Assumptions Costs of goods sold % Salaries (% sales) Benefits (% sales) Advertising (% sales) Income taxes %

0.3275 0.228 0.112 0.12 0.25

that govern the way the calculations are performed in this spreadsheet. For example, cost of goods sold is always equal to 32.75% of sales, and advertising is always equal to 12% of sales. Likewise, the income tax rate for this company is set at 25%. Looking behind the cells (Exhibit 5.3), you can see the spreadsheet’s formula infrastructure. For example, cell B4, which calculates the cost of goods sold for the month of January, contains the formula that requires the spreadsheet to multiply the cost-of-goods-sold percentage that is shown in cell B21 by the sales shown in cell B3; the formula in cell B5, which calculates the gross profit, subtracts the cost of goods sold in cell B4 from the sales in cell B3; and cell H5, which calculates the total gross profit for the six months of January through June, contains the formula that adds the contents of cells B5 through G5. The spreadsheet is set up so that, should the user wish to change any of the assumptions, such as the cost-of-goods-sold-percentage, the contents of cell B21 would be changed to a new desired value, and any other cell that was affected by this change would immediately assume its new value. As mentioned earlier, most spreadsheet packages provide excellent facilities for displaying



Gross profit

=B3-B14 =$B25*B16


Net profit before taxes Income taxes

Net profit after taxes

Costs of goods sold % Salaries (% sales) Benefits (% sales) Advertising (% sales) Income taxes %

0.3275 0.228 0.112 0.12 0.25


Total operating expenses


=$B22*B3 =$B23*B3 =3,200 4,300 =$B24*B3 1,300

Salaries Benefits Rent Utilities Advertising Supplies

Operating Expenses

100,000 =$B21*B3



=C3-C14 =$B25*C16


=$B22*C3 =$B23*C3 =3,200 4,750 =$B24*C3 1,400


125,000 =$B21*C3



=D3-D14 =$B25*D16


=$B22*D3 =$B23*D3 =3,200 3,790 =$B24*D3 1,270


135,000 =$B21*D3



=E3-E14 =$B25*E16


=$B22*E3 =$B23*E3 =3,200 4,100 =$B24*E3 1,500


127,000 =$B21*E3


Pro Forma Income Statement

Spreadsheet formula infrastructure.

Sales Cost of goods sold



=F3-F14 =$B25*F16


=$B22*F3 =$B23*F3 =3,200 3,100 =$B24*F3 1,550


132,000 =$B21*F3



=G3-G14 =$B25*G16


=$B22*G3 =$B23*G3 =3,200 2,800 =$B24*G3 1,600


155,000 =$B21*G3



=SUM(B16:G16) =SUM(B17:G17)


=SUM(B8:G8) =SUM(B9:G9) =SUM(B10:G10) =SUM(B11:G11) =SUM(B12:G12) =SUM(B13:G13)


=SUM(B3:G3) =SUM(B4:G4)

Year to Date

160 Understanding the Numbers data in a graphical format. Exhibit 5.4 presents a graph of the information in our demonstration spreadsheet. It contrasts sales and net profit over the six months.

Presentation Graphics Sof tware Presentation graphics software is used to create slide presentations. These presentations can include a variety of media through which information can be presented to an audience, such as text, graphs, pictures, video, and sound. Special effects are also available, meaning animation can be incorporated as the system transitions from one slide to the next. Slides can be printed, in blackand-white and color, for use on overhead projectors. Alternatively, the computer can be directly connected to a system for projection onto a screen or a television monitor, allowing the presenter to utilize the software’s animation and sound features. Most of the software comes equipped with various predeveloped background formats and clip art to help simplify the process of creating the presentation. Also, these software packages allow the user to import both graphs and text from other software packages, such as word processing and spreadsheets.


Pro forma sales and income.

160,000 Sales 140,000

Net profit after taxes











April Months



Information Technology and You


Database Sof tware A database is a collection of data stored in such a way that the user may create and identify relationships among data. For example, a mailing list of one’s customers might contain information about each customer’s purchases and everything about the sales transactions, including the prices the customer paid, who sold it to him, how she paid, and so forth. This information can be retrieved in a variety of ways usually specified by the user at the time of execution. The user might want a list of all customers that purchased a specific product between January and May or perhaps an aggregate list of all products a customer has ordered and purchased from a particular salesperson. The number of possible combinations and permutations and ways one may view the data is limited only by the collection of the data and the imagination of the user. Databases are discussed in more detail in Chapter 16, Information Technology and the Firm.

Personal Finance Sof tware There are several software packages that allow individuals or small businesses to manage finances, such as paying bills either electronically or by check, and monitor investments. The packages are fairly sophisticated in that they provide for secure communications for electronic bill paying and other online banking services such as account reconciliation, as well as the importing of current stock-market quotes. The most widely used package is Quicken and, for small businesses, Quickbooks. Microsoft Money is also a comparable and popular package. Exhibit 5.5 displays a sample screen that is used to enter bills to be paid. As you can see, the user input metaphor is a check, the very same document the user would use if he or she were paying the bill manually. The difference using Quicken is that data is collected for a host of other purposes such as: • • • •

Paying bills. Tracking paid bills by category for budgeting purposes. Tracking payments for tax purposes. Reconciling the checking account.

The system has the capability to keep track of more than one account and to make interaccount transfers.

Project Management Sof tware Often a manager or entrepreneur is faced with the challenge of managing the many details concerned with a project, be it constructing a building or pulling together a financial plan. With fairly simple projects, paper and pencil or a simple spreadsheet might be an adequate tool for coordinating the people and steps involved in a project. But, as the project gets complex, involving, say,


Personal f inancial sof tware check-writing screen.

Screen shot printed with permission of Intuit.




Project management sof tware screen.

164 Understanding the Numbers more than a few people and more than a few dozen steps, one should consider using project management software to help with the planning and control of the activities. Project management software allows a manager to plan for and then control the steps in a project with an eye toward managing the people working and resources being spent on the project. Good project-management software can help a manager foresee bottlenecks or constraints in a plan and can help the manager bring the project to completion in the shortest possible time. One popular tool for managing projects is Microsoft Project. Exhibit 5.6 shows a typical screen from Microsoft Project, which shows the steps in a project along with a graphical representation of those steps called a GAANT chart.

NETWOR KING Another electronic advent of the 1990s was extensive networking, or interconnecting, of computers, which has facilitated the sharing and exchanging of information. The interconnecting may be done through wires within a building; via the telephone system using modems; or through radio frequency transmissions between the computers using wireless modems. There are several different approaches, or types of architecture, for computer networks. In a small office environment with only a few computers, the computers might be connecting in what is referred to as a peer-to-peer network. Here all the computers function on the same level as peers or equals to each other. Peer-to-peer networking software comes built into Windows 98 and Windows Millennium Edition (ME), making it relatively easy to set up a peer-to-peer network between two or more PCs. All one needs is a network adapter card in each computer, the cables for connecting the computers, and a connecting piece of hardware called a hub. However, in a larger networking environment (dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of computers hooked together), the situation is more complex. In this case, the most common network architecture is called a client-server network. To deal with the added complexity, in a client-server network there is a hierarchy of computers with a host or file server acting as the traffic policeman, storing common data and directing the network traffic. In this architecture, the user computer is frequently referred to as the client in the network. A picture of a typical client-server network appears in Exhibit 5.7. As mentioned earlier, the file server is the centerpiece of the network, and the software that makes the network operate is called the network operating system. Novell’s NetWare and Microsoft’s Windows 2000 (formerly Windows NT) are two popular network operating systems. Within a business the typical network is called a local area network, or LAN. Clients are connected to the server, using wires or fiber-optic cables. Transmission speeds are generally either 10 or 100 megabytes per second. As with the peer-to-peer network, there is a hub that acts as a concentrator for all of the cabling. Again, each PC

Information Technology and You EXHIBIT 5.7


Diagram of client-server network.



File server

Print server

Internet/mail server



Ethernet/WinNT Network



User PC

User PC

User PC

on the network must have a network interface card if it is connected to a LAN, or a modem if it is connected through telephone lines. When a series of LANs in different cities are interconnected, they form a wide area network, or WAN. Large businesses with facilities around the country or world network their users’ personal computers together in a series of LANs that are further interconnected into a large WAN. The largest WAN, the Internet, connects together millions of computers of commercial companies, government agencies, schools, colleges and universities, and nonprofit agencies around the world. Preventing unauthorized people from accessing confidential information is one of the biggest challenges posed by networks. To do so, people and organizations use special security software. One technique, a fire wall, allows outside users to obtain only that data which is outside the “fire wall” of the file server; subsequently, only people inside the company may access information inside the fire wall.

Electronic Mail (E-mail) E-mail is the most popular network application because it has become the method of choice for communicating over both short distances (interoffice) and long distances. It allows you to send communications to any other person

166 Understanding the Numbers on your local network as well as to any other network within your WAN, including the Internet. E-mail has become so popular that U.S. Mail and overnight delivery services such as FedEx are being rendered obsolete for some types of communication. Most e-mail software packages include a basic word-processing application with which you can generate your letters. In addition, these packages allow you to keep mailing lists and send a document to numerous people simultaneously. Once sent, a document can be received within seconds by people thousands of miles away. One of the more advantageous features of e-mail is that it allows you to attach another document—a spreadsheet, graphic presentation, another word processing report, a picture, or even a database—to your letter, much as you would do with a paper clip. Imagine that you have used a spreadsheet package to prepare a budget for your division in Boston. You print out your letter and spreadsheet and mail or ship it overnight to the main office in Chicago. You may even include an electronic copy of your spreadsheet on a f loppy disk, in case the individual in Chicago needs to further modify the numbers. Sometime within the next day or two, the recipient will receive the package. He or she will then read the information and may even use the f loppy disk for additional reporting. Alternatively, using e-mail, you could draft your letter, electronically attach the spreadsheet file, and send it via e-mail to your recipient in Chicago. Within a matter of seconds or minutes, she or he will receive the electronic package, read your letter, and be able to extract your attachment and load it directly into a spreadsheet software package for any necessary additional processing. Since colleges and universities have sites on the Internet, many college students use e-mail regularly to keep in contact with their friends both in the United States and around the world. Likewise, parents of college students have picked up the e-mail bug and use it to correspond with their children.

The Internet The Internet is the worldwide WAN that has become the major growth area in technology and the business community. While the Internet has been around for decades, its popularity exploded with the development of the World Wide Web and the necessary software programs that made the “Web” very userfriendly to explore. Accessing the Internet requires that the user establish a connection to it called a node. Large organizations have a dedicated data link to the Internet using very fast data telephone lines. Individual users connect to the Internet using third-party companies called Internet Service Providers (ISPs), such as America Online (AOL) and Microsoft Network (MSN). These ISPs allow users to dial into their computers, which are connected directly to the Internet. Recently, a number of ISPs have started providing high-speed or broadband connectivity between users and the Internet with the use of cable modems or DSL technology (as discussed previously). High-speed connectivity will

Information Technology and You


typically cost $20 to $30 more than the normal $20 per month for modem speed (56K) access.

World Wide Web Though the terms Internet, World Wide Web, the Web, and the Net have become synonymous, the Web is actually a subsystem of the Internet. One of the major attractions of the Web is that it is quite easy for the average person to access any of the millions of sites on the Web. All you need is a Web browser and a connection to the Internet. Web browsers are merely software programs that allow users to navigate the Web. The two most common browsers are Microsoft Explorer and Netscape Navigator. Internet Explorer comes free with Windows, and Netscape Navigator can be downloaded for free from Netscape’s Web site. Every site that appears on the Internet has an address composed of a company or organization name, called a domain name, and a domain type. For example, “” refers to the Web site of a commercial company named GenRad. These addresses are referred to as universal resource locators, or URLs. Some of the more common domain types are as follows: .com .org .gov .mil .edu

commercial organization not-for-profit organization government organization military group educational institution

Each Web site displays its information using a series of Web pages. A Web page may contain text, drawings, pictures, even audio and video, as well as blue text called hypertext. Position your mouse pointer over one of these words, and the arrow changes to a drawing of a hand. Click the mouse, and the computer will automatically move to a new Web page. This move is called a hypertext link. Using these hypertext links, a user can move around the Internet, from page to page, company to company, state to state, country to country. Internet e-mail addresses often consist of a username followed by the symbol “@,” followed by the domain name, followed by the domain type. Thus, Bill Smith’s e-mail address at GenRad might well be [emailprotected]. Many companies have put much of their literature on the Web, thereby using the Web as an electronic catalogue. Home pages are the first page of information that you encounter when you reach an organization’s Web site. Companies use their Web sites for marketing and distributing information about their products. Instead of waiting on a telephone line for customer service, the user can go online to get expert help about frequently asked questions (FAQs), at any time of day, unattended. For example, the AICPA (American Institute of CPAs) has a Web site at Available at that Web site are many of the AICPA services, including information on their membership, conferences,

168 Understanding the Numbers continuing education, publications, and IRS forms. The home page for the Financial Management Association, located at, is another interesting site for financial executives. This site provides information on all of the association’s services with links to other pages. Computer hardware and software companies use the Web as a device for distributing software to users. As software device drivers change, users can download the new software over the Net. The Net also provides a venue for people with common interests to “chat” electronically in “chat rooms.”

Internet Search Engines The Web has become so extensive with so much information available to the user that often one literally does not know where to look. Consequently, search engines were created to help users navigate the Web. Search engines like Yahoo, Alta Vista, Lycos, Google, and Northernlight constantly explore the Web, indexing each site. When presented with key words or a topic to be searched, they provide the user with a list and description of each site that contains the information requested in the search. The search results also display the hypertext links to the sites found, enabling the user to click on and immediately go to those sites that seem most promising.

Electronic Commerce Electronic commerce, the ability to purchase goods and services over the Net, has grown geometrically in recent years. Before e-commerce can achieve its full potential, however, there are a number of hurdles that must be overcome successfully. First, as will be discussed in more detail in the following section, there are strong concerns over the security of credit card and other confidential data concerning sales transactions. Until consumers can be assured that their personal data are confidential and their financial transactions are secure, e-commerce will be under a cloud of suspicion. Second, shopping in cyberspace is different from shopping in physical space. When shopping in physical space, consumers see, touch, try on, test-drive, and buy physical products. In cyberspace, consumers shop on the Net by referring only to metaphors, twodimensional representations of what they see when shopping in stores. Essentially, cyberspace consumers are supplied only secondhand information about products. For electronic commerce to be successful, therefore, the mode and the metaphor for the cyberspace shopping experience must be improved. New mechanisms for Internet shopping will be developed, many of which will include experiments in virtual reality and the appearance of three-dimensional venues. Also, the shopping experience will be custom-tailored to you, the individual consumer. Many Internet sites already keep a profile on you when you visit their site. These profiles include information on what products you buy and what products you tend to look at, allowing the Internet sites to create shopping experiences specific to your needs. Along these lines, the mail-order

Information Technology and You


and online shopping company Lands End now provides their customers with the opportunity to have a three-dimensional computer model built from laser scans of the customer’s body. Once this model is built, the customer can “try on” clothing on their computer screen to see how the actual clothes will look on their computer-based body. As electronic shopping becomes more effective, virtual malls, or groupings of stores that share the same electronic Internet address, will spring up on the Internet, creating the feel of a physical mall. Both consumers and retailers will be able to benefit from one-stop shopping in cyberspace.

Privacy on the Internet When using the Internet for e-mail, e-commerce, or other applications, you must remember that, like the radio spectrum, the Internet is a public network. With the right skill, anyone on the Internet has the ability to “listen in” on your electronic transaction. While the transaction will appear to be processed normally, its confidentiality might well be compromised. Beware! Never send across the Net any confidential information that you would not want any other person or company to know. However, Web browsers usually have the ability to encrypt data that is transmitted between a user and a Web site. Most organizations conducting business on the Web will, therefore, only send and receive confidential information using encryption technology, which should provide you with adequate protection. Generally, Web sites will notify you that they are using such a secure connection. In addition, whenever you are connected to a secure site, your Web browser will show a little icon of a closed padlock on the status bar at the bottom of your screen. Beyond protecting data as it is transmitted, there is a significant privacy issue surrounding the use of data in your Internet activities. Whenever you sign onto a Web site, those sites can collect information about your activities, such as purchases, credit card number, address, and so on. At the moment, there is very little legislation either at the federal or state level preventing Internet sites from selling or sharing information about you with third parties. Various industry groups are trying to encourage self-regulation in the e-commerce industry, and many Web sites will post their privacy policy, usually as a link on the home page. However, at the moment there is little consistency or enforcement of privacy policy. We can expect that there will be significant legislation on privacy issues in the future, but until such legislation is in place, beware! In addition, some Internet sites place small files, called cookies, on your hard drive when you are in contact with the site. In most cases, these cookies are innocuous, allowing you to access the site without having to remember a password or providing you with your favorite screen. However, cookies can also be used to help track your Web actions and build a profile of you and your activities. Inexpensive or free software is available to help you manage or prevent cookies being placed on your computer, but blocking cookies may prevent you from being able to use certain Web sites.

170 Understanding the Numbers Internet Multimedia The Internet provides an amazing plethora of information, and not just in text or still-picture format. Video and audio streaming media is becoming increasingly available on the Internet. There are several sites on the Net where one can obtain audio clips, listen to music, or listen to radio shows. For example, NFL football games and commentaries are available on the National Football League’s or National Public Radio’s Web pages. In addition, many music companies are allowing consumers to listen to music in the comfort of their homes before buying the CDs. In addition, sites such as Napster have been created to allow users to share or swap music and other files. Some of this sharing comes dangerously close to violating copyright legislation. We have seen and can expect to continue to see the courts play a significant role in defining the boundary of propriety.

THE FUTUR E—TODAY, TOMORROW, AND NEXT WEEK Although the industrial revolution began in the United States toward the beginning of the nineteenth century, we are still feeling its effects today. Consider for a moment how our everyday lives have changed as a result of those innovations. The computer revolution began about 1950, and the microprocessor—the heart of the PC revolution—has been exploited only for the last 20 years. Now think about how our everyday lives have changed as a result of these innovations. Remember, the microprocessor is part of so many of our appliances, computers, automobiles, watches, and so forth. The impact of the computer revolution is just as large if not larger than its precursor, the industrial revolution, and has taken far less time. Moreover, the acceleration of change in our lives that results from the use of computer technology has been rapidly increasing. Technologists speak about the rapid changes in the development of the Internet and its allied products. They even joke that things are happening so fast that three months is equivalent to an “Internet year.” Funny, but true. One of the biggest trends in the last several years has been the merging of heretofore separate technologies. As we mix computer technology with communication technology and throw in a good measure of miniaturization, it is difficult to imagine the products we may soon see. Mix together a PDA, a cell phone, and a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver, miniaturize the result, and you have a product that will remind you as you drive past the supermarket where you were supposed to pick up a quart of milk on the way home! Walk in the door to the market, and your pocket wonder may tell you, based on your past love of Snickers candy bars, that they are on sale for half-price on aisle 5. As you move towards the checkout line, the clerk, who has never met you, may greet you by name because your pocket wonder has announced your arrival to her cash register. While this scenario may sound fanciful, all of the technologies exist today that could make this fancy

Information Technology and You


real. How these technologies will be used in the future, and the tremendous entrepreneurial potential for new products and services, is wide open for the resourceful. This section is titled “The Future—Today, Tomorrow, and Next Week,” because the horizon for change in the world of technology is very short. Each year, major enhancements to both hardware and technology are released, rendering previous technology obsolete. Some people are paralyzed from buying computers because they are concerned that the technology will change very soon. How right they are! The promise of technology is that it is constantly changing. Today’s worker must recognize that fact and learn to adapt to the changing methods. Those who are technologically comfortable will be the first to gain strategic advantage in the work environment and succeed. A word to the wise: Hold on to your hat, and enjoy the ride. Adapt and go with it.

FOR FURTHER R EADING There are many excellent books on the personal use of computer systems. Topics run the spectrum from books about individual software packages to those that explain how to program a computer. Many of these books come equipped with a f loppy disk or CD and include step-by-step examples and exercises. There are several popular series of these books. The following are but a few of the books you might consider. You would probably find it worth your while to browse through a number of books at your local store, searching for those that meet your needs for detail and appear to be aimed at your current level of understanding. SYBEX has a series of books on Microsoft’s Office software, including Microsoft Office 2000: No Experience Required by Courter and Marquis. QUE has published many books on various software applications, including Microsoft Office 2000 User Manual. Hungry Minds Inc. has a series of very noteworthy books, the for Dummies series, one book for nearly every software package (e.g., Excel: Excel for Dummies). See books on Office 2000, the Internet, and so on. Microsoft Press also publishes numerous titles for users on both its operating-system and application software.


A good search site which organizes the Web into a hierarchy of categories A very extensive search engine that organizes search findings by subject matter A very extensive search site

172 Understanding the Numbers Computer Information Sites

A site that provides product reviews and prices on a broad range of technology products Web site of a large technology publisher, with product reviews, software downloads, useful articles, and price comparisons

Accounting Sites /Accounting/raw/aaa

Homepage of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, with lots of useful information and many links to other Web sites of interest to accountants Homepage of the American Accounting Association

Financial Management Site

Homepage of the Financial Management Association International, with lots of useful information and many links to other Web sites of interest to financial managers Very useful homepage for personal financial management, with many links to other personal finance Web sites



THE CONCEPT OF BUDGETING Budgets serve a critical role in managing any business, from the smallest sole proprietor to the largest multinational corporation. Businesses cannot operate effectively without estimating the financial implications of their strategic plans and monitoring their progress throughout the year. During preparation, budgets require managers to make resource allocation decisions and, as a result, to reaffirm their core operating strategy by requiring each business unit to justify its part of the overall business plan. During the subsequent year, variances of actual results from expectations serve to direct management to the areas that may deserve a greater allocation of capital and those that may need adjustments to retain their viability. A budget is a comprehensive formal plan, expressed in quantitative terms, describing the expected operations of an organization over some future time period. Thus, the characteristics of a budget are that it deals with a specific entity, covers a specific future time period, and is expressed in quantitative terms. This chapter describes the essential features of a budget and includes a comprehensive example of the preparation of a monthly budget for a small business. Although the focus of this chapter is on budgeting from a business perspective, many of the principles are also applicable to individuals in the planning of their personal finances.


174 Understanding the Numbers FUNCTIONS OF BUDGETING The two basic functions of budgeting are planning and control. Planning encompasses the entire process of preparing the budget, from initial strategic direction through preparation of expected financial results. Planning is the process that most people think of when the term budgeting is mentioned. Most of the time and effort devoted to budgeting is expended in the planning stage. Careful planning provides the framework for the second function of budgeting, control. Control involves comparing actual results with budgeted data, evaluating the differences, and taking corrective actions when necessary. The comparison of budget and actual data can occur only after the period is over and actual accounting data are available. For example, April manufacturing cost data are necessary to compare with the April production budget to measure the difference between planned and actual results for the month of April. The comparison of actual results with budget expectations is called performance reporting. The budget acts as a gauge against which managers compare actual financial results.

R EASONS FOR BUDGETING Budgeting is a time-consuming and costly process. Managers and employees are asked to contribute information and time in preparing the budget and in responding to performance reports and other control-phase budgeting activities. Is it all worth it? Do firms get their money’s worth from their budgeting systems? The answer to those questions cannot be generalized for all firms. Some firms receive far more value than other firms for the dollars they spend on budgeting. Budgets do, however, provide a wealth of value for many firms who effectively operate their budgeting systems. I now discuss some of the reasons for investing in formal budgeting systems. In the next section of this chapter I discuss issues that contribute to effective budgeting. Budgets offer a variety of benefits to organizations. Some common benefits of budgeting include the following: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Requires periodic planning. Fosters coordination, cooperation, and communication. Forces quantification of proposals. Provides a framework for performance evaluation. Creates an awareness of business costs. Satisfies legal and contractual requirements. Orients a firm’s activities toward organizational goals.

Forecasts and Budgets


Periodic Planning Virtually all organizations require some planning to ensure efficient and effective use of scarce resources. Some managers are compulsive planners who continuously update plans that have already been made and plan for new activities and functions. At the other extreme are people who do not like to plan at all and, therefore, find little or no time to get involved in the planning process. The budgeting process closes the gap between these two extremes by creating a formal planning framework that provides specific, uniform periodic deadlines for each phase of the planning process. People who are not attuned to this process must still meet budget deadlines. Of course, planning does not guarantee success. People must still execute the plans, but budgeting is an important prerequisite to the accomplishment of many activities.

Coordination, Cooperation, and Communication Planning by individual managers does not ensure an optimum plan for the entire organization. The budgeting process, however, provides a vehicle for the exchange of ideas and objectives among people in an organization’s various segments. The budget review process and other budget communication networks should minimize redundant and counterproductive programs by the time the final budget is approved.

Quantif ication Because we live in a world of limited resources, virtually all individuals and organizations must ration their resources. The rationing process is easier for some than for others. Each person and each organization must compare the costs and benefits of each potential project or activity and choose those that result in the most efficient resource allocation. Measuring costs and benefits requires some degree of quantification. Profit-oriented firms make dollar measurements for both costs and benefits. This is not always an easy task. For example, the benefits of an advertising campaign are increased sales and a better company image, but it is difficult to estimate precisely the additional sales revenue caused by a particular advertising campaign, and it is even more difficult to quantify the improvements in the company image. In nonprofit organizations such as government agencies, quantification of benefits can be even more difficult. For example, how does one quantify the benefits of better police protection, more music programs at the city park, or better fire protection, and how should the benefits be evaluated in allocating resources to each activity? Despite the difficulties, resource-allocation decisions necessitate some reasonable quantification of the costs and benefits of the various projects under consideration.

176 Understanding the Numbers Performance Evaluation Budgets serve as estimates of acceptable performance. Managerial effectiveness in each budgeting entity is appraised by comparing actual performance with budgeted projections. Most managers want to know what is expected of them so that they can monitor their own performance. Budgets help to provide that information. Of course, managers can also be evaluated on other criteria, but it is valuable to have some quantifiable measure of performance.

Cost Awareness Accountants and financial managers are concerned daily about the cost implications of decisions and activities, but many other managers are not. Production supervisors focus on output, marketing managers on sales, and so forth. It is easy for people to overlook costs and cost-benefit relationships. At budgeting time, however, all managers with budget responsibility must convert their plans for projects and activities to costs and benefits. This cost awareness provides a common ground for communication among the various functional areas of the organization.

Legal and Contractual Requirements Some organizations are required to budget. Local police departments, for example, cannot ignore budgeting even if it seems too much trouble, and the National Park Service would soon be out of funds if its management decided not to submit a budget this year. Some firms commit themselves to budgeting requirements when signing loan agreements or other operating agreements. For example, a bank may require a firm to submit an annual operating budget and monthly cash budgets throughout the life of a bank loan.

Goal Orientation Resources should be allocated to projects and activities according to organizational goals and objectives. Logical as this may sound, relating general organizational goals to specific projects or activities is sometimes difficult. Many general goals are not operational, meaning that determining the impact of specific projects on the organization’s general goals is difficult. For example, organizational goals may be stated as follows: 1. Earn a satisfactory profit. 2. Maintain sufficient funds for liquidity. 3. Provide high-quality products for customers. These goals, which use terms such as satisfactory, sufficient, and highquality, are not operational: the terms may be interpreted differently by each manager. To be effective, goals must be more specific and provide clear direction for managers. The previous goals can be made operational as follows:

Forecasts and Budgets


1. Provide a minimum return on gross assets invested of 18%. 2. Maintain a minimum current ratio of 2 to 1 and a minimum quick ratio of 1.2 to 1. 3. Products must receive at least an 80% approval rating on customer satisfaction surveys.

EFFECTIVE BUDGETING There are many reasons why some firms use budgeting more effectively than others, including the following: 1. Budgets should be oriented to help a firm accomplish its goals and objectives. 2. Budgets must be realistic plans of action rather than wishful thinking. 3. The control phase of budgeting must be used effectively to provide a framework for evaluating performance and improving budget planning. 4. Participative budgeting should be utilized to instill a sense of cooperation and team play. 5. Budgets should not be used as an excuse for denying appropriate employee resource requests. 6. Management should use the budgeting process as a vehicle for modifying the behavior of employees to achieve company goals.

Goal Orientation Some firms have more resources than others, but it seems no firm has all the resources it needs to accomplish all its goals. Consequently, budgets should provide a means by which resources are allocated among projects, activities, and business units in accordance with the goals and objectives of the organization. As logical as this may sound, it is sometimes difficult to relate general, organization-wide goals to specific projects or activities. Many general goals are not operational, meaning the impact of specific projects on the achievement of the general goals of the organization is not readily measurable. A prerequisite to goal-oriented budgeting is the development of a formal set of operational goals. Some organizations have no formally defined goals, and even those that do often have only general goals for the entire organization. Major operating units may function without written or clearly defined goals or objectives. A logical first step toward effective budgeting is to formalize the goals of the organization. Starting at the top, general organizational goals should be as specific as possible, and written. Next, each major unit of the organization should develop more specific operational goals. The process should continue down the organizational structure to the lowest level of budget responsibility. This goal development process requires management at all levels

178 Understanding the Numbers to resolve difficult issues, but it results in a budgeting framework that is much more likely to be effective since all business units proceed in a coordinated manner toward the achievement of a common objective. Even individuals need to understand their goals and objectives as they prepare budgets for their own activities.

Realistic Plan Budgeting is not wishful thinking; it is a process designed to optimize the use of scarce resources in accordance with the goals of the company. Many firms have budgets that call for sales growth, higher profits, and improved market share, but to be effective such plans must be based on specific executable plans and on available resources and management talent that the company can bring to bear in meeting the budget. If the management of a firm wants to improve its level of operations, there must be a clearly defined path between the present and the future that the firm can travel. The process begins with an analysis of the market and preparation of a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. Utilizing this background information, the company develops an overall strategy together with the operational tactics required to achieve it (the development of a business plan is discussed further in Chapter 9). The financial impact of this strategy is then assessed in the preparation of the budget. If the financial results are unfavorable, strategies and tactics must be revised until an acceptable outcome is achieved. Once the budget is finalized, strategies are implemented and the company’s operations are subsequently monitored throughout the year in the control phase, as discussed next. Exhibit 6.1 presents an iterative model that embodies these concepts.

Participative Budgeting Most behavioral experts believe that individuals work harder to achieve objectives that they have had a part in creating. Applied to budgeting, this concept states that employees will strive harder to achieve performance levels defined by budgets if the employees have had a part in creating the budget. Budgets imposed by top-level management, in contrast, may get little support from employees. The concept of building budgets from the bottom up with input from all employees and managers affected by the budget is called participative budgeting.

The Control Phase of Budgeting The first and most time-consuming phase of budgeting is the planning process. The control phase of budgeting, however, may be the time when firms get the most value from their budgeting activities. Exhibit 6.2 is a budget-performance report for the first quarter of 2001. The difference between budgeted and

Forecasts and Budgets EXHIBIT 6.1


Comprehensive budgeting process. Strategic planning Market/SWOT analysis

Strategic development




actual amount is called a budget variance. Budget variances are reported for both revenues and costs separately. In this case, revenues were $20,000 under budget and are, therefore, considered as an unfavorable budget variance (U). Expenses, though, were $30,000 less than expected, a favorable budget variance (F). The net result is a favorable, profit budget variance of $10,000. Each category is then separately analyzed to uncover the source of the variance. Although total revenues are lower than expected, management is interested in the actual product lines causing this variance. Further analysis might reveal, for example, that all of the product lines are performing satisfactorily except for one that is performing more poorly than expected. On the expense side, a favorable budget variance may be due to positive effects of management actions to operate the company more efficiently. Or, positive variances may have occurred because costs necessary for long-term performance—such as maintenance of machinery, research and development, or advertising—were deferred to achieve short-term gains. Management must thoroughly investigate the causes for budget discrepancies so that corrective action can be taken. Are markets as a whole performing


Budget variance report.

Budgeted Revenues Expenses Profit

$800,000 (500,000) 300,000



$780,000 $(20,000)U (470,00) 30,000 F 310,000 10,000 F

180 Understanding the Numbers better or worse than expected? Is the company’s marketing support adequate? Has the competitive landscape changed? Are cost variances the result of management actions in response to competitive pressures or due to inadequate control? The answers to these questions may suggest changes in the company’s strategic and tactical plans to compensate for the variances. When actual prices and quantities are compared with expected prices and quantities, an additional level of analysis can be conducted. Exhibit 6.3 illustrates a more in-depth analysis of price and quantity variance. During the month, the firm realizes a positive variance of $6,000 relating to the cost of aluminum, one of its production inputs. This $6,000 variance can then be further decomposed into a price variance and a quantity variance. The price variance is $21,000 favorable because of the lower than expected purchase price for aluminum. It is computed by multiplying the price variance per unit ($3 to $2.80) by the actual pounds utilized (105,000). The quantity variance is $15,000 unfavorable as a result of lower efficiency in the production process that led to more material usage than had been expected. This is computed by multiplying the quantity variance (105,000 to 100,000) by the expected price ($3). This analysis reveals that the manufacturing process was less efficient than planned in that it utilized more material to produce its products. This inefficiency was more than offset, however, by lower prices for direct materials than had been forecasted. The price variance, therefore, masks the production inefficiency, which would not be revealed without the additional level of analysis. Comparing actual results with the budget, adjusting plans when necessary, and evaluating the performance of managers are essential elements of budget control. Many people, however, find the control phase difficult. When business results are less than expected it may be painful to evaluate the results. For some it is much easier to look ahead to future periods when things hopefully will be better. But frequently, realistic plans for future success can be made only when management learns from its past mistakes. The control phase of budgeting provides much of that learning process. Firms must be willing to evaluate performance carefully, adjusting plans and performance to stay on track toward achieving goals and objectives. EXHIBIT 6.3

Price and quantity variance analysis. Budgeted



20,000 5.25 $ 2.80 105,000 $294,000

0 0.25 U $ 0.20 F 5,000 U $ 6,000 F

($3.00 − $2.80) × 105,000 = (105,000 − 100,000) × $3.00 =

$21,000 F $15,000 U

Total net variance

$ 6,000 F

Production level in units 20,000 Lbs aluminum/unit 5.00 Aluminum cost /lb $ 3.00 Total lbs aluminum 100,000 Total material cost $300,000 Price variance Quantity variance

Forecasts and Budgets


Many companies have intricate budget performance reporting systems in place, but the firms achieve little control from their use. In order to provide effective control, a business must use the budget as an integral part of the company’s reward system. That is, employees must understand that budget performance reports are a component of their performance evaluation. Rewards such as pay raises, bonuses, and promotions should be tied to budget performance. Generally it is easy to determine if a company’s budget performance reporting system is working effectively. If, on one hand, discussions with managers yield comments such as, “If we fail to achieve the budget, we just add more to it next period,” the budget-control process is likely ineffective. If, on the other hand, employees say, “If we are over our budget by more than 2%, we will be called on the carpet and forced to explain the problem,” then one knows the control process is having an effect.

Improper Use of Budgets Sometimes managers use budgets as scapegoats for unpopular decisions. For example, rather than telling a department head that his or her budget request for three additional employees is not convincing when compared with all of the other budget requests, the vice president says, “The budget just would not allow any new employees this year.” In another case, the director of the marketing department requests travel funds to send all of his staff to an overseas education program. The vice president believes the program is a waste of money. Instead of giving the marketing director his opinion, the vice president says, “We would really like to send your staff to the program, but the budget is just too tight this year.” Of course, the truth in this situation is that the trip is not a good use of business resources, regardless of the condition of the budget. The marketing director is left with the impression that the real problem is the state of the budget, when in fact the benefits of his travel proposal did not outweigh the cost. Management should be careful not to undermine the budgeting process by assigning to it adverse characteristics.

Behavioral Issues in Budgeting Many of the internal accounting reports firms prepare are intended to inf luence managers and employees to behave in a particular way. For example, many manufacturing cost reports are intended to enable and motivate employees to reduce costs or keep them at an acceptable level. Similarly, reports that compare the performance of one division with those of other divisions are used to evaluate the performance of division managers and encourage better results for each division. Budgets and budget performance reports are among the more useful internal accounting reports businesses use to inf luence employee performance in a positive manner. Budget control is based on the principle that managers be held responsible for activities they manage. Performance reports ref lect the

182 Understanding the Numbers degree of achievement of plans embodied in the budget. To minimize adverse behavioral problems, managers should take care to develop and administer budgets appropriately. Budgets should not be used as a hammer to demand unattainable performance from employees. The best safeguard against unrealistic budgets is participative budgeting.

DEVELOPING A BUDGET Budgets are useful, and in most cases essential, to the success of virtually all organizations whether they are for-profit or not-for-profit organizations. The larger and more complex the organization, the more time, energy, and resources are needed to prepare and implement the budget.

The Structure of Budgets Regardless of the size or type of organization, most budgets can be divided into two categories: the operating budget and the financial budget. The operating budget consists of plans for all those activities that make up the normal operations of the firm. For a manufacturing business, the operating budget includes plans for sales, production, marketing, distribution, administration, and any other activities that the firm carries on in its normal course of business. For a merchandising firm, the operating budget includes plans for sales, merchandise purchases, marketing, distribution, advertising, personnel, administration, and any other normal activities of the merchandising firm. The financial budget includes all of the plans for financing the activities described in the operating budget plus any plans for major new projects, such as a new production plant or plant expansion. Both the operating and financial budgets are described later in more detail.

The Master Budget The master budget is the total budget package for an organization; it is the end product of the budget preparation process. The master budget consists of all the individual budgets for each part of the organization combined into one overall budget for the entire organization. The exact composition of the master budget depends on the type and size of the business. However, all master budgets represent the organization’s overall plan for a specific budget period. Exhibit 6.4 lists the common components of a master budget for a manufacturing business. The components of the master budget form the firm’s detailed operating plan for the coming year. As noted earlier, the master budget is divided into the operating budget and the financial budget. The operating budget includes revenues, product costs, operating expenses, and other components of the income statement. The financial budget includes the budgeted balance sheet, capital expenditure budget, and other budgets used in financial management. A large part of the financial budget is determined by the operating budget and the beginning balance sheet.

Forecasts and Budgets EXHIBIT 6.4


A manufacturing f irm’s master budget.

Operating Budget Sales budget Budget of ending inventories Production budget Materials budget Direct labor budget Manufacturing overhead budget Administrative expense budget Budgeted non-operating items Budgeted net income Financial Budget Capital expenditure budget Budgeted statement of financial position (balance sheet) Budgeted statement of cash f lows

Exhibit 6.5 is a simplified budget for C&G’s Gift Shop. It is prepared on a monthly basis. The number preceding each heading refers to the applicable line in the budget.

Sales Budget (1–3) The sales budget, or revenue budget, is the first to be prepared. It is usually the most important budget because so many other budgets are directly related to sales and therefore largely derived from the sales budget. Inventory budgets, production budgets, personnel budgets, marketing budgets, administrative budgets, and other budget areas are all affected significantly by the overall sales volume expected. For C&G’s Gift Shop, expected sales in units are reported on line 1. Note that the business is highly seasonal, with most of the sales and profits realized during the months of November and December. To keep the budget simple, we assume an average sales price of $100 per unit. In practice, the business would forecast unit sales by individual product lines.

Budgeted Cost of Goods Sold (4) C&G assumes a cost of goods sold of 65% of sales revenues. This results in a gross profit of 35%. For a retailing company, cost of goods sold represents the purchase cost of inventories sold during the period. It is computed as Cost of Goods Sold = Beginning Inventory + Purchases during the Period − Ending Inventory

where all inventories and purchases are computed at the purchase price to the company.

184 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 6.5

C&G’s Gif t Shop: 2000 cash budget.

Line 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55







65% 35%

5000 100 500000 325000 175000

6430 100 643000 417950 225050

3680 100 368000 239200 128800

3530 100 353000 229450 123550

2760 100 276000 179400 96600

75000 23000 50000 3472 151472

96450 23000 64300 3472 187222

55200 23000 36800 3472 118472

52950 23000 35300 3472 114722

41400 23000 27600 3472 95472

23528 0 −1956 21572 7550 14022

37828 0 −2872 34956 12235 22721

10328 0 −1989 8339 2918 5420 5420

8828 0 −441 8387 2936 5452 10872

1128 354 0 1482 519 963 11835

65%,30/35%,60 Next month sales

25000 637000 239200 901200

25000 412050 229450 666500

95836 300800 179400 576036

160060 218904 170950 549914

15yr sl amort

625000 −41667 583333

625000 −45139 579861

625000 −48611 576389

625000 −52083 572917





Bank loan (line of credit) Accounts payable Accrued expenses TOTAL CURRENT LIABILITIES

198949 239200 198857 637006

44056 229450 119908 393414

0 179400 114626 294026

0 170950 92519 263469

Common stock Retained earnings TOTAL SHAREHOLDERS' EQUITY

800000 47527 847527

800000 52947 852947

800000 58399 858399

800000 59362 859362





5420 3472 234700 −88699 154893

5452 3472 161300 −55332 114892

963 3472 90346 −30557 64224

Net cash f low from investing activities

Net cash f low from financing activities



70836 25000 95836

64224 95836 160060

Total sales—units Selling price TOTAL GROSS SALES TOTAL COST OF SALES GROSS MARGIN Selling expense Administration (fixed) Administration (variable) Depreciation expense TOTAL OPERATING EXPENSE OPERATING PROFIT Interest income Interest expense PROFIT BEFORE TAX Taxes at 35% PROFIT AFTER TAX Cumulative profit BALANCE SHEET Cash Accounts and interest receivable Inventory TOTAL CURRENT ASSETS

15% 10% 15yr sl amort

Property, plant, & equipment (gross) Accumulated depreciation Property, plant, & equipment (net) TOTAL ASSETS

TOTAL LIAB. + S/ H EQUITY STATEMENT OF CASH FLOWS (INDIRECT METHOD) Net income Depreciation Change in current assets (other than cash) Change in current liabilities (other than notes payable) Net cash f low from operations

Net change in cash Beginning cash Ending cash

Forecasts and Budgets











2630 100 263000 170950 92050

2580 100 258000 167700 90300

2600 100 260000 169000 91000

2650 100 265000 172250 92750

2780 100 278000 180700 97300

2990 100 299000 194350 104650

4370 100 437000 284050 152950

5220 100 522000 339300 182700

7200 4220 100 100 720000 422000 468000 274300 252000

39450 23000 26300 3472 92222

38700 23000 25800 3472 90972

39000 23000 26000 3472 91472

39750 23000 26500 3472 92722

41700 23000 27800 3472 95972

44850 23000 29900 3472 101222

65550 23000 43700 3472 135722

78300 23000 52200 3472 156972

108000 23000 72000 3472 206472

−172 675 0 503 176 327 12162

−672 874 0 202 71 132 12294

−472 932 0 460 161 299 12593

28 953 0 981 343 637 13231

1328 952 0 2280 798 1482 14713

3428 921 0 4349 1522 2827 17540

17228 855 0 18083 6329 11754 29294

25728 401 0 26129 9145 16984 46278

45528 0 −80 45448 15907 29541 75819

199895 179275 167700 546871

211494 169924 169000 550419

215548 170232 172250 558031

215369 175953 180700 572022

209279 190702 194350 594331

196033 216221 284050 696304

105282 361505 339300 806087

25000 494351 468000 987351

25000 721700 274300 1021000

625000 −55555 569445

625000 −59027 565973

625000 −62499 562501

625000 −65971 559029

625000 −69443 555557

625000 −72915 552085

625000 −76387 548613

625000 −79859 545141

625000 −83331 541669










0 167700 88926 256626

0 169000 87571 256571

0 172250 88161 260411

0 180700 89593 270293

0 194350 93298 287648

0 284050 99272 383322

0 339300 138579 477879

8042 468000 162645 638687

146036 274300 218987 639323

800000 59689 859689

800000 59821 859821

800000 60120 860120

800000 60758 860758

800000 62240 862240

800000 65067 865067

800000 76821 876821

800000 93805 893805

800000 123346 923346










327 3472 42879 −6843 39835

132 3472 8051 −55 11599

299 3472 −3558 3840 4054

637 3472 −14170 9882 −179

1482 3472 −28399 17355 −6091

2827 3472 −115220 95674 −13246

11754 3472 −200534 94557 −90751

16984 3472 −261546 152766 −88324

29541 3472 −33649 −137358 −137994



39835 160060 199895

11599 199895 211494

4054 211494 215548

−179 215548 215369

−6091 215369 209279

−13246 209279 196033

−90751 196033 105282

−80282 105282 25000

0 25000 25000


186 Understanding the Numbers For a manufacturing company, cost of goods sold is computed similarly, but in place of purchases we have the cost of the raw materials together with the labor and overhead incurred in the manufacturing process. Beginning and ending inventories consist of raw materials, work-in-process, and finished goods.

Administrative Expense Budget (7–10) The expected administrative costs for an organization are presented in the administrative expense budget. This budget may contain many fixed costs, some of which may be avoidable if subsequent operations indicate some cost cuts are necessary. These avoidable costs, sometimes called discretionary fixed costs, include such items as research and development, employee education and training programs, and portions of the personnel budget. Fixed costs that cannot be avoided during the period are called committed fixed costs. Mortgage payments, bond interest payments, and property taxes are classified as committed costs. Variable administrative costs may include some personnel costs, a portion of the utility costs, computer service bureau costs, and supplies costs. Fixed and variable costs and the application of these concepts to the budget process is discussed in detail in Chapters 3 and 7. C&G’s Gift Shop budgets selling expenses at 15% of sales. These are variable costs since they change in proportion to changes in sales. You might think of these as commissions paid to the sales personnel as a percent of the sales made during the period. The fixed portion of administration expense is budgeted as $23,000 per month. These expenses might be rent, salaries of administrative personnel, and so forth. The administrative expense also contains a variable component, budgeted at 10% of sales. Finally, depreciation is computed on a straight-line basis over 15 years and is a fixed expense budgeted at $3,472 per month.

Budgeted Income Statement (3 –18) The budgeted income statement shows the expected revenues and expenses from operations during the budget period. Budgeted income is a key figure in the firm’s profit plan and ref lects a commitment of most of the firm’s talent, time, and resources for the period. A firm may have budgeted nonoperating items such as interest on investments or gains or losses on the sale of fixed assets. Usually they are relatively small, although in large firms the dollar amounts can be sizable. If nonoperating items are expected, they should be included in the firm’s budgeted income statement. Income taxes are levied on actual, not budgeted, net income, but the budget should include expected taxes; therefore, the last figure in the budgeted income statement is budgeted after-tax net income. Nonoperating items in C&G’s income statement include interest income and interest expense. Amounts borrowed carry an interest rate of 12% (1% per month), and cash in excess of the $25,000 required for daily transactions is in-

Forecasts and Budgets


vested in marketable securities earning an investment return of 6% per annum (0.5% per month). Finally, taxes are levied at the rate of 35% on pre-tax income.

The Financial Budget The financial budget presents the plans for financing the operating activities of the firm. The financial budget is made up of the budgeted balance sheet and the budgeted statement of cash f lows, each providing essential financial information.

Budgeted Balance Sheet (20 – 41) The budgeted balance sheet for the coming accounting period is derived from the actual balance sheet at the beginning of the current budget period and the expected changes in the account balances of the operating, capitalexpenditure, and cash budgets. The budgeted balance sheet is more than a collection of residual balances resulting from other budget estimates. Undesirable projected balances and account relationships may cause management to change the operating plan. For instance, if a lending institution requires a firm to maintain a certain relationship between current assets and current liabilities, the budget must ref lect these requirements. If it does not, the operating plan must be changed until the agreed requirements are met. Budgeted Accounts Receivable (22) Budgeted accounts receivable are a function of expected sales on open account and the period of time that the receivables are expected to be outstanding. For C&G’s Gift Shop, all sales are assumed to be on open account to other businesses. The company expects that 65% of the sales during the period will be collected in the following month, and 35% will be collected in the next month. For this exercise, we have assumed that all of the accounts are collectible. If not, the company would have to build in a provision for uncollectible accounts that would reduce expected collections and be ref lected in the income statement as bad debt expense. Budget of Ending Inventories (23) Inventories comprise a major portion of the current assets of many manufacturing firms. Separate decisions about inventory levels must be made for raw materials, work-in-process, and finished goods. Raw material scarcities, management’s attitude about inventory levels, inventory carrying costs, inventory ordering costs, and other variables may all affect inventory-level decisions. C&G’s Gift Shop has a policy to maintain inventory on hand equal to the next month’s expected cost of goods sold.

188 Understanding the Numbers Capital Expenditure Budget (26) The capital expenditure budget is one of the components of the financial budget. Each of the components has its own unique contribution to make toward the effective planning and control of business operations. Some components, however, are particularly crucial in the effective management of businesses, such as the cash and capital expenditure budgets. Capital budgeting is the process of identifying, evaluating, planning, and financing an organization’s major investment projects. Decisions to expand production facilities, acquire new production machinery, buy a new computer, or remodel the office building are all examples of capital-expenditure decisions. Capital-budgeting decisions made now determine to a large degree how successful an organization will be in achieving its goals and objectives in the years ahead. Capital budgeting plays an important role in the long-range success of many organizations because of several characteristics that differentiate it from most other elements of the master budget. First, most capital budgeting projects require relatively large commitments of resources. Major projects, such as plant expansion or equipment replacement, may involve resource outlays in excess of annual net income. Relatively insignificant purchases are not treated as capital budgeting projects even if the items purchased have long lives. For example, the purchase of 100 calculators at $15 each for use in the office would be treated as a period expense by most firms, even though the calculators may have a useful life of several years. Second, most capital expenditure decisions are long-term commitments. The projects last more than 1 year, with many extending over 5, 10, or even 20 years. The longer the life of the project, the more difficult it is to predict revenues, expenses, and cost savings. Capital-budgeting decisions are long-term policy decisions and should ref lect clearly an organization’s policies on growth, marketing, industry share, social responsibility, and other goals. This is discussed in greater depth in Chapter 10. For purposes of this exercise, we have assumed that C&G’s Gift Shop will not be making any capital expenditures in the upcoming year. As a result, property, plant, and equipment (PP&E; line 26) remains constant. Net PP&E (line 28), however, is reduced each period by the addition of depreciation expense to accumulated depreciation.

Budgeted Accounts Payable (33) Accounts payable represent amounts owed to other businesses for the purchase of goods and services. These are usually non-interest bearing. We have assumed that all the inventories are purchased on open account and that the terms of credit require payment in full in the following month. As a result, accounts payable are equal to the cost of inventories in this example.

Forecasts and Budgets


Budgeted Accrued Expenses (34) Expenses are recognized in the income statement when incurred, regardless of the period in which they are paid. For this example, we assume that all of the operating expenses incurred and recognized during the month are paid in the following month. These expenses include selling expenses, administrative expenses other than depreciation, interest expense, and taxes. Bank Loan (Line of Credit) (32) Businesses require cash to cover the portion of inventories and accounts receivable that are not financed by trade accounts payable and accrued expenses. This is very pronounced in seasonable businesses. For example, C&G’s Gift Shop must purchase inventories one month in advance of sales. And when these inventories are sold, 65% of the proceeds are collected in the subsequent month and 35% in the month thereafter. As a result, C&G has a considerable amount of cash invested in the business that is not recouped for at least two months. Typically, short-term cash needs such as the needs of seasonal businesses are met with a bank line of credit that allows the company to borrow funds up to a predetermined maximum and to repay those loans at a later date. In this case, funds are borrowed to finance the purchase of inventories and these amounts are repaid when the receivables are collected. Stockholders’ Equity (37–39) No sales of common stock are budgeted. Since no dividends are projected, retained earnings (38) increase by the amount of profit for the month.

Cash Budget Of all the components of the master budget, none is more important than the cash budget. Of the two major goals of most profit-seeking firms—to earn a satisfactory profit and to remain liquid—liquidity is more important. Many companies lose money for many years, but with adequate financing they are able to remain in business until they can become profitable. Firms that cannot remain liquid, in contrast, are unable to pay their bills as they come due. In such cases, creditors can and often do force firms out of business. Even government and nonprofit organizations such as churches and charities must pay their bills and other obligations on time. Meeting cash obligations as they come due is not as simple as it may appear. Profitability and liquidity do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. Some firms experience their most critical liquidity problems when they go from a breakeven position to profitability. At that time growing receivables, increased inventories, and growing capacity requirements may create cash shortages.

190 Understanding the Numbers The cash budget is a very useful tool in cash management. Managers estimate all expected cash f lows for the budget period. The typical starting point is cash from operations, which is net income adjusted for non-cash items, such as depreciation, and required investment in net working capital (accounts receivable and inventories less accounts payable). All nonoperating cash items are also included. Purchase of land and equipment, sales of bonds and common stock, and the acquisition of treasury stock are a few examples of nonoperating items affecting the cash budget. The net income figure for an accounting period usually is very different from the cash f low for the period because of nonoperating cash f low items or changes in working capital. Often, cash budgets are prepared much more frequently than other budgets. For example, a company may prepare quarterly budgets for all of its operating budget components such as sales and production and also for its other financial budget components such as capital expenditures. For its cash budget, however, the firm prepares weekly budgets to ensure that it has cash available to meet its obligations each week and that any excess cash is properly invested. In companies with very critical cash problems, even daily cash budgets may be necessary to meet management’s information requirements. The frequency of cash budgets depends on management’s planning needs and the potential for cash management problems. Cash management is intended to optimize cash balances; this means having enough cash to meet liquidity needs but not so much that profitability is sacrificed. Excess cash should be invested in earning assets and should not be allowed to lie idly in the cash account. Cash budgeting is useful in dealing with both types of cash problems.

Budgeted Statement of Cash Flows— Indirect Method (42–55) The final element of the master budget package is the statement of cash f lows. The increased emphasis by management in recent years on cash and the sources and uses of cash has made this an ever more useful management tool. This statement is usually prepared from data in the budgeted income statement and changes between the estimated balance sheet at the beginning of the budget period and that at the end of the budget period. The statement of cash f lows consists of three sections, net cash f lows from operations, net cash f lows from investing activities, and net cash f lows from financing activities. Net cash f lows from operations are equal to net income plus depreciation expense plus or minus changes in current assets (other than cash) and current liabilities (other than bank loans). Increases (decreases) in current assets are treated as cash outf lows (inf lows), and increases (decreases) in current liabilities are treated as cash inf lows (outf lows). Net cash f lows from investing activities consist of changes in long-term assets. Since we do not project any capital expenditures, net cash f lows from investing activities are equal to zero in all months.

Forecasts and Budgets


Net cash f lows from financing activities consist of changes in borrowed funds (short and long term), changes in other long-term liabilities, changes in common stock, and dividends paid. The only financing activities in this example are increases (decreases) in bank loans outstanding. The bank line of credit is the buffer that keeps assets equal to liabilities and stockholders’ equity. As assets grow with increases in inventories and accounts receivable, bank loans increase as well to finance this growth. And as the inventories are sold and the receivables collected during slower periods, the excess cash is used to repay the amounts borrowed. Banks typically require that the line of credit be paid in full at some point during the year. Any excess funds generated after repayment of the bank loans are invested in short-term marketable securities until required again to finance seasonal growth in assets.

FOR ECASTING Sales budgets are inf luenced by a wide variety of factors, including general economic conditions, pricing decisions, competitor actions, industry conditions, and marketing programs. Often the sales budget starts with individual sales representatives or sales managers predicting sales in their particular areas. The basic sales data are aggregated to arrive at a raw sales forecast that is then modified to ref lect many of the variables mentioned previously. The resulting sales budget is expressed in dollars and must include sufficient detail on product mix and sales patterns to support decisions about changes in inventory levels and production quantities. In addition to the input from sales personnel, companies frequently utilize a number of statistical techniques to estimate future sales. For example, Exhibit 6.6 is a graph of the quarterly sales of Kellogg Company from 1990 to 2000. The sales appear to demonstrate some variation around an upward trend. How would one forecast sales for the next 12 quarters? Projecting from the most recent sales level might overstate the estimates if the last quarter was unusually high because of, say, the effects of a major advertising campaign or new-product introduction, or seasonal increases. An alternative is to estimate the underlying trend in quarterly sales. Exhibit 6.7 presents such a graph. In Exhibit 6.7, I have estimated a trend line for Kellogg’s quarterly sales using a statistical technique called regression analysis. This line was estimated with a statistical software package called Minitab, but the analysis is also available in Microsoft Excel and many other software programs. The equation for the trend line is Sales t = $1, 475, 002 + $8, 357.73 × t

where Salest is the sales for time t (t = 41 for the first quarter estimated, since our data ended at quarter number 40). Our forecasts for the next 12 quarters

192 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 6.6

Kellogg company’s quarterly sales (1990 –2000).

1,900,000 1,800,000

Sales ($)

1,700,000 1,600,000 1,500,000 1,400,000 10


20 Quarters



extend linearly with a continuation of the same slope that was estimated in the trend line fit through the data. A potential problem with fitting a trend line through the data with regression analysis is that each observation is treated the same way. That is, we are not weighting the information contained in the latest set of observations more heavily than those that occurred 30 quarters ago. Other statistical techniques are available to address this concern. One of these is exponential smoothing. Exhibit 6.8 presents the same quarterly sales data with a trend line that has been exponentially smoothed. EXHIBIT 6.7

Trend analysis for Kellogg company’s quarterly sales (1990 –2000). Linear Trend Model Sales t = $1,475,002 + $8,357.73 × t


Actual Fits Forecasts

Sales ($)

1,800,000 1,700,000 1,600,000 1,500,000

4 MAPE: 67,504 MAD: MSD: 7.65E+09

1,400,000 0



30 Quarters




Forecasts and Budgets EXHIBIT 6.8

Double exponential smoothing of Kellogg company’s quarterly sales (1990 –2000). Double Exponential Smoothing


Actual Predicted Forecasts

Sales ($)



Smoothing Constants Alpha (level): 0.200 Gamma (trend): 0.200 MAPE: MAD: MSD:

1,400,000 0



30 Quarters


5 79,481 9.08E+09


Notice how the estimated trend line reacts to changes in quarterly sales. This technique weights recent observations more heavily than those in the distant past. The result is a trend line whose slope changes over time to ref lect changes in sales growth. Our projections for the next 12 quarters, then, begin from the last estimate of the underlying trend and at the most recent slope indicated by the data. Many other statistical techniques can also be brought to bear on this problem. These provide an objective estimate of future sales from the data itself. Their advantage is that they are not prone to biases from wishful thinking or undue pessimism. Their drawback is that they cannot take into account all of the variables witnessed by our sales personnel and therefore, do not have as much of a “feel” for the market. Companies must utilize a variety of inputs into the projection process, and they derive some level of comfort when several different approaches yield similar results. Projection is a critical part of the budgeting process. It follows from our SWOT analysis and the resulting strategic and tactical plan. Once these are formulated, sales projections and the subsequent budgeting process outlined above provide an evaluation of the effectiveness of the business plan.

FIXED VERSUS FLEXIBLE BUDGETS Many organizations operate in an environment where they can predict with great accuracy the volume of business they will experience during the upcoming budget period. In such cases, budgets prepared for a single level of activity typically are very useful in planning and controlling business activities. Budgets prepared for a single level of activity are called fixed budgets.

194 Understanding the Numbers Organizations that have trouble predicting accurately the volume of activity they will experience during the budget period often find that a budget prepared for only one level of activity is not very helpful in planning and controlling their business activities. These organizations can operate better with a budget prepared for several levels of activity covering a range of possible levels of activity. This type of budget is called a f lexible budget.

Fixed Budgets A fixed budget, or static budget, contains budget data for only one specific volume of activity. Because fixed budgets use only one volume of activity in determining all budgeted data, the fact that some costs are fixed and some costs are variable has no impact on the budgeted figures. The budget data used in preparing the budget for the planning phase of the process are also used in budget performance reports during the control phase of the budget process regardless of whether the volume of activity is actually achieved. The planning and control framework provided by a budgeting system is an essential element of effective management. In many organizations, fixed budgets are tools that offer managers the ability to plan and control operations and to evaluate performance. If, however, the actual volume of activity achieved by a firm is sufficiently different from the volume planned in the fixed budget, the fixed budget may be a very poor measure on which to base the performance of employees.

Flexible Budgets A f lexible budget, also called a dynamic budget, is prepared for more than one level of activity. For example, a firm may prepare budgets for 10,000, 11,000, and 12,000 units produced. The purpose of preparing budgets for multiple activity levels is to provide managers with information about a range of activity in case the actual volume of activity differs from the expected level. For planning material acquisitions, labor needs, and other resource requirements, managers continue to rely heavily on the budget based on the expected level of activity, but the f lexible budget provides additional information useful in modifying plans if operating data indicate that some other level of activity will occur. When performance reports are prepared, actual results are compared with a budget based specifically on the level of activity actually achieved. Actual activity may differ significantly from budgeted activity because of an unexpected strike, cancellation of a large order, an unexpected new contract, or other factors. In a business that frequently experiences variations in its volume of activity, a f lexible budget may be more useful than a fixed budget. Flexible budgets provide managers with more useful information for planning and a better basis for comparing performance when activity levels f luctuate than is available from a fixed budget. Flexible budgets are discussed in more detail in Chapter 7.

Forecasts and Budgets


The Prof it Plan Though the term profit plan is sometimes used to refer to a master budget, it probably best describes the operating part of the master budget of a forprofit firm. It can be argued, however, that the entire master budget of such firms is the total profit plan for the firm. The operating budget shows details of budgeted net income, but the financial budgets, such as cash and capital expenditure budgets, are also an integral part of the overall profit planning of the firm. Naturally, the term profit plan is not suitable for public-sector firms. Organizations such as a fire department do not generate a net income. For publicsector organizations, master budget is the more logical term for the total budget package. Because we are concerned with both public- and privatesector organizations, we use master budget predominantly. However, be aware of profit plan because it is used occasionally in practice.

THE BUDGET R EVIEW PROCESS The budget plan determines the allocation of resources within the organization. Typically, the resources available are less than the demand for the resources. Consequently, there should be some systematic process for evaluating all proposals relating to the budget. The process of systematically evaluating budget proposals is referred to as the budget review process. In the early planning stages, budget review may not be a formal process. Sometimes a few people (or even a single individual) make the budgeting decisions. For example, production-line supervisors may determine resource allocations within their department. Next, a plant budget committee may evaluate budget proposals for all production supervisors. The budget proposals for the entire plant go to a division budget committee, and the final budget review is made by a budget committee of the controller and corporate vice presidents. The budget review process varies among organizations. Even within a single firm, different budget review processes may be used in various segments of the firm, and at various levels of responsibility. However, the basic review process is fairly standard. Accountants and financial managers participate in the preparation and implementation of the budget, but all business managers, including marketing managers, production supervisors, purchasing officers, and other nonfinancial managers are interested in developing budgets for their particular part of the business. In addition, each functional manager must be keenly interested in selling her or his budget to higher-level management. Selling the budget means convincing the budget review committee that a particular budget proposal should be accepted. For some managers, selling the budget is the single most important activity in their job, because if they fail at this task, even a tremendous management effort cannot obtain desired results.

196 Understanding the Numbers With such an awesome description of the importance of selling the budget, one might conclude that it is an exceedingly difficult process. Not so. Actually, the process requires a mixture of logic and diligence. There is no precise formula for success, but some common suggestions are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Know your audience. Make a professional presentation. Quantify the material. Avoid surprises. Set priorities.

Know Your Audience A large part of a budget-selling strategy may depend on the budget review audience, whether it is one person or a group of people. Information that may prove essential to the successful budget approval effort includes: Strategies that have succeeded or failed in the past; pet peeves or special likes of review members; and a variety of other committee characteristics.

Make a Professional Presentation A professional presentation is critical to gaining acceptance of the proposal. This typically includes: • • • •

An enthusiastic and polished presentation. A neat, concise, and understandable budget proposal. Ample supporting documentation. A willingness and ability to answer relevant questions.

Quantif y the Material Because most resource allocation decisions are in some way affected by their cost-benefit relationships, it is necessary to quantify both the costs and benefits of virtually all budget proposals. Cost estimation is seldom easy, but it is usually far easier than the measurement of benefits. Even in the private sector, benefits are not always easy to measure in terms of the corporate goals of profitability and liquidity. In the nonprofit sector, benefit measurement is even more difficult. For example, how does one measure the benefits of 20 new park rangers, 10 new police cars, or a decorative fountain in the city park? Obviously the quantification process would be different for each of these, and direct comparisons could be inconclusive. Yet, such comparisons may be necessary in arriving at final budget allocations. It is easy to dismiss the value of quantification when the resulting numbers are hard to compare with other budget proposals or the numbers are hard to verify. Nevertheless, some quantitative support typically is better than just

Forecasts and Budgets


general statements about the desirability of the budget proposal. Budget salesmanship should be approached with the same ingenuity that is found in the external marketing effort. If certain budget proposals have benefits that are difficult to quantify directly, various types of statistics might support the projects in an indirect way. For example, if a police department wants to justify 10 new police officers, it might offer supporting statistics on rising population in the community, rising crime rates, or relatively low per-capita police cost ratios. Although none of the suggested statistics measures direct benefits, they may be more useful in swaying a budget review committee than some vague statement about the value of more officers. Statistics that are not direct measures of benefits are used widely in both the public and private sectors when supporting budget proposals.

Avoid Surprises Avoid surprising either review committee or those who present the budget. New proposals and information are hard to sell to a budget review committee and should be introduced and developed long before the final review process. Surprises to managers presenting the budgets most often occur during the questioning process or when a budget proposal is more detailed than prior budgets. To minimize this problem, budget presentations should be carefully rehearsed. The rehearsal might include a realistic or even pessimistic mock review committee. The mock review should ask pointed and difficult questions. Sometimes knowing the answer to a relatively immaterial question is enough to secure a favorable opinion.

Set Priorities Few managers receive a totally favorable response to all budget requests. In a world of limited resources, wants exceed available resources, and managers should be prepared for a budget allocation that is somewhat different from the initial request. Typically, all proposed budget items are not equally desirable. Some projects and activities are essential; others are highly desirable. Some would be nice but are really not essential. Priority systems established by the managers of each budgeting entity before the review process starts aid in structuring the budget proposal so that important items are funded first. Setting priorities avoids embarrassing questions and last-minute decision crises that affect the quality of a professional presentation.

FOR FURTHER R EADING Brownell, P., “Participation in Budgeting, Locus of Control, and Organizational Effectiveness,” The Accounting Review, 56, no. 4 (Oct. 1981): 844–861.

198 Understanding the Numbers Carruth, Paul J., and Thurrel 0. McClendon, “How Supervisors React to Meeting the Budget Pressure,” Management Accounting, 66 (Nov. 1984): 50. Chandler, John S., and Thomas N. Trone, “Bottom Up Budgeting and Control,” Management Accounting, 63 (Feb. 1982): 37. Chandler, Susan, “Land’s End Looks for Terra Firma,” Business Week, July 8, 1996, 130–131. Collins, Frank, Paul Munter, and Don W. Finn, “The Budgeting Games People Play,” The Accounting Review, 62 (Jan. 1987): 29. Leitch, Robert A., John B. Barrack, and Sue H. McKinley, “Controlling Your Cash Resources,” Management Accounting, 62 (Oct. 1980): 58. Merchant, Kenneth A., “The Design of the Corporate Budgeting System: Inf luences on Managerial Behavior and Performance,” The Accounting Review, 56 (Oct. 1981): 813. and J. Manzoni, “The Achievability of Budget Targets in Profit Centers: A Field Study,” The Accounting Review, 64, no. 3 (July 1989): 539–558. Merewitz, Leonard, and Stephen H. Sosnick, The Budget’s New Clothes (Chicago: Markham Publishing Company, 1973). Penne, Mark, “Accounting Systems, Participation in Budgeting, and Performance Evaluation,” The Accounting Review, 65, no. 2 (April 1990): 303–314. “Tenneco CEO Mike Walsh’s Fight of His Life,” Business Week, September 20, 1993, 62. Trapani, Cosmo S., “Six Critical Areas in the Budgeting Process,” Management Accounting, 64 (Nov. 1982): 52. Wildavsky, Aaron, The Politics of the Budgetary Process, 2nd ed. (Boston: Little, Brown, 1974).



“Control is what we need. Cost control. And urgently,” said owner-manager Dana Jackson emphatically to her management team. “Just a glance at these reports tells me that our costs are going up faster than our revenues. We won’t survive much longer on that basis.” “Well, we could try using cheaper inks and lower quality paper,” said Tom Dodge, production manager of Jackson Printing, half-facetiously. “That’s not the answer,” exclaimed marketing manager Ahmad Grande. “We’re having a hard enough time as it is selling in this competitive market. If we start to produce an inferior product, our sales will tumble even further. Nobody is going to pay our prices and take cheaper quality.” “Ahmad’s right,” said Dana. “Our aim should not be to reduce costs so much as to control them. Remember that we have a goal to meet in this organization—to produce the best-quality products that we can. If we don’t keep our eyes on that goal we won’t be effective as an organization. “What I’m really after is efficiency. I want to see us produce quality products as cheaply as possible—but I don’t want us to produce cheap products. We must improve productivity. “To get the ball rolling, I want Tom to draw up a set of standards for production. Our attorney has been explaining the new system they have installed in their office to control their billable hours. We could do something similar in our business.” As eyes rolled, Dana explained what their law firm had done. “I was telling their senior partner about our concerns and he related to me his own


200 Understanding the Numbers conversation with one of his associates. She was expected to bill approximately 500 hours each quarter to clients. She had actually reported 570 hours, which pleased him, but she had only brought in $70,500 when he would have expected $85,500 based on her standard billing rate of $150 per billable hour. That was $15,000 below his expectations. “She explained to him that on the Prescot case the partner that she was assisting had asked her to do some library research on an alternative theory of liability. She spent 80 hours working on this research, but in the end the partner decided not to adopt that alternative theory. The partner instructed her not to charge those 80 hours out, so, at her hourly billing rate of $150, that was $12,000 of the total shortfall. “As for the other $3,000, she explained that on the Klinger case the client felt that the $150 per hour was an excessive rate to charge for an inexperienced lawyer like her. The partner in charge of this case agreed to cut her hourly rate to $125. She spent 120 hours on that case, so, at $25 per hour not billed, there was the other $3,000. He summarized her results for me like this: Actual Billings = $70, 500 = 490 billable hours × $143.88 per hour Budgeted Billings = $75, 000 = 500 billable hours × $150.00 per hour Total Variance = $70, 500 − $75, 000 billable hours = $4, 500 unfavorable

“In other words, as he explained it, she actually put in only 490 billable hours, even though she worked 570 hours, as opposed to the expected 500 hours. She charged an average $143.88 instead of the expected $150. They use these numbers to break their total variance into two parts: a volume variance and a rate variance computed as follows: Volume Variance = (500 − 490) hours × $150.00 = $1, 500 Rate Variance = $(150.00 − 143.88) × 490 hours = $3, 000

“They like to do this in percentage or index terms, too. 490 = 0.98 or a 2% drop 500 143.88 Rate Index = = 0.96 or a 4% drop 150

Volume Index =

“So they know not only the total amount that their actual costs differed from the budget but also causes of this difference, namely the drop in 10 hours and the drop in the rate of $6.12, and they can identify the effect of each cause on their costs in dollars and percentage terms. That way they can pinpoint the areas that need particular investigation. Things that don’t need attention can be safely neglected, leaving time to more carefully manage the exceptions. “The percentage approach also enables them to introduce two other indices, that of the hours billed to the hours actually worked, namely 490/570 or 86%, and the hours actually worked to those budgeted, 570/500 or 114%. In other words, this associate worked 14% more than she should have but actually

Measuring Productivity


billed only 86% of those hours. As he noted, that suggests a serious problem, especially when one compares her with the firm average. “Their firm,” continued Dana, “does this for every one of their associates. They can thereby track the actual revenues of their firm and compare it with the budgeted revenues. They can see whether any shortfalls or overages are due to charging out more or fewer billable hours than expected, or to charging clients more or less than the standard rate, or to some combination of the two. It gives them an excellent tool to see how their firm is doing. They can also analyze productivity in the firm: in total, month by month, as well as by departments within the law firm, such as trust and estate, corporate, litigation, family law, and so on, right down to individual lawyers in the firm. And knowing what has happened in the past, they have an excellent tool for beginning to plan for the future. I think we should be doing something similar! “If we do, we’ll have an idea whether the production staff is working efficiently. If we have those standards in hand, then we can check how much our product should be costing us. And, we’ll be able to compare that figure with actual product cost. Checking the difference between actual and budget will tell us where our big problems are. With that information in hand, we should be able to get our costs much more under control and our productivity up.” “Agreed,” responded Ahmad. “People will pay for a quality product if it is competitively priced. We’ve just got to make sure that we’re working as efficiently as our competition, and we’ll be fine. That means, when we draw up a price quote, we need to be able to come in at or below the quotes of our competitors.” “That’s all very well for you to say,” said Tom, feeling a little aggrieved. “You’re not the one who has to draw up these productivity standards. I’ve tried doing this before and it’s not easy, let me tell you. For starters everyone seems to want perfection.” “The other thing that I think we need to be aware of,” added Ahmad, “is that variance analysis is just a start. We need a range of performance measures that capture not only our productivity but also the value that we are adding to our customers. For instance, we know from the newspapers that the firm saved the Prescots tens of thousands of dollars. That was a very successful case for them, and that needs noting. What we really need is a balanced scorecard that adds a customer perspective to our more internal focus.”1 With that the meeting broke up. Tom went back to his office, realizing that he was not quite sure where to begin. For one thing, he hadn’t shared the fact that he had not succeeded in his last attempt to install a standard cost system. What chance did he have this time? A call to a friend of his, Jane Halverson, who had just completed her MBA, seemed in order.

BUDGETARY CONTROL “Jane, I need your help badly,” Tom pleaded. “My boss is after a set of production standards and I don’t know what to do or where to begin!”

202 Understanding the Numbers Def ining Standards That evening Tom went over to Jane’s home, and she pulled out her cost accounting textbook. “Tell me everything you think I need to know about standard costs,” Tom said. “Okay. First, Tom, let’s get straight what we mean by a standard and why we’re calculating it. A standard is a basis of comparison; it’s a norm, if you will, or a yardstick. Some like to compare it to a gauge—a gauge to measure efficiency. “But a standard is more than that really because it is also the basis for control. Standards enable management to keep score. The difference between standards and actuals directs management’s attention to areas requiring their efforts. In that sense, standards are attention getters. They form the heart of what is known as management by exception, the concept that one does not watch everything all the time; instead one focuses one’s attention on the exceptions, the events that are unexpected.” Tom smiled knowingly. “I’ve experienced this and it’s terrible. My boss at my last job never noticed the good job that I did every day. But, when something went wrong, he was down like a shot to bawl me out!” “That’s one of the traps of managing by exception,” said Jane. “But you’re smart enough as a manager to know that people need to be rewarded for their regular jobs. You also know that the exceptions are highlighted so that you can help them remedy things—not shout at them. Also, outstanding performance should be rewarded, and so, by means of management by exception, favorable results are highlighted, allowing high performers to receive praise.”

Types of Standards “Then you have to realize,” Jane went on, “that there are different kinds of standards. First you have your basic standards. These are the one’s that are unchanging over long periods of time. Many of these are captured in policy statements and may ref lect things like the percentage of waste that is permitted or the amount of time one might be away from a workstation. Basic standards are not much use in forming costs, though, because the work environment tends to change too much. “At the other extreme there are theoretical or ideal standards. These get set by engineers and are the ideals to which one is expected to strive. These are the standards that I think you feel are unrealistic.” “Hear! Hear!” broke in Tom. “My guys never would accept those standards—that’s the perfection mentality I was telling you about.” “But,” asked Jane, “aren’t the Japanese always striving towards ideal standards?” “True, but the difference between them and us is that their system of lifetime employment provides a more supportive atmosphere in which they can strive for perfection and not feel they are going to get fired if they don’t quite

Measuring Productivity


make it this time around. It’s not enough to look at standards in isolation. One must view them in the context of total management.” “Right,” said Jane approvingly. “And that means that your best norms to develop are probably what are called currently attainable standards. These are standards that can be met but still represent a challenging goal. Let me read you a quote: Such standards provide definite goals, which employees can usually be expected to reach, and they also appear to be fair bases from which to measure deviations for which the employees are held responsible. A standard set at a level which is high yet still attainable with reasonably diligent effort and attention to the correct methods of doing the job may also be effective for stimulating efficiency.2

I think that’s the kind of standard you are after.” “You’re right. And, I tell you there are real advantages to standards set at this level. My guys find them very motivating. Also, when it comes time to costing jobs out for pricing purposes, we have a reasonable shot at making those standards. Of course, that wouldn’t stop us from trying for perfection. It’s just that we wouldn’t have management breathing down our necks when we didn’t make it.”

Budgets “Tell me one more thing, though,” said Tom. Why do we have to go to all this bother to develop standards. Why can’t top management just use last year’s numbers? That will give them a base for comparison.” “True,” said Jane. “But you’ve got to remember that last year’s actuals ref lect last year’s circ*mstances. Things may have changed this year so much that last year is not a fair comparison. How would you like it if they didn’t adjust your materials budget for inf lation but expected you to produce as much this year as you did last?” “Okay—you’ve made your point. But, why can’t they just get our controller to draw up a budget at the start of the year. Why do I have to get involved?” “Two reasons. One is that the controller can’t draw up a budget without standards. Standard costs are the unit costs that go into a budget. The budget contains your standards multiplied by the expected volume of sales provided by the marketing department. “The other reason you need to get involved is that the budget needs to be adjusted for volume. You want them to evaluate you on the basis of a f lexible budget, as opposed to a static budget. The only way to be fair to people is to use a f lexible budget. Look at these numbers for instance.” Jane scribbled down the numbers appearing in Exhibit 7.1. “Notice how the budget is drawn up in the first column: You estimate the volume for the year and multiply it by the estimated unit selling price or the

204 Understanding the Numbers EXHIBIT 7.1

Static versus f lexible budgets. Budget (Static)

Budget (Flexible)


Volume in reams





$12,000 at $12/ream

$14,400 at $12/ream

$13,800 at $11.50/ream

Variable costs

$7,000 at $7.00/ream

$8,400 at $7.00/ream

$7,500 at $6.25/ream

Fixed costs




Net income




estimated unit cost, the standard cost. Fixed costs remain the same, of course, and are just inserted into the budget. The last column shows the actual revenues and actual costs: To get them you multiply the actual selling or the actual unit cost by the actual volume. The middle column shows the estimated selling price and the estimated unit costs multiplied by the actual volume. “Note that the only difference between the f lexible budget in column 2 and the static budget in column 1 lies in the volume being used. The static budget uses the expected volume while the f lexible budget uses the actual volume. In other words, the difference between f lexible and static may be attributed entirely to changing activity levels. The difference is, therefore, dubbed an activity variance. “The unit price and cost terms for the actual revenues and costs in column 3 differ from the corresponding price and cost terms for the f lexible budget in column 2; however, the activity level is the same: Both use the actual level of sales. In other words, the difference between actual and f lexible may be attributed to changing selling and cost prices. These differences are dubbed the price variances. Let’s summarize the definitions of these terms. Price Variance = Actual Results − Flexible Budget Activity Variance = Flexible Budget − Static Budget Actual Results Price Index = Flexible Budget Flexible Budget Activity Index = Static Budget

“Now look what happens if all you have is the budget from the beginning of the year. The variable costs, for which you are responsible, are $1,400 above budget. You could reasonably expect to have your boss down here chewing you out for not controlling your costs. But, if you know your standard costs, you can adjust the budget for volume and give him the number in the second column. That comparison shows that you actually got your costs down by $900. Let me show you what I mean in more depth.”

Measuring Productivity


With that Jane started to prepare Exhibit 7.2. First, to prepare Panel A she compared the actual results with the original budget, the static budget. She derived the percentage change by dividing the actual by the budget, subtracting one from the result, and multiplying the remainder by 100. For instance, in the case of revenue: 13, 800 = 1.15 12, 000 = 0.15 Step 2. 1.15 − 1 Step 3. 0.15 × 100 = 15% Step 1.

She did similar computations for the other lines and other panels.


Comparing the budgets. Panel A Actual versus Static Budget Static Budget



Percentage Change

Revenue Variable costs

$12,000 7,000

$13,800 7,500

1.15 1.07

15 7

Contribution Fixed costs

$ 5,000 4,000

$ 6,300 4,680

1.26 1.17

26 17

Net income

$ 1,000

$ 1,620



Panel B Actual versus Flexible Budget Flexible Budget



Percentage Change

Revenue Variable costs

$14,400 8,400

$13,800 7,500

0.96 0.89

(4) (11)

Contribution Fixed costs

$ 6,000 4,000

$ 6,300 4,680

1.05 1.17

5 17

Net income

$ 2,000

$ 1,620



Panel C Static versus Flexible Budget Static Budget

Flexible Budget


Percentage Change

Revenue Variable costs

$12,000 7,000

$14,400 8,400

1.20 1.20

20 20

Contribution Fixed costs

$ 5,000 4,000

$ 6,000 4,000

1.20 1.00

20 0

Net income

$ 1,000

$ 2,000



206 Understanding the Numbers Price Indices “If you only examine Panel A of Exhibit 7.2,” Jane said, “you will think that net income leaped 62% and that the reason for the dramatic increase lies in the relatively sharp increase of 15% in revenue. This increase in revenue appears to have more than compensated for the apparent increase in variable costs of 7% and fixed costs of 17%. You might be tempted to attribute the increase in net income to the superior ability of the sales staff.” “The fallacy of this interpretation is apparent when you examine Panel B, which compares the actual results with the f lexible budget. Now, after adjusting for sales volume, we find that instead of that dramatic increase of 62% in net income, there was a 19% drop in net income from budget. Using that same basis of comparison, revenue actually fell by 4% instead of our earlier increase of 15%. Now you can also see that, after adjusting for sales activity, variable costs actually showed a steep decline of 11% rather than the increase of 7% shown in Panel A. In other words, at the actual volume of 1,200 units as opposed to the budgeted volume of 1,000 units, you should have budgeted more for variable costs than at first expected. The $8,400 is, in retrospect, the more appropriate budget figure. “The apparent rise in revenues shown in Panel A melts away in Panel B, as does the apparent rise in variable costs shown in Panel A. The result is a whole new story. Volume rose perhaps because of the efforts of the sales staff but more probably because of the fall in the selling price from $12 per unit to $11.50 per unit. “Fortunately,” Jane said with a broad grin on her face, “the loss was partially offset by the heroic efforts of the production staff in getting their perunit costs down by 11%.” “I like that heroic part,” said Tom approvingly. “You should, because with the volume effect eliminated, all of the fall in variable costs must be attributed to a fall in unit variable costs. More precisely, standard variable costs were $7.00 but actual unit variable costs were just $6.25. Dividing the actual unit cost of $6.25 by the standard variable cost of $7.00 yields an index of 0.89, or precisely the 11% decrease in variable costs noted earlier.”

Activity Indices “Now look at Panel C,” said Jane. “This compares the f lexible budget with the static budget. The only factor that changes between the two is sales activity, so the percentages measure the change in the number of units sold. As there is only one measure of activity, it is not surprising that all the activity-based indices show an increase of 20%, that is, 200 units extra on a base of 1,000. Fixed costs, though, are independent of activity levels. Net income, which is a combination of activity-related and activity-independent numbers, shows an increase that ref lects its mixed nature.”

Measuring Productivity


Market Effects “The rise in volume may or may not be attributable to good management. One possibility is that it was driven by an increase in the total market. For instance, one can imagine the larger market to have an expected 8,000 units in sales. The company was expecting to get 12.5% of the market. If one now assumes that the market grew to 12,000 units, then the company’s sales of 1,200 units actually represents a decrease in market share. Writing this out more formally: 1, 200 1, 000 (10% × 12, 000) = (12.5% × 8, 000)  10%   12.5%  =   ×  12.5%   8, 000 

Sales Activity Index =

= 0.80 × 1.50

In other words, given this scenario, the sales staff really should be queried on why they had a decrease of 20% in market share in a market that increased 50%.”

Summar y “Finally, let’s try to summarize what we have learned to this point. First, note that Panel B confirms that the price index in any variance computation can be derived by dividing the actual figure by the f lexible budget figure. Panel C demonstrates that the activity index can be derived by dividing the f lexible figure by the static figure. In short, the relationship between the overall index of the change from budget to actual is given by: Actual Static  Actual   Flexible  =  ×   Flexible   Static  = Price Index × Activity Index

Overall Index =

To summarize, then, in the example shown in Exhibits 7.1 and 7.2, one has the following relationships connecting the actual results back to the static, through the f lexible budget: Overall Index = Price Index × Activity Index Revenue: 1.15 = 0.96 × 1.20 Variable Cost: 1.07 = 0.89 × 1.20 Fixed Cost: 1.17 = 1.17 × 1.00

208 Understanding the Numbers So, as you can see, the pieces fit together quite logically. The points underlying these pieces can be summarized quite brief ly: 1. First, we saw the need to distinguish between basic, ideal, and currently attainable standards. 2. Second, we saw the wisdom of distinguishing f lexible from static budgets. 3. Third, we noted that our standards are the foundation stones on which these budgets are based. 4. We noted that all cost variances follow one simple formula: Actual Cost less Budgeted Cost equals Standard Cost Variance. 5. Activity Variances = Flexible Budget − Static Budget Price Variances = Actual Results − Flexible Budget Flexible Budget Activity Indices = Static Budget Actual Results Price Indices = Flexible Budget

6. Flexible budgets adjust variable cost and their variances for volume. 7. Volume has no effect on fixed costs or the variances derived from fixed costs.

VAR IABLE COST BUDGETS “That’s fine, but what am I going to do with these variances?” Tom asked a little impatiently. “Everything that I’ve seen so far may help top management, but it’s not much help to me.” “Good point, Tom. That’s why we need to examine productivity, which is the relationship between inputs and outputs. We’ll enhance your productivity and your control over costs if we can focus on the elements that go into your costs.” With that Jane began to explain how in a typical cost accounting system the variable cost of a product or service is a function of: 1. 2. 3. 4.

The hours of labor (both direct and indirect) that go into a product. The units of material that are used. The other components of overhead. The unit cost of each of these items.

“Let’s call the amount of input that goes into one unit of output the productivity rate. For instance, one might need 500 pages or sheets of paper and 16 minutes of labor to produce a ream of letterhead. The material productivity rate is 500 pages per ream; the labor productivity rate is 18 minutes or 0.30 hour per ream. When the expected cost of the inputs is attached to the expected productivity rates, a standard cost is said to result. The productivity

Measuring Productivity


rates themselves are also known as standards. They are typically established by engineers.” As before, Jane began sketching out a numerical illustration of the points that she was making. Her sketches appear in Exhibit 7.3. “These are the standards,” she said, “that determine the variable portion of the budget for production. Note the assumption here that variable overhead is a function of machine hours, or how long the machine runs. Other assumptions are possible but we will stick with this one in our example. “Fixed overhead is a little different because it does not really have a productivity rate. Let’s just put down the fixed overhead on a budgeted and an actual basis, and we can come back and discuss the details later.” From these standards she began to derive the standard variable cost of the product; also its actual variable cost: Standard Cost = Material Cost + Labor Cost + Variable Overhead Cost = (500 pages × $0.008 per page) + (0.30 hours × $5.00 per hour) + (0.10 hours × $15.00 per hour) = $4.00 + $1.50 + $1.50 = $7.00 per ream Actual Cost = Material Cost + Labor Cost + Variable Overhead Cost = (500 pages × $0.007 per page) + (0.25 hours × $6.00 per hour) + (0.125 hours × $10.00 per hour) = $3.50 + $1.50 + $1.25 = $6.25 per ream


Standards and actuals for letterhead paper. Budgeted


500 $0.008 $4.00

500 $0.007 $3.50

0.30 $5.00 $1.50

0.25 $6.00 $1.50

0.10 $15.00 $1.50

0.125 $10.00 $1.25

Material: Productivity rate (pages per ream) Cost per unit of input (per page) Cost per unit of output (per ream) Labor: Productivity rate (labor hours per ream) Wage per unit of input (per labor hour) Wage per unit of output (per ream) Variable Overhead: Productivity rate (machine hours per ream) Cost per unit of input (per machine hour) Cost per unit of output (per ream)

210 Understanding the Numbers Jane then used these numbers to show how the budgeted and actual variable costs in Exhibit 7.1 were derived. For the static budget: Material Costs = $4.00 per ream × 1, 000 reams = $4, 000 Labor Costs = $1.50 per ream × 1, 000 reams = $1, 500 Variable OH = $1.50 per ream × 1, 000 reams = $1, 500 Total Variable Costs = $7, 000 as reported in Exhibit 7.1

For the f lexible budget: Material Costs = $4.00 per ream × 1, 200 reams = $4, 800 Labor Costs = $1.50 per ream × 1, 200 reams = $1, 800 Variable OH = $1.50 per ream × 1, 200 reams = $1, 800 Total Variable Costs = $8, 400 as reported in Exhibit 7.1

For the actual costs: Material Costs = $3.50 per ream × 1, 200 reams = $4, 200 Labor Costs = $1.50 per ream × 1, 200 reams = $1, 800 Variable OH = $1.25 per ream × 1, 200 reams = $1, 500 Total Variable Costs = $7, 500 as reported in Exhibit 7.1

Material Indices Jane also used the standards in Exhibit 7.3 to show Tom how indices for each of the components of the variable costs could be determined and interpreted. Consider first the material costs: Actual Costs Flexible Budget $4, 200 = $4, 800 ($0.007 per page × 500 pages per ream × 1, 200 reams) = ($0.008 per page × 500 pages per ream × 1, 200 reams)  0.007   500   1, 200  =  ×  ×   0.008   500   1, 200 

Material Index =

= 0.875 × 1.00 × 1.00 = 0.875

In words, the material portion of the variable cost fell 12.5% from the f lexible budget to the actual because of the 12.5% decrease in the cost of paper from $0.008 per page to $0.007 per page. There were no efficiencies or

Measuring Productivity


inefficiencies in the use of the paper: The number of pages actually used per ream was equal to budget.

Labor Indices Jane then performed an identical analysis for labor costs: Actual Costs Flexible Budget $1, 800 = $1, 800 ($6.00 per hour × 0.25 hours per ream × 1, 200 reams) = ($5.00 per hour × 0.30 hours per ream × 1, 200 reams) $6.00 0.25 1, 200 = × × $5.00 0.30 1, 200 = 1.20 × 0.833 × 1.00 = 1.00

Labor Index =

In words, the labor portion of the variable cost remained the same from f lexible to actual because the rise of 20% in the hourly wage was exactly offset by the 16.67% decrease in the time to produce a ream of letterhead. “I’ve just realized that what we have here,” said Tom, “is a great way to measure increases in productivity. Dana keeps on talking about how our productivity is falling. One way to counteract that is to check how efficiently people are working. Before one measures physical productivity, though, one has to eliminate the wage effect, which is just what you have shown me how to do here.”

Variable Overhead Indices “I think I can now do the variable overhead analysis myself,” said Tom. “I just take the three components of the actual cost and divide that by the three components of the f lexible budget. Check me if you will.” Actual Costs Flexible Budget $1, 500 = $1, 800 ($10.00 × 0.125 × 1, 200) = ($15.00 × 0.10 × 1, 200) $10.00 0.125 1, 200 = × × $15.00 0.10 1, 200 = 0.667 × 1.25 × 1.00 = 0.833

Variable OH Index =

212 Understanding the Numbers “I can even tell you what that means in words: The overhead portion of the variable cost declined 16.67% from the f lexible budget because the hourly overhead rate fell by 33.33% while the overhead used per ream rose 25%. How do you like that explanation?”

Variance Analysis “Another way, in fact the more traditional way, to think about this,” said Jane, “is to focus on the numbers rather than the percentages. The cost of the paper fell 0.001 cents per page while the company used 600,000 pages (500 pages per ream × 1,200 reams.) This price drop saved $600; since this price variance is favorable, it’s denoted by an F. The company used the amount of paper that was budgeted, so the usage variance is zero.


] + [$( 0.007 − 0.008) per page × 600, 000 pages ]

Materials Variance = (600, 000 − 600, 000) pages × $0.008 per page = $600 F

“In the case of labor, the wage paid was $1.00 per hour more than planned, which over the 300 hours that were worked meant an unfavorable wage variance of $300 denoted by a U. Employees actually worked 300 hours (0.25 hours per ream × 1,200 reams), whereas the plan was for them to work 360 hours (0.30 × 1,200 reams). That saved 60 hours, which, at the standard wage rate of $5.00, saved $300. The wage variance and the use variance offset one another here.


Labor Variance = ( 300 − 360) hours × $5.00 per hour



+ $(6.00 − 5.00) per hour × 300 hours


= $0

“Finally, the variable overhead rate was $5.00 per machine hour less than expected. This gives a favorable rate variance of $750 or $5.00 × 150 actual machine hours. The base on which variable overhead was applied, namely machine hours, increased by 30 hours since the budget called for just 120 machine hours. At the standard rate of $15.00 per hour this gives an unfavorable usage variance of $450 or $15.00 × 30 machine hours. This leaves a favorable difference of $300.


Overhead Variance = (150 − 120) hours × $15.00 per hour



+ $(10.00 − 15.00) per hour × 150 hours

= $300

“All this is summarized in Exhibit 7.4.”


Measuring Productivity EXHIBIT 7.4


Variance analysis. Rate Variance

Usage Variance

Total Variance

$600 F 300 U 450 U

$0 300 F 750 F

$600 F 0 300 F

Materials Labor Variable overhead

Review “One last question, Jane: Where do these variable overhead rates come from?” “That’s another subject altogether,” said Jane. “Do you want a cup of coffee? I’m bushed. But before we break, let’s summarize what we’ve learned. 1. The cost of a product consists of material, labor, and overhead. 2. Each of these components is made up of a productivity rate multiplied by a unit cost for that component. 3. Standard Costs = Standard Productivity Rates × Standard Unit Costs 4. Actual Costs = Actual Productivity Rates × Actual Unit Costs 5. Price Indices = Actual Unit Costs/Standard Costs 6. Activity Indices = Actual Productivity Rate/Standard Productivity Rate.”

COLLECTING STANDARDS After their coffee break, Jane and Tom shifted their conversation to how to develop these standard costs. Jane reminded Tom that standard costs are made up of two parts: 1. A standard cost per unit times. 2. A standard usage, or quantity of units of input per unit of output. She pointed out that he was responsible for defining the amount of material and labor that should go into the product. The purchasing department was responsible for determining the amount that should be paid for materials, the personnel department determined wages. There are, as she explained, several ways to determine the appropriate usage.

Engineering Studies “First, one can do an engineering study. In other words, one can look at the specifications of the product. Many products that are designed by engineers have quite detailed and explicit instructions on what materials should go into them. These standards often include an allowance for waste, though this isn’t necessary. Where they do not include such an allowance they border on the ideal.

214 Understanding the Numbers “To take an obvious example, most automobiles have one battery, and an engineering statement would so state. A perfection standard would call for 1 battery per automobile. When it comes to actual production, however, it would not be unusual for one or more batteries to be damaged during installation.If 10,100 batteries are used in the manufacture of 10,000 cars, then it might appear as if each automobile actually had 1.01 batteries. One might, therefore, want to set as one’s standard a currently attainable goal of 1.01 batteries on average, thus providing a 1% allowance for wastage.”

Time and Motion Studies “Time and motion studies are the usual way in which engineering standards are set for the labor component,” Jane explained. “An engineer watches over laborers as they work and determines how much time it should take for each part of the production process. When doing this, it is vital that the engineer gain labor’s cooperation. If not, disastrous results can occur. I love the following quotation:” You got to use your noodle while you’re working and think your work out ahead as you go along! You got to add in movements you know you ain’t going to make when you’re running the job! Remember, if you don’t screw them, they’re going to screw you! . . . Every moment counts! . . . When the time-study man came around, I set the speed at 180. I knew damn well he would ask me to push it up, so I started low enough. He finally pushed me up to 445, and I ran the job later at 610. If I’d started out at 445, they’d have timed it at 610. Then I got him on the reaming, too. I ran the reamer for him at 130 speed and .025 feed. He asked me if I couldn’t run the reamer any faster than that, and I told him I had to run the reamer slow to keep the hole size. I showed him two pieces with oversize holes that the day man ran. I picked them out for the occasion! But later on I ran the reamer at 610 speed and .018 feed, same as the drill. So I didn’t have to change gears.3

Tom smiled appreciatively at the story. As an old f loor hand, he understood the sentiments completely.

Motivation “This raises a broader question, you know,” said Tom. “Should we invite people to participate in setting the standards? Will it make them more motivated? I’ve pondered this from a variety of angles. What’s interesting about it is that participation doesn’t always work. “What I have discovered from my reading around the topic is that many people prefer to be told what to do. This seems to be particularly true for people who find their jobs boring and for those with a more authoritarian personality. So one has to be really careful when inviting people to participate.” “You know more about this than I do,” responded Jane. “How do you handle feedback, then. That’s a sort of after-the-fact participation isn’t it.”

Measuring Productivity


“Well, I don’t know about after the fact, but everyone that I’ve read—and my own experience for that matter—indicates that timely feedback is essential and a good motivator. People really need to know, and know as soon as possible, how they have done. That’s especially true when they’ve done a good job, because it really builds their self-esteem. And in some cases, it makes them want to participate more before the fact in the next round. “Of course, I don’t want to lead you to think that a little participation and a lot of feedback is all one needs. These are what the psychologists call intrinsic motivators. People need these, but they also need extrinsic motivators like better pay for doing a better job. “And, the other problem that I’ve encountered is that the more you focus people’s attention on one goal, the more they tend to ignore other goals. It’s only human nature: Ask salespeople to increase their turnover, and they’ll sell goods at a loss. “That’s one of the reasons why I have misgivings about calling in a bunch of engineers to set standards. It’s much easier to time how long a job should take and reward people for quantity than to measure and to reward quality. I really rely upon the innate good sense of my staff to provide quality products. Too much emphasis on measurement can make my task of maintaining quality much more difficult.”

Past Data “Probably, then, an easier way,” Jane said, “to get the data you need for your business is to go back over your past records to see how much time various jobs have taken and how much material was used in the past. Some of that will have to be adjusted for changes in machines, changes in personnel, different kinds of material, and so on. But you know all that better than I do.” “Enough!” Tom exclaimed. “Enough for now! I’ll come over tomorrow night and we can talk some more. We still need to discuss fixed overheads as you promised.”

FIXED COST BUDGETS “Fixed costs,” Jane started out the next night after the two had gathered again, “are both easier and more difficult to control than variable costs. They are easier because there are no components into which to break them. Their variance is simply: Actual Fixed Costs − Budgeted Fixed Costs

Their index is simply: Actual Fixed Costs Budgeted Fixed Costs

216 Understanding the Numbers In our case, the budgeted fixed costs were $4,000 and the actual fixed costs were $4,680. The variance was simply $680, which means a 17% increase. “Fixed costs are more difficult to control than variable costs because one cannot create an illusion of control through the elaborate computation of price, mix, and usage variances or indices.” “How, then, does one control fixed costs?” asked Tom. “First,” Jane replied, “one must recognize that if costs are truly fixed, there is no reason to control them. Consider depreciation costs as an example. Once one has purchased an item, the total depreciation costs are set—unless one disposes of the machinery when a disposal cost will substitute for the depreciation cost. No control is possible here. The control in this case has to be exerted when the machinery is purchased. Thereafter, it is a sunk cost that cannot be controlled. In other words, controlling fixed costs is in the first place a matter of timing. “Traditional variance analysis uses one cost driver only, the volume of production. More modern variance analysis, such as that in activity based costing, uses multiple cost drivers.4 For example, setup costs may not vary with volume of production but might vary with the number of batches. What appears at first glance to be a fixed cost may just be variable with respect to some other driver. The analysis of variance proceeds exactly as before except that one changes the driver from units produced to number of batches. One converts the fixed cost into a quasi-variable cost by finding and using the appropriate cost driver. “Controlling fixed costs is also a matter of scale. Consider the machine again. Assume one has just one machine with a capacity of 1,000 boxes of greeting cards per day. Its cost is certainly fixed within this range. However, if the analysis is being done in terms of tens of thousands of boxes, and if the corporation has a hundred of these machines, then it is possible to think of machine costs as being a variable. One can ask, in other words, what the cost would be to produce an additional ‘unit’ of 1,000 boxes. “This last question points to the fact that most fixed costs are usually only fixed within the context of a particular analysis. Consider, for instance, the ink you use in production. Assume its price is reset by a cartel every three months. Assume also that its planned usage is reset at the same time. A budgetary control system that computed variances every month and set the budgeted price and quantity to those of the latest quarter might show a variance of zero each month. This might lead everyone to believe that they were dealing with a fixed cost. However, were the same analysis to be done on an annual basis, with prices and quantities set at the start of the year, a substantial variance could arise. The example points up the old truism that all costs are variable in the long run. “The example above also points up the need to set your net large enough to catch the fish you want. Many fixed costs cannot be controlled by a monthly, or even annual, budget system because they change too slowly. One needs a coarser net, that is, an annual, triennial, or even longer budgetary system to

Measuring Productivity


capture their change. The reverse is also true. A net that is too fine can capture a great deal of random noise. Consider, for instance, a product whose price f luctuates randomly around a fixed mean. If all you want is to see the true exceptions, then you should set the net to capture only those f luctuations that are greater than a certain number of standard deviations away from the mean. “In short, fixed costs are best controlled in the long run and at a more aggregate level. In other words, it is important in the budgetary control of fixed costs to establish appropriate time and space horizons for one’s analysis.” “Those are all good points,” said Tom, “and it’s good to be reminded of them. What you haven’t yet told me, though, is whether there is a fixed overhead rate like the variable overhead rate that you had in Exhibit 7.3 and how the fixed overhead rate fits into the whole picture.” “Well, fixed overhead does and doesn’t have a rate,” responded Jane. “The rate itself comes from knowing the total fixed overhead and dividing it by the volume; for example, the budgeted fixed overhead of $4,000 divided by the budgeted 1,000 units gives us a fixed overhead rate of $4.00. In a sense, fixed overhead rates are secondary—unlike variable overhead rates, which are primary, meaning that fixed overhead rates are computed by dividing the total overhead by volume. Total variable overhead, on the other hand, is computed by multiplying the variable overhead rate by the volume. In other words, fixed overhead computes just the other way round from variable overhead. “Variable overhead rates are used in computing variances and indices. Fixed overhead rates are completely ignored in this context. Their main purpose is to give you an estimate of the total product cost. We computed earlier that the estimated variable cost of a ream of letterhead was $7.00. We can now add the $4.00 fixed cost in and say the estimated total cost of a ream is $11.00. So fixed overhead rates fit in when calculating unit product costs. It’s just that they don’t fit into the rest of the budgetary control systems. But let’s talk about standard cost systems when all this might become clearer. Let’s pick it up tomorrow when we are both fresher.”

STANDARD COST ACCOUNTING SYSTEMS “Companies rarely enter their budgets into their ledgers. Usually budgetary control takes place outside of the books of the company. In other words, the budget is typically drawn up using spreadsheets outside of the general ledger system. At the end of the period under investigation, the actual results are drawn out of the ledger and transferred to the spreadsheet where the comparisons are done. Two exceptions to this general rule occur.”

Government Accounting “The first exception does not affect private companies but does affect state and local governments. It is common practice in their accounting systems to

218 Understanding the Numbers enter a budgeted number in the ledgers in anticipation of an actual number. For instance, city governments will enter budgeted revenues as a debit on the left side of the ledger account. Then when the sales are actually made, they will enter the actual revenues as a credit on the right column of the ledger account. The effect is that at the end of the year, only variances are left in accounts. For instance, sales greater than expected would leave a credit variance.”

Standard Variable Costs “The second exception involves so-called standard cost systems. In a typical implementation, the standard cost of a product, not the actual cost incurred, is entered into the work-in-process account. The difference between the standard cost and the actual cost creates a variance—in the actual accounts. For example, in the case of paper used, the inventory account would be charged with the standard $4.00 for every ream used but only $3.50 would be paid to the supplier. The difference of $0.50 would be shown in a separate variance account in the books of the company. “The existence of a credit variance in the accounts indicates that the budgeted unit cost exceeds the actual unit cost, that is, there is a favorable variance. Were the variance a debit, it would be unfavorable. “By the end of the job, after they have produced 1,200 reams, they will show in their accounts a variance of $0.50 per ream on all their variable costs times 1,200 reams, or a credit of $600. This is the same favorable $600 variance that we saw in Exhibit 7.4 when we subtracted the actual cost from the f lexible budget. Standard cost systems, in other words, track the f lexible budget. “Each of these variances is identical to the variances computed above; each can be stated in percentage terms to indicate their relative size, that is, material costs are down 12.5%, labor costs are even, and variable overhead costs are down 16.67%. The key point to realize is that variances generated by a standard cost system are identical to those generated by a budgetary control system—once one removes the volume effect.”

Standard Fixed Costs “The parallels between standard cost systems and budgetary control systems do not extend to fixed costs, unfortunately. The reason lies in the way fixed costs are applied to products. In a standard cost system, a fixed overhead rate is established at the start of a period by dividing the budgeted fixed overhead by the budgeted volume. In our case, the predetermined fixed overhead rate was $4,000 divided by 1,000 reams, which equals $4.00 per ream. The predetermined fixed overhead rate is therefore based on the static budget. “Fixed overhead is then applied to goods as they are produced by multiplying the number of reams produced by this overhead rate. In this case, one charges $4.00 of fixed overhead to each of the 1,200 reams produced. The result is $4,800, which is known as the applied overhead. The problem is that this

Measuring Productivity


is neither actual nor budgeted. It is really a miscomputed number. If the number of actual reams had been known in advance, one should have divided the $4,000 by 1,200 reams, giving $3.33 per ream. In other words, one should have used the f lexible budget. Using that rate would have led to the application of $4,000 of fixed overhead exactly. The difference between the budgeted amount of $4,000 and the amount actually applied, namely $800, is said to have been over-applied—one might say over-applied in error. A correcting entry is typically made in the accounting system to fix this error. “The accounts of the company record that it actually had fixed overhead costs of $4,680 and applied overhead of $4,800. This generates a credit variance of $120 in the accounts. Regardless of what appears in the accounts, the spending variance that should be reported is an unfavorable $680—not a favorable $120. No matter the confusions in the ledger, the only variance that one is interested in is: Applied Overhead − Budgeted Overhead = $4, 680 − $4, 000

“The difference between the variance produced by a standard cost system and the variance wanted for budgetary control purposes is: Budgeted Overhead − Applied Overhead = $4, 000 − $4, 800 = ($4 × 1, 000) − ($4 × 1, 200) = $4 × 200

“In short, the error in the fixed overhead variance appearing in a standard cost system is due to volume changing from 1,000 units to 1,200 units. The result is a variance in the standard cost system that is useless for control purposes. “The budgeted overhead will be equal to the applied overhead only when the actual volume equals the budgeted volume, which rarely happens. More commonly, a fixed cost variance is found in the ledger, but this is of no interest for budgetary control. For control purposes, you should compute the spending variance directly and simply ignore the net overhead variance derived in the books.” “Now I see why you ignored the fixed overhead when doing the variances originally,” said Tom. “Let’s hope that my management understands this as well as you seem to do!”

BUDGETARY CONTROL R EVISITED “Budgetary control, as we noted at the outset,” Jane continued, “consists of comparing actual results with budget estimates. When doing this one is advised to distinguish between revenues and costs that vary with volume and those that are fixed with respect to volume changes. A revised budget, adjusted for the actual volumes rather than the predicted volumes, yields a f lexible budget as opposed to the original or static budget.

220 Understanding the Numbers “Since the static and the f lexible budgets for fixed costs are identical, the fixed-cost spending variance is simply the difference between the actual and the original budget. The spending index for fixed costs is their quotient. “In the case of variable costs and revenues, a few simple rules emerge. The ratio between the f lexible and the static budgets indicates the difference in the quantities expected and the quantities actually experienced. The ratio between the actual results and the f lexible budget indicates the change in costs or revenues that can be attributed to changes in unit costs or selling prices. “In the case of multiple outputs or multiple inputs, the quantity indices can be further refined. They break into at least two indices. The first reveals the effect of changing mixes of either outputs or inputs. The second reveals the effect of changing the overall volume. The mix variance may be computed directly or simply by dividing the quantity index by the volume index. In the case of variable costs, it is usually possible to draw out another index indicating the total yield, that is, the amount of input required to produce a given amount of output. “All these indices can be computed using an accounting system that collects only actual costs and comparing these in a spreadsheet with the budgeted costs. Alternatively, they may be derived by keeping a standard cost system. The variances that emerge as one enters standard costs into work-in-process and credits the corresponding asset or liability account at actual are identical to those derived from a f lexible budgeting control system. The one exception to this identity is fixed costs, but the difference here is easily reconciled. “In short, budgetary control analysis provides one vehicle for controlling a business. The budget ref lects, ideally, a company’s strategies and objectives. As actual results emerge they are compared with the budget to see to what extent the enterprise has met its goals and productivity targets. Any difference encountered can be decomposed to determine whether it was due to a change in usage or a change in price. Where inputs or outputs are substitutable, one can also examine the changing mix for further insight into how one achieved one’s goals. “In each case, the index derived is neither good nor bad. It simply indicates a change. As noted earlier, the same rise in sales may be a matter for congratulation when markets are declining and a matter for concern when markets are expanding faster than one’s sales. All that the index does is to point one to where still more information must be gathered.”

FOR FURTHER R EADING Anthony, Robert N., David F. Hawkins, and Kenneth A. Merchant, Accounting: Text and Cases, 10th ed. (New York: Irwin/McGraw-Hill, 1999), esp. chs. 19 and 20. Davidson, Sidney, and Roman L. Weil, Handbook of Cost Accounting (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978), esp. chs. 15 and 16.

Measuring Productivity


Ferris, Kenneth R., and J. Leslie Livingstone, eds., Management Planning and Control: The Behavioral Foundations (Columbus, OH: Century VII, 1989), esp. chs. 3, 8, and 9. Horngren, Charles T., Gary L. Sundem, and William O. Stratton, Introduction to Management Accounting, 11th ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1999), esp. chs. 7 and 8. Kaplan, Robert S., and Anthony A. Atkinson, Advanced Management Accounting, 3rd ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1998), esp. chs. 9 and 10. Maher, Michael W., Clyde Stickney, Roman L. Weil, and Sidney Davidson, Managerial Accounting (Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt College Publishers, 1999), esp. chs. 10 and 11. Shank, J.K., and N.C. Churchill, “ Variance Analysis: A Management-Oriented Approach,” The Accounting Review, 52 (Oct. 1977): 950–957. Welsch, Glenn A., Ronald W. Hilton, and Paul N. Gordon, Budgeting: Profit Planning and Control, 5th ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1988), esp. ch. 16.

INTER NET LINKS Internet links and Web sites have an uncomfortable way of disappearing. The reader is advised, therefore, to do her or his own search under key words such as “variance analysis” and “standard costing.” This will turn up sites such as Conoco’s and Corn Products International’s discussions of their results at and Both make excellent use of variance analysis. The U.S. Army Cost and Economic Analysis Center at provides a good discussion of standards, while the Association of Accounting Technicians, at, provides an excellent forum for questions and answers on this and many other accounting topics. The Institute of Management Accountants maintains a site at www that provides all kinds of managerial accounting resources. Finally, the reader is invited to visit my own site, at∼mvanbred, with its many links and notes on both financial and managerial accounting.

NOTES 1. R. Kaplan and D. Norton, “The Balanced Scorecard—Measures That Drive Performance,” Harvard Business Review, 70 (Jan.–Feb. 1992): 71–79. 2. National Association of Accountants, Standard Costs and Variance Analysis (New York: NAA, 1974): 9. 3. Whyte, W.F., ed., Money and Motivation: An Analysis of Incentives in Industry (New York: Harper & Row, 1955). 4. Cooper, Robin, and Robert S. Kaplan, “How Cost Accounting Distorts Product Costs,” Management Accounting, 69 (Apr. 1988): 20–27.





THE CONSULTING FI RM Jennifer, Jean, and George had earned their graduate business degrees together and had paid their dues in middle management positions in various large corporations. Despite their different employers, the three had maintained their friendship and were now ready to realize their dream of starting a consulting practice. Their projections showed modest consulting revenue in the short term offset by expenditures for supplies, a secretary, a small library, personal computers, and similar necessities. Although each expected to clear no more than perhaps $25,000 for his or her efforts in their first year in business, they shared high hopes for future growth and success. Besides, it would be a great pleasure to run their own company and have sole charge of their respective fates.

THE SOFTWAR E ENTR EPR ENEUR At approximately the same time that Jennifer, Jean, and George were hatching their plans for entrepreneurial independence, Phil was cashing a seven-figure check for his share of the proceeds from the sale of the computer software firm he had founded seven years ago with four of his friends. Rather than rest on his laurels, however, Phil saw this as an opportunity to capitalize on a complex piece of software he had developed in college. Although Phil was convinced that there would be an extensive market for his software, there was


226 Planning and Forecasting much work to be done before it could be brought to market. The software had to be converted from a mainframe operating system to the various popular microcomputer systems. In addition, there was much marketing to be done prior to its release. Phil anticipated that he would probably spend over $300,000 on programmers and salespeople before the first dollar of royalties would appear. But he was prepared to make that investment himself, in anticipation of retaining all the eventual profit.

THE HOTEL VENTUR E Bruce and Erika were not nearly as interested in high technology. Directly following their graduation from business school, they were planning to construct and operate a resort hotel near a popular ski area. They had chosen as their location a beautiful parcel of land in Colorado owned by their third partner, Michael. Rich in ideas and enthusiasm, the three lacked funds. They were certain, however, that they could attract investors to their enterprise. The location, they were sure, would virtually sell itself.

THE PURPOSE OF THIS CHAPTER Each of these three groups of entrepreneurs would soon be faced with what might well be the most important decision of the initial years of their businesses: which of the various legal business forms to choose for the operation of their enterprises. It is the purpose of this chapter to describe, compare, and contrast the most popular of these forms in the hope that the reader will then be able to make such choices intelligently and effectively. After discussing the various business forms, we will revisit our entrepreneurs and analyze their choices.

BUSINESS FORMS Two of the most popular business forms could be described as the default forms because the law will deem a business to be operating under one of these forms unless it makes an affirmative choice otherwise. The first of these forms is the sole proprietorship. Unless he or she has actively chosen another form, the individual operating his or her own business is considered to be a sole proprietor. Two or more persons operating a business together are considered a partnership (or general partnership), unless they have elected otherwise. Both of these forms share the characteristic that for all intents and purposes they are not entities separate from their owners. Every act taken or obligation assumed as a sole proprietorship or partnership is an act taken or obligation assumed by the business owners as individuals.

Choosing a Business Form


Many of the rules applicable to the operation of partnerships are set forth in the Uniform Partnership Act, which has been adopted in one form or another by 49 states. That Act defines a partnership as “an association of two or more persons to carry on as co-owners a business for profit.” Notice that the definition does not require that the individuals agree to be partners. Although most partnerships can point to an agreement between the partners (whether written or oral), the Act applies the rules of partnership to any group of two or more persons whose actions fulfill the definition. Thus, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, in a rather extreme case, held, over the defendant’s strenuous objections, that she was a partner in her husband’s burglary “business” (for which she kept the books and upon whose proceeds she lived), even though she denied knowing what her husband was doing at nights. As a result of this status, she was held personally liable for damages to the wife of a burglary victim her husband had murdered during a botched theft. In contrast, a corporation is a legal entity separate from the legal identities of its owners, the shareholders. In the words James Thurber used to describe a unicorn, the corporation “is a mythical beast,” created by the state at the request of one or more business promoters upon the filing of a form and the payment of the requisite, modest fee. Thereupon, in the eyes of the law, the corporation becomes for most purposes a “person” with its own federal identification number! Of course, one cannot see, hear, or touch a corporation, so it must interact with the rest of the world through its agents, the corporation’s officers and employees. Corporations come in different varieties. The so-called professional corporation is available in most states for persons conducting professional practices, such as doctors, lawyers, architects, psychiatric social workers, and the like. A subchapter S corporation is a corporation that is the same as a regular business corporation in all respects other than taxation. These variations are discussed later. A fourth common form of business organization is the limited partnership, which may best be described as a hybrid of the corporation and the general partnership. The limited partnership consists of one or more general partners—who manage the business much in the same way as do the partners in a general partnership—and one or more limited partners, who are essentially silent investors with no control over business operations. Like the general partnership, limited partnerships are governed in part by a statute, the Uniform Limited Partnership Act (or its successor, the Revised Uniform Limited Partnership Act), which has also been adopted in one form or another by 49 states. The limited liability company (LLC), is now available to entrepreneurs in all 50 states. The LLC is a separate legal entity owned by “members” who may, but need not, appoint one or more “managers” (who may but need not be members) to operate the business. A few states require that there be more than one member, but the trend is toward allowing single-member LLCs. An LLC is formed by filing an application with the state government and paying the

228 Planning and Forecasting prescribed fee. The members then enter into an operating agreement setting forth their respective rights and obligations with respect to the business. Most states that have adopted the LLC have also authorized the limited liability partnership, which allows general partnerships to obtain limited liability for their partners by filing their intention to do so with the state. This form of business entity is normally used by professional associations that previously operated as general partnerships, such as law and accounting firms.

COMPAR ISON FACTORS The usefulness of the five basic business forms could be compared on a virtually unlimited number of measures, but the most effective comparisons will likely result from employing the following eight: 1. Complexity and cost of formation. What steps must be taken before your business can exist in each of these forms? 2. Barriers to operation across state lines. What steps must be taken to move your business to other states? What additional cost may be involved? 3. Recognition as a legal entity. Who does the law recognize as the operative entity? Who owns the assets of the business? Who can sue and be sued? 4. Continuity of life. Does the legal entity outlive the owner? This may be especially important if the business wishes to attract investors or if the goal is an eventual sale of the business. 5. Transferability of interest. How does one go about selling or otherwise transferring one’s ownership of the business? 6. Control. Who makes the decisions regarding the operation, financing, and eventual disposition of the business? 7. Liability. Who is responsible for the debts of the business? If the company cannot pay its creditors, must the owners satisfy these debts from their personal assets? 8. Taxation. How does the choice of business form determine the tax payable on the profits of the business and the income of its owners?

FORMATION OF SOLE PROPR IETORSHIPS Ref lecting its status as the default form for the individual entrepreneur, the sole proprietorship requires no affirmative act for its formation. One operates a sole proprietorship because one has not chosen to operate in any of the other forms. The only exception to this rule arises in certain states when the owner chooses to use a name other than his own as the name of his business. In such event, he may be required to file a so-called d /b/a certificate with the local authorities, stating that he is “doing business as” someone other than himself.

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This allows creditors and those otherwise injured by the operation of the business to determine who is legally responsible.

FORMATION OF PARTNERSHIPS Similarly, a general partnership requires no special act for its formation other than a d /b/a certificate if a name other than that of the partners will be used. If two or more people act in a way which fits the definition set forth in the Uniform Act, they will find themselves involved in a partnership. However, it is strongly recommended that prospective partners consciously enter an agreement (preferably in writing) setting forth their understandings on the many issues which will arise in such an arrangement. Principal among these are the investments each will make in the business, the allocation and distribution of profits (and losses), the method of decision making (i.e., majority or unanimous vote), any obligations to perform services for the business, the relative compensation of the partners, and so on. Regardless of the agreements that may exist among the partners, however, the partnership will be bound by the actions and agreements of each partner—as long as these actions are reasonably related to the partnership business, and even if they were not properly authorized by the other partners pursuant to the agreement. After all, third parties have no idea what the partners’ internal agreement says and are in no way bound by it.

CORPORATIONS In order to form a corporation, in contrast, one must pay the appropriate fee and must complete and file with the state a corporate charter (otherwise known as a Certificate of Incorporation, Articles of Incorporation, or similar name in the various states). The fee is payable both at the outset and annually thereafter (often approximately $200). A promoter may form a corporation under the laws of whichever state she wishes; she is not required to form the corporation under the laws of the state in which she intends to conduct most of her business. This partially explains the popularity of the Delaware corporation. Delaware spent most of the last century competing with other states for corporation filing fees by repeatedly amending its corporate law to make it increasingly favorable to management. By now, the Delaware corporation has taken on an aura of sophistication, so that many promoters form their companies in Delaware just to appear to know what they are doing! In addition, it is often less expensive under Delaware law to authorize large numbers of shares for future issuance than it would be in other states. Nevertheless, the statutory advantages of Delaware apply mostly to corporations with many stockholders (such as those which are publicly traded) and will rarely be significant to a small business such as those described at the beginning of this

230 Planning and Forecasting chapter. Also, formation in Delaware (or any state other than the site of the corporation’s principal place of business) will subject the corporation to additional, unnecessary expense. It is thus usually advisable to incorporate in the company’s home state. The charter sets forth the corporation’s name (which cannot be confusingly similar to the name of any other corporation operating in the state) as well as its principal address. The names of the initial directors and officers of the corporation are often listed. Most states also require a statement of corporate purpose. Years ago this purpose defined the permitted scope of the corporation’s activities. A corporation which ventured beyond its purposes risked operating “ultra vires,” resulting in liability of its directors and officers to its stockholders and creditors. Today virtually all states allow a corporation to define its purposes extremely broadly (e.g., “any activities which may be lawfully undertaken by a corporation in this state”), so that operation ultra vires is generally impossible. Still directors are occasionally plagued by lawsuits brought by stockholders asserting that the diversion of corporate profits to charitable or community activities runs afoul of the dominant corporate purpose, which is to generate profits for its stockholders. The debate over the responsibility of directors to so-called corporate “stakeholders” (employees, suppliers, customers, neighbors, and so forth) currently rages in many forms but is normally not a concern of the beginning entrepreneur. Corporate charters also normally set forth the number and classes of equity securities that the corporation is authorized to issue. Here an analysis of a bit of jargon may be appropriate. The number of shares set forth in the charter is the number of shares authorized, that is, the number of shares that the directors may issue to stockholders at the directors’ discretion. The number of shares issued is the number that the directors have in fact issued and is obviously either the same or smaller than the number authorized. In some cases, a corporation may have repurchased some of the shares previously issued by the directors. In that case, only the shares which remain in the hands of shareholders are outstanding (a number obviously either the same or lower than the number issued). Only the shares outstanding have voting rights, rights to receive dividends, and rights to receive distributions upon full or partial liquidation of the corporation. Normally, we would expect an entrepreneur to authorize the maximum number of shares allowable under the state’s minimum incorporation fee (e.g., 200,000 shares for $200 in Massachusetts) and then issue only 10,000 or so, leaving the rest on the shelf for future financings, employee incentives, and so forth. The charter also sets forth the par value of the authorized shares, another antiquated concept of interest mainly to accountants. The law requires only that the corporation not issue shares for less than the par value, but it can, and usually does, issue the shares for more. Thus, typical par values are $0.01 per share or even “no par value.” Shares issued for less than par are watered stock, subjecting both the directors and holders of such stock to liability to other stockholders and creditors of the corporation.

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Corporations also adopt bylaws, which are not filed with the state but are available for inspection by stockholders. These are usually fairly standard documents describing the internal governance of the corporation and setting forth such items as the officers’ powers and notice periods for stockholders’ meetings.

LIMITED PARTNERSHIPS As you might expect, given the limited partnership’s hybrid nature, the law requires both a written agreement among the various general and limited partners and a Certificate of Limited Partnership to be filed with the state, along with the appropriate initial and annual fees. The agreement sets forth the partners’ understanding of the items discussed earlier regarding general partnerships. The certificate sets forth the name and address of the partnership, its purposes, and the names and addresses of its general partners. In states where the Revised Uniform Limited Partnership Act has been adopted, it is no longer necessary to reveal the names of the limited partners, just as the names of corporate stockholders do not appear on a corporation’s incorporation documents.

LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANIES The LLC is formed by filing a charter (e.g., a Certificate of Organization) with the state government and paying a fee (usually similar to that charged for the formation of a corporation). The charter normally sets forth the entity’s name and address, its business purpose, and the names and addresses of its managers (or persons authorized to act for the entity vis-à-vis the state if no managers are appointed). The same broad description of the entity’s business which is allowable for modern corporations is acceptable for LLCs. The members of the LLC are also required to enter into an operating agreement that sets forth their rights and obligations with regard to the business. These agreements are generally modeled after the agreements signed by the partners in a general or limited partnership.

OUT OF STATE OPERATION OF SOLE PROPR IETORSHIPS AND PARTNERSHIPS Partly as a result of both the Commerce clause and Privileges and Immunities clause of the U.S. Constitution, states may not place limits or restrictions on the operations of out-of-state sole proprietors or general partnerships that are different from those placed on domestic businesses. Thus, a state cannot force registration of a general partnership simply because its principal office is located elsewhere, but it can require an out-of-state doctor to undergo the same licensing procedures it requires of its own residents.

232 Planning and Forecasting OUT OF STATE OPERATION OF CORPORATIONS, LIMITED PARTNERSHIPS, AND LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANIES Things are different, however, with corporations, limited partnerships, and LLCs. As creations of the individual states, they are not automatically entitled to recognition elsewhere. All states require (and routinely grant) qualification as a foreign corporation, limited partnership, or LLC to nondomestic entities doing business within their borders. This procedure normally requires the completion of a form very similar to a corporate charter, limited partnership certificate, or LLC charter, and the payment of an initial and annual fee similar in amount to the fees paid by domestic entities. This requirement, incidentally, is one reason not to form a corporation in Delaware if it will operate principally outside that state. Much litigation has occurred over what constitutes “doing business” within a state for the purpose of requiring qualification. Similar issues arise over the obligation to pay income tax, collect sales tax, or accept personal jurisdiction in the courts of a state. Generally these cases turn on the individualized facts of the particular situation, but courts generally look for offices or warehouses, company employees, widespread advertising, or negotiation and execution of contracts within the state. Perhaps more interesting may be the penalty for failure to qualify. Most states will impose liability for back fees, taxes, interest, and penalties. More important, many states will bar a nonqualified foreign entity from access to its courts and, thus, from the ability to enforce obligations against its residents. In most of these cases, the entity can regain access to the courts merely by paying the state the back fees and penalties it owes, but in a few states access will then be granted only to enforce obligations incurred after qualification was achieved, leaving all prior obligations unenforceable.

R ECOGNITION OF SOLE PROPR IETORSHIPS AS A LEGAL ENTITY By now it probably goes without saying that the law does not recognize a sole proprietorship as a legal entity separate from its owner. If Phil, our computer entrepreneur, were to choose this form, he would own all the company’s assets; he would be the plaintiff in any suits it brought, and he would be the defendant in any suits brought against it. There would be no difference between Phil, the individual, and Phil, the business.

RECOGNITION OF PARTNERSHIPS AS A LEGAL ENTITY A general partnership raises more difficult issues. Although most states allow partnerships to bring suit, be sued, and own property in the partnership name, this does not mean that the partnership exists for most purposes separately from

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its partners. As will be seen, especially in the areas of liability and taxation, partnerships are very much collections of individuals, not separate entities. Ownership of partnership property is a particularly problematic area. All partners own an interest in the partnership, which entitles them to distributions of profit, much like stock in a corporation. This interest is the separate property of each partner and is attachable by the individual creditors of a partner in the form of a “charging order.” Each partner also owns the assets of the partnership jointly with his other partners. This form of ownership (similar to joint ownership of a family home by two spouses) is called tenancy in partnership. Each partner may use partnership assets only for the benefit of the partnership’s business; such assets are exempt from attachment by the creditors of an individual partner, although not from the creditors of the partnership. Tenancy in partnership also implies that, in most cases of dissolution of a partnership, the ownership of partnership assets devolves to the remaining partners, to the exclusion of the partner who leaves in violation of the partnership agreement or dies. The former partner is left only with the right to a dissolution distribution in respect of her partnership interest.

R ECOGNITION OF CORPORATIONS AND LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANIES AS LEGAL ENTITIES The corporation and LLC are our first full-f ledged separate legal entities. Ownership of business assets is vested solely in the corporation or LLC as a separate legal entity. The corporation or LLC itself is plaintiff or defendant in suits and is the legally contracting party in all its transactions. Stockholders and members own only their stock or membership interests and have no direct ownership rights in the business’s assets.

R ECOGNITION OF LIMITED PARTNERSHIPS AS A LEGAL ENTITY The limited partnership, as a hybrid, is a little of both partnership and corporation. The general partners own the partnership’s property as tenants in partnership operating in the same manner as partners in a general partnership. The limited partners, however, have only their partnership interests and no direct ownership of the partnership’s property. This is logically consistent with their roles as silent investors. If they directly owned partnership property, they would have to be consulted with regard to its use.

CONTINUITY OF LIFE The issue of continuity of life is one which should concern most entrepreneurs, because it can affect their ability to sell the business as a unit when it comes

234 Planning and Forecasting time to cash in on their efforts as founders and promoters. The survival of the business as a whole in the form of a separate entity must be distinguished from the survival of the business’s individual assets and liabilities.

Sole Proprietorships Although a sole proprietorship does not survive the death of its owner, its individual assets and liabilities do. In Phil’s case, for example, to the extent that these assets consist of the computer program, filing cabinets, and the like, they would all be inherited by Phil’s heirs, who could then choose to continue the business or liquidate the assets as they pleased. Should they decide to continue the business, they would then have the same choices of business form which confront any entrepreneur. However, if Phil’s major asset were a government license, qualification as an approved government supplier, or a contract with a software publisher, the ability of the heirs to carry on the business might be entirely dependent upon the assignability of these items. If the publishing contract is not assignable, Phil’s death may terminate the business’s major asset. If the business had operated as a corporation, Phil’s death would likely have been irrelevant (other than to him); the corporation, not Phil, would have been party to the contract.

Partnerships Consistent with the general partnership’s status as a collection of individuals, not an entity separate from its owners, a partnership is deemed dissolved upon the death, incapacity, bankruptcy, resignation, or expulsion of a partner. This is true even if a partner’s resignation violates the express terms of the partnership agreement. Those assets of the partnership that may be assigned devolve to those partners who are entitled to ownership, pursuant to the rules of tenancy in partnership. These rules favor the remaining partners if the former partner has died, become incapacitated or bankrupt, been expelled, or resigned in violation of the partnership agreement. If the ex-partner resigned without violating the underlying agreement, she or he retains ownership rights under tenancy in partnership. Those who thus retain ownership may continue the business as a new partnership, corporation, or LLC with the same or new partners and investors or may liquidate the assets at their discretion. The sole right of any partner who has forfeited direct ownership rights is to be paid a dissolution distribution after the partnership’s liabilities have been paid or provided for.

Corporations Corporations, in contrast, normally enjoy perpetual life. Unless the charter contains a stated dissolution date (extremely rare), and as long as the corporation pays its annual fees to the state, it will go on until and unless it is voted out

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of existence by its stockholders. The death, incapacity, bankruptcy, resignation, or expulsion of any stockholder is entirely irrelevant to the corporation’s existence. Such a stockholder’s stock continues to be held by the stockholder, is inherited by his heirs, or is auctioned by creditors as the circ*mstances demand, with no direct effect on the corporation.

Limited Partnerships As you may have guessed, the hybrid nature of the limited partnership dictates that the death, incapacity, bankruptcy, resignation, or expulsion of a limited partner will have no effect on the existence of the limited partnership. The limited partner’s partnership interest is passed in the same way as that of a stockholder’s. However, the death, incapacity, bankruptcy, resignation, or expulsion of a general partner does automatically dissolve the partnership in the same way as it would in the case of a general partnership. This automatic dissolution can be extremely inconvenient if the limited partnership is conducting a far-f lung enterprise with many limited partners. Thus, in most cases the partners agree in advance in their limited partnership agreement that upon such a dissolution the limited partnership will continue under the management of a substitute general partner chosen by those general partners who remain. In such a case, the entity continues until it is voted out of existence by its partners, in accordance with their agreement, or until the arrival of a termination date specified in its certificate.

Limited Liability Companies The laws of the several states generally impose dissolution on an LLC upon the occurrence of a list of events similar to those which result in the dissolution of a limited partnership. However, these laws usually allow the remaining members to vote to continue the LLC’s existence notwithstanding an event of dissolution. Under such laws, the LLC may effectively have perpetual life in the same manner as corporations.

TRANSFERABILITY OF INTER EST To a large extent, transferability of an owner’s interest in the business is similar to the continuity of life issue.

Sole Proprietorships A sole proprietor has no interest to transfer because he and the business are one and the same, and thus he must be content to transfer each of the assets of the business individually—an administrative nightmare at best and possibly

236 Planning and Forecasting impractical in the case of nonassignable contracts, licenses, and government approvals.

Partnerships To discuss transferability in the context of a general partnership, one must keep in mind the difference between ownership of partnership assets as tenants in partnership and ownership of an individual’s partnership interest. A partner has no right to transfer partnership assets except as may be authorized by vote in accordance with the partnership agreement and in furtherance of the partnership business. However, a partner may transfer her partnership interest, and it may be attached by individual creditors pursuant to a charging order. This transfer does not make the transferee a partner in the business, because partnerships can be created only by agreement of all parties. Rather, it sets up the rather awkward situation in which the original partner remains, but his or her economic interest is, at least temporarily, in the hands of another. In such cases, the Uniform Partnership Act gives the remaining partners the right to dissolve the partnership by expelling the transferor partner.

Corporations No such complications attend the transfer of one’s interest in a corporation. Stockholders simply sell or transfer their shares. Since stockholders (solely as stockholders) have no day-to-day involvement in the operation of the business, the transferee becomes a full-f ledged stockholder upon the transfer. This means that if Bruce, Erika, and Michael decide to operate as a corporation, each risks waking up one day to find that he or she has a new “partner” if one of the three has sold his or her shares. To protect themselves against this eventuality, most closely-held corporations include restrictions on stock transfer in their charter, their bylaws, or in stockholder agreements. These restrictions set forth some variation of a right of first refusal either for the corporation or the other stockholders whenever a transfer is proposed. In addition, corporate stock, as well as most limited partnership interests and LLC membership interests, is a security under the federal and state securities laws, and because the securities of these entities will not initially be registered under any of these laws, their transfer is closely restricted.

Limited Partnerships Just as with general partnerships, the partners of limited partnerships may transfer their partnership interests. The rules regarding the transfer of the interests of the general partners are similar to those governing general partnerships described earlier. Limited partners may usually transfer their interests (subject to securities laws restrictions) without fear of dissolution, but transferees normally do not become substituted limited partners without the consent of the general partners.

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Limited Liability Companies As previously mentioned, although a membership interest in an LLC may be freely transferable under applicable state law, most LLCs require the affirmative vote of at least a majority of the members or managers before a member’s interest may be transferred. Furthermore, membership interests in an LLC will usually qualify as securities under relevant securities laws and will therefore be subject to the restrictions on transfer imposed by such laws.

CONTROL Simply put, control in the context of a business entity means the power to make decisions regarding all aspects of its operations. But the implications of control extend to many levels. These include control of the equity or value of the business, control over distribution of profits, control over day-to-day and long-term policy making, and control over distribution of cash f low. Each of these is different from the others, and control over each can be allocated differently among the owners and other principals of the entity. This can be seen either as complexity or f lexibility, depending upon one’s perspective.

Sole Proprietorships No such debate over allocation exists for the sole proprietorship. In that business form, control over all these factors belongs exclusively to the sole proprietor. Nothing could be simpler or more straightforward.

Partnerships Things are not so simple in the context of general partnerships. It is essential to appreciate the difference between the partners’ relationships with each other (internal relationships) and the partnership’s relations with third parties (external relationships). Internally, the partnership agreement governs the decision-making process and sets forth the agreed division of equity, profits, and cash f lows. Decisions made in the ordinary course of business are normally made by a majority vote of the partners, whereas major decisions, such as changing the character of the partnership’s business, may require a unanimous vote. Some partnerships may weight the voting in proportion to each partner’s partnership interest, while others delegate much of the decision-making power to an executive committee or a managing partner. In the absence of an agreement, the Uniform Partnership Act prescribes a vote of the majority of partners for most issues and unanimity for certain major decisions. External relationships are largely governed by the law of agency; that is, each partner is treated as an agent of the partnership and, derivatively, of the other partners. Any action that a partner appears to have authority to take will

238 Planning and Forecasting be binding upon the partnership and the other partners, regardless of whether such action has been internally authorized (see Exhibit 8.1). Thus, if Jennifer purchases a subscription to the Harvard Business Review for the partnership, and such an action is perceived to be within the ordinary course of the partnership’s business, that obligation can be enforced against the partnership, even if Jean and George had voted against it. Such would not be the case, however, if Jennifer had signed a purchase and sale agreement for an office building in the name of the partnership, because reasonable third parties would be expected to know that such a purchase was not in the ordinary course of business. These rules extend to tort liability, as well. If Jean were wrongfully to induce a potential client to breach its consulting contract with a competitor, the partnership would be liable for interference with contractual relations, even if the other two partners were not aware of Jean’s actions. Such might not be the case, however, if Jean decided to dynamite the competition’s offices, because such an act could be judged to be outside the normal scope of her duties as a partner. These obligations to third parties can even extend past the dissolution of the partnership if an individual partner has not given adequate notice that he or she is no longer associated with the others. Thus, a former partner can be held liable for legal fees incurred by the other former partners, if he has not notified the partnership’s counsel about leaving the firm. It should also be noted that agency law reaches into the internal relationships of partners. The law imposes upon partners the same obligations of fiduciary loyalty, noncompetition, and accountability as it does upon agents with respect to their principals.

Corporations There can be much f lexibility and complexity in the allocation of control in the partnership form, but not nearly so much as in the corporate form. Many


Principal and agent.


Governed by:

Principal Express, Apparent Authority, and Scope of Employment

Agreement and Fiduciary Principles Agent



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aspects of the corporate form have been designed specifically for the purpose of splitting off individual aspects of control and allocating them differently. Stockholders At its simplest, a corporation is controlled by its stockholders. Yet, except in those states which have specific (but rarely used) close corporation statutes governing corporations with very few stakeholders, the decision-making function of stockholders is exercised only derivatively. Under most corporate statutes, a stockholder vote is required only with respect to four basic types of decisions: an amendment to the charter, a sale of the company, a dissolution of the company, and an election of the board of directors. Charter amendments may sound significant, until one remembers what information is normally included in the charter. A name change, a change in purpose (given the broad purpose of clauses now generally employed), and an increase in authorized shares (given the large amounts of stock normally left on the shelf ) are neither frequent nor usually significant decisions. Certainly, a sale of the company is significant, but it normally can occur only after the recommendation of the board and will happen only once, if at all. The same can be said of the decision to dissolve. It is the board of directors that makes all the long-term policy decisions for the corporation. Thus, the right to elect the board is significant but indirectly so. Day-to-day operation of the corporation’s business is accomplished by its officers, who are normally elected by the board, not the stockholders. Even given the relative unimportance of voting power for stockholders, the corporation provides many opportunities to differentiate voting power from other aspects of control and allocate it differently. Assume Bruce and Erika (our hotel developers) were willing to give Michael a larger piece of the equity of their operation to ref lect his contribution of the land but wished to divide their voting rights equally. They could authorize a class of nonvoting common stock and issue, for example, 1,000 shares of voting stock to each of themselves and an additional 1,000 shares of nonvoting stock to Michael. As a result, each would have one-third of the voting control, but Michael would have one-half of the equity interest. Alternatively, Michael could be issued a block of preferred stock representing the value of the land. This would guarantee him a fair return on his investment before any dividends could be declared to the three of them as holders of the common stock. As a holder of preferred stock, Michael would also receive a liquidation preference upon dissolution or sale of the business, in the amount of the value of his investment, but any additional value created by the efforts of the group would be ref lected in the increasing value of the common shares. The previous information illustrates how one can separate and allocate decision-making control differently from that of the equity in the business, as well as from the distribution of profits. Distribution of cash f low can, of

240 Planning and Forecasting course, be accomplished totally separately from the ownership of securities, through salaries based upon the relative efforts of the parties, rent payments for assets leased to the entity by the principals, or interest on loans to the corporation. Stockholders exercise what voting power they have at meetings of the stockholders, held at least annually but more frequently if necessary. Each stockholder of record, on a future date chosen by the party calling the meeting, is given a notice of the meeting containing the date, time, and purpose of the meeting. Such notice must be sent at least 7 to 10 days prior to the date of the meeting depending upon the individual state’s corporate law, although the Securities and Exchange Commission requires 30 days’ notice for publicly traded corporations. No action may be taken at a meeting unless a majority of voting shares is represented (known as a quorum). This results in the aggressive solicitation of proxy votes in most corporations with widespread stock ownership. Unless otherwise provided (as for a sale or dissolution of the company, for which most states require a two-thirds vote of all shares), a resolution is carried by a majority vote of those shares represented at the meeting. The preceding rules require the conclusion that the board of directors will be elected by the holders of a majority of the voting shares. Thus, in the earlier scenario, even though Bruce and Erika may have given Michael onethird of the voting shares of common stock, as long as they continue to vote together, Bruce and Erika will be able to elect the entire board. To prevent this result, prior to investing Michael could insist upon a cumulative voting provision in the charter (under those states’ corporate laws that allow it). Under this system, each share of stock is entitled to a number of votes equal to the number of directors to be elected. By using all their votes to support a single candidate, individuals with a significant minority interest can guarantee themselves representation on the board. More directly (and in states which do not allow cumulative voting), Michael could insist upon two different classes of voting stock, differing only in voting rights. Bruce and Erika would each own 1,000 shares of class A stock and elect two directors. Michael, the sole owner of the 1,000 outstanding shares of class B stock, would elect a third director. Of course, the board also acts by majority, so Bruce and Erika’s directors could dominate board decisions in any case, but at least Michael would have access to the deliberations. In the absence of a meeting, stockholders may vote by unanimous written consent, where each stockholder indicates his approval of a written resolution by signing it. This eliminates the need for a meeting and is very effective in corporations with only a few stockholders (such as our hotel operation). Unlike the rules governing stockholders’ meetings, however, in most states unanimity is required to adopt resolutions by written consent. This apparently ref lects the belief that a minority stockholder is owed an opportunity to sway the majority with his arguments. A few states, notably Delaware, permit written consents of a majority, apparently reacting to the dominance of proxy voting at most meetings of large corporations, where the most eloquent of minority arguments would fall upon deaf ears (and proxy cards).

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Directors At the directors’ level, absent a special provision in the corporation’s charter, all decisions are made by majority vote. Typically, directors concentrate on long-term and significant decisions, leaving day-to-day management to the officers of the corporation. Decisions are made at regularly scheduled directors’ meetings or at a special meeting if there is need to respond to a specific situation. Under most corporate laws, no notice need be given for regular meetings, and only very short notice need be given for special meetings (24 to 48 hours). The notice must be sent to all directors and must contain the date, time, and place of the meeting but, unlike stockholders’ notices, need not contain the purpose of the meeting. It is assumed that directors are much more involved in the business of the corporation and do not need to be warned about possible agenda items or given long notice periods. At the meeting itself, no business can be conducted in the absence of a quorum, which, unless increased by a charter or bylaw provision, is a majority of the directors then in office. Ref lecting recent advances in technology, many corporate statutes allow directors to attend meetings by conference call or teleconference as long as all directors are able to hear and speak to each other at all times during the meeting. Individual telephone calls to each director will not suffice. Unlike stockholders, directors cannot vote by proxy, because each director owes to the corporation his or her individual judgment on items coming before the board. The board of directors can also act by written consent, but, even in Delaware, such consent must be unanimous, in recognition that the board is fundamentally a deliberative body. Boards of directors, especially in publicly held corporations with larger boards, frequently delegate some of their powers to executive committees, or other committees formed for defined purposes. However, most corporate statutes prohibit boards from delegating certain fundamental powers, such as the declaration of dividends, the recommendation of charter amendments, or sale of the company. The executive committee can, however, be a powerful organizational tool to streamline board operations and increase efficiency and responsiveness. Although directors are not agents of the corporation—in that they cannot bind the corporation to contract or tort liability through their individual actions—they are subject to many of the obligations of agents discussed in the context of partnerships, such as fiduciary loyalty. Directors are bound by the so-called corporate opportunity doctrine, which prohibits them from taking personal advantage of any business opportunity that may come their way, if the opportunity would reasonably be expected to interest the corporation. In such an event, the director must disclose the opportunity to the corporation, which normally must consider it and vote not to take advantage before the director may act on her or his own behalf. Unlike stockholders, who under most circ*mstances can vote their shares totally in their own self-interest, directors must use their best business judgment and act in the corporation’s best interest when making decisions for the

242 Planning and Forecasting corporation. At the very least, the director must keep informed regarding the corporation’s operations, although he or she may in most circ*mstances rely on the input of experts hired by the corporation, such as its attorneys and accountants. Thus, when the widow of a corporation’s founder accepted a seat on the board as a symbolic gesture of respect to her late husband, she found herself liable to minority stockholders for the misbehavior of her fellow board members. Nonparticipation in the misdeeds was not enough to exempt her from liability; she had failed to keep herself informed and exercise independent judgment. Directors may also find themselves sued personally by minority stockholders or creditors of the corporation for declaration of dividends or other distributions to stockholders that render the corporation insolvent or for other decisions of the board that have injured the corporation. Notwithstanding such lawsuits, however, directors are not guarantors of the success of the corporation’s endeavors; they are required only to have used their best independent “business judgment” in making their decisions. When individual directors cannot be totally disinterested (such as the corporate opportunity issue or when the corporation is being asked to contract with a director or an entity in which a director has an interest), the interested director is required to disclose her or his interest and is disqualified from voting. In many states, the director ’s presence will not even count for the maintenance of a quorum. Apart from the question of the interested director, much of the modern debate on the role of the corporate director has focused around which constituencies a director may take into account when exercising his or her best business judgment. The traditional view has been that the director’s only concern is to maximize return on the investment of the stockholders. More recently, especially in the context of hostile takeovers, directors have been allowed to take into account the effect of their decisions on other constituencies, such as suppliers, neighboring communities, customers, and employees. In an early case on this subject, the board of directors of the corporation which owned Wrigley Field and the Chicago Cubs baseball team was judged to have appropriately considered the effect on its neighbors and on the game of baseball in voting to forgo the extra revenue that it would probably have earned if it had installed lights for night games. When the stockholders believe the directors have not been exercising their best independent business judgment in a particular instance, the normal procedure is to make a demand on the directors to correct the decision either by reversing it or by reimbursing the corporation from their personal funds. Should the board refuse (as it most likely will), the stockholders then bring a derivative suit against the board on behalf of the corporation. They are, in effect, taking over the board’s authority to decide whether such a suit should be brought in the corporation’s name. The board’s vote not to institute the suit is not likely to be upheld on the basis of the business judgment rule, since the board members are clearly interested in the outcome of the vote. As a result, the well-informed board will delegate the power to make such a decision to an independent litigation committee, usually composed of directors who were not

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involved in the original decision. The decision of such a committee is much more likely to be upheld in a court of law, although the decision is not immune from judicial review. A more detailed discussion on the board of directors is contained in Chapter 15, “The Board of Directors.” Off icers The third level of decision making in the normal corporation is that of the officers, who take on the day-to-day operational responsibilities. Officers are elected by the board and consist, at a minimum, of a president, a treasurer, and a secretary or clerk (keeper of the corporate records). Many corporations elect additional officers such as vice presidents, assistant treasurers, CEOs, and the like. Thus, the decision-making control of the corporation is exercised on three very different levels. Where each decision properly belongs may not be entirely obvious in every situation. The decision to go into a new line of business would normally be considered a board decision. Yet if by some chance the decision requires an amendment of the corporate charter, a vote of stockholders may be necessary. On the contrary, if the decision is merely to add a twelfth variety of relish to the corporation’s already varied line of condiments, the decision may be properly left to a vice president of marketing. Often persons who have been exposed to the preceding analysis of the corporate-control function conclude that the corporate form is too complex for any but the largest and most complicated publicly held companies. This is a gross overreaction. For example, if Phil, our software entrepreneur, should decide that the corporate form is appropriate for his business, it is very likely that he will be the corporation’s 100% stockholder. As such, he will elect himself the sole director and his board will then elect him as the president, treasurer, and secretary of the corporation. Joint meetings of the stockholders and directors of the corporation may be held in the shower adjacent to Phil’s bathroom on alternate Monday mornings.

Limited Partnerships As you might expect, the allocation of control in a limited partnership ref lects its origin as a hybrid of the general partnership and the corporation. Simply put, virtually all management authority is vested in the general partners. Like outside stockholders in a corporation, the limited partners normally have little or no authority. Third parties cannot rely on any apparent authority of a limited partner because that partner’s name will not appear, as a general partner’s name may, on the limited partnership’s certificate on the public record. General partners exercise their authority in the same way as they do in a general partnership. Voting control is allocated internally as set forth in the partnership agreement, but each general partner has the apparent authority to

244 Planning and Forecasting bind the partnership to unauthorized contracts and torts to the same extent as the partners in a general partnership. Limited partners will normally have voting power over a very small list of fundamental business events, such as amending the partnership agreement and certificate, admitting new general partners, changing the basic business purposes of the partnership, or dissolving the partnership. These are similar to the decisions that must be put to a stockholders’ vote in a corporation. The Revised Uniform Limited Partnership Act, now accepted by most states, has widened the range of decisions in which a limited partner may participate without losing his or her status as a limited partner. However, this range is still determined by the language of the agreement and certificate for each individual partnership.

Limited Liability Companies An LLC which chooses not to appoint managers is operated much like a general partnership. The operating agreement sets forth the percentages of membership interests required to authorize various types of actions on the LLC’s behalf, with the percentage normally varying according to the importance of the act. Although the LLC is a relatively new phenomenon, courts can be expected to deem members (in the absence of managers) to have apparent authority to bind the entity to contracts (regardless of whether they have been approved internally) and to expose the entity to tort liability for acts occurring within the scope of the entity’s business. An LLC that appoints managers is operated much like a limited partnership. The managers make most of the decisions on behalf of the entity, as do the general partners of a limited partnership. The members are treated much like limited partners and have voting rights only in rare circ*mstances involving very significant events. It can be expected that apparent authority to act for the entity will be reserved by the courts to the managers, as only their names will appear on the Certificate of Organization.

LIABILITY Possibly the factor that most concerns the entrepreneur is personal liability. If the company encounters catastrophic tort liability, finds itself in breach of a significant contract, or just plain can’t pay its bills, must the owner reach into her or his own personal assets to pay the remaining liability after the company’s assets have been exhausted? If so, potential entrepreneurs may well believe that the risk of losing everything is not worth the possibility of success, and their innovative potential will be diminished or lost to society. Most entrepreneurs are willing to take significant risk, however, if the amount of that risk can be limited to the amount they have chosen to invest in the venture.

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Sole Proprietorships With the sole proprietorship, the owner has essentially traded off limitation of risk in favor of simplicity of operation. Since there is no difference between the entity and its owner, all the liabilities and obligations of the business are also liabilities and obligations of its owner. Thus, all the owner’s personal assets are at risk. Failure of the business may well mean personal bankruptcy for the owner.

Partnerships The result may be even worse within a general partnership. There, each owner is liable not only for personal mistakes but also for those of his or her partners. Each partner is jointly and severally liable for the debts of the partnership remaining after its assets have been exhausted. This means that a creditor may choose to sue any individual partner for 100% of any liability. The partner may have a right to sue the other partners for their share of the debt, as set forth in the partnership agreement, but that is of no concern to a third party. If the other partners are bankrupt or have f led the jurisdiction, the targeted partner may end up holding the entire bag. If our three consultants operate as a partnership, Jennifer is 100% personally liable not only for any contracts she may enter into but also for any contracts entered into by either Jean or George. What’s more, she is liable for those contracts, even if they were entered into in violation of the partnership agreement, because, as was demonstrated earlier, each partner has the apparent authority to bind the partnership to contracts in the ordinary course of the partnership’s business, regardless of the partners’ internal agreement. Worse, Jennifer is also 100% individually liable for any torts committed by either of her partners as long as they were committed within the scope of the partnership’s business. The only good news in all this is that neither the partnership nor Jennifer is liable for any debts or obligations of Jean or George incurred in their personal affairs. If George has incurred heavy gambling debts in Las Vegas, his creditors can affect the partnership only by obtaining a charging order against George’s partnership interest.

Corporations Thus, we have the historical reason for the invention of the corporation. Unlike the sole proprietorship and partnership, the corporation is recognized as a legal entity separate from its owners. Its owners are thus not personally liable for its debts; they are granted limited liability. If the corporation’s debts exhaust its assets, the stockholders have lost their investment, but they are not responsible for any further amounts. In practice, this may not be as attractive as it sounds, because sophisticated creditors, such as the corporation’s bank, will likely demand personal guarantees from major stockholders.

246 Planning and Forecasting But the stockholders will normally escape personal liability for trade debt and, most important, for torts. This major benefit of incorporation does not come without some cost. Creditors may, on occasion, be able to “pierce the corporate veil” and assert personal liability against stockholders, using any one of three major arguments. First, to claim limited liability behind the corporate shield, stockholders must have adequately capitalized the corporation at or near its inception. There is no magic formula with which to calculate the amount necessary to achieve adequate capitalization, but the stockholders normally will be expected to invest enough money or property and obtain enough liability insurance to offset the kinds and amounts of liabilities normally encountered by a business in their industry. Thus, the owner of a f leet of taxicabs did not escape liability by canceling his liability insurance and forming a separate corporation for each cab. The court deemed each such corporation inadequately capitalized and, in a novel decision, pierced the corporate veil laterally by combining all the corporations into one for purposes of liability. It is necessary to capitalize only for those liabilities normally encountered by corporations in the industry. The word normally is key because the corporation obviously need not have resources adequate to handle any circ*mstance no matter how unforeseeable. Also, adequate capitalization is necessary only at the outset. A corporation does not expose its stockholders to personal liability by incurring substantial losses and ultimately dissipating its initial capitalization. A second argument used by creditors to reach stockholders for personal liability is failure to respect the corporate form. This may occur in many ways. The stockholders may fail to indicate that they are doing business in the corporate form by leaving the words “Inc.” or “Corp.” off their business cards and stationery, thus giving the impression that they are operating as a partnership. They may mingle the corporate assets in personal bank accounts or routinely use corporate assets for personal business. They may fail to respect corporate niceties such as holding annual meetings and filing the annual reports required by the state. After all, if the stockholders don’t take the corporate form seriously, why should their creditors? Creditors are entitled to adequate notice that they may not rely on the personal assets of the stockholders. Even Phil, the software entrepreneur imagined earlier holding stockholder’s and director’s meetings in his shower, would be well advised to record the minutes in a corporate record book. A third argument arises from a common mistake made by entrepreneurs. Fearful of the expense involved in forming a corporation, they wait until they are sure that the business will get off the ground before they spring for the attorneys’ and filing fees. In the meantime, they may enter into contracts on behalf of the corporation and perhaps even commit a tort or two. Once the corporation is formed, they may even remember to have it expressly accept all liabilities incurred by the promoters on its behalf. Under simple agency law, however, one cannot act as an agent of a nonexistent principal. And a later

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assignment of one’s liabilities to a newly formed corporation does not act to release the original obligor without the consent of the obligee. The best advice here is to form the corporation before incurring any liability on its behalf. Most entrepreneurs are surprised at how little it actually costs to get started.

Limited Partnerships In keeping with its hybrid nature, a limited partnership borrows some of its aspects from the corporation and some from the general partnership. In summary, each general partner has unlimited joint and several liability for the debts and obligations of the limited partnership after exhaustion of the partnership’s assets. In this respect, the rules are identical to those governing the partners in a general partnership. Limited partners are treated as stockholders in a corporation. They have risked their investment, but their personal assets are exempt from the creditors of the partnership. As you might expect, however, things aren’t quite as simple as they may initially appear. In limited partnerships, it is rather common for limited partners to make their investments in the form of a cash down payment and a promissory note for the rest, partly for reasons of cash f low and partly for purposes of tax planning. This arrangement is much less common in corporations because many corporate statutes do not permit it and because the tax advantages associated with this arrangement are generally not available in the corporate form. Should the limited partnership’s business fail, limited partners will be expected, despite limited liability, to honor their commitments to make future contributions to capital. In addition, it is fundamental to the status of limited partners that they have acquired limited liability in exchange for foregoing virtually all management authority over the business. The corollary to that rule is that a limited partner who excessively involves her- or himself in management may forfeit limited liability and be treated, for the purposes of creditors, as a general partner, with unlimited personal liability. Mitigating this somewhat harsh rule, the Revised Uniform Limited Partnership Act increased the categories of activities in which a limited partner may participate without crossing the line. Furthermore, and perhaps more fundamentally, in states that have adopted the Revised Act, the transgressing limited partner is now only personally liable to those creditors who were aware of the limited partner’s activities and detrimentally relied upon his or her apparent status as a general partner.

Limited Liability Companies One of the major benefits of employing the LLC form is that it shields all members and managers from personal liability for the debts of the business. However, even though the LLC is relatively new on the legal scene, courts can be expected to apply most of the same doctrines they use in piercing the corporate veil to pierce the veil of the LLC as well. Furthermore, it can be

248 Planning and Forecasting expected that the managers of an LLC will be held to the same fiduciary standards as corporate directors and general partners of limited partnerships, resulting in their potential personal liability to the members.

TAXATION Entrepreneurs make a remarkable number of significant business decisions without first taking into account the tax consequences. Tax consequences should almost never be allowed to force an entrepreneur to take actions he or she otherwise would not have considered. But often tax considerations lead one to do what one wants in a different manner and to reap substantial savings as a consequence. Such is often the case in the organization of a business. The following discussion will be confined to the federal income tax, the tax with the largest and most direct effect upon organizational issues. Each entrepreneur would be well advised to consult a tax adviser regarding this tax as well as state income, estate, payroll, and other taxes to find out how they might impact a specific business.

Sole Proprietorships Not surprisingly given the factors already discussed, a sole proprietorship is not a separate taxable entity for federal income tax purposes. The taxable income and deductible expenses of the business are set forth on Schedule C of the entrepreneur’s Form 1040 and the net profit (loss) is carried back to page 1, where it is added to (or subtracted from) all the taxpayer’s other income. The net effect of this is that the sole proprietor will pay tax on the income from this business at his highest marginal rate, possibly as high as 39.1% (in 2001), depending upon the amount of income received from this and other sources (see Exhibit 8.2). In Phil’s case, for example, if his software business netted $100,000 in 2001, that amount would be added to the substantial interest and dividend income from his other investments, so that he would likely owe the IRS $39,100 on this income. If Phil’s business were run as a separate taxable corporation, the income generated from it would be taxed at the lowest levels of the tax-rate structure, because this corporate income would not be added to any other income. The first $50,000 of income would be taxed at only 15% and the next $25,000 at only 25% (see Exhibit 8.3). This argument is turned on its head, however, if a business anticipates losses in the short term. Using Phil again as an example, if his business operated at a $100,000 loss and as a separate taxable entity, the business would pay no tax in its first year and would be able to net its early losses only against profits in future years and only if it ever realized such profits. At best, the value of this tax benefit is reduced by the time value of money: At worst, the loss may never yield a tax benefit if the business never does more than break

Choosing a Business Form EXHIBIT 8.2


Individual federal income tax rates.

Marginal tax rate (percent)

50 40 30 20 10 0

Under $6,000

Over $6,000

Over Over $27,050 $65,550 Individual income 2001

Over $136,750

Over $297,350

even. If Phil operated the business as a sole proprietorship, by contrast, the loss calculated on his Schedule C would be netted against the dividend and interest income generated by his investments, thus effectively rendering $100,000 of that income tax free. One can strongly argue, therefore, that the form in which one should operate one’s business is dictated in part by the likelihood of its short-term success and the presence or absence of other income f lowing to its owner.


Corporate federal income tax rates.

Marginal tax rate (percent)






0 Below $50



>$100 >$335 >$10,000 Corporate income (thousands)



250 Planning and Forecasting Partnerships Partnerships are also not separate taxable entities for the purposes of the federal income tax, although, in most cases, they are required to file informational tax returns with the IRS. Any profits generated by a partnership appear on the federal income tax returns of the partners, generally in proportions indicated by the underlying partnership agreement. Thus, as with sole proprietorships, this profit is taxed at the individual partner’s highest marginal tax rate, and the lower rates for the initial income of a separate taxable entity are forgone. In addition, each partner is taxed upon his or her proportion of the income of the partnership regardless of whether that income was actually distributed. As an example, if Bruce and Erika, our hotel magnates, were to take $50,000 of a year’s profits to add a deck to one of their properties, this expenditure would not lower the business’s profits by that amount. As a capital expense it may be deducted over time only in the form of depreciation. Thus, assuming they were equal partners, even if Michael had objected to this expenditure, each of the three, including Michael, would be forced to pay a tax on $16,667 (minus that year’s depreciation) despite having received no funds with which to make such a payment. The result would be the same in a sole proprietorship, but this obligation is considered less of a problem since it can be expected that the owner would manage cash f low in a way which would minimize this negative effect upon her- or himself. As with a sole proprietorship, this negative result becomes a positive one if the partnership is losing money. The losses appear on the partners’ individual tax returns in the proportions set forth in the partnership agreement and render an equal amount of otherwise taxable income tax free. In addition, not all losses suffered by businesses result from the dreaded negative cash f low. As illustrated earlier in the case of the deck, the next year the hotel business might well break even or show a small profit on a cash-f low basis, but the depreciation generated by the earlier addition of the deck might well result in a loss for tax purposes. Thus, with enough depreciation a partner might have the double benefit of a tax sheltering loss on his tax return and ownership of a growing, profitable business. This is especially true regarding real estate, such as the hotel itself. While generating a substantial depreciation loss each year, the value of the building may well be increasing, yielding the partners a current tax-sheltering loss while generating a long-term capital gain for a few years hence.

Corporations Corporations are treated as separate entities for federal income tax purposes, consistent with their treatment for most other purposes. They have their own set of progressive tax rates, moving from 15% for the first $50,000 of income, through 25% for the next $25,000, to 34% and 35% for amounts above that. There are also 5% and 3% additional taxes at higher levels of income to

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compensate for the lower rates in the lower brackets. Certain “professional service corporations” have only a f lat 35% rate at all levels of income. Also, losses currently generated by a corporation may be carried back as many as 2 years to generate a tax refund or carried forward as many as 20 years to shelter future income. Although corporate rates may be attractive at lower levels of income, the common fear of using the corporate form is the potential for double taxation. Simply put, the corporation pays tax upon its profits and then distributes the remaining profit to its stockholders as nondeductible dividends. The stockholders then pay tax on the receipt of the dividends, thus amounting to two taxes on the same money. In 2001, for a corporation in the 34% bracket with stockholders in the 27.5% bracket, the net effect is a combined tax rate of 52.15%. Yet double taxation is rarely a concern for the small business. Such businesses generally manage compensation to their employees, who are usually their shareholders, in such a way that there is rarely much, if any, corporate profit remaining at the end of the year. Since compensation (as opposed to dividends) is deductible, the only level of taxation incurred by such businesses is at the stockholder level. Other opportunities for legitimate deductible payments to stockholders that have the effect of eliminating corporate profit include rental payments on assets leased by a stockholder to the corporation and interest on that portion of a stockholder’s investment made in the form of debt. Thus, the existence of the separate corporate entity with its own set of tax rates presents more of an opportunity for tax planning than a threat of double taxation. If the corporation intends to distribute all of its excess cash to its owners, it should manage compensation and other payments so as to show little profit and incur taxation only on the stockholder level. If the corporation intends to retain some of its earnings in the form of capital acquisitions (thus resulting in an unavoidable profit for tax purposes), it can take advantage of the lower corporate rates without subjecting its stockholders to taxation at their level. Contrast this to a partnership where the partners would be required to pay tax at their highest marginal rates on profits that they never received. There are limits to the usefulness of these strategies. To begin with, one cannot pay salaries and bonuses to nonemployee stockholders who are not performing services for the corporation. Dividends may be the only way to give such shareholders a return on their investment. In addition, the Internal Revenue Service will not allow deductions for what it considers to be unreasonable compensation (as measured by compensation paid to comparable employees in the same industry). Thus, a highly profitable corporation might find some of its excessive salaries to employee-stockholders recharacterized as nondeductible dividends. Lastly, even profits retained at the corporate level will eventually be indirectly taxed at the stockholder level as increased capital gain when the stockholders sell their shares. For most startup businesses, however, this corporate tax planning strategy will be useful, at least in the short term. In addition, entrepreneurs will find certain employee benefits are better offered in the corporate form because

252 Planning and Forecasting they are deductible to employers but excluded from income only for employees. Since a sole proprietor or partner is not considered an employee, the value of benefits such as group medical insurance, group life insurance, and disability insurance policies would be taxable income to them but tax free to the officers of a corporation.

Professional Corporations There are two common variations of the corporate form. The first of these is the professional corporation. Taxation played a major part in its invention. Originally, limitations on the amounts of money that could be deducted as a contribution to a qualified retirement plan varied greatly depending upon whether the business maintaining the plan was a corporation, a partnership, or a sole proprietorship. The rules greatly favored the corporation. Partnerships and sole proprietorships were required to adopt Keogh plans with their substantially lower limits on deductibility. However, doctors, lawyers, architects, and other professionals, who often could afford large contributions to retirement plans, were not allowed to incorporate under applicable state laws. The states were offended by the notion that such professionals could be granted limited liability for the harms caused by their businesses. Eventually, a compromise was struck and the “professional corporation” was formed. Using that form, professionals could incorporate their businesses, thus qualifying for the higher retirement plan deductions but giving up any claim to limited liability. As time went by, however, the Internal Revenue Code was amended to eliminate most of the differences between the deductions available to Keogh plans and those available to corporate pension and profit-sharing plans. Today, professional corporations are subject to virtually all the same rules as other corporations, with the exception that most are classified as professional service corporations and therefore taxed at a f lat 35% rate on undistributed profit. As the tax incentive for forming professional corporations has decreased, many states, perhaps with an eye toward maintaining the f low of fees from these corporations, have greatly liberalized the availability of limited liability for these corporations. Today in many states professional corporations now afford their stockholders protection from normal trade credit as well as tort liability arising from the actions of their employees or other stockholders. Of course, even under the normal business corporation form, a stockholder is personally liable for torts arising from his or her own actions.

Subchapter S Corporations The second common variation is the subchapter S corporation, named for the sections of the Internal Revenue Code that govern it. Although indistinguishable from the normal (or subchapter C) corporation in all other ways, including limited liability for its stockholders, the subchapter S corporation has affirmatively

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elected to be taxed similarly to a partnership. Thus, like the partnership, it is not a separate taxable entity and files only an informational return. Profits appear on the tax returns of its stockholders in proportion to shares of stock owned, regardless of whether those profits were distributed to the stockholders or retained for operations. Losses appear on the returns of the stockholders and may potentially be used to shelter other income. Although the subchapter S corporation is often referred to as a small business corporation, the size of the business has no bearing on whether this election is available. Any corporation that meets the following tests may, but need not, elect to be taxed as a subchapter S corporation: 1. It must have 75 or fewer stockholders. 2. It may have only one class of stock (although variations in voting rights are acceptable). 3. All stockholders must be individuals (or certain kinds of trusts). 4. No stockholder may be a nonresident alien. 5. With certain exceptions, it may not own or be owned by another corporation. The subchapter S corporation is particularly suited to resolving problems presented by certain discrete situations. For example, if a corporation is concerned that its profits are likely to be too high to eliminate double taxation through compensation to its stockholders, the subchapter S election eliminates the worry over unreasonable compensation. Since there is no tax at the corporate level, it is not necessary to establish the right to a compensation deduction. Similarly, if a corporation has nonemployee stockholders who insist upon current distributions of profit, the subchapter S election would allow declaration of dividends without the worry of double taxation. This would undoubtedly be attractive to most publicly traded corporations were it not for the 75-stockholder limitation. Many entrepreneurs have turned to the subchapter S election to eliminate the two layers of tax otherwise payable upon sale or dissolution of a corporation. The corporate tax otherwise payable upon the gain realized on the sale of corporate assets is eliminated by the use of the subchapter S election as long as the election has been in effect for 10 years or, if less, since the corporation’s inception. Finally, many entrepreneurs elect subchapter S status for their corporations if they expect to show losses in the short term. These losses can then be passed through to their individual tax returns to act as a shelter for other income. When the corporation begins to show a profit, the election can be reversed.

Limited Partnerships The tax treatment of limited partnerships is much the same as general partnerships. The profits and losses of the business are passed through to the partners in the proportions set forth in the partnership agreement. It must be emphasized

254 Planning and Forecasting that these profits and losses are passed through to all partners, including limited partners, even though one could argue that those profits and losses are derived entirely from the efforts of the general partners. It is this aspect of the limited partnership which made it the form of choice for tax-sheltered investments. The loss incurred by the business (much of which was created on paper through depreciation and the like) could be passed through to the limited partners, who typically had a considerable amount of other investment and compensation income to be sheltered. Although the tax treatments of limited partnerships and subchapter S corporations are similar, there are some differences that drove the operators of tax shelters to use partnerships over the corporate form even at the risk of some unlimited liability. For one, although profits and losses must be allocated according to stock ownership in the subchapter S corporation, they are allocated by agreement in the limited partnership. Thus, in order to give the investors the high proportion of losses they demand, promoters did not necessarily have to give them an identically high proportion of the equity. The IRS will attack economically unrealistic allocations, but reasonable allocations will be respected. In addition, whereas the amount of loss the investor can use to shelter other income is limited to the tax basis in both types of entities, the tax basis in subchapter S stock is essentially limited to direct investment in the corporation, while in a limited partnership it is augmented by certain types of debt incurred by the entity itself. Both types of entities are aff licted by the operation of the passive loss rules, added by the Tax Reform Act of 1986 in an attempt to eliminate the tax shelter. Thus, unless one materially participates in the operations of the entity (virtually impossible, by definition, for a limited partner), losses generated by those operations can normally be applied only against so-called passive income and not against active (salaries and bonuses) or portfolio (interest and dividend) income. Furthermore, owners of most tax pass-through real estate ventures are treated as subject to the passive loss rules, regardless of material participation.

Limited Liability Companies LLCs are taxed in a manner substantially identical to limited partnerships. This combination of limited liability for all members (without the need to construct the unwieldy, double-entity, limited partnership with a corporate general partner) and a pass-through of all tax effects to the members’ personal returns, makes the LLC the ideal vehicle for whatever tax shelter activity remains after the imposition of the passive-activity rules. Technically, under recently adopted “check the box” regulations, LLCs, limited partnerships, and all other unincorporated business entities may choose to be taxed either as partnerships or as taxable corporations. Recognizing that the vast majority of these entities are formed to take advantage of the opportunity to have taxable income or loss pass through to the owners, these

Choosing a Business Form


regulations provide that these entities will be taxed as partnerships unless the entity affirmatively chooses to be taxed as a corporation. Most corporations have already achieved that level of comfort through the availability of the subchapter S election. Although the LLC would seem to have the advantage of affording tax pass-through treatment without the limitations of the subchapter S corporation rules, there are some disadvantages as well. Since the nonelecting LLC is not a corporation, it is not eligible for certain provisions the Internal Revenue Code grants only to the corporate entity. Among these privileges are the right to grant incentive stock options (ISOs) to employees and the right to take advantage of tax-free reorganizations when selling the company. LLCs must be converted to taxable entities well before relying on these provisions.

CHOICE OF ENTITY The sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation (including the professional corporation and subchapter S corporation), the limited partnership, and the LLC are the most commonly used business forms. Other forms exist, such as the so-called Massachusetts business trust, in which the business is operated by trustees for the benefit of beneficiaries who hold transferable shares. But these are generally used for limited, specialized purposes. Armed with this knowledge and the comparative factors discussed previously, how should our budding entrepreneurs operate their businesses?

Consulting Firm It will be obvious to Jennifer, Jean, and George that they can immediately eliminate the sole proprietorship and limited partnership as choices for their consulting business. The sole proprietorship, by definition, allows for only one owner, and there does not seem to be any need for the passive silent investors who would serve as limited partners. Certainly, none of the three would be willing to sacrifice the control and participation necessary to achieve limited partnership status. The corporation gives the consultants the benefit of limited liability, not for their own mistakes but for the mistakes of each other and their employees. It also protects them from personal liability for trade debt. This protection, however, comes at the cost of additional complexity and expense, such as additional tax returns, annual reports to the state, and annual fees. Ease of transferability and enhanced continuity do not appear to be deciding factors, because a small consulting firm is often intensely personal and not likely to be transferable apart from its principals. Also, fear of double taxation does not appear to be a legitimate concern, since it is likely that the stockholders will be able to distribute any corporate profit to themselves in the form of compensation. In fact, to the extent that they may need to make some capital

256 Planning and Forecasting expenditures for word-processing equipment and office furniture, the corporate form would afford them access to the lower corporate tax brackets for small amounts of income (unless they were characterized as a personal service corporation). Furthermore, if the consultants earn enough money to purchase various employee benefits, such as group medical insurance and group life and disability, they will qualify as employees of the corporation and can exclude the value of such benefits from their taxable income, while the corporation deducts these amounts. These positive aspects of choosing the corporate form argue strongly against making the subchapter S election. That election would eliminate the benefit of the low-end corporate tax bracket and put our consultants in the position of paying individual income tax on the capital purchases made. The election would also eliminate the opportunity to exclude the value of employee benefits from their personal income tax. The same problems argue against the choice of an LLC for this business. The other possibility would be the general partnership. In essence, by choosing the partnership the consultants would be trading away limited liability for less complexity. The partnership would not be a separate taxable entity and would not be required to file annual reports and pay annual fees. From a tax point of view, the partnership presents the same disadvantages as the subchapter S corporation and LLC. In summary, it appears that our consultants will be choosing between the subchapter C corporation and the partnership. The corporation adds complexity but grants limited liability. And it certainly is not necessary for a business to be large in order to be incorporated. One might question, however, how much liability exposure a consulting firm is likely to face. In addition, although the corporation affords them the tax benefits associated with employee benefits and capital expenditures, it is not likely that our consultants will be able to afford much in the way of employee benefits and capital expenditures in the short term. Further, these consultants will not likely have personal incomes placing them in tax brackets considerably higher than the corporation’s. A strong case can be made for either the C corporation or the partnership in this situation. One can always incorporate the partnership in the future if the business grows to the point that some of the tax benefits become important. It may also be interesting to speculate on the choice that would be made if our three consultants were lawyers or doctors. Then the choice would be between the partnership and the professional corporation. The comparisons would be the same except that, as a personal service corporation, the professional corporation does not have the benefit of the low-end corporate tax brackets.

Sof tware Entrepreneur Phil can easily eliminate the partnership and the limited partnership. Phil is clearly the sole owner of his enterprise and will not brook any other controlling persons. In addition, his plan to finance the enterprise with earnings from his

Choosing a Business Form


last business eliminates the need for limited partner investors. Almost as easily, Phil can eliminate the sole proprietorship since it would seem highly undesirable to assume personal liability for whatever damage may be done by a product manufactured and distributed to thousands of potential plaintiffs. The corporation, therefore, appears to be Phil’s obvious choice. It gives the benefit of limited liability, as well as the transferability and continuity essential to a business that seems likely to be an acquisition candidate in the future. Again, the lack of size is not a factor in this choice. Phil will likely act as sole director, president, treasurer, and secretary. There remains, however, the choice between subchapters C and S. As may well be obvious by now, Phil’s corporation fits the most common profile of the subchapter S candidate. For the first year or more, the corporation will suffer serious losses as Phil pays programmers and marketers to develop and presell his product. Subchapter S allows Phil to show these losses on his personal tax return, where they will shelter his considerable investment income. The passive loss limitations will not affect Phil’s use of these losses, since he is clearly a material participant in his venture. Phil could achieve much the same results by choosing an LLC, rather than a subchapter S corporation. Unfortunately, however, many states require that an LLC have two or more members, making Phil’s business ineligible. In states which allow single-member LLCs, there would be little to recommend one choice over the other. Phil might feel more comfortable with an S corporation, however, if he fears that suppliers, customers, and potential employees might be put off by the relative novelty of the LLC. This might especially be true if he has any plans to eventually go public, as the LLC has not gained wide acceptance in the public markets. An S corporation can then usually revoke its S election without undue negative tax effect. Beginning as an S corporation would also eliminate the need to reincorporate as a corporation prior to selling the business in a potentially tax-free transaction.

Hotel Venture The hotel venture contemplated by Bruce, Erika, and Michael presents the opportunity for some creative planning. One problem they may encounter in making their decision is the inherent conf lict presented by Michael’s insistence upon recognition and reasonable return for his contribution of the land. Also, Bruce and Erika fear being unduly diluted by Michael’s share, in the face of their more than equal contribution to the ongoing work. One might break this logjam by looking to one of the ways of separating cash f low from equity. Michael need not contribute the real estate to the business entity at all. Instead, the business could lease the land from Michael on a long-term (99-year) basis. This would give Michael his return in the form of rent without distorting the equity split among the three entrepreneurs. From a tax point of view, this plan also changes a nondepreciable asset (land) into deductible rent payments for the business. As their next move, the three may

258 Planning and Forecasting decide to form an entity to construct and own the hotel building, separate from the entity that manages the ongoing hotel business. This plan would convert a rather confusing real estate/operating venture into a pure real estate investment opportunity for potential investors. The real estate entity would receive enough revenue from the management entity to cover its cash f low and would generate tax losses through depreciation, interest, and real estate taxes. These short-term losses would eventually yield long-term capital gains when the hotel is sold, so this entity would attract investors looking for short-term losses and long-term capital appreciation. For the short-term losses to be attractive, however, they must be usable by the investors on their personal returns and not trapped at the business entity level. All these factors point inevitably to the use of either the limited partnership, LLC, or subchapter S corporation for the hotel building entity. All three entities allow the tax losses to pass through to the owners for use on their personal returns. Among these three choices, the limited partnership and LLC allow more f lexibility in allocating losses to the investors, and away from Bruce, Erika, and Michael (who most likely do not need them), and they provide higher limits on the amounts of losses each investor may use. In past years, our entrepreneurs would thus face the unenviable choice between losing the tax advantages of the limited partnership to preserve the limited liability offered by the subchapter S corporation or preserving the tax advantages (and the ability to attract investors) by either accepting personal liability as general partners or attempting to adequately capitalize a corporate general partner. This choice is no longer necessary with the advent of the LLC, which solves the problem by offering the tax advantages of the limited partnership and the liability protection of the subchapter S corporation. However, the passive loss limitations will still impact upon the usefulness of the losses for the members who do not have significant passive income, making this project (as is the case with most real estate investments in today’s climate) more difficult to sell. This leaves the entity which will operate the hotel business itself. The presence of our three principals immediately eliminates the sole proprietorship as a possibility. Because all the investment capital has already been raised for the real estate entity, there does not seem to be a need for further investors, thus eliminating the limited partnership as a possibility. The partnership seems inapplicable, since it is unlikely that any of the principals would wish to expose himself or herself to unlimited liability in such a consumer-oriented business. Thus, the corporation and LLC with their limited liability, continuity, and transferability, seem to be the obvious choices for this potentially growing and successful business. As with Phil, it becomes necessary to decide whether to make the subchapter S election or choose an LLC to achieve tax passthrough. This decision will be made on the basis of the parties’ projections. Are there likely to be serious losses in the short-term, which might be usable on their personal tax returns? Will there be a need for significant capital expenditures, thus indicating a need for the low-end corporate tax rates? Will the

Choosing a Business Form


company offer a variety of employee benefits, which our principals would wish to exclude from their taxable income? Is the company likely to generate more profit than can be distributed in the form of “reasonable” compensation, thus calling for the elimination of the corporate-level tax. If these factors seem to favor a tax pass-through entity, the principals will likely analyze the choice between subchapter S and LLC in a manner similar to Phil. In addition, they may find the LLC’s lack of eligibility rules attractive in the short run should they ever consider the possibility of corporate or foreign investors, or creative divisions of equity.

CONCLUSION These and the many other factors described in this chapter deserve careful consideration by the thousands of entrepreneurs forming businesses every month. After the basic decision to start a new business itself, the choice of the appropriate form for the business may well be the most significant decision facing the entrepreneur in the short run.

FOR FURTHER R EADING Bischoff, William, Choosing the Right Business Entity (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1997). Burstiner, Irving, The Small Business Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Running Your Own Business (New Jersey: Fireside, 1997). Diamond, Michael R., How to Incorporate (New York: John Wiley, 1996). Pressment, Stanley, Choice of Business Entity Answer Book (Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen, 1998). Shenkman, Martin M., Starting a Limited Liability Company (New York: John Wiley, 1996).

INTER NET LINKS /choice_of_entity.htm /book/su_structures/articles/01.html /formation.html

Entrepreneurs’ Help Page Findlaw Small Business Center Lexspace-Business Entity Formation


THE BUSINESS PLAN Andrew Zacharakis

The sole purpose of a business plan is to explore and answer questions—critical questions starting with whether the business idea is a viable opportunity. During the dot-com boom of the late 1990’s, many entrepreneurs and venture capitalists questioned the importance of the business plan. Typical of this hyperstartup phase are stories like James Walker. He generated financing on a 10-day-old company based on “a bunch of bullet points on a piece of paper.” He added, “It has to happen quick” in the hypercompetitive wirelessInternet-technology world. “There’s a revolution every year and a half now,” Mr. Walker said.1 Media stories abounded of the whiz kid college dropout who received venture capital, zoomed to IPO (initial public offering), and cashed out a multimillionaire in 18 months or less. The mythology of the dot-com entrepreneur was that he didn’t have a business plan, only a couple of PowerPoint slides. That was all it took to identify the opportunity, secure venture backing, and go public. Why spend the 200 hours or so that a solid business plan often takes? The NASDAQ crash of March 2000 and the subsequent death of many dot-com high f lyers provides the clearest answer. Many of these businesses didn’t have the potential to make profits—not then, not now, and not anytime in the future. The easy money and quick returns of the late nineties have disappeared, and what we are left with is the fact that good opportunities need good execution in order to succeed and a rigorous business plan process can assist in the pursuit of entrepreneurial gold. There is a common misperception that a business plan is primarily used for raising capital. Although a good business plan assists in raising capital, the


The Business Plan


primary purpose of the process is to help the entrepreneur gain deep understanding of the opportunity he or she is envisioning. A business plan tests the feasibility of an idea. Is it truly an opportunity? Many a would-be entrepreneur has doggedly pursued ideas that are not opportunities; the time invested in a business plan would save thousands of dollars and hours spent on such wild goose chases. For example, if a person makes $100,000 a year, spending 200 hours on a business plan equates to a $10,000 investment in time spent ($50/hour times 200 hours). However, the costs of launching a f lawed business concept can quickly accelerate into the millions. Most entrepreneurial ventures raise enough money to survive two years even if the business ultimately fails. Assuming that the only expense is the time value of the lead entrepreneur, a two-year investment equates to $200,000, not to mention the lost opportunity cost and the likelihood that other employees were hired and paid and that other expenses were incurred. So do yourself a favor and spend the time and money up front. The business plan process can not only prevent entrepreneurs from pursuing a bad opportunity but also help them reshape their original visions into better opportunities. As we will explore in the remainder of this chapter, the business plan process involves raising a number of critical questions and then seeking answers. Part of that question-answering process involves talking to target customers and gauging what is their “pain.” These conversations with customers as well as other trusted advisors can assist in better targeting the features and needs that customers most want in a good or service. This prestartup work saves untold effort and money otherwise spent trying to reshape the product after the launch has occurred. This is not to say that new ventures don’t adjust their offering based upon customer feedback, but the business plan process can anticipate some of these adjustments in advance of the initial launch. Perhaps the greatest benefit of the business plan is that it allows the entrepreneur to articulate the business opportunity to various stakeholders in the most effective manner. The plan provides the background to enable the entrepreneur to communicate the upside potential and attract equity investment, and the validation needed to convince potential employees to leave their current jobs for the uncertain future of a new venture. It is also the instrument that can secure a strategic partner, key customer, or key supplier. In short, the business plan provides the entrepreneur the deep understanding he needs to answer the critical questions that various stakeholders will ask, even if the stakeholders don’t actually read the written plan. Completing a wellfounded business plan gives the entrepreneur credibility in the eyes of various stakeholders.

TYPES OF PLANS A business plan can take a number of forms depending on its purpose. The primary difference between business plan types is length. If outside capital is

262 Planning and Forecasting needed, a business plan geared towards equity investors or debt providers typically is 25 to 40 pages long. Professional equity investors such as venture capitalists and professional debt providers such as bankers will not read the entire plan from front to back. Recognizing this fact, the entrepreneur needs to produce the plan in a format that facilitates spot reading. We will investigate the major sections that comprise business plans throughout this chapter. My general rule of thumb is that less is more. For instance, I’ve seen a number of plans receive venture funding that were closer to 25 pages than 40 pages. A second type of business plan, the operational plan, is primarily for the entrepreneur and his team to guide the development, launch, and initial growth of the venture. There really is no length specification for this type of plan; however, it is common for these plans to exceed 80 pages. The basic organization format between the two types of plans is the same, however the level of detail tends to be much greater in an operational plan. This effort is where the entrepreneur really gains the deep understanding important in discerning how to build and run the business. The last type of plan is called a dehydrated business plan. This type is considerably shorter than the previous two, typically no more than 10 pages. Its purpose is to provide an initial conception of the business. As such, it can be used to test initial reaction to the entrepreneur’s idea and can be shared with his confidants to obtain feedback before he invests significant time and effort on a longer business plan.

FROM GLIMMER TO ACTION: THE PROCESS Perhaps the hardest part of writing any business plan is getting started. Compiling the data, shaping it into an articulate story, and producing the finished product can be a daunting task. The best way to attack a business plan, therefore, is in steps. First, write a four-to-five-page summary of your current vision. This provides a roadmap for you and others to follow as you complete the rest of the plan. Second, start attacking major sections of the plan. Although all of the sections interact and inf luence every other section, it is often easiest for entrepreneurs to write the product /service description first. This is usually the most concrete component of the entrepreneur’s vision. Keep in mind, however, that writing a business plan isn’t purely a sequential process. You will be filling in different parts of the plan simultaneously or in whatever order makes the most sense in your mind. Finally, after completing a first draft of all the major sections, come back and rewrite a shorter, more concise executive summary (one to two pages). Not too surprisingly, the executive summary will be quite different from the original summary because of all the learning and reshaping that the business plan process facilitates. Common wisdom is that the business plan is a living document. Although your first draft will be polished, most business plans are obsolete the day they come off the presses. That means that entrepreneurs are continuously updating

The Business Plan


and revising their business plan. Again, the importance of the business plan isn’t the final product but the learning that is gleaned from going through the process. The business plan is the story line of your vision. It articulates what you see in your mind and crystallizes that vision for you and your team. It also provides a history, a photo album, if you will, of the birth, growth, and maturity of your business. Each major revision should be kept and filed and occasionally looked back upon for the lessons you have learned. I find writing a business plan, although daunting, exciting and creative, especially if I am working on it with a founding team. Whether it is over a glass of wine, beer, or coffee, talking about your business concept with your founding team is invigorating, and the business plan is a critical outcome of these discussions. So now let us dig in and examine how to write effective business plans.

THE STORY MODEL One of the major goals for business plans is to attract and convince various stakeholders of the potential of your business. You have to keep in mind, therefore, how these stakeholders will interpret your plan. The guiding principal is that you are writing a story. All good stories have a plot line, a unifying thread that ties the characters and events together. If you think about the most successful businesses in America, they all have well-publicized plot lines, more appropriately called taglines. When you hear these taglines, you immediately connect them to the business. For example, when you hear “absolutely, positively has to be there overnight,” you probably connect that tagline to Federal Express and package delivery. Similarly, “Just do it” is intricately linked to Nike and the image of athletic proficiency (see Exhibit 9.1). A tagline is a sentence or fragment of a sentence that summarizes the pure essence of your business. It is the plot line that every sentence, paragraph, page, diagram, and other part of your business plan should correlate to. One useful tip that I share with every entrepreneur I work with is to put that tagline in a footer that runs on the bottom of every page. Most word-processing packages, such as Microsoft Word, enable you to insert a footer that you can see as you type. As you are writing, if the section doesn’t build on, explain, or otherwise directly relate to the tagline, it most likely isn’t a necessary component to the business plan. Rigorous adherence to the tagline facilitates writing a concise business plan.

EXHIBIT 9.1 Nike Federal Express McDonalds Cisco Systems Microsoft

Taglines. Just do it! Absolutely, positively has to be there overnight. We love to see you smile. Discover all that's possible on the Internet. Where do you want to go today.

264 Planning and Forecasting The key to beginning the story model is capturing the reader’s attention. The tagline is the foundation, but in writing the plan you want to create a number of visual catch points. Too many business plans are dense, text-laden manifestos. Only the most diligent reader will wade through all that text to find the nuggets of value. Help the reader by highlighting different key points throughout the plan. How do you create these catch points? Some effective techniques include extensive use of headings and subheadings, strategically placed bulletpoint lists, diagrams, charts, and the use of sidebars.2 The point is to make the document not only content rich but visually attractive. Now, let’s take a look at the major sections of the plan (see Exhibit 9.2). Keep in mind that although there are some different variations, most plans have these components. It is important to keep your plan as close to this format as possible because many stakeholders are used to the format and it facilitates


Business plan outline.

I. Cover II. Title Page III. Executive Summary a. Hook—potential size of opportunity b. Business Concept—company and products c. Industry Overview d. Target Market e. Competitive Advantage f. Business Model g. Team h. Offering IV. Industry, Customer, and Competitor Analysis a. Industry i. Overview—Market Demand, Market Size and Structure, and Margin Analysis ii. Trends iii. Market Space or Segment you will compete in b. Customer Analysis c. Competitor Analysis V. Company and Product Description a. Company Description b. Product Description c. Competitive Advantage d. Entry Strategy e. Growth Strategy VI. Marketing Plan a. Target Market Strategy b. Product /Service Strategy c. Pricing Strategy







d. Distribution Strategy e. Advertising and Promotion Strategy f. Sales Strategy g. Sales and Marketing Forecasts Operations Plan a. Operations Strategy b. Scope of Operations c. Ongoing Operations Development Plan a. Development Strategy b. Development Timeline Team a. Team Bios and Roles b. Advisory Boards, Board of Directors, Strategic Partners, External Members c. Compensation and Ownership Critical Risks a. Market Interest and Growth Potential b. Competitor Actions and Retaliation c. Time and Cost of Development d. Operating Expenses e. Availability and Timing of Financing f. Other Risks Offering Financial Plan a. Description of Financial Assumptions b. Income Statement c. Cash Flow Statement d. Balance Sheet Appendices

The Business Plan


spot reading. So if you are seeking venture capital, for instance, you want to facilitate quick perusal because venture capitalists often spend, research shows, as little as five minutes on a plan before rejecting it or putting it aside for later study. If a venture capitalist becomes frustrated with an unfamiliar format, he will more likely reject it than try to pull out the pertinent information.

THE BUSINESS PLAN We will progress through the sections in the order that they typically appear, but keep in mind that you can work on the sections in any order that you wish.

The Cover The plan’s cover should include the following information: company name, tagline, contact person and address, phone, fax, e-mail address, date, disclaimer, and copy number. Most of the information is self-explanatory, but I should point out a few things (see Exhibit 9.3). First, the contact person for a new venture should be the president or some other founding team member. I have seen some business plans that failed to have the contact person’s name and phone on the cover. Imagine the frustration of an excited potential investor who can’t find out how to contact the entrepreneur to gain more information; such plans usually end up in the rejected pile. Second, business plans should have a disclaimer along these lines: This business plan has been submitted on a confidential basis solely to selected, highly qualified investors. The recipient should not reproduce this plan nor distribute it to others without permission. Please return this copy if you do not wish to invest in the company.

Controlling distribution is particularly important when seeking investment capital, especially to comply with Regulation A of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which specifies that you must solicit qualified investors (high net-worth and income individuals). The cover should also have a line specifying the copy number. You will often see on the bottom right portion of the cover a line that says something like “Copy 1 of 5 copies.” Entrepreneurs should keep a log of who has copies so that they can control for unexpected distribution. Finally, the cover should be eye-catching. If you have a product or prototype, a picture of it can draw the reader in. Likewise, a catchy tagline draws attention and encourages the reader to look further.

Table of Contents Continuing the theme of making the document easy to read, a detailed table of contents is critical. It should list major sections, subsections, exhibits, and appendices. The table provides the reader a roadmap to your plan (see Exhibit 9.4).

266 Planning and Forecasting EXHIBIT 9.3

Cover of PurePlay Golf business plan.

Bringing Information to the Golfer’s Palm

Prepared by:

Amy Ball, Michael Bear, Christy Long, Geoff Mall, and Hilary Tabor Contact: Geoff Mall, [emailprotected] Reynolds Center, Suite 1 Babson Park, MA 02457 (781) 555-5252 (781) 555-5253 (fax)

Draft: December 6, 2000 The information in this Business Plan is highly confidential and is provided to you conditioned on your agreement not to disclose or use this information for any purpose other then contemplating an investment in PurePlay Golf. Do not copy, fax, reproduce, or distribute without permission.

Copy 5 of 5.

Note that the table of contents is customized to the specific business so that it doesn’t perfectly correlate to the business plan outline presented in Exhibit 9.2. Nonetheless, a look at Exhibit 9.4 shows that the company’s business plan includes most of the elements highlighted in the business outline and that the order of information is basically the same as well.

The Business Plan EXHIBIT 9.4


Sample table of contents.

1.0 Executive Summary 2.0 Market Analysis 2.1 Entertainment Industry 2.2 Accessing Music Online 2.3 Telematics Industry 2.5 Market Research 3.0 Competition 3.1 Direct Competition 3.2 Indirect Competition 4.0 Company Description and Services 4.1 The Personal Radio Station 4.2 Listener ’s Choice 4.3 The Personal Music Collection 4.4 Recurring Royalties 4.5 Listener Consumption Data 5.0 Strategic Partners 5.1 Device Partners 5.2 Content Partners 5.3 Service Providers and Other 6.0 Development Strategy 6.1 Engineering Activities 6.2 Business Development Activities 7.0 Marketing and Sales Activities 8.0 Operations 8.1 VMC Core of Engineers 8.2 VMC Live Services 8.3 VMC Customer Service 9.0 Management Team 9.1 Founding Team 9.2 Advisors 10.0 Critical Risk Factors 11.0 Financials 11.1 Economics of the Business 11.2 VMC Consumer Assumptions 11.3 Service Assumptions 11.4 Personal Radio Station Assumptions 11.5 Listener ’s Choice Assumptions 11.7 Break-Even/Positive Cash Flow 11.8 Sources and Uses Schedule 11.9 Headcount Schedule

3 6 6 7 8 11 13 13 15 16 16 16 17 17 17 20 20 21 22 23 23 24 25 27 27 27 27 28 28 29 30 31 31 32 32 32 33 34 35 35

Executive Summar y (1–3 pages) This section is the most important part of the business plan. If you don’t capture readers’ attention in the executive summary, it is unlikely that they will read any other parts of the plan. Therefore, you want to hit them with the most compelling aspects of your business opportunity right up front.

268 Planning and Forecasting Hook the Reader That means having the first sentence or paragraph highlight the potential of the opportunity. I have read too many plans that start with “Company XYZ, incorporated in the state of Delaware, will develop and sell widgets.” Ho-hum. That doesn’t excite me; but if, in contrast, the first sentence states, “The current market for widgets is $50 million and is growing at an annual rate of 20%. The emergence of the Internet is likely to accelerate this market’s growth. Company XYZ is positioned to capture this wave with its proprietary technology—the secret formula VOOM.” This creates the right tone. It tells me that the potential opportunity is huge and that company XYZ has some competitive advantage that enables it to become a big player in this market. I don’t really care at this point whether the business is incorporated or that it is a Delaware corporation (aren’t they all?). Common subsections within the executive summary include: description of opportunity, business concept, industry overview, target market, competitive advantage, business model and economics, team, and offering. Remember that, since this is an executive summary, all these components are covered in the body of the plan. We will explore them in greater detail as we progress through the sections. Since the executive summary is the most important part of the finished plan, it should be written after you have gained your deep learning by going through all the other sections.3 The summary should be 1 to 3 pages, although I prefer executive summaries be no more than 2 pages.

Industr y, Customer, and Competitor Analysis (3 – 6 pages) Industry The goal of this section is to illustrate the opportunity and how you are going to capture that opportunity. A useful framework for visualizing the opportunity is Timmons’s model of opportunity recognition.4 Using the “3Ms” helps quantify an idea and assess how strong an opportunity the idea is. First, examine Market demand. If the market is growing at 20% or better, the opportunity is more exciting. Second, we look at Market size and structure. A market that is currently $50 million with $1 billion potential is attractive. This often is the case in emerging markets, those that appear poised for rapid growth and have the potential to change how we live and work. For example, the PC, disk drive, and computer hardware markets of the eighties were very hot. Many new companies were born and rode the wave of the emerging technology, including Apple, Microsoft, and Intel. In the nineties, it was anything dealing with the Internet. As we enter the twenty-first century, it appears that wireless communications may be the next big market. Another market structure that tends to have promise is a fragmented market where many small, dispersed competitors

The Business Plan


compete on a regional basis. Many of the big names in retail revolutionized fragmented markets. For instance, category killers such as Wal-Mart, Staples, and Home Depot consolidated fragmented markets by providing quality products at lower prices. These firms replaced the dispersed regional and local discount, office-supply, and hardware stores. The final M is Margin analysis. Do firms in the industry enjoy high gross margins (revenues minus cost of goods sold) of 40% or greater? Higher margins allow for higher returns, which again leads to greater potential business. The 3Ms help distinguish opportunities and as such should be highlighted as early as possible in your plan. Describe your overall industry in terms of revenues, growth, and pertinent future trends. Avoid in this section discussing your concept, the proposed product or service you will offer. Instead, use dispassionate, arms-length analysis of the industry with the goal of highlighting a space or gap that is underserved. Thus, how is the industry segmented currently, and how will it be segmented in the future? After identifying the relevant industry segments, identify the segment that your product will target. Again, what are the important trends that will shape the segment in the future? Customer Once the plan has defined the market space it plans to enter, the target customer needs to be examined in detail. The entrepreneur needs to define who the customer is by using demographic and psychographic information. The better the entrepreneur can define his customer, the more apt he is to deliver a product that the customer truly wants. A venture capitalist recently told me that the most impressive entrepreneur is the one who not only identifies who the customer is in terms of demographics and psychographics but can also name who that customer is by address, phone number, and e-mail address. When you understand who your customer is, you can assess what compels them to buy, how your company can sell to them (direct sales, retail, Internet, direct mail, etc.), how much acquiring and retaining that customer will cost, and so forth. A schedule inserted into the text describing customers on these basic parameters communicates a lot of data quickly and can be very powerful. Competition The competition analysis follows directly from the customer analysis. You have just identified your market segment, described what the customer looks like, and what the customer wants. Now the key factor leading to competitive analysis is what the customer wants in a particular product. These product attributes form a basis of comparison against your direct and indirect competitors. A competitive profile matrix not only creates a powerful visual catch point, it conveys information regarding your competitive advantage and also the basis for your company’s strategy (see Exhibit 9.5). The competitive profile matrix

270 Planning and Forecasting EXHIBIT 9.5

Competitive prof ile matrix. VMC Napster MYRadio SonicNet XM Radio

Have to be online to listen to music Customized ads to individual users Can purchase physical media on Web site Can access personal music collection from remote location Automatic play list generation Offers a service without ads Can choose to play specific songs on demand Easy feedback for enhanced listening experience Streams media Download media Can distribute user collections to other people Offers portable device player option Offers a free service Offers service in telematics industry

No Yes

No N/A

No No

No N/A

Yes No

No No







Yes Yes Yes

No No N/A

No No No

No Yes No

No Yes No

No Yes Yes







Yes Yes Yes

No No Yes

No Yes Yes

No N/A N/A

Yes Yes No

No Yes No

No Yes Yes Yes

Yes Yes Yes No

No Yes Yes No

No Yes Yes No

Yes No Yes No

No Yes No Yes

should lead the section and be followed by text describing the analysis and its implications. Finding information about your competition can be easy if the competing company is public, harder if it is private, and very difficult if it is operating in “stealth” mode (i.e., it hasn’t yet announced itself to the world). Most libraries have access to databases that contain a mother lode of information about publicly traded companies (see Exhibit 9.6 for some sample sources), but privately held companies or stealth ventures represent a greater challenge. The best way for savvy entrepreneurs to gather this information is through their network and via trade shows. Who should be in the entrepreneur’s network? First and foremost are the customers the entrepreneur hopes to sell to in the near future. Just as you are (or should be) talking to your potential customers, your existing competition is interacting with the customers every day, and your customers are likely aware of the stealth competition on the horizon. Although many entrepreneurs are fearful (verging sometimes on the brink of paranoia) that valuable information will fall in the wrong hands and lead to new competition that invalidates the current venture, the reality is that entrepreneurs who operate in a vacuum (don’t talk to customers, attend tradeshows, etc.) fail far more often than those who are talking to everyone they can. Talking allows entrepreneurs to get invaluable feedback that enables them to reshape their product offering prior to launching a product that may or may not be accepted by the marketplace. So you should network not only to find out about your competition but also to improve your own venture concept.

The Business Plan EXHIBIT 9.6


Sample source for information on public/private companies.

Infotrac Index /abstracts of journals, general business and finance magazines; market overviews; and profiles of public and private firms. Dow Jones Interactive Searchable index of articles from over 3,000 newspapers. Lexis/Nexis Searchable index of articles. Dun’s Principal International Business International business directory. Dun’s One Million Dollar Premium Database of public and private firms with revenues greater than $1 million or more than eight employees. Hoover’s Online Profiles of private and public firms with links to Web sites, etc. Corp Tech Profiles of high technology firms. Bridge Information Services Detailed financial information on 1.4 million international securities that can be manipulated in tables and graphs. RDS Bizsuite Linked databases providing data and full-text searching on firms. Bloomberg Detailed financial data and analyst reports.

Company and Product Description (1–2 pages) Completing the dispassionate analysis described in the previous section lays the foundation for describing your company and concept. In one paragraph identify the company name, where it is incorporated, and a brief overview of the company concept. Also highlight in this section what the company has achieved to date—what milestones have you accomplished that show progress. More space should be used to describe the product. Again, graphic representations can be visually powerful (see Exhibit 9.7). Highlight how your product fits into the customer value proposition. What is incorporated in your product and what value do you add to the customer? This section should clearly and forcefully identify your venture’s competitive advantage. Based upon your competitive analysis, why is your product better, cheaper, faster than what customers currently have? Your advantage may be a function of proprietary technology, patents, distribution. In fact, the most powerful competitive advantages are derived from a bundle of factors because this makes them more difficult to copy. Entrepreneurs also need to identify their entry and growth strategies. Since most new ventures are resource constrained, especially in terms of available capital, it is crucial that the lead entrepreneur establish the most effective way to enter the market. Based upon analysis in the market and customer sections, entrepreneurs need to identify their primary target audience (PTA). Focusing on a particular subset of the overall market niche allows new ventures to utilize scarce resources to reach those customers and prove the viability of their concept.

272 Planning and Forecasting EXHIBIT 9.7

Product/concept/description. VMC Detailed Network Overview

Example of digital audio and video content libraries

Time Warner





Example of advertisers

TMP CKS World Wide


Omnicom Dentsu Group Inc.


VMC B2B Exchange


Content information database (ratings, availability, etc.)

B2B intranet

Customized advertising data

Routing and transmitting

Receiver Consumer profile database

Consumer usage and advertising database

Video or audio content customized ads

Consumer data

Customer profile management (Web site)

VMC B2C Distribution PDA VMC compliant device component T.V.

Home entertainment system

Satellite dish


Portable audio device

Commercial tower


The Business Plan


The business plan should also sell the entrepreneur ’s vision for growth because that vision indicates the business’s true potential. Thus, a paragraph or two should be devoted to the firm’s growth strategy. If the venture achieves success in its entry strategy, it will either generate internal cash f low that can be used to fuel the growth strategy or attract further equity financing at improved valuations. The growth strategy should talk about the secondary target audience and tertiary target audiences that the firm will pursue. For example, if I were starting a restaurant, my entry strategy might be to establish a presence in Wellesley, Massachusetts, geared toward college students and young professionals. Assuming that I achieved some success (e.g., generating sales and high table turns), my growth strategy might be to open up five more restaurants around the greater Boston area. If these restaurants also proved successful, I might franchise the concept nationwide to achieve rapid growth with less capital infusion than if I opened all company-owned restaurants. This in fact, appears to be the strategy that Joey Crugnale, the founder of Steve’s Ice Cream, Bertucci’s Brick Oven Pizza, and more recently the Naked Fish, is following. Crugnale opened the first Naked Fish in May 1999. After testing and refining the concept, he has opened another nine outlets (as of December 2000). The establishment of nine Naked Fish restaurants shows growth and success and enables Mr. Crugnale to attract further financing to grow the concept around Boston and beyond.

Marketing Plan (4 – 6 pages) To this point, we have laid the stage for your company’s potential to enter a market successfully and grow. Now we need to devise the strategy that will allow the company to reach its potential. The primary components of this section include a description of the target market strategy, product /service strategy, pricing strategy, distribution strategy, advertising and promotion, sales strategy, and sales and marketing forecasts. Let’s take a look at each of these subsections in turn. Target Market Strategy Every marketing plan needs some guiding principals. Based on the knowledge gleaned from the target market analysis, entrepreneurs need to position their product. All product strategies fall somewhere on the continuum between “rational purchase” and “emotional purchase.” As an example, when I buy a new car, the rational purchase might be a low-cost reliable car such as the Ford Aspire. However, there is an emotional element as well. I want the car to be an extension of my personality, so based on my economic means and self-perception, I will buy a BMW or Audi because of the emotional benefits I derive from owning a high-status car. Within every product space, there is room for products at different points along the continuum. Entrepreneurs need to decide

274 Planning and Forecasting where their product fits or where they would like to position it, because this position determines the other aspects of the marketing plan. Product/Service Strategy Building from the target market strategy, this section of the plan describes how your product is differentiated from the competition. Discuss why customers will switch to your product and how you will retain them so that they don’t switch to your competition in the future. Using the attributes defined in your customer profile matrix, a powerful visual is a product attribute map showing how your firm compares to the competition. It is best to focus on the two most important attributes, one on the x-axis and the other on the y-axis. The map should show that your product is clearly distinguishable from your competition on desirable attributes (see Exhibit 9.8). This section should also address how you will service the customer. What type of technical support will you provide? Will you offer warranties? What kind of product upgrades will be available and when? It is important to detail all these efforts and account for each in the pricing of the product. Entrepreneurs frequently underestimate the costs of these services, which leads to a drain on cash f low and can ultimately lead to bankruptcy. Pricing Strategy Determining how to price your product is always difficult. The two primary approaches are the “cost-plus” approach and the “market demand” approach. I advise entrepreneurs to avoid cost-plus pricing for a number of reasons. First, it is difficult to accurately determine your actual cost, especially if this is a new venture with a limited history. New ventures consistently underestimate the true cost of developing their products. For example, how much did it really

Competitive map for PurePlay Golf. High Technology/functionality


PurePlay Inforetech

IntelliGolf ultraCaddie Low

High Availability to consumers

The Business Plan


cost to write that software? The cost would include salaries and burden, computer and other assets, overhead contribution, and so forth. Since most entrepreneurs underestimate these costs, there is a tendency to underprice the product. Often entrepreneurs claim that they are offering a low price so that they can penetrate and gain market share rapidly. The problems with a low price are that it may be difficult to raise later, may create demand that overwhelms your ability to produce the product in sufficient volume, and may unnecessarily strain cash f low. Therefore, the better method is to canvass the market and determine an appropriate price based upon what the competition is currently offering and how your product is positioned. If you are offering a low-cost value product, price below market rates. If your product is of better quality and has lots of features (the more common case), it should be priced above market rates. Distribution Strategy This section identifies how you will reach the customer. For example, the e-commerce boom of the late 1990s assumed that the growth in Internet usage and purchases would create new demand for pure Internet companies. Yet the distribution strategy for many of these firms did not make sense. and other online pet supply firms had a strategy where the pet owner would log on, order the product from the site, and then receive delivery via UPS or U.S. mail. In theory this works, but in practice the price the market would bear for this product didn’t cover the exorbitant shipping costs of a forty-pound bag of dog food. It is wise to examine how the customer currently acquires the product. If I buy my dog food at Wal-Mart, then you should probably use primarily traditional retail outlets to sell me a new brand of dog food. This is not to say that entrepreneurs might not develop a multichannel distribution strategy, but if they want to achieve maximum growth, at some point they will have to use common distribution techniques, or reeducate the customer on a new buying process (which can be very expensive). If you determine that Wal-Mart is the best distribution channel, the next question becomes whether you can access it. As a new startup in dog food, it may be difficult to get shelf space at Wal-Mart. That may suggest an entry strategy of boutique pet stores to build brand recognition. The key here is to identify appropriate channels and then assess how costly it is to access them. Advertising and Promotion Communicating effectively to your customer requires advertising and promotion. Referring again to the dot-com boom of the late nineties, the soon to be defunct made a classic mistake in its attempt to build brand recognition. It blew over half of the venture capital it raised on a series of expensive Super Bowl ads in January 2000 ($3 million of $5.8 million raised on

276 Planning and Forecasting three Super Bowl ads).5 Resource-constrained entrepreneurs need to carefully select the appropriate strategies. What avenues most effectively reach your PTA (primary target audience)? If you can identify your PTA by names, then direct mail may be more effective. Try to utilize grassroots techniques such as public relations efforts geared toward mainstream media. Sheri Poe, founder of Ryka shoes, geared towards women, appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show touting shoes for women, designed by women. The response was overwhelming. In fact, she was so besieged by demand that she couldn’t supply enough shoes. As you develop a multipronged advertising and promotion strategy, create detailed schedules that show which avenues you will pursue and the associated costs (see Exhibits 9.9a and 9.9b). These types of schedules serve many purposes including providing accurate cost estimates that will help in assessing how much capital you need to raise. These schedules also build credibility in the eyes of potential investors since it shows that you understand the nuances of your industry. Sales Strategy This section provides the backbone that supports all of the above. Specifically, it illustrates what kind and level of human capital you will devote to the effort. How many salespeople, customer support staff, and the like do you need? Will these people be internal to the organization or outsourced? Again, this section builds credibility if the entrepreneur demonstrates an understanding of how the business should operate. Sales and Marketing Forecasts Gauging the impact of the above efforts is difficult. Nonetheless, to build a compelling story, entrepreneurs need to show projections of revenues well into the future. How do you derive these numbers? There are two methods, the comparable method and the buildup method. After detailed investigation of


Advertising schedule.

Promotional Tools

Budget over 1 Year

Print advertising Television advertising Sales promotions Direct marketing Public relations

$1,426,440 780,000 100,000 100,000 93,560



The Business Plan


EXHIBIT 9.9b Magazine advertisem*nt schedule. Publication Golf Digest Sports Illustrated Golf Magazine Fortune Money Magazine


Ad Price

Cost per Thousand

1,550,000 3,150,000 1,400,000 775,000 1,400,000

$35,820 57,600 26,000 21,600 34,900

$23.11 18.29 18.57 27.87 24.93

the industry and market, entrepreneurs know the competitive players and have a good understanding of their history. The comparable method models sales forecasts after what other companies have achieved, adjusting for age of company, variances in product attributes, support services such as advertising and promotion, and so forth. In essence, the entrepreneur monitors a number of comparable competitors and then explains why her business varies from those models. The one thing we know for certain is that these forecasts will be wrong, but the question is the degree of error. Detailed investigation of comparable companies reduces that error. The smaller the error, the less likely the company will run out of cash. Also, rigorous comparable analysis builds credibility with your investors. What happens when the market space you are entering doesn’t have comparable companies because they are private or differ significantly on some other major parameter? In such situations, entrepreneurs may be able to identify similar business models in other industries, or what I call first-cousin companies. If that proves difficult, the other avenue is the buildup method. Starting with each revenue source, the entrepreneur estimates how much of that revenue type he can generate per day or some other small time period. For example, if Joey Crugnale was trying to estimate sales for his Naked Fish restaurant, he might identify the following revenue sources along with the average ticket price for each: bar, appetizers, entrees, and dessert. Then he might estimate the number of people to come through the restaurant on a daily basis and what percentage would purchase each revenue source. Those estimates can then be aggregated into larger blocks of time (say, months, quarters, or years) to generate rough estimates, which might be further adjusted based upon seasonality in the restaurant industry. The buildup technique is an imprecise method for the new startup with limited operating history, but it is critically important to assess the viability of the opportunity—so important, in fact, that I advise entrepreneurs to use both the comparable and buildup techniques to assess how well they converge. If the two methods widely diverge, go back through and try to determine why. The deep knowledge you gain of your business model will greatly help you to articulate the opportunity to stakeholders as well as to manage the business when it is launched.

278 Planning and Forecasting Operations Plan (2–3 pages) The operations section of the plan has progressively shortened as more companies outsource nonvital aspects of their operation. The key in this section is to address how operations will add value to your customers and, furthermore, to detail the production cycle so that you can gauge the impact on working capital. For instance, when does the company pay for inputs? How long does it take to produce the product? When does the customer buy the product and, more importantly, when does the customer pay for the product? The time from the beginning of this process until the product is paid for will drain cash f low and has implications for financing. Counterintuitively, many rapidly growing new companies run out of cash, even though they have increasing sales, because they fail to properly finance the time that cash is tied up in the procurement, production, sales, and receivables cycle. Operations Strategy The first subsection provides a strategy overview. How does your business win/compare on the dimensions of cost, quality, timeliness, and f lexibility? The emphasis should be on those aspects that provide your venture with a comparative advantage. You should also discuss geographic location of production facilities and how this enhances the firm’s competitive advantage. Discuss available labor, local regulations, transportation, infrastructure, proximity to suppliers, and so forth. The section should also provide a description of the facilities, how the facilities will be acquired (bought or leased), and how future growth will be handled (e.g., renting an adjoining building). Scope of Operations What is the production process for your product or service? A diagram powerfully illustrates how your company adds value to the various inputs (see Exhibit 9.10a). Constructing the diagram also facilitates the decision of which production aspects to keep in-house and which to outsource. Considering that cash f low is king and that resource-constrained new ventures typically should minimize fixed expenses on production facilities, the general rule is to outsource as much production as possible. However, there is a major caveat to that rule: Your venture should control aspects of production that are central to your competitive advantage. Thus, if you are producing a new component with hardwired proprietary technology, let’s say a voice recognition security door entry, it is wise to internally produce that hardwired component. The locking mechanism, however, can be outsourced to your specifications. Outsourcing the aspects that aren’t proprietary reduces fixed cost for production equipment and facility expenditures, which means that you have to raise less money and give up less equity.

The Business Plan EXHIBIT 9.10a

Operations f low diagram.

Materials from vendor 1

Shipping department

Assembly Materials from vendor 2

Finished product Materials from vendor 3




Adapted from Professor Bob Eng, Babson College.

The scope of operations should also discuss partnerships with vendors, suppliers, partners, and the like. Again, the diagram should illustrate the supplier and vendor relationships by category (or by name if the list isn’t too long and you have already identified your suppliers). The diagram helps you visualize the various relationships and ways to better manage or eliminate them. The operations diagram also helps entrepreneurs identify personnel needs. For example, the diagram provides an indication of how many production workers might be needed depending on the hours of operations, number of shifts, and so forth. Ongoing Operations This section builds upon the scope of operations by providing details on day-today activities. For example, how many units will be produced in a day and what kind of inputs are necessary? An operating-cycle overview diagram graphically illustrates the impact of production on cash f low (see Exhibit 9.10b). As entrepreneurs complete this detail, they can start to establish performance parameters, which will help them monitor and modify the production process in the future. If this is an operational business plan the level of detail may include specific job descriptions, but for the typical business plan this level of detail would be much more than an investor, for example, would need or want to see in the initial evaluation phase.

Development Plan (2–3 pages) The development plan highlights the development strategy and also provides a detailed development timeline. Many new ventures will require a significant level of effort and time to launch the product or service. This section tells how the business will be developed. For example, new software or hardware products

280 Planning and Forecasting EXHIBIT 9.10b

Operating cycle overview diagram. Days

Order materials Receive materials

Make product

Pay supplier Pick/ship product Bill to customer

Customer order received

Collect money from customer

Order entered

X Days Production flow Order Cash SOURCE :

Adapted from Professor Bob Eng, Babson College.

often require months of development. Discuss what types of features you will develop and tie them to the firm’s competitive advantage. This section should also talk about patent, trademark, or copyright efforts if applicable. Development Strategy What work remains to be completed? What factors need to come together for development to be successful? What risks to development does the firm face? For example, software development is notorious for taking longer and costing more than most companies originally imagined. Detailing the necessary work and the criteria for the work to be considered successful helps entrepreneurs to understand and manage the risks involved. After you have laid out these details, a development timeline is assembled.

The Business Plan


Development Timeline A development timeline is a schedule that highlights major milestones and can be used to monitor progress and make changes (see Exhibit 9.11). The timeline helps entrepreneurs track major events and to schedule activities to best execute on those events.

Team (2–3 pages) Georges Doriot, the father of venture capital and founder of American Research and Development Corporation (the first modern venture capital firm), said that he would rather “back an ‘A’ entrepreneur with a ‘B’ idea than a ‘B’ entrepreneur with an ‘A’ idea.” The team section of the business plan is often the section that professional investors read after the executive summary. Thus, it is critical that the plan depict the members responsible for key activities and convey that they are exceptionally skilled. Team Bios and Roles The best place to start is by identifying the key team members and their titles. Often, the lead entrepreneur assumes a CEO role. However, if you are young and have limited business experience, it is usually more productive to state that the company will seek a qualified CEO as it grows. The lead entrepreneur may then assume the role of chief technology officer (if he develops the technology) or vice president of business development. However, don’t let these options confine you. The key is to convince investors that you have assembled the best team possible and that your team can execute on the brilliant concept you are proposing. Once responsibilities and titles have been defined, names and a short bio should be filled in. The bios should demonstrate records of success. If you have previously started a business (even if it failed), highlight the company’s accomplishments. If you have no previous entrepreneurial experience, discuss your achievements within your last job. For example, bios often contain a description of the number of people the entrepreneur previously managed and, more important, a measure of economic success, such as growing division sales by 20+%. The bio should demonstrate your leadership capabilities. To complement this description, resumes are often included as an appendix. Advisory Boards, Board of Directors, Strategic Partners, External Members To enhance the team’s credentials, many entrepreneurs find that they are more attractive to investors if they have strong advisory boards. In building an advisory board, identify individuals with relevant experience within your industry.


VMC beta

of VMC distribution system Telematics development

Ongoing innovation and development

Wireless device and

Innovation and enhancement Telematics beta

network appliance R&D

Telematics negotiations


VMC marketing


Wireless device and network appliance OEM


1/1 2/1 3/1 4/1 5/1 6/1 7/1 8/1 9/1 10/1 11/1 12/1 1/1 2/1 3/1 4/1 5/1 6/1 7/1 8/1 9/1 10/1 11/1 12/1 1/1 2001 2002 2003 July 2001 October 2002 site launch VMC telematics service launch Record label Content provider recruiting recruitment Advertising


VMC distribution system development

Development timeline.

VMC engineering activities

Business development and sales activities


The Business Plan


Industry experts provide legitimacy to your new business as well as strong technical advice. Other advisory board members may bring financial, legal, or management expertise. Thus, it is common to see lawyers, professors, accountants, and others who can assist the venture’s growth on advisory boards. Moreover, if your firm has a strategic supplier or key customer, it may make sense to invite him or her onto your advisory board. Typically, these individuals are remunerated with a small equity stake and compensation for any organized meetings. By law, most organization types require a board of directors. This is different than an advisory board (although these members can also provide needed expertise). The board’s primary role is to oversee the company on behalf of the investors. Therefore, the business plan needs to brief ly describe the size of the board, its role within the organization and any current board members. Most major investors, such as venture capitalists, will require one or more board seats. Usually, the lead entrepreneur and one or more inside company members (e.g., chief financial officers, vice presidents) will also have board seats. Strategic partners, though not necessarily on your advisory board or board of directors, may still provide credibility to your venture. In such cases, it makes sense to highlight their involvement in your company’s success. It is also common to list external team members, such as the law firm and accounting firm that your venture uses. The key in this section is to demonstrate that your firm can successfully execute the concept. A strong team provides the foundation on which your venture will implement the opportunity successfully. Compensation and Ownership The capstone to the team section should be a table containing key team members by role, compensation, and ownership equity. A brief description of the table should explain why the compensation is appropriate. Many entrepreneurs choose not to pay themselves in the early months. Although this strategy conserves cash f low, it would misrepresent the individual’s worth to the organization. Therefore, the table should contain what salary the employee is due, and then, if necessary, that salary can be deferred until cash f low is strong. Another column that can be powerful shows what the person’s current or most recent compensation was and what he will be paid in the new company. I am most impressed by highly qualified entrepreneurs taking a smaller salary than at their previous job. It suggests that the entrepreneur really believes in the upside payoff the company’s growth will generate. Of course, the entrepreneur plans on increasing this salary as the venture grows and starts to thrive. As such, the description of the schedule should underscore the plan to increase salaries in the future. It is also a good idea to hold stock aside for future key hires and to establish a stock option pool for lower-level but critical employees, such as software engineers. Again, the plan should discuss such provisions.

284 Planning and Forecasting Critical Risks (1–2 pages) Every new venture faces a number of risks that may threaten its survival. Although the business plan, at this point, is creating a story of success, there are a number of threats that readers will identify and recognize. The plan needs to acknowledge these potential risks; otherwise, investors may believe that the entrepreneur is naïve or untrustworthy and therefore reject investment. How should you present these critical risks without scaring your investor? Identify the risk and then state your contingency plan (see Exhibit 9.12). Critical risks are critical assumptions, factors that need to happen if your venture is to succeed. The critical assumptions vary from one company to another, but some common categories are: market interest and growth potential, competitor actions and retaliation, time and cost of development, operating expenses, availability and timing of financing. Market Interest and Growth Potential The biggest risk any new venture faces is that once the product is developed, no one will buy it. Although there are a number of things that can be done to minimize this risk, such as market research, focus groups, beta sites, and others, it is difficult to gauge overall demand and growth of that demand until your product hits the market. This risk must be stated but tempered with the tactics and contingencies the company will undertake. For example, sales risk can be reduced by an effective advertising and marketing plan or identifying not only a primary target customer but secondary and tertiary target customers that the company will seek if the primary customer proves less interested. Competitor Actions and Retaliation Having worked with entrepreneurs and student entrepreneurs over the years, I have always been struck by the firmly held belief that direct competition either didn’t exist or that it was sleepy and slow to react. There have been many cases

EXHIBIT 9.12 Sample critical risk. 6.2 Group’s lack of experience in starting own company Within our present team, we realize that we lack the real world experience in starting up a company, but we feel that this can be overcome in two different ways. First, we plan on hiring someone who has a background in managing a startup company and has a history in working with e-commerce businesses. Secondly, we will draw on family expertise within our group. William Smith’s family has started a successful golf retail store that has been in operation for nearly 20 years and is just starting to utilize the Web to foster continued growth. Jim Meier ’s father is the managing partner of the largest public accounting firm in western Massachusetts. Mike Santana’s uncle is an investment banker and has some good friends in the venture capital firm Canyon Partners in Beverly Hills. Pat Crown’s father is the founder and president of Mathtech Corporation in Boston, Massachusetts. Mr. Crown’s company develops math software.

The Business Plan


where this is indeed true, but I caution against using it as a key assumption of your venture’s success. Most entrepreneurs passionately believe that they are offering something new and wonderful that is clearly different from what is currently being offered. They are confident that existing competition won’t attack their niche in the near future. The risk that this assessment is wrong should be acknowledged. One counter to this threat is that the venture has room in its gross margin and cash available to withstand and fight such attacks. You should also identify some strategies to protect and reposition yourself should an attack occur. Time and Cost to Development As mentioned in the development plan section, many factors can delay and add to the expense of developing your product. The business plan should identify the factors that may hinder development. For instance, during the extended high-tech boom of the late nineties and into the new century, there has been an acute shortage of skilled software engineers. One way to counter the resulting risk in hiring and retaining the most qualified professionals might be to outsource some development to the underemployed engineers in India. Compensation, equity participation, f lexible hours, and other benefits that the firm could offer might also minimize the risk. Operating Expenses Operating expenses have a way of growing beyond expectations. Sales and administration, marketing, and interest expenses are some of the areas that the entrepreneur needs to monitor and manage. The business plan should highlight how these expenses were forecast (comparable companies and detailed analysis) but also discuss contingencies such as slowing the hiring of support personnel, especially if development or other key tasks take longer than expected. Availability and Timing of Financing I can’t stress enough how important cash f low is to the survival and growth of a new venture. One major risk that most new ventures face is that they will have difficulty obtaining needed financing, both equity and debt. If the current business plan is meant to attract investors and is successful, that first capital infusion isn’t a near-term risk, but most ventures will need multiple rounds of financing. If the firm fails to make progress (or meet key milestones), it may not be able to secure additional rounds of financing on favorable terms. To mitigate this risk, the firm could identify alternative sources that are viable or strategies to slow the “burn rate.”6 There are a number of other risks that might apply to your business. Acknowledge them and discuss how you can overcome them. Doing so generates confidence in your investors.

286 Planning and Forecasting Offering (1⁄2 –1 page) Based upon the entrepreneur’s vision and estimates of the capital required to get there, the entrepreneur can develop a “sources and uses schedule” (see Exhibit 9.13). The sources section details how much capital the entrepreneur needs and the types of financing such as equity investment and debt infusions. The uses section details how the money will be spent. Typically, the entrepreneur should secure enough financing to last 12 to 18 months. Taking more capital means that the entrepreneur gives up more equity. Taking less means that the entrepreneur may run out of cash before reaching milestones that equate to higher valuations.

Financial Plan (4 – 8 pages) If the preceding plan is your verbal description of the opportunity and how you will execute it, the financial plan is the mathematical equivalent. The growth in revenues speaks to the upside of your opportunity. The expenses illustrate what you need to execute on that opportunity. Cash f low statements serve as an early warning system to potential problems (or critical risks), and the balance sheet enables monitoring and adjusting the venture’s progress. That being said, generating realistic financials is one of the most intimidating hurdles entrepreneurs face. I will highlight a dual strategy to building your model: comparable analysis and the buildup technique. Entrepreneurs should do both approaches; with work and skill the two approaches allow the entrepreneur to triangulate into a credible facsimile. Entrepreneurs are notoriously overoptimistic in their projections. One phrase that entrepreneurs overuse in their business plan, especially the financial plan, is “conservative estimate.” History proves that 99% of all entrepreneurs are amazingly aggressive in their projections. Professional investors recognize this problem and often discount financials up to 50% from the entrepreneur’s projections. How do you prevent that from happening? Validate your projections by comparing your firm’s pro forma financials to existing firm’s actual performance. Obviously, no two firms are exactly alike, and if you were to launch an online bookstore, it would be unlikely that your firm would perfectly mirror However, the comparable method doesn’t mean that you substitute another firm’s financials for your own; it means that you use EXHIBIT 9.13 Sources and uses schedule. Sources




1,688,750 1,652,000 1,125,000 534,250




Systems development Equipment Sales/business development Working capital

The Business Plan


that comparable firm as a starting point. Entrepreneurs then need to articulate why their projections vary from the comparable firm, both in a positive and negative manner. Continuing the online bookstore example, I would be insane to believe that I could achieve the same rapid growth that experienced, because there is now more competition, especially from On the f lip side, I should be able to argue that my expenses won’t be as stif ling as Amazon’s, because I have studied and learned from their excesses. I would also articulate how my fulfillment is more efficient than Amazon’s. So the key in the comparable method is to use other firms and industry standards as a starting point and then adjust your projections based upon your strategy and other factors. Industry averages also provide useful comparable information. The Almanac of Business and Industrial Financial Ratios, published by PrenticeHall, or Industry Norms and Key Business Ratios, published by Dun and Bradstreet are excellent sources to use as starting points in building financial statements relevant to your industry. Specifically, these sources help entrepreneurs build income statements by providing industry averages for costs of goods sold, salary expenses, interest expenses, and the like. Again, your firm will differ from these industry averages, but you should be able to explain why your firm differs. The second method is the buildup method. This approach derives from the scientific finding that people make better decisions by decomposing a problem into smaller parts. For financial pro forma construction, this is relatively easy. The place to start is the income statement. Identify all of your revenue sources (usually the various product offerings). Instead of visualizing what you will sell in a month or a year, break it down to the day. For example, if I am starting a new restaurant, I would estimate how many customers I might serve in a particular day and how much they would spend per visit based upon the types of meals and beverages they would buy. In essence, I am developing an average ticket price per customer. I then multiply that price by the number of days of operation in the year. Once I have the typical day, I can make adjustments for cyclical aspects of the business, such as slow days or slow months. If I were, say, to open up a chain of restaurants, I could then multiple my estimates by the number of restaurants. Once you have gone through a couple of iterations of each approach, you should be able to reconcile the differences. One schedule that is particularly powerful in building up your cost estimates is a headcount schedule. This table should have time across the top and job categories down the side (see Exhibit 9.14). Next assign average salaries and burden to these employees and then funnel them into the appropriate income statement lines. Breaking down to this level of detail enables entrepreneurs to more accurately aggregate up to their real headcount expenses, which tend to be the major line item in most companies. Going through the above exercises allows you to construct a realistic set of pro forma financials. The financial statements that must be included in your

288 Planning and Forecasting EXHIBIT 9.14 Headcount chart. Month 1

Month 6

Month 12

Month 18

Month 24

Month 30

Month 36

Business development Sales and administration Software developers Customer service

1 2 3 0

2 2 3 2

3 6 3 3

3 10 18 5

3 10 18 5

3 14 23 10

3 14 26 10

Total head count








plan are the income statement, cash f low statement, and balance sheet. I typically call for five years of financials, recognizing that the farther out one goes, the less accurate the forecasts are. The rationale behind five years is that the first two years show the firm surviving and the last three years show the upside growth potential. The majority of new ventures lose money for the first two years. Therefore, the income statement and cash f low statement should be month-to-month during the first two years to show how much cash is needed until the firm can become self-sustaining. Month-to-month analysis shows cash f low decreasing and provides an early warning system as to when the entrepreneur should seek the next round of financing. Years 3 through 5 need to be illustrated only on an annual basis, because these projections communicate your vision for growth but are likely to be less accurate because they are further out. The balance sheet can be on an annual basis for all five years since it is reporting a snapshot on the last day of a particular period. Once the financial spreadsheets are completed, a two-to-three-page explanation of the financials should be written and it should precede the statements. Although you understand all the assumptions and comparisons that went into building the financial forecast, the reader needs the background spelled out. The explanation should have four subheadings: overview, income statement, cash f low, and balance sheet. The overview section should highlight the major assumptions that drive your revenue and expenses. This section should explain several of the critical risks you identified earlier. The income statement description goes into more detail as to some of the revenue and cost drivers that haven’t been discussed in the overview section. The cash f low description talks about the timing of cash infusions, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and so forth. The balance sheet description illustrates how major ratios change as the firm grows.

Appendices (as many pages as necessar y) The appendices can include anything that you think further validates your concept but doesn’t fit or is too large to insert in the main parts of the plan.

The Business Plan


Common inclusions would be one-page resumes of key team members, articles that feature your venture, and technical specifications.

CONCLUSION The business plan is more than just a document; it is a process. Although the finished product is often a written plan, the deep thinking that goes into that document provides the entrepreneur keen insight needed to marshal resources and direct growth. The whole process can be painful, but the returns on a solid effort almost always minimize the costs of starting a business, because the process allows the entrepreneur to better anticipate, instead of reacting to, the many issues the venture will face. More important, the business plan provides a talking point so that entrepreneurs can get feedback from a number of experts, including investors, vendors, and customers. Think of the business plan as one of your first steps on the journey to entrepreneurial success.

OTHER R ESOURCES A number of resources exist for those seeking help to write business plans. There are numerous software packages, but I find that generally the templates are too confining. The text boxes asking for information box writers into a dull, dispassionate tone. The best way to learn about business plans is digging out the supporting data, writing sections as you feel compelled, and circulating drafts among your mentors and advisors. I also think that the entrepreneur should read as many other articles, chapters, and books about writing business plans as possible. You will want to assimilate different perspectives so that you can find your own personal voice. To that end, I want to suggest a number of sources that you might want to check out.

FOR FURTHER R EADING Timmons, J. A., New Venture Creation, 5th ed. (New York: Irwin/McGraw-Hill, 1999). Classic textbook on the venture creation process. Tracy, J., How to Read a Financial Report, 5th ed. (New York: John Wiley, 1999). Classic book on how to create pro forma financial statements and how these statements tie together. Sahlman, W., “How to Write a Great Business Plan,” Harvard Business Review (July–Aug. 1997): 98–108. Bhide, A., “The Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Ask,” Harvard Business Review (Nov.–Dec. 1996): 120–130. Kim, C., and R. Mauborgne, “Creating New Market Space,” Harvard Business Review (Jan.–Feb. 1999): 83–93.

290 Planning and Forecasting INTER NET LINKS Business Plan Sites

Other Usef ul Sites

NOTES 1. P. Thomas, “Rewriting the Rules: A New Generation of Entrepreneurs Find Themselves in the Perfect Time and Place to Chart Their Own Course,” Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2000, R4. 2. Running sidebar is a visual device that is positioned down the right hand side of the page that periodically highlights some of the key points in the plan. Don’t overload the sidebar, but one or two items per page can draw attention to highlights that maintain reader interest. 3. Don’t confuse the executive summary included in the plan with the expanded executive summary that I suggested you write as the very first step of the business plan process. Again, the two summaries are likely to be significantly different since the later summary incorporates all the deep learning that you have gained throughout the process. 4. J. Timmons, New Venture Creation, 5th ed. (New York: Irwin/McGraw-Hill, 1999). 5. O. Sacirbey, “Private Companies Temper IPO Talk,” The IPO Reporter, Dec. 18, 2000, 9. 6. Burn rate is how much more cash the company is expending each month than earning in revenue.



A beer company is considering building a new brewery. An airline is deciding whether to add f lights to its schedule. An engineer at a high-tech company has designed a new microchip and hopes to encourage the company to manufacture and sell it. A small college contemplates buying a new photocopy machine. A nonprofit museum is toying with the idea of installing an education center for children. Newlyweds dream of buying a house. A retailer considers building a Web site and selling on the Internet. What do these projects have in common? All of them entail a commitment of capital and managerial effort that may or may not be justified by later performance. A common set of tools can be applied to assess these seemingly very different propositions. The financial analysis used to assess such projects is known as “capital budgeting.” How should a limited supply of capital and managerial talent be allocated among an unlimited number of possible projects and corporate initiatives?

THE OBJECTIVE: MAXIMIZE WEALTH Capital budgeting decisions cut to the heart of the most fundamental questions in business. What is the purpose of the firm? Is it to create wealth for investors? To serve the needs of customers? To provide jobs for employees? To better the community? These questions are fodder for endless debate. Ultimately, however, project decisions have to be made, and so we must adopt a


292 Planning and Forecasting decision rule. The perspective of financial analysis is that capital investment belongs to the investors. The goal of the firm is to maximize investors’ wealth. Other factors are important and should be considered, but this is the primary objective. In the case of nonprofit organizations, wealth and return on investment need not be measured in dollars and cents but rather can be measured in terms of benefits to society. But in the case of for-profit companies, wealth is monetary. A project creates wealth if it generates cash f lows over time that are worth more in present-value terms than the initial setup cost. For example, suppose a brewery costs $10 million to build, but once built it generates a stream of cash f lows that is worth $11 million. Building the brewery would create $1 million of new wealth. If there were no other proposed projects that would create more wealth than this, then the beer company would be well advised to build the new brewery. This example illustrates the “net present value” rule. Net present value (NPV) is the difference between the setup cost of a project and the value of the project once it is set up. If that difference is positive, then the NPV is positive and the project creates wealth. If a firm must choose from several proposed projects, the one with the highest NPV will create the most wealth, and so it should be the one adopted. For example, suppose the beer company can either build the new brewery or, alternatively, can introduce a new product—a light beer, for example. There is not enough managerial talent to oversee more than one new project, or maybe there are not enough funds to start both. Let us assume that both projects create wealth: The NPV of the new brewery is $1 million, and the NPV of the new-product project is $500,000. If it could, the beer company should undertake both projects; but since it has to choose, building the new brewery would be the right option because it has the higher NPV.

COMPUTING NPV: PROJECTING CASH FLOWS The first step in calculating a project’s NPV is to forecast the project’s future cash f lows. Cash is king. It is cash f low, not profit, that investors really care about. If a company never generates cash f low, there can be no return to investors. Also, profit can be manipulated by discretionary accounting treatments such as depreciation method or inventory valuation. Regardless of accounting choices, however, cash f low either materializes or does not. For these reasons, cash f low is the most important variable to investors. A project’s value derives from the cash f low it creates, and NPV is the value of the future cash f lows net of the initial cash outf low. We can illustrate the method of forecasting cash f lows with an example. Let us continue to explore the brewery project. Suppose project engineers inform you that the construction costs for the brewery would be $8 million. The

Planning Capital Expenditure


expected life of the new brewery is 10 years. The brewery will be depreciated to zero over its 10-year life using a straight-line depreciation schedule. Land for the brewery can be purchased for $1 million. Additional inventory to stock the new brewery would cost $1 million. The brewery would be fully operational within a year. If the project is undertaken, increased sales for the beer company would be $7 million per year. Cost of goods sold for this beer would be $2 million per year; and selling, administrative, and general expenses associated with the new brewery would be $1 million per year. Perhaps advertising would have to increase by $500,000 per year. After 10 years, the land can be sold for $1 million, or it can be used for another project. After 10 years the salvage value of the plant is expected to be $1.5 million. The increase in accounts receivable would exactly equal the increase in accounts payable, at $400,000, so these components of net working capital would offset one another and generate no net cash f low. No one expects these forecasts to be perfect. Paraphrasing the famous words of baseball player Yogi Berra, making predictions is very difficult, especially when they are about the future! However, when investors choose among various investments, they too must make predictions. As a financial analyst, you want the quality of your forecasts to be on a par with the quality of the forecasts made by investors. Essentially, the job of the financial analyst is to estimate how investors will value the project, because the value of the firm will rise if investors decide that the new project creates wealth and will fall if investors conclude that the project destroys wealth. If the investors have reason to believe that sales will be $7 million per year, then that would be the correct forecast to use in the capital budgeting analysis. Investors have to cope with uncertainty in their forecasts. Similarly, the financial analyst conducting a capital budgeting analysis must tolerate the same level of uncertainty. Note that cash f low projections require an integrated team effort across the entire firm. Operations and engineering personnel estimate the cost of building and operating the new plant. The human resources department contributes the labor data. Marketing people tell you what advertising budget is needed and forecast revenue. The accounting department estimates taxes, accounts payable, and accounts receivable and tabulates the financial data. The job of the financial analyst is to put the pieces together and recommend that the project be adopted or abandoned.

Initial Cash Outf low The initial cash outf low required by the project is the sum of the construction cost ($8 million), the land cost ($1 million), and the required new inventory ($1 million). Thus, this project requires an investment of $10 million to launch. If accounts receivable did not equal accounts payable, then the new accounts receivable would add to the initial cash outf low, and the new accounts payable would be subtracted. These cash f lows are tabulated in Exhibit 10.1.

294 Planning and Forecasting EXHIBIT 10.1 Initial year cash f low for brewer y project ($1,000s). Year 0 Construction Land Inventory Account receivable Accounts payable

$ (8,000) (1,000) (1,000) (400) 400

Total cash f low


Cash Flows in Later Years We find cash f low in years 1 through 10 by applying the following formula: Cash Flow = Sales − Cost of goods sold − Selling, administrative, and general expenses − Advertising − Income tax + Decrease in inventory (or − increase) + Decrease in accounts receivable (or − increase) − Decrease in accounts payable (or + increase) + Salvage − Windfall tax on salvage

Notice that we already have most of the data needed for the cash-f low formula, but we are missing the forecasts for income tax and windfall tax. Before we can finalize the cash f low computation, we have to forecast taxes. Income tax equals earnings before taxes (EBT) times the income tax rate. EBT is computed using the following formula: Earnings before Taxes = Sales − Cost of goods sold − Selling, administrative, and general expenses − Advertising − Depreciation

The formula for EBT is similar to the formula for cash-f low, with a few important exceptions. The cash-f low calculation does not subtract out depreciation, whereas the EBT calculation does. This is because depreciation is not a cash f low; the firm never has to write a check payable to “depreciation.” Depreciation does reduce taxable income, however, because the government allows this deduction for tax purposes. So depreciation inf luences cash f low via its impact on income tax, but it is not a cash f low itself. The greater the allowable depreciation is in a given year, the lower taxes will be, and the greater the resulting cash f low to the firm.

Planning Capital Expenditure


Treatment of Net Work ing Capital Changes in inventory, accounts receivable, and accounts payable are included in the cash-f low calculation but not in EBT. Changes in the components of working capital directly impact cash f low, but they are not deductible for tax purposes. When a firm buys inventory, it has essentially swapped one asset, (cash) for another asset (inventory). Though this is a negative cash f low, it is not considered a deductible expenditure for tax purposes. Similarly, a rise in accounts receivable means that cash that otherwise would have been in the company coffers is now owed to the company instead. Thus, an increase in accounts receivable effectively sucks cash out of the company and must be treated as a cash outf low. Increasing accounts payable has the opposite effect. One way to gain perspective on the impact of accounts payable and accounts receivable on a company’s cash f low is to think of them as adjustments to sales and costs of goods sold. If a company makes a sale but the customer has not yet paid, clearly there is no cash f low generated from the sale. Though the sales variable will increase, the increase in accounts receivable will exactly offset that increase in the cash f low computation. Similarly, if the company incurs expenses in the manufacture of the goods sold but has not yet paid its suppliers for the raw materials, the costs of goods sold will be offset by the increase in accounts payable.

Depreciation According to a straight-line depreciation schedule, depreciation in each year is the initial cost of the plant or equipment divided by the number of years over which the asset will be depreciated. So, the $8 million plant depreciated over 10 years generates depreciation of $800,000 each year. Land is generally not depreciated. Straight-line depreciation is but one acceptable method for determining depreciation of plant and equipment. The tax authorities often sanction other methods and schedules.

Windfall Prof it and Windfall Tax In order to compute windfall profit and windfall tax, we must be able to track an asset’s book value over its life. Book value is the initial value minus all previous depreciation. For example, the brewery initially has a book value of $8 million, but that value falls $800,000 per year due to depreciation. At the end of the first year, book value falls to $7.2 million. By the end of the second year, following another $800,000 of depreciation, the book value will be $6.4 million. By the end of the tenth year, when the brewery is fully depreciated, the book value will be zero. Windfall profit is the difference between the salvage value and book value. We are told the beer company will be able to sell the old brewery for

296 Planning and Forecasting $1.5 million at the end of 10 years. By then, however, the book value of the brewery will be zero. Thus, the beer company will realize a windfall profit of $1.5 million. The government will want its share of that windfall profit. Multiplying the windfall profit by the tax rate determines the windfall tax. In this particular case, with a windfall profit of $1.5 million and a tax rate of 40%, the windfall tax would equal $600 thousand (= $1.5 million × 40%).

Taxable Income and Income Tax Exhibit 10.2 shows how taxable income and income tax are computed for the brewery example. Income tax equals EBT times the company’s income tax rate. In each of years 1 through 10, EBT is $2.7 million, so income tax is $1,080,000 (= $2.7 million × 40%).

Interest Expense Notice that the calculation of taxable income and income tax in Exhibit 10.2 does not deduct any interest expense. This is not an oversight. Even if the company intends to finance the new project by selling bonds or borrowing from a bank, we should not deduct any anticipated interest expense from our taxable income, and we should not subtract interest payments in the cash f low computation. We will take the tax shield of debt financing into account later when we compute the company’s cost of capital. The reason for omitting interest expense at this stage cuts to the core of the purpose of capital budgeting. We are trying to forecast how much cash is required from investors to start this project and then how much cash this project will generate for the investors once the project is up and running. Interest expense is a distribution of cash to one class of investors—the debt holders. If we want the bottom line of our cash-f low computation to ref lect how much cash will be available to all investors, we must not subtract out cash f low going to one class of investors before we get to that bottom line.

EXHIBIT 10.2 Income tax forecasts for brewer y project (thousands). Years 1–10 Sales Cost of goods sold Selling, administrative, and general expenses Advertising Depreciation

$ 7,000 (2,000) (1,000) (500) (800)

Earnings before taxes

$ 2,700

Income tax (40%)


Planning Capital Expenditure


Putting the Pieces Together to Forecast Cash Flow We now have all the puzzle pieces to construct our capital budgeting cash-f low projection. These pieces and the resulting cash-f low projection are presented in Exhibit 10.3. Cash f lows in years 1 through 9 are forecast to be $2.42 million, and the cash f low in year 10 is expected to be $5.32 million. Year 10 has a greater cash f low because of the recovery of the inventory and the assumed sale of the land and plant.

GUIDING PR INCIPLES FOR FOR ECASTING CASH FLOWS The brewery example is one illustration of how cash f lows are forecast. Every project is different, however, and the financial analyst must be keen to identify all sources of cash f low. The following three principles can serve as a guide: (1) Focus on cash f low, not on raw accounting data, (2) use expected values, and (3) focus on the incremental.

Principle No. 1: Focus on Cash Flow NPV analysis focuses on cash f lows—that is, actual cash payments and receipts f lowing into or out of the firm. Recall that accounting profit is not the same thing as cash f low. Accounting profit often mixes variables whose timings differ. A sale made today may show up in today’s profits, but since the cash receipt for the sale may be deferred, the corresponding cash f low takes place

EXHIBIT 10.3 Cash f low projections for brewer y project (thousands). Year:

Construction Land Inventory Account receivable Accounts payable Sales Cost of goods sold Selling, admin., and general Advertising Income tax Salvage Windfall tax

$ (8,000) (1,000) (1,000) (400) 400

Total cash f low



$7,000 (2,000) (1,000) (500) (1,080)


10 $1,000 1,000 400 (400) 7,000 (2,000) (1,000) (500) (1,080) 1,500 (600) $5,320

298 Planning and Forecasting later. Since the cash f low is deferred, the true value of that sale to the firm is somewhat diminished. By focusing on cash f lows and when they occur, NPV ref lects the true value of increased revenues and costs. Consequently, NPV analysis requires that accounting data be unraveled to reveal the underlying cash f lows. That is why changes in net working capital must be accounted for and why depreciation does not show up directly.

Principle No. 2: Use Expected Values There is always going to be some uncertainty over future cash f lows. Future costs and revenues cannot be known for sure. The analyst must gather as much information as possible and assemble it to construct expected values of the input variables. Although expected values are not perfect, these best guesses have to be good enough. What is the alternative? The uncertainty in forecasting the inputs is accounted for in the discount rate that is later used to discount the expected cash f lows.

Principle No. 3: Focus on the Incremental NPV analysis is done in terms of “incremental” cash f lows—that is, the change in cash f low generated by the decision to undertake the project. Incremental cash f low is the difference between what the cash f low would be with the project and what the firm’s cash f low would be without the project. Any sales or savings that would have happened without the project and are unaffected by doing the project are irrelevant and should be ignored. Similarly, any costs that would have been incurred anyway are irrelevant. It is often difficult yet nonetheless important to focus on the incremental when calculating how cash f lows are impacted by opportunity costs, sunk costs, and overhead. These troublesome areas will be elaborated on next.

Opportunity Costs Opportunity costs are opportunities for cash inf lows that must be sacrificed in order to undertake the project. No check is written to pay for opportunity costs, but they represent changes in the firm’s cash f lows caused by the project and must, therefore, be treated as actual costs of doing the project. For example, suppose the firm owns a parking lot, and a proposed project requires use of that land. Is the land free since the firm already owns it? No; if the project were not undertaken then the company could sell or rent out the land. Use of the company’s land is, therefore, not free. There is an opportunity cost. Money that could have been earned if the project were rejected will not be earned if the project is started. In order to ref lect fully the incremental impact of the proposed project, the incremental cash f lows used in NPV analysis must incorporate opportunity costs.

Planning Capital Expenditure


Sunk Costs Sunk costs are expenses that have already been paid or have already been committed to. Past research and development are examples. Since sunk costs are not incremental to the proposed project, NPV analysis must ignore them. NPV analysis is always forward-looking. The past cannot be changed and so should not enter into the choice of a future course of action. If research was undertaken last year, the effects of that research might bear on future cash f lows, but the cost of that research is already water under the bridge and so is not relevant in the decision to continue the project. The project decision must be made on the basis of whether the project increases or decreases wealth from the present into the future. The past is irrelevant.

Overhead The treatment of overhead often gives project managers a headache. Overhead comprises expenditures made by the firm for resources that are shared by many projects or departments. Heat and maintenance for common facilities are examples. Management resources and shared support staff are other examples. Overhead represents resources required for the firm to provide an environment in which projects can be undertaken. Different firms use different formulas for charging overhead expenses to various projects and departments. If overhead charges accurately ref lect the shared resources used by a project, then they should be treated as incremental costs of operating the project. If the project were not undertaken, those shared resources would benefit another moneymaking project, or perhaps the firm could possibly cut some of the shared overhead expenditures. Thus, to the extent that overhead does represent resources used by the project, it should be included in calculating incremental cash f lows. If, on the other hand, overhead expense is unaffected by the decision to undertake the new project, and no other proposed project could use those shared resources, then overhead should be ignored in the NPV analysis. Sometimes the formulas used to calculate overhead for budgeting purposes are unrealistic and overcharge projects for their use of shared resources. If the financial analyst does not correct this unrepresentative allocation of costs, some worthwhile projects might incorrectly appear undesirable.

COMPUTING NPV: THE TIME VALUE OF MONEY In deciding whether a project is worthwhile, one needs to know more than whether it will make money. One must also know when it will make money. Time is money! Project decisions involve cash f lows spread out over several periods. As we shall see, cash f lows in different periods are distinct products in the financial marketplace—as different as apples and oranges. To make decisions affecting many future periods, we must know how to convert the different periods’ cash f lows into a common currency.

300 Planning and Forecasting The concept that future cash f lows have a lower present value and the set of tools used to discount future cash f lows to their present values are collectively known as “time value of money” (TVOM) analysis. I have always thought this to be a misnomer; the name should be the “money value of time.” But there is no use bucking the trend, so we will adopt the standard nomenclature. You probably already have an intuitive grasp of the fundamentals of TVOM analysis, as your likely answer to the following question illustrates: Would you rather have $100 today or $100 next year? Why? The answer to this question is the essence of TVOM. You no doubt answered that you would rather have the money today. Money today is worth more than money to be delivered in the future. Even if there were perfect certainty that the future money would be received, we prefer to have money in hand today. There are many reasons for this. Having money in hand allows greater f lexibility for planning. You might choose to spend it before the future money would be delivered. If you choose not to spend the money during the course of the year, you can earn interest on it by investing it. Understanding TVOM allows you to quantify exactly how much more early cash f lows are worth than deferred cash f lows. An example will illuminate the concept. Suppose you and a friend have dinner together in a restaurant. You order an inexpensive sandwich. Your friend orders a large steak, a bottle of wine, and several desserts. The bill arrives and your friend’s share is $100. Unfortunately, your friend forgot his wallet and asks to borrow the $100 from you. You agree and pay. A year passes before your friend remembers to pay you back the money. “Here is the $100,” he finally says one day. Such events test a friendship, especially if you had to carry a $100 balance on your credit card over the course of the year on which interest accrued at a rate of 18%. Is the $100 that your friend is offering you now worth the same as the $100 that he borrowed a year earlier? Actually, no; a $100 cash f low today is not worth $100 next year. The same nominal amount has different values depending on when it is paid. If the interest rate is 18%, a $100 cash f low today is worth $118 next year and is worth $139.24 the year after because of compound interest. The present value of $118 to be received next year is exactly $100 today. Your friend should pay you $118 if he borrowed $100 from you a year earlier. The formula for converting a future value to a present value is: PV =


(1 + r )


where PV stands for present value, FV is future value, n is the number of periods in the future that the future cash f low is paid, and r is the appropriate interest rate or discount rate.

Discounting Cash Flows Suppose in the brewery example that the appropriate discount rate for translating future values to present values was 20%. Recall that the brewery project

Planning Capital Expenditure


was forecast to generate $2.42 million of cash in year 1. The present value of that cash f low, as of year 0, is $2,016,670, computed as follows: PV =

$2, 420, 000





= $2, 016, 670

Similarly, the year-2 cash f low was forecast to be $2.42 million also. The present value of that second-year cash f low is only $1,680,560: PV =

$2, 420, 000





= $1, 680, 560

The longer the time over which a cash f low is discounted, the lower is its present value. Exhibit 10.4 presents the forecasted cash f lows and their discounted present values for the brewery project.

Summing the Discounted Cash Flows to Arrive at NPV Finally, we can calculate the NPV. The NPV is the sum of all discounted cash f lows, which in the brewery example equals $614,000. To understand precisely what this means, observe that the sum of the discounted cash f lows from years 1 through 10 is $10,614,000. This means that the project generates future cash f lows that are worth $10,614,000 today. The initial cost of the project is $10,000,000 today. Thus, the project is worth $10,614,000 but costs only $10,000,000 and therefore creates $614,000 of new wealth. The managers of the beer company would be well advised to adopt this project, because it has a positive NPV and therefore creates wealth.

EXHIBIT 10.4 Discounted cash f lows for brewer y project (thousands). Year

Cash Flow

Discounted Cash Flow

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

$(10,000) 2,420 2,420 2,420 2,420 2,420 2,420 2,420 2,420 2,420 5,320

$(10,000) 2,017 1,681 1,400 1,167 973 810 675 563 469 859

302 Planning and Forecasting MOR E NPV EXAMPLES Consider two alternative projects, A and B. They both cost $1,000,000 to set up. Project A returns $800,000 per year for two years starting one year after setup. Project B also returns $800,000 per year for two years, but the cash f lows begin two years after setup. The firm uses a discount rate of 20%. Which is the better project, A or B? Like project A, project C also costs $1,000,000 to set up, and it will pay back $1,600,000. For both A and C, the firm will earn $800,000 per year for two years starting one year after setup. However, C costs $500,000 initially and the other $500,000 need only be paid at the termination of the project (it may be a cleanup cost, for example). Project A requires the initial outlay all at once at the outset. Which is the better project, A or C? Of projects A, B, and C, which project(s) should be undertaken? We should make the project decision only after analyzing each project’s NPV. Exhibit 10.5 tabulates each project’s cash f lows, discounted cash f lows, and NPVs. The NPVs of Projects A, B, and C, are, respectively, $222,222, −$151,235, and $375,000. Project C has the highest NPV. Therefore, if only one project can be selected, it should be project C. If more than one project can be undertaken, then both A and C should be selected since they both have positive NPVs. Project B should be rejected since it has a negative NPV and would therefore destroy wealth. It makes sense that project C should have the highest NPV, since its cash outf lows are deferred relative to the other projects, and its cash inf lows are early. Project B, alternatively has all costs up front, but its cash inf lows are deferred. Suppose a project has positive NPV, but the NPV is small, say, only a few hundred dollars. The firm should nevertheless undertake that project if there are no alternative projects with higher NPV. The reason is that a firm’s value is increased every time it undertakes a positive-NPV project. The firm’s value increases by the amount of the project NPV. A small NPV, as long as it is positive, is net of all input costs and financing costs. So, even if the NPV is low, EXHIBIT 10.5 Cash f lows and discounted cash f lows for three alternative projects (thousands).


Project A Cash Flow

Project A Discounted Cash Flow

Project B Cash Flow

Project B Discounted Cash Flow

Project C Project C Discounted Cash Flow Cash Flow

0 1 2 3 4

$(1,000,000) 800,000 800,000 0 0

$(1,000,000) 666,667 555,556 0 0

$(1,000,000) 0 0 800,000 800,000

$(1,000,000) 0 0 462,963 385,802

$(500,000) 800,000 300,000 0 0




$(500,000) 666,667 208,333 0 0 $ 375,000

Planning Capital Expenditure


the project covers all its costs and provides additional returns. If accepting the small-NPV project does not preclude the undertaking of a higher-NPV project, then it is the best thing to do. A firm that rejects a positive-NPV project is rejecting wealth. Of course, this does not mean a firm should jump headlong into any project that at the moment appears likely to provide positive NPV. Future potential projects should be considered as well, and they should be evaluated as potential alternatives. The projects, current or future, that have the highest NPV should be the projects accepted. For maximum wealth-creation efficiency, the firm’s managerial resources should be committed toward undertaking maximum NPV projects.

THE DISCOUNT RATE At what rate should cash f lows be discounted to compute net present values? In most cases, the appropriate rate is the firm’s cost of funds for the project. That is, if the firm secures financing for the project by borrowing from a bank, the after-tax interest rate should be used to discount cash f lows. If the firm obtains funds by selling stock, then an equity financing rate should be applied. If the financing combines debt and equity, then the appropriate discount rate would be an average of the debt rate and the equity rate.

Cost of Debt Financing The after-tax interest rate is the interest rate paid on a firm’s debt less the impact of the tax break they get from issuing debt. For example, suppose that a firm pays 10% interest on its debt and the firm’s income tax rate is 40%. If the firm issues $100,000 of debt, then the annual interest expense will be $10,000 (10% × $100,000). But this $10,000 of interest expense is tax deductible, so the firm would save $4,000 in taxes (40% × the $10,000 interest). Thus, net of the tax break, this firm would be paying $6,000 to service a $100,000 debt. Its after-tax interest rate is 6% ($6,000/$100,000 principal). The formula for after-tax interest rate (RD, af ter-tax) is: RD, after -tax = RD (1 − τ )

where RD is the firm’s pretax interest rate, and τ is the firm’s income tax rate. Borrowing from a bank or selling bonds to raise funds is known as “debt financing.” Issuing stock to raise funds is known as “equity financing.” Equity financing is an alternative to debt financing, but it is not free. When a firm sells equity, it sells ownership in the firm. The return earned by the new shareholders is a cost to the old shareholders. The rate of return earned by equity investors is found by adding dividends to the change in the stock price and then dividing by the initial stock price:

304 Planning and Forecasting RE =

D + P1 − P0 P0

where RE is the return on the stock and also the cost of equity financing, D is the dollar amount of annual dividends per share paid by the firm to stockholders, P0 is the stock price at the beginning of the year, and P1 is the stock price at the end of the year. For example, suppose the stock price is $100 per share at the beginning of the year and $112 at the end of the year, and the dividend is $8 per share. The stockholders would have earned a return of 20%, and this 20% is also the cost of equity financing: RE =

$8 + $112 − $100 = 20% $100

The capital asset pricing model (CAPM) is often used to estimate a firm’s cost of equity financing. The idea behind the CAPM is that the rate of return demanded by equity investors will be a function of the risk of the equity, where risk is measured by a variable beta (β). According to the CAPM, β and cost of equity financing are related by the following equation:


RE = RF + β RM − RF


where RF is a risk-free interest rate, such as a Treasury bill rate, and RM is the expected return for the stock market as a whole. For example, suppose the expected annual return to the overall stock market is 12%, and the Treasury bill rate is 4%. If a stock has a β of 2, then its cost of equity financing would be 20%, computed as follows:

[ (


RE = 4% + 2 × 12% − 4% = 20%

Analysts often use the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock portfolio as a proxy for the entire stock market when estimating the expected market return. The βs for publicly traded firms are available from a variety of sources, such as Bloomberg, Standard & Poor’s, or the many companies that provide equity research reports. How β is computed and the theory behind the CAPM are beyond the scope of this chapter, but the textbooks listed in the bibliography to this chapter provide excellent coverage.

Weighted Average Cost of Capital Most firms use a combination of both equity and debt financing to raise money for new projects. When financing comes from two sources, the appropriate discount rate is an average of the two financing rates. If most of the financing is debt, then debt should have greater weight in the average. Similarly, the weight given to equity should ref lect how much of the financing is from equity. The

Planning Capital Expenditure


resulting number, the “weighted average cost of capital” (WACC), ref lects the firm’s true cost of raising funds for the project:

[ (

WACC = WE RE + WD RD 1 − τ


where WE is the proportion of the financing that is equity, WD is the proportion of the financing that is debt, RE is the cost of equity financing, RD is the pretax cost of debt financing, and τ is the tax rate. For example, suppose a firm acquires 70% of the funds needed for a project by selling stock. The remaining 30% of financing comes from borrowing. The cost of equity financing is 20%, the pretax cost of debt financing is 10%, and the tax rate is 40%. The weighted average cost of capital would then be 15.8%, computed as follows:






WACC = 0.7 × 20% + 0.3 × 10% × 1 − 40% = 15.8%

This 15.8% rate should then be used for discounting the project cash f lows. Most often the choice of the discount rate is beyond the authority of the project manager. Top management will determine some threshold discount rate and dictate that it is the rate that must be used to assess all projects. When this is the policy, the rate is usually the firm’s WACC with an additional margin added to compensate for the natural optimism of project proponents. A higher WACC makes NPV lower, and this biases management toward rejecting projects.

The Effects of Leverage Leverage refers to the amount of debt financing used: the greater the ratio of debt to equity in the financing mix, the greater the leverage. The following example illustrates how leverage impacts the returns generated by a project. Suppose we have two companies that both manufacture scooters. One company is called NoDebt Inc., and the other is called SomeDebt Inc. As you might guess from its name, NoDebt never carries debt. SomeDebt is financed with equal parts of debt and equity. Neither company knows whether the economy will be good or bad next year, but they can make projections contingent on the state of the economy. Exhibit 10.6 presents balance-sheet and income-statement data for the two companies for each possible business environment. Each company has $1 million of assets. Therefore, the value of NoDebt’s equity is $1 million, since debt plus equity must equal assets—the balancesheet equality. Since SomeDebt is financed with an equal mix of debt and equity, its debt must be worth $500,000, and its equity must also be worth $500,000. Aside from capital structure—that is, the mix of debt and equity used to finance the companies—the two firms are identical. In good times both companies make $1 million in sales. In bad times sales fall to $200,000. Cost of goods sold is always 50% of sales. Selling, administrative, and general expenses are a constant $50,000. For simplicity we assume there is no depreciation.

306 Planning and Forecasting EXHIBIT 10.6

Performance of NoDebt Inc. and SomeDebt Inc. NoDebt Inc. (thousands)

Net Earnings

SomeDebt Inc. (thousands)

Good Times

Bad Times

Good Times

Bad Times

Assets Debt

$1,000 0

$1,000 0

$1,000 500

$1,000 500






Revenue COGS SAG EBIT Interest EBT Tax (40%)

$1,000 500 50 450 0 450 180

$1,200 100 50 50 0 50 20

$1,000 500 50 450 50 400 160

$1,200 100 50 50 50 0 0

Net Earnings






45.0% 27.0%

5.0% 3.0%

45.0% 48.0%

5.0% 0.0%

Earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) is thus $450,000 for both companies in good times, and $50,000 for both in bad times. So far, this example illustrates an important lesson about leverage: Leverage has no impact on EBIT. If we define return on assets (ROA)1 as EBIT divided by assets, then leverage has no impact on ROA. If the pre-tax interest rate is 10%, however, then SomeDebt must pay $50,000 of interest on its outstanding $500,000 of debt, regardless of whether business is good or bad. NoDebt, of course, pays no interest. Because this is a standard income statement, not a capital budgeting cash-f low computation, we must account for interest. EBT (earnings before taxes, which is the same thing as taxable income) for NoDebt is the same as its EBIT: $450,000 in good times and $50,000 in bad times. For SomeDebt, however, EBT will be $50,000 less in both states: $400,000 in good times and zero in bad times. Income tax is 40% of EBT, so it must be $180,000 for NoDebt in good times, $20,000 for NoDebt in bad times, $160,000 for SomeDebt in good times, and zero for SomeDebt in bad times. Here we see the second important lesson about leverage: Leverage reduces taxes. Net earnings is EBT minus taxes. For NoDebt, net earnings is $270,000 in good times and $30,000 in bad times. For SomeDebt, net earnings is $240,000 in good times and zero in bad times. Return on equity (ROE) equals net earnings divided by equity. ROE is the profit earned by the equity investors as a function of their equity investment. If, as in this example, there is no depreciation, no changes in net working capital, and no capital expenditures, then net earnings would equal the cash f low received by equity investors, and ROE would be that year’s cash return on their equity investment. Notice that ROE for NoDebt is 27% in good times and 3% in bad times. ROE for SomeDebt is much more volatile: 48% in good times and 0% in bad times. This is the third

Planning Capital Expenditure


and most important lesson to be learned about leverage from this example: For the equity investors, leverage makes the good times better and the bad times worse. One student of mine, upon hearing this, exclaimed, “Leverage is a lot like beer!” Because leverage increases the riskiness of the cash f lows to equity investors, leverage increases the cost of equity capital. But for moderate amounts of leverage, the impact of the tax shield on the cost of debt financing overwhelms the rising cost of equity financing, and leverage reduces the WACC. Economists Franco Modigliani and Merton Miller were each awarded the Nobel Prize in economics (in 1985 and 1990, respectively) for work that included research on this very issue. Modigliani and Miller proved that in a world where there are no taxes and no bankruptcy costs the WACC is unaffected by leverage. What about the real world in which taxes and bankruptcy exist? What we learn from their result, known as the Modigliani-Miller irrelevance theorem, is that as leverage is increased WACC falls because of the tax savings, but eventually WACC starts to rise again due to the rising probability of bankruptcy costs. The choice of debt versus equity financing must balance these countervailing concerns, and the optimal mix of debt and equity depends on the specific details of the proposed project.

Divisional versus Firm Cost of Capital Suppose the beer company is thinking about opening a restaurant. The risk inherent in the restaurant business is much greater than the risk of the beer brewing business. Suppose the WACC for the brewery has historically been 20%, but the WACC for stand-alone restaurants is 30%. What discount rate should be used for the proposed restaurant project? Considerable research, both theoretical and empirical, has been applied to this question, and the consensus is that the 30% restaurant WACC should be used. A discount rate must be appropriate for the risk and characteristics of the project, not the risk and characteristics of the parent company. The reason for this surprising result is that the volatility of the project’s cash f lows and their correlation with other risky cash f lows are the paramount risk factors in determining cost of capital, not simply the likelihood of default on the company’s obligations. The financial analyst should estimate the project’s cost of capital as if it were a new restaurant company, not an extension of the beer company. The analyst should examine other restaurant companies to determine the appropriate β, cost of equity capital, cost of debt financing, financing mix, and WACC.

OTHER DECISION RULES Some firms do not use the NPV decision rule as the criterion for deciding whether a project should be accepted or rejected. At least three alternative decision rules are commonly used. As we shall see, however, the alternative rules

308 Planning and Forecasting are f lawed. If the objective of the firm is to maximize investors’ wealth, the alternative rules sometimes fail to identify projects that further this end and in fact sometimes lead to acceptance of projects that destroy wealth. We will examine the payback period rule, the discounted payback rule, and the internal rate of return rule.

The Payback Period The payback period rule stipulates that cash f lows must completely repay the initial outlay prior to some cutoff payback period. For example, if the payback cutoff were three years, the payback rule would require that all projects return the initial outlay within three years. Projects that satisfy the rule would be accepted; projects that do not satisfy the rule would be rejected. For example, suppose a project initially costs $100,000 to set up. Suppose the cash f lows in the first three years were $34,000 each. The sum of the first three years’ cash f lows is $102,000. This is greater than the initial $100,000 outlay, and so this project would be accepted under the payback period rule. There are two major problems with the payback period rule. First, it does not take into account the time value of money. Second, it ignores what happens after the payback. Because of these two failings, the payback rule sometimes accepts projects that should be rejected and rejects projects that should be accepted. A project that costs $100,000 to set up and returns $34,000 for three years would have a negative NPV at a 10% discount rate, since the $102,000 in deferred cash f lows are worth less than the initial $100,000 outlay. Yet, the project would be adopted under the payback rule criterion. Consider a project that costs $100,000 to set up, returns nothing for three years, and then returns $10 million in year 4. This project would have a positive NPV at any reasonable discount rate, yet would be rejected by the payback rule. The rejection stems from the fact that the payback rule is myopic, that is, it fails to take into account what happens after the payback period. Empirical studies have shown that, contrary to popular perceptions, stockholders do reward firms that take the longer view, NPV approach to project analysis.

The Discounted Payback Period An improved, though still f lawed, variant of the payback period rule is the discounted payback period rule. The discounted payback rule stipulates that the discounted cash f lows from a project over some payback horizon must exceed the initial outlay. If the horizon were three years, the rule would require that the discounted present value of a project’s first three years of cash f lows be greater than the initial outlay. Although this rule explicitly takes into account the time value of money, it still ignores what might happen after the payback horizon. A project may be rejected even if the expected cash f lows from the fourth year and beyond are very large, as might be the case in a research and development project. A project might be accepted even if there is a large

Planning Capital Expenditure


cleanup cost that would have to be paid after the payback horizon. Although the rule incorporates the time value of money, it is still shortsighted. One might conjecture that the payback and discounted payback rules are popular since they are easy to apply. Yet, this ease is paid for in lost opportunities for creating wealth and occasional misallocation of resources into wasteful projects.

Internal Rate of Return A project’s internal rate of return (IRR) is the interest rate that the project essentially pays out. It is the interest rate that a bank would have to pay so that the project’s cash outf lows would exactly finance its cash inf lows. Instead of investing money in the project, one could invest money in a bank paying a rate of interest equal to the project’s IRR and receive the same cash f lows. One can think of the IRR as an interest rate that a project pays to its investors. For example, a project that costs $100,000 to set up but then returns $10,000 every year forever has an IRR of 10%. If a project costs $100,000 to set up and then ends the following year when it pays back $105,000, that project would have an IRR of 5%. The IRR is the rate of return generated by the project. Most financial calculators and spreadsheet programs have functions that find IRR using cash f lows supplied by the user. For example, consider a project that requires a cash outf low of $100 in year 0 and produces cash inf lows of $40 for each of four years. To find the IRR using a financial calculator one must specify that the present value equals −$100, annual payments equal +$40, and n, the number of years, equals 4. The present value and the annuity payments must have opposite signs in order to indicate to the calculator that the direction of cash f lows has changed. The last step is to issue the instruction for the calculator to find the interest rate that allows these cash f lows to make sense. The answer is the IRR, which in this example is 21.9%. For the beer brewery cash f lows specified in Exhibit 10.4, the IRR is 21.7%. Most TOVM problems involve specifying an interest rate and some of the cash f lows and then instructing the calculator to find the missing cash f low variable—either present value, future value, or annual payment. IRR calculations involve specifying all of the cash f lows and instructing the calculator to find the missing interest rate. The IRR also happens to be the discount rate at which the project’s cash f lows have an NPV of zero. This relationship can be used to verify that an IRR is correct. First calculate NPV at a guessed IRR. If the resulting NPV is zero, the guessed IRR is in fact correct. If not, guess again. The IRR eventually can be found by trial and error. For example, consider again the case in which the initial cash outf low is $100, followed by four annual cash inf lows of $40. To use the trial and error method, one should calculate the NPV at a guessed discount rate. When we find the discount rate at which the NPV is zero, we will have identified the IRR. If we guess 10%, the NPV is $26.79. Apparently, the guessed discount rate is too low. A higher discount rate will give a lower NPV. So guess again,

310 Planning and Forecasting maybe 30% this time. At 30%, the NPV is −$13.35. Apparently, 30% is too high. The next guess should be lower. Following this algorithm, the IRR of 21.9% will eventually be located. The IRR rule stipulates that a project should be accepted if its IRR is greater than some agreed-on threshold, and rejected otherwise. That is, to be accepted a project must produce percentage returns higher than some companymandated minimum. Often the minimum threshold is set equal to the firm’s cost of capital. If the IRR beats the WACC, then the project is accepted. If the IRR is less than the WACC, the project is rejected. For example, suppose a project costs $1,000 to set up, and then produces a one-time cash inf low of $1,100 one year later. The IRR of this project is 10%. If the company imposes a minimum threshold of 20%, this project will be rejected. If the company’s threshold is 8%, this project will be accepted. We saw previously that the brewery project IRR was 21.7%. If the agreed threshold is the brewery’s 20% WACC, then the IRR rule would indicate that the project should be accepted. The IRR rule is appealing in that it usually gives the same guidance as the NPV rule when the threshold equals the company’s cost of capital. If a project’s IRR exceeds the firm’s cost of capital, the project must be creating wealth for the firm. The project would produce returns greater than the firm’s financing costs, and the spread would be adding wealth for the investors. Unfortunately, the IRR rule frequently breaks down and gives misleading advice. The IRR rule suffers from two f laws. First, it ignores the relative sizes of alternative projects. For example, suppose a firm had to choose between two projects, each of which lasts one year. The first project costs $10,000 to set up but then pays back $16,000 one year later. The second project costs $100,000 to set up but pays back $120,000 one year later. Clearly the IRR of the first project is 60%, and the IRR of the second project is 20%. On the basis of IRR the first project seems to be superior. However, if the firm’s cost of capital is 10%, the first project has an NPV of $4,454, whereas the second project has an NPV of $9,091. Clearly the second project creates more wealth. The first project has a higher rate of return but on a smaller investment. The second project’s lower return on a larger scale is a better use of the firm’s scarce managerial resources. The second f law in the IRR rule stems from the fact that a given project may have multiple IRRs. IRR is not always a single, unique value. Consider a two-year project. Initially the project costs $1,000 to set up. In the first year it returns $3,000. In the second year there is a cleanup costing $2,000. It is easy to verify that 0% is one correct value for the firm’s IRR: Discounting at 0% and adding up all the discounted cash f lows gives an NPV of zero. Notice, however, that 100% is another correct value for the IRR: Discounting all cash f lows at 100% per year also gives an NPV of zero. If the firm’s cost of capital is 10%, should this project be accepted or rejected? Ten percent is greater than 0%, but less than 100%. Only by computing the NPV at the discount rate of 10% do we find out that this project has a positive NPV of $74 and so should be

Planning Capital Expenditure


accepted. When a project has two or more IRRs, the analyst would have no way of knowing which was the correct one to use if he or she did not also compute the NPV and apply the NPV rule. If the analyst only computed the IRR of 100%, then she or he would reject this valuable project. It turns out that a project will have one IRR for every change in sign in its cash f lows. If a project has an initial outlay and then subsequently all cash f lows are positive inf lows, there will be one unique IRR. If a project has an initial outlay, a string of positive inf lows, and then a cleanup cost at the end, there will be two IRRs since the direction of cash f low changed twice. If there were an initial outlay, a positive inf low, another net outf low during a retooling year, followed by a positive inf low, the three sign changes would produce three different IRRs. The IRR rule would provide little guidance in such a scenario and could possibly lead to an incorrect judgment of the project’s worth. In situations where its two fatal f laws are not an issue, the IRR rule gives the same result as the NPV rule. If the project’s cash f lows change sign only once, there is no problem of multiple IRRs. If all competing projects are of the same magnitude or if there is only one project under consideration, the size issue will not be a problem either. In such a situation, the firm would be justified in selecting the project on the basis of IRR. One circ*mstance in which alternative projects are of equal size and cash f lows only change direction once is in the analysis of alternative mortgage plans. These days, a person financing a home may choose from a multitude of mortgage plans. A variety of payment schedules are available and some plans charge points in exchange for lower monthly payments. Since all mortgages considered by the homebuyer finance the same house, the size issue is not a concern. Also, the typical home mortgage involves a cash inf low at the beginning and then only cash outf lows over the period when the borrower must pay back the loan. Thus, there is only one sign change among the cash f lows. A borrower can thus compare mortgages on the basis of their IRRs. The borrower should calculate the cash f lows over the horizon during which he or she expects to pay back the mortgage, and should then choose the lowest IRR mortgage from among those whose monthly payments are affordable. The annual percentage rate (APR) quoted by mortgage companies is the IRR of the mortgage calculated after factoring in points and origination fees and assuming the mortgage will not be prepaid.

R ECENT INNOVATIONS IN CAPITAL BUDGETING Recent years have seen the introduction of two new capital budgeting paradigms. The fact that new approaches are still being invented tells us that NPV is not the last word in capital budgeting. Analysts and investors are constantly looking for better tools for making long-range capital decisions. One new approach, known as economic value added (EVA), was introduced by the consulting firm Stern Stewart & Company, which owns the term as a registered

312 Planning and Forecasting trademark. The second new paradigm we will brief ly examine is known as “real options.”

Economic Value Added Economic value added (EVA™) is an accounting metric that aims to capture how much wealth a company creates in a given year. EVA is the amount of invested capital multiplied by the spread between the company’s return on invested capital and its cost of capital. EVA aims to measure wealth creation in a given year rather than over the life of a project. EVA’s advocates advise managers to adopt projects that maximize EVA and manage projects so as to maximize EVA each year. Managers should monitor projects and make modifications, award incentives, and impose penalties to continuously boost EVA.

Real Options The real options paradigm seeks to measure not only the value of a project’s forecasted cash f lows but also the value of strategic f lexibility that a project creates for a company. For example, suppose a company is contemplating an initiative to market its wares on the Internet. The forecast cash f lows may be weak, but establishing a presence on the Internet may be valuable in that it wards off potential competition and creates opportunities that can later be exploited. The option to expand or the f lexibility to later pursue a wide range of initiatives is captured using the real option paradigm, whereas the value of these options is usually missed completely in the standard NPV approach. The real options paradigm entails identifying the strategic options inherent in a proposed project and then valuing them using modern mathematical optionpricing formulas. If the value of a proposed project complete with its real options is greater than the cost of initiating the project, then the project should be given the go-ahead.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS Capital budgeting is the process by which a firm chooses which projects to adopt and which to reject. It is an extremely important endeavor because it ultimately shapes the firm and the economy as a whole. The fundamental principal underlying capital budgeting is that a firm should adopt the projects that create the most wealth. Net present value (NPV) measures how much wealth a project creates. NPV is computed by forecasting a project’s cash f lows, discounting those cash f lows at the project’s weighted average cost of capital (WACC), and then summing the discounted cash f lows. The cost of capital used to discount the cash f lows is a function of the riskiness of the project and the financing mix selected.

Planning Capital Expenditure


Measures such as payback period, discounted payback period, and internal rate of return (IRR) give rise to alternative project decision rules. These rules, however, are f lawed and can potentially lead a company to adopt an inferior project or reject an optimal one. Economic value added is a new tool recently introduced to help managers choose among projects and then manage the projects once started. The real options paradigm is another recent innovation that aims to capture the value of strategic f lexibility created by projects. The tools of capital budgeting can be applied to large-scale corporate decisions, such as whether or not to build a new plant, but they can also be applied to smaller personal decisions, such as which home mortgage program to choose or whether to invest in new office equipment. Learning the language and tools of capital budgeting can help entrepreneurs better pitch their projects to investors or to the top executives at their own firms. Whether the decision is large or small, the fundamental principle is the same: A good project is ultimately worth more than it costs to set up and thereby generates wealth.

FOR FURTHER R EADING Amram, Martha, and Nalin Kulatilaka, Real Options: Managing Strategic Investment in an Uncertain World (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1999). Bodie, Zvi, and Robert C. Merton, Finance (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2000). Brealey, Richard A., and Stewart C. Myers, Principles of Corporate Finance (New York: Irwin/McGraw-Hill, 2000). Brigham, Eugene F., Michael C. Ehrhardt, and Louis C. Gapenski, Financial Management: Theory and Practice (New York: Dryden Press, 1999). Dixit, Avinash K., and Robert S. Pindyck, “The Options Approach to Capital Investment,” Harvard Business Review, 73(3) (May/June 1995): 105–115. Emery, Douglas R., and John D. Finnerty, Corporate Financial Management (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1997). Higgins, Robert C., Analysis for Financial Management (New York: Irwin/McGrawHill, 2001). Ross, Stephen A., Randolph W. Westerfield, and Jeffrey Jaffe, Corporate Finance (New York: Irwin/McGraw-Hill, 1999). Trigeorgis, Lenos, Real Options: Managerial Flexibility and Strategy in Resource Allocation (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997).

NOTE 1. This is one definition of ROA; another definition is net earnings divided by total assets. Given the second definition, ROA would be affected by leverage.



It is not possible to fully describe the federal taxation system in the space of one book chapter. It may not even be realistic to attempt to describe federal taxation in a full volume. After all, a purchaser of the Internal Revenue Code (the Code) can expect to carry home at least two volumes consisting of more than 6,000 pages, ranging from Section 1 through Section 9,722, if one includes the estate and gift tax and administrative provisions. And this does not even begin to address the myriad Regulations, Revenue Rulings, Revenue Procedures, Technical Advice Memoranda, private letter rulings, court decisions, and other sources of federal tax law that have proliferated over the better part of the twentieth century. Fortunately, most people who enroll in a federal tax course during their progression toward an MBA have no intention of becoming professional tax advisers. An effective tax course, therefore, rather than attempting to impart encyclopedic knowledge of the Code, instead presents taxation as another strategic management tool, available to the manager or entrepreneur in his or her quest to reach business goals in a more efficient and cost-effective manner. After completing such a course, the businessperson should always be conscious that failure to consider tax consequences when structuring a transaction may result in needless tax expense. It is thus the purpose of this chapter to illustrate the necessity of taking taxation into account when structuring most business transactions, and of consulting tax professionals early in the process, not just when it is time to file the return. This purpose will be attempted by describing various problems and opportunities encountered by a fictitious business owner as he progresses from


Taxes and Business Decisions


early successes, through the acquisition of a related business, to intergenerational succession problems.

THE BUSINESS We first encounter our sample business when it has been turning a reasonable profit for the past few years under the wise stewardship of its founder and sole stockholder, Morris. The success of his wholesale horticultural supply business (Plant Supply Inc.) has been a source of great satisfaction to Morris, as has the recent entry into the business of his daughter, Lisa. Morris paid Lisa’s business school tuition, hoping to groom her to take over the family business, and his investment seems to be paying off as Lisa has become more and more valuable to her father. Morris (rightly or wrongly) does not feel the same way about his only other offspring, his son, Victor, the violinist, who appears to have no interest whatsoever in the business except for its potential to subsidize his attempts to break into the concert world. At this time, Morris was about to score another coup: Plant Supply purchased a plastics molding business so it could fabricate its own trays, pots, and other planting containers instead of purchasing such items from others. Morris considered himself fortunate to secure the services of Brad (the plant manager of the molding company) because neither he nor Lisa knew very much about the molding business. He was confident that negotiations then underway would bring Brad aboard with a satisfactory compensation package. Thus, Morris could afford to turn his attention to the pleasant problem of distributing the wealth generated by his successful business.

UNR EASONABLE COMPENSATION Most entrepreneurs long for the day when their most pressing problem is figuring out what to do with all the money their business is generating. Yet this very condition was now occupying Morris’s mind. Brad did not present any problems in this context. His compensation package would be dealt with through ongoing negotiations, and, of course, he was not family. But Morris was responsible for supporting his wife and two children. Despite what Morris perceived as the unproductive nature of Victor’s pursuits, Morris was determined to maintain a standard of living for Victor befitting the son of a captain of industry. Of course, Lisa was also entitled to an aff luent lifestyle, but surely she was additionally entitled to extra compensation for her long hours at work. The simple and natural reaction to this set of circ*mstances would be to pay Lisa and Morris a reasonable salary for their work and have the corporation pay the remaining distributable profit (after retaining whatever was necessary for operations) to Morris. Morris could then take care of his wife and Victor as he saw fit. Yet such a natural reaction would ignore serious tax complications.

316 Planning and Forecasting The distribution to Morris beyond his reasonable salary would likely be characterized by the IRS as a dividend to the corporation’s sole stockholder. Since dividends cannot be deducted by the corporation as an expense, both the corporation and Morris would pay tax on these monies (the well-known bugaboo of corporate double taxation). A dollar of profit could easily be reduced to as little as $0.40 of after-tax money in Morris’s pocket (Exhibit 11.1). Knowing this, one might argue that the distribution to Morris should be characterized as a year-end bonus. Since compensation is tax deductible to the corporation, the corporate level of taxation would be removed. Unfortunately, Congress has long since limited the compensation deduction to a “reasonable” amount. The IRS judges the reasonableness of a payment by comparing it to the salaries paid to other employees performing similar services in similar businesses. It also examines whether such amount is paid as regular salary or as a year-end lump sum when profit levels are known. The scooping up by Morris of whatever money was not nailed down at the end of the year would surely come under attack by an IRS auditor. Why not then put Victor on the payroll directly, thus reducing the amount that Morris must take out of the company for his family? Again, such a payment would run afoul of the reasonableness standard. If Morris would come under attack despite his significant efforts for the company, imagine attempting to defend payments made to an “employee” who expends no such efforts.

Subchapter S The solution to the unreasonable compensation problem may lie in a relatively well-known tax strategy known as the subchapter S election. A corporation making this election remains a standard business corporation for all purposes other than taxation (retaining its ability to grant limited liability to its stockholders, for example). The corporation elects to forgo taxation at the corporate level and to be taxed similarly to a partnership. This means that a corporation that has elected subchapter S status will escape any taxation on the corporate level, but its stockholders will be taxed on their pro rata share of the corporation’s profits, regardless of whether these profits are distributed to them. Under this election, Morris’s corporation would pay no corporate tax, but Morris would pay income tax on all the corporation’s profits, even those retained for operations. EXHIBIT 11.1 $1.00 −0.34 0.66 −0.25 0.41

Double taxation.

Earned Corporate tax at 34% Dividend Individual tax at 39.1%* Remains

* Highest federal income tax rate in 2001.

Taxes and Business Decisions


This election is recommended in a number of circ*mstances. One example is the corporation that expects to incur losses, at least in its start-up phase. In the absence of a subchapter S election, such losses would simply collect at the corporate level, awaiting a time in the future when they could be “carried forward” to offset future profits (should there ever be any). If the election is made, the losses would pass through to the stockholders in the current year and might offset other income of these stockholders such as interest, dividends from investments, and salaries. Another such circ*mstance is when a corporation expects to sell substantially all its assets sometime in the future in an acquisition transaction. Since the repeal of the so-called General Utilities doctrine, such a corporation would incur a substantial capital gain tax on the growth in the value of its assets from their acquisition to the time of sale, in addition to the capital gain tax incurred by its stockholders when the proceeds of such sale are distributed to them. The subchapter S election (if made early enough), again eliminates tax at the corporate level, leaving only the tax on the stockholders. The circ*mstance most relevant to Morris is the corporation with too much profit to distribute as reasonable salary and bonuses. Instead of fighting the battle of reasonableness with the IRS, Morris could elect subchapter S status, thus rendering the controversy moot. It will not matter that the amount paid to him is too large to be anything but a nondeductible dividend, because it is no longer necessary to be concerned about the corporation’s ability to deduct the expense. Not all corporations are eligible to elect subchapter S status. However, contrary to a common misconception, eligibility has nothing to do with being a “small business.” In simplified form, to qualify for a subchapter S election, the corporation must have 75 or fewer stockholders holding only one class of stock, all of whom must be individuals who are either U.S. citizens or resident aliens. Plant Supply qualifies on all these counts. Alternatively, many companies have accomplished the same tax results, while avoiding the eligibility limitations of subchapter S, by operating as limited liability companies (LLCs). Unfortunately for Morris, however, a few states require LLCs to have more than one owner. Under subchapter S, Morris can pay himself and Lisa a reasonable salary and then take the rest of the money either as salary or dividend without fear of challenge. He can then distribute that additional money between Lisa and Victor, to support their individual lifestyles. Thus, it appears that the effective use of a strategic taxation tool has solved an otherwise costly problem.

Gif t Tax Unfortunately, like most tax strategies, the preceding solution may not be cost free. It is always necessary to consider whether the solution of one tax problem may create others, sometimes emanating from taxes other than the income tax. To begin with, Morris needs to be aware that under any strategy he adopts, the gifts of surplus cash he makes to his children may subject him to a federal gift

318 Planning and Forecasting tax. This gift tax supplements the federal estate tax, which imposes a tax on the transfer of assets from one generation to the next. Lifetime gifts to the next generation would, in the absence of a gift tax, frustrate estate tax policy. Fortunately, to accommodate the tendency of individuals to make gifts for reasons unrelated to estate planning, the gift tax exempts gifts by a donor of up to $10,000 per year to each of his or her donees. That amount will be adjusted for inf lation as years go by. Furthermore it is doubled if the donor’s spouse consents to the use of her or his $10,000 allotment to cover the excess. Thus, Morris could distribute up to $20,000 in excess cash each year to each of his two children if his wife consented. In addition, the federal gift tax does not take hold until the combined total of taxable lifetime gifts in excess of the annual exclusion amount exceeds $675,000 in 2001. This amount will increase to $1 million in 2002. Thus, Morris can exceed the annual $20,000 amount by quite a bit before the government will get its share. These rules may suggest an alternate strategy to Morris under which he may transfer some portion of his stock to each of his children and then have the corporation distribute dividends to him and to them directly each year. The gift tax would be implicated to the extent of the value of the stock in the year it is given, but, from then on, no gifts would be necessary. Such a strategy, in fact, describes a fourth circ*mstance in which the subchapter S election is recommended: when the company wishes to distribute profits to nonemployee stockholders for whom salary or bonus in any amount would be considered excessive. In such a case, like that of Victor, the owner of the company can choose subchapter S status for it, make a gift to the nonemployee of stock, and adopt a policy of distributing annual dividends from profits, thus avoiding any challenge to a corporate deduction based on unreasonable compensation.

MAKING THE SUBCHAPTER S ELECTION Before Morris rushes off to make his election, however, he should be aware of a few additional complications. Congress has historically been aware of the potential for corporations to avoid corporate-level taxation on profits and capital gains earned prior to the subchapter S election but not realized until afterward. Thus, for example, if Morris’s corporation has been accounting for its inventory on a last in, first out (LIFO) basis in an inf lationary era (such as virtually any time during the past 50 years), taxable profits have been depressed by the use of higher cost inventory as the basis for calculation. Earlier lowercost inventory has been left on the shelf (from an accounting point of view), waiting for later sales. However, if those later sales will now come during a time when the corporation is avoiding tax under subchapter S, those higher taxable profits will never be taxed at the corporate level. Thus, for the year just preceding the election, the Code requires recalculation of the corporation’s profits on a first in, first out (FIFO) inventory basis to capture the amount

Taxes and Business Decisions


that was postponed. If Morris has been using the LIFO method, his subchapter S election will carry some cost. Similarly, if Morris’s corporation has been reporting to the IRS on a cash accounting basis, it has been recognizing income only when collected, regardless of when a sale was actually made. The subchapter S election, therefore, affords the possibility that many sales made near the end of the final year of corporate taxation will never be taxed at the corporate level, because these receivables will not be collected until after the election is in effect. As a result, the IRS requires all accounts receivable of a cash-basis taxpayer to be taxed as if collected in the last year of corporate taxation, thus adding to the cost of Morris’s subchapter S conversion. Of course, the greatest source of untapped corporate tax potential lies in corporate assets that have appreciated in value while the corporation was subject to corporate tax but are not sold by the corporation until after the subchapter S election is in place. In the worst nightmares of the IRS, corporations that are about to sell all their assets in a corporate acquisition first elect subchapter S treatment and then immediately sell out, avoiding millions of dollars of tax liability. Fortunately for the IRS, Congress has addressed this problem by imposing taxation on the corporate level of all so-called built-in gain realized by a converted S corporation within the first 10 years after its conversion. Built-in gain is the untaxed appreciation that existed at the time of the subchapter S election. It is taxed not only upon a sale of all the corporation’s assets, but any time the corporation disposes of an asset it owned at the time of its election. This makes it advisable to have an appraisal done for all the corporation’s assets as of the first day of subchapter S status, so that there is some objective basis for the calculation of built-in gain upon sale somewhere down the line. This appraisal will further deplete Morris’s coffers if he adopts the subchapter S strategy. Despite these complications, however, it is still likely that Morris will find the subchapter S election to be an attractive solution to his family and compensation problems.

Pass-Through Entity Consider how a subchapter S corporation might operate were the corporation to experience a period during which it were not so successful. Subchapter S corporations (as well as most LLCs, partnerships, and limited partnerships) are known as pass-through entities because they pass through their tax attributes to their owners. This feature not only operates to pass through profits to the tax returns of the owners (whether or not accompanied by cash) but also results in the pass-through of losses. As discussed earlier, these losses can then be used by the owners to offset income from other sources rather than having the losses frozen on the corporate level, waiting for future profit. The Code, not surprisingly, places limits on the amount of loss which can be passed through to an owner’s tax return. In a subchapter S corporation, the

320 Planning and Forecasting amount of loss is limited by a stockholder’s basis in his investment in the corporation. Basis includes the amount invested as equity plus any amount the stockholder has advanced to the corporation as loans. As the corporation operates, the basis is raised by the stockholder’s pro rata share of any profit made by the corporation and lowered by his pro rata share of loss and any distributions received by him. These rules might turn Morris’s traditional financing strategy on its head the next time he sits down with the corporation’s bank loan officer to negotiate an extension of the corporation’s financing. In the past, Morris has always attempted to induce the loan officer to lend directly to the corporation. This way Morris hoped to escape personal liability for the loan (although, in the beginning he was forced to give the bank a personal guarantee). In addition, the corporation could pay back the bank directly, getting a tax deduction for the interest. If the loan were made to Morris, he would have to turn the money over to the corporation and then depend upon the corporation to generate enough profit so it could distribute monies to him to cover his personal debt service. He might try to characterize those distributions to him as repayment of a loan he made to the corporation, but, given the amount he had already advanced to the corporation in its earlier years, the IRS would probably object to the debt to equity ratio and recharacterize the payment as a nondeductible dividend fully taxable to Morris. We have already discussed why Morris would prefer to avoid characterizing the payment as additional compensation: His level of compensation was already at the outer edge of reasonableness. Under the subchapter S election, however, Morris no longer has to be concerned about characterizing cash f low from the corporation to himself in a manner that would be deductible by the corporation. Moreover, if the loan is made to the corporation, it does not increase Morris’s basis in his investment (even if he has given a personal guarantee). This fact limits his ability to pass losses through to his return. Thus, the subchapter S election may result in the unseemly spectacle of Morris begging his banker to lend the corporation’s money directly to him, so that he may in turn advance the money to the corporation and increase his basis. This would not be necessary in an LLC, since most loans advanced to this form of business entity increase the basis of its owners.

Passive Losses No discussion of pass-through entities should proceed without at least touching on what may have been the most creative set of changes made to the Code in recent times. Prior to 1987, an entire industry had arisen to create and market business enterprises whose main purpose was to generate losses to pass through to their wealthy investor/owners. These losses, it was hoped, would normally be generated by depreciation, amortization, and depletion. These would be mere paper losses, incurred while the business itself was breaking even or possibly generating positive cash f low. They would be followed some years in the future

Taxes and Business Decisions


by a healthy long-term capital gain. Thus, an investor with high taxable income could be offered short-term pass-through tax losses with a nice long-term gain waiting in the wings. In those days, long-term capital gain was taxed at only 40% of the rate of ordinary income, so the tax was not only deferred but substantially reduced. These businesses were known as tax shelters. The 1986 Act substantially reduced the effectiveness of the tax shelter by classifying taxable income and loss in three major categories: active, portfolio, and passive. Active income consists mainly of wages, salaries, and bonuses; portfolio income is mainly interest and dividends; while passive income and loss consist of distributions from the so-called pass-through entities, such as LLCs, limited partnerships, and subchapter S corporations. In their simplest terms, the passive activity loss rules add to the limits set by the earlier described basis limitations (and the similar so-called at-risk rules), making it impossible to use passive losses to offset active or portfolio income. Thus, tax shelter losses can no longer be used to shelter salaries or investment proceeds; they must wait for the taxpayer’s passive activities to generate the anticipated end-of-the-line gains or be used when the taxpayer disposes of a passive activity in a taxable transaction (see Exhibit 11.2). Fortunately for Morris, the passive activity loss rules are unlikely to affect his thinking for at least two reasons. First, the Code defines a passive activity as the conduct of any trade or business “in which the taxpayer does not materially participate.” Material participation is further defined in a series of Code sections and Temporary Regulations (which mock the concept of tax simplification but let Morris off the hook) to include any taxpayer who participates in the business for more than 500 hours per year. Morris is clearly materially participating in his business despite his status as a stockholder of a subchapter S corporation, and thus the passive loss rules do not apply to him.


Passive activity losses. Active


Passive Material participation

Salary, bonus, and so on

Interest, dividends, and so on

Pass-throughs from partnerships, Subchapter S, LLCs, and so on

Passive loss

322 Planning and Forecasting The second reason Morris is not concerned is that he does not anticipate any losses from this business; historically, it is very profitable. Therefore, let us depart from this detour into unprofitability and consider Morris’s acquisition of the plastics plant.

ACQUISITION Morris might well believe that the hard part of accomplishing a successful acquisition is locating an appropriate target and integrating it into his existing operation. Yet, once again, he would be well advised to pay some attention to the various tax strategies and results available to him when structuring the acquisition transaction. To begin with, Morris has a number of choices available to him in acquiring the target business. Simply put, these choices boil down to a choice among acquiring the stock of the owners of the business, merging the target corporation into Plant Supply, or purchasing the assets and liabilities of the target. The choice of method will depend on a number of factors, many of which are not tax related. For example, acquisition by merger will force Plant Supply to acquire all the liabilities of the target, even those of which neither it nor the target may be aware. Acquisition of the stock of the target by Plant Supply also results in acquisition of all liabilities but isolates them in a separate corporation, which becomes a subsidiary. (The same result would be achieved by merging the target into a newly formed subsidiary of Plant Supply—the so-called triangular merger.) Acquisition of the assets and liabilities normally results only in exposure to the liabilities Morris chooses to acquire and is thus an attractive choice to the acquirer (Exhibit 11.3). Yet tax factors normally play a large part in structuring an acquisition. For example, if the target corporation has a history of losses and thus boasts a taxloss carryforward, Morris may wish to apply such losses to its future profitable operations. This application would be impossible if he acquired the assets and liabilities of the target for cash since the target corporation would still exist after the transaction, keeping its tax characteristics to itself. Cash mergers are treated as asset acquisitions for tax purposes. However, if the acquirer obtains the stock of the target, the acquirer has taken control of the taxable entity itself, thus obtaining its tax characteristics for future use. This result inspired a lively traffic in tax-loss carryforwards in years past, where failed corporations were marketed to profitable corporations seeking tax relief. Congress has put a damper on such activity by limiting the use of a taxloss carryforward in each of the years following an ownership change of more than 50% of a company’s stock. The amount of that limit is the product of the value of the business at acquisition (normally its selling price) times an interest rate linked to the market for federal treasury obligations. This amount of taxloss carryforward is available each year, until the losses expire (15 to 20 years

Taxes and Business Decisions EXHIBIT 11.3


Acquisition strategies. Before





Merger T Owned by T’s stockholders Owned by T’s stockholders



Acquisition of stock Owned by T’s stockholders




Owned by T’s stockholders

T Purchase of assets


T’s assets

Owned by T’s stockholders

T’s assets

Owned by T’s stockholders

after they were incurred). Since a corporation with significant losses would normally be valued at a relatively low amount, the yearly available loss is likely to be relatively trivial. Acquisition of the corporation’s assets and liabilities for cash or through a cash merger eliminates any use by the acquirer of the target’s tax-loss carryforward, leaving it available for use by the target’s shell. This may be quite useful to the target because, as discussed earlier, if it has not elected subchapter S status for the past 10 years (or for the full term of its existence, if shorter), it is likely to have incurred a significant gain upon the sale of its assets. This gain would be taxable at the corporate level before the remaining portion of the purchase price could be distributed to the target’s shareholders (where it will be taxed again).

324 Planning and Forecasting The acquirer may have lost any carryforwards otherwise available, but it does obtain the right to carry the acquired assets on its books at the price paid (rather than the amount carried on the target’s books). This is an attractive proposition because the owner of assets used in business may deduct an annual amount corresponding to the depreciation of those assets, subject only to the requirement that it lower the basis of those assets by an equal amount. The amount of depreciation available corresponds to the purchase price of the asset. This is even more attractive because Congress has adopted available depreciation schedules that normally exceed the rate at which assets actually depreciate. Thus, these assets likely have a low basis in the hands of the target (resulting in even more taxable gain to the target upon sale). If the acquirer were forced to begin its depreciation at the point at which the target left off (as in a purchase of stock), little depreciation would likely result. All things being equal (and especially if the target has enough tax-loss carryforward to absorb any conceivable gain), Morris would likely wish to structure his acquisition as an asset purchase and allocate all the purchase price among the depreciable assets acquired. This last point is significant because Congress does not recognize all assets as depreciable. Generally speaking, an asset will be depreciable only if it has a demonstrable “useful life.” Assets that will last forever or whose lifetime is not predictable are not depreciable, and the price paid for them will not result in future tax deductions. The most obvious example of this type of asset is land. Unlike buildings, land has an unlimited useful life and is not depreciable. This distinction has spawned some very creative theories, including one enterprising individual who purchased a plot of land containing a deep depression that he intended to use as a garbage dump. The taxpayer allocated a significant amount of his purchase price to the depression and took depreciation deductions as the hole filled up. Congress has recognized that the above rules give acquirers incentive to allocate most of their purchase price to depreciable assets like buildings and equipment and very little of the price to nondepreciable assets such as land. Additional opportunities include allocating high prices to acquired inventory so that it generates little taxable profit when sold. This practice has been limited by legislation requiring the acquirer to allocate the purchase price in accordance with the fair market value of the individual assets, applying the rest to goodwill (which may now be depreciated over 15 years). Although this legislation will limit Morris’s options significantly, if he chooses to proceed with an asset purchase, he should not overlook the opportunity to divert some of the purchase price to consulting contracts for the previous owners. Such payments will be deductible by Plant Supply over the life of the agreements and are, therefore, just as useful as depreciation. However, the taxability of such payments to the previous owners cannot be absorbed by the target’s tax-loss carryforward. And the amount of such deductions will be limited by the now familiar “unreasonable compensation” doctrine. Payments for agreements not to compete are treated as a form of goodwill and are deductible over 15 years regardless of the length of such agreements.

Taxes and Business Decisions


EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION Brad’s compensation package raises a number of interesting tax issues that may not be readily apparent but deserve careful consideration in crafting an offer to him. Any offer of compensation to an executive of his caliber will include, at the very least, a significant salary and bonus package. These will not normally raise any sophisticated tax problems; the corporation will deduct these payments, and Brad will be required to include them in his taxable income. The IRS is not likely to challenge the deductibility of even a very generous salary, since Brad is not a stockholder or family member and, thus, there is little likelihood of an attempt to disguise a dividend.

Business Expenses However, even in the area of salary, there are opportunities for the use of tax strategies. For example, Brad’s duties may include the entertainment of clients or travel to suppliers and other business destinations. Brad could conceivably fund these activities out of his own pocket on the theory that such amounts have been figured into his salary. Such a procedure avoids the need for the bookkeeping associated with expense accounts. If his salary ref lects these expectations, Brad may not mind declaring the extra amount as taxable income, since he will be entitled to an offsetting deduction for these business expenses. Unfortunately, however, Brad would be in for an unpleasant surprise under these circ*mstances. First of all, these expenses may not all be deductible in full. Meals and entertainment expenses are deductible, if at all, only to the extent they are not “lavish and extravagant,” and even then they are deductible only for a portion of the amount expended. In addition, Brad’s business expenses as an employee are considered “miscellaneous deductions”; they are deductible only to the extent that they and other similarly classified deductions exceed 2% of Brad’s adjusted gross income. Thus, if Brad’s adjusted gross income is $150,000, the first $3,000 of miscellaneous deductions will not be deductible. Moreover, as itemized deductions, these deductions are valuable only to the extent that they along with all other itemized deductions available to Brad exceed the “standard deduction,” an amount Congress allows each taxpayer to deduct, if all itemized deductions are foregone. Furthermore, until 2010, itemized deductions that survive the above cuts are further limited for taxpayers whose incomes are over $132,950 (the 2001 inf lation-adjusted amount). The deductibility of Brad’s business expenses is, therefore, greatly in doubt. Knowing all this, Brad would be well advised to request that Morris revise his compensation package. Brad should request a cut in pay by the amount of his anticipated business expenses, along with a commitment that the corporation will reimburse him for such expenses or pay them directly. In that case, Brad will be in the same economic position, since his salary is lowered only by the amount he would have spent anyway. In fact, his economic position is

326 Planning and Forecasting enhanced, since he pays no taxes on the salary he does not receive and escapes from the limitations on deductibility described previously. The corporation pays out no more money this way than it would have if the entire amount were salary. From a tax standpoint, the corporation is only slightly worse off, since the amount it would have previously deducted as salary can now still be deducted as ordinary and necessary business expenses (with the sole exception of the limit on meals and entertainment). In fact, were Brad’s salary below the Social Security contribution limit (FICA), both Brad and the corporation would be better off because what was formerly salary (and thus subject to additional 7.65% contributions to FICA by both employer and employee) would now be merely business expenses and exempt from FICA. Before Brad and Morris adopt this strategy, however, they should be aware that in recent years, Congress has turned a sympathetic ear to the frustration the IRS has expressed about expense accounts. Legislation has conditioned the exclusion of amounts paid to an employee as expense reimbursem*nts upon the submission by the employee to the employer of reliable documentation of such expenses. Brad should get into the habit of keeping a diary of such expenses for tax purposes.

Deferred Compensation Often, a high-level executive will negotiate a salary and bonus that far exceed her current needs. In such a case, the executive might consider deferring some of that compensation until future years. Brad may feel, for example, that he would be well advised to provide for a steady income during his retirement years, derived from his earnings while an executive of Plant Supply. He may be concerned that he would simply waste the excess compensation and consider a deferred package as a form of forced savings. Or, he may wish to defer receipt of the excess money to a time (such as retirement) when he believes he will be in a lower tax bracket. This latter consideration was more common when the federal income tax law encompassed a large number of tax brackets and the highest rate was 70%. Whatever Brad’s reasons for considering a deferral of some of his salary, he should be aware that deferred compensation packages are generally classified as one of two varieties for federal income tax purposes. The first such category is the qualified deferred compensation plan, such as the pension, profit-sharing, or stock bonus plan. All these plans share a number of characteristics. First and foremost, they afford taxpayers the best of all possible worlds by granting the employer a deduction for monies contributed to the plan each year, allowing those contributions to be invested and to earn additional monies without the payment of current taxes, and taxing the employee only upon withdrawal of funds in the future. However, in order to qualify for such favorable treatment, these plans must conform to a bewildering array of conditions imposed by both the Code and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Among these requirements is the necessity to treat all

Taxes and Business Decisions


employees of the corporation on a nondiscriminatory basis with respect to the plan, thus rendering qualified plans a poor technique for supplementing a compensation package for a highly paid executive. The second category is nonqualified plans. These come in as many varieties as there are employees with imaginations, but they all share the same disfavored tax treatment. The employer is entitled to its deduction only when the employee pays tax on the money, and if money is contributed to such a plan the earnings are taxed currently. Thus, if Morris were to design a plan under which the corporation receives a current deduction for its contributions, Brad will pay tax now on money he will not receive until the future. Since this is the exact opposite of what Brad (and most employees) have in mind, Brad will most likely have to settle for his employer’s unfunded promise to pay him the deferred amount in the future. Assuming Brad is interested in deferring some of his compensation, he and Morris might well devise a plan which gives them as much f lexibility as possible. For example, Morris might agree that the day before the end of each pay period, Brad could notify the corporation of the amount of salary, if any, he wished to defer for that period. Any amount thus deferred would be carried on the books of the corporation as a liability to be paid, per their agreement, with interest after Brad’s retirement. Unfortunately, such an arrangement would be frustrated by the “constructive receipt” doctrine. Using this potent weapon, the IRS will impose a tax (allowing a corresponding employer deduction) on any compensation that the employee has earned and might have chosen to receive, regardless of whether he so chooses. The taxpayer may not turn his back upon income otherwise unconditionally available to him. Taking this theory to its logical conclusion, one might argue that deferred compensation is taxable to the employee because he might have received it if he had simply negotiated a different compensation package. After all, the impetus for deferral in this case comes exclusively from Brad; Morris would have been happy to pay the full amount when earned. But the constructive receipt doctrine does not have so extensive a reach. The IRS can tax only monies the taxpayer was legally entitled to receive, not monies he might have received if he had negotiated differently. In fact, the IRS will even recognize elective deferrals if the taxpayer must make the deferral election sufficiently long before the monies are legally earned. Brad might, therefore, be allowed to choose deferral of a portion of his salary if the choice must be made at least six months before the pay period involved. Frankly, however, if Brad is convinced of the advisability of deferring a portion of his compensation, he is likely to be concerned less about the irrevocability of such election than about ensuring that the money will be available to him when it is eventually due. Thus, a mere unfunded promise to pay in the future may result in years of nightmares over a possible declaration of bankruptcy by his employer. Again, left to their own devices, Brad and Morris might well devise a plan under which Morris contributes the deferred compensation to a trust for Brad’s benefit, payable to its beneficiary upon his retirement. Yet such

328 Planning and Forecasting an arrangement would be disastrous to Brad, since the IRS would currently assess income tax to Brad on such an arrangement, using the much criticized “economic benefit” doctrine. Under this theory, monies irrevocably set aside for Brad grant him an economic benefit (presumably by improving his net worth or otherwise improving his creditworthiness) upon which he must pay tax. If Brad were aware of this risk, he might choose another method to protect his eventual payout by requiring the corporation to secure its promise to pay with such devices as a letter of credit or a mortgage or security interest in its assets. All of these devices, however, have been successfully taxed by the IRS under the same economic benefit doctrine. Very few devices have survived this attack. However, the personal guarantee of Morris himself (merely another unsecured promise) would not be considered an economic benefit by the IRS. Another successful strategy is the so-called rabbi trust, a device first used by a rabbi who feared his deferred compensation might be revoked by a future hostile congregation. This device works similarly to the trust described earlier except that Brad would not be the only beneficiary of the money contributed. Under the terms of the trust, were the corporation to experience financial reverses, the trust property would be available to the corporation’s creditors. Since the monies are thus not irrevocably committed to Brad, the economic benefit doctrine is not invoked. This device does not protect Brad from the scenario of his bankruptcy nightmares, but it does protect him from a corporate change of heart regarding his eventual payout. From Morris’s point of view, he may not object to contributing to a rabbi trust, since he was willing to pay all the money to Brad as salary, but he should be aware that since Brad escapes current taxation the corporation will not receive a deduction for these expenses until the money is paid out of the trust in the future.

Interest-Free Loans As a further enticement to agree to work for the new ownership of the plant, Morris might additionally offer to lend Brad a significant amount of money to be used, for example, to purchase a new home or acquire an investment portfolio. Significant up-front money is often part of an executive compensation package. While this money could be paid as a bonus, Morris might well want some future repayment (perhaps as a way to encourage Brad to stay in his new position). Brad might wish to avoid the income tax bite on such a bonus so he can retain the full amount of the payment for his preferred use. Morris and Brad might well agree to an interest rate well below the market or even no interest at all to further entice Brad to take his new position. Economically, this would give Brad free use of the money for a period of time during which it could earn him additional income with no offsetting expense. In a sense, he would be receiving his salary in advance while not paying any income tax until he earned it. Morris might well formalize the arrangement by reserving the

Taxes and Business Decisions


right to offset loan repayments against future salary. The term of the loan might even be accelerated should Brad leave the corporation’s employ. This remarkable arrangement was fairly common until fairly recently. Under current tax law, however, despite the fact that little or no interest passes between Brad and the corporation, the IRS deems full market interest payments to have been made and further deems that said amount is returned to Brad by his employer. Thus, each year, Brad is deemed to have made an interest payment to the corporation for which he is entitled to no deduction. Then, when the corporation is deemed to have returned the money to him, he realizes additional compensation on which he must pay tax. The corporation realizes additional interest income but gets a compensating deduction for additional compensation paid (assuming it is not excessive when added to Brad’s other compensation). Moreover, the IRS has not reserved this treatment for employers and employees only. The same treatment is given to loans between corporations and their shareholders and loans between family members. In the latter situation, although there is no interest deduction for the donee, the deemed return of the interest is a gift and is thus excluded from income. The donor receives interest income and has no compensating deduction for the return gift. In fact, if the interest amount is large enough, he may have incurred an additional gift tax on the returned interest. The amount of income created for the donor, however, is limited to the donee’s investment income except in very large loans. In the corporation/stockholder situation, the lender incurs interest income and has no compensating deduction as its deemed return of the interest is characterized as a dividend. Thus the IRS gets increased tax from both parties unless the corporation has elected subchapter S (see Exhibit 11.4). All may not be lost in this situation, however. Brad’s additional income tax arises from the fact that there is no deduction allowable for interest paid on unsecured personal loans. Interest remains deductible, however, in limited amounts on loans secured by a mortgage on either of the taxpayer’s principal or


Taxable interest.




Interest income

Deductible compensation

Interest income

Nondeductible compensation

Interest income

Nondeductible gift (gift tax)

Nondeductible interest

Taxable compensation

Nondeductible interest

Dividend income

Nondeductible interest

Nontaxable gift




330 Planning and Forecasting secondary residence. If Brad grants Plant Supply a mortgage on his home to secure the repayment of his no- or low-interest loan, his deemed payment of market interest may become deductible mortgage interest and may thus offset his additional deemed compensation from the imaginary return of this interest. Before jumping into this transaction, however, Brad will have to consider the limited utility of itemized deductions described earlier as well as certain limits on the deductibility of mortgage interest.

SHAR ING THE EQUITY If Brad is as sophisticated and valuable an executive employee as Morris believes he is, Brad is likely to ask for more than just a compensation package, deferred or otherwise. Such a prospective employee often demands a “piece of the action,” or a share in the equity of the business so that he may directly share in the growth and success he expects to create. Morris may even welcome such a demand because an equity share (if not so large as to threaten Morris’s control) may serve as a form of golden handcuffs giving Brad additional reason to stay with the company for the long term. Assuming Morris is receptive to the idea, there are a number of different ways to grant Brad a share of the business. The most direct way would be to grant him shares of the corporation’s stock. These could be given to Brad without charge, for a discount from fair market value or for their full value, depending upon the type of incentive Morris wishes to design. In addition, given the privately held nature of Morris’s corporation, the shares would probably carry restrictions designed to keep the shares from ending up in the hands of persons who are not associated with the company. Thus, the corporation would retain the right to repurchase the shares should Brad ever leave the corporation’s employ or want to sell or transfer the shares to a third party. Finally, in order to encourage Brad to stay with the company, the corporation would probably reserve the right to repurchase the shares from Brad at cost should Brad’s employment end before a specified time. As an example, all the shares (called restricted stock) would be subject to forfeiture at cost (regardless of their then actual value) should Brad leave before one year; two-thirds would be forfeited if he left before two years; and one-third if he left before three years. The shares not forfeited (called vested shares) would be purchased by the corporation at their full value should Brad ever leave or attempt to sell them. One step back from restricted stock is the stock option. This is a right granted to the employee to purchase a particular number of shares for a fixed price over a defined period of time. Because the price of the stock does not change, the employee has effectively been given the ability to share in whatever growth the company experiences during the life of the option, without paying for the privilege. If the stock increases in value, the employee will exercise the option near the end of the option term. If the stock value does not grow, the employee will allow the option to expire, having lost nothing. The

Taxes and Business Decisions


stock option is a handy device when the employee objects to paying for his piece of the action (after all, he is expecting compensation, not expense) but the employer objects to giving the employee stock whose current value represents growth from the period before the employee’s arrival. Again, the exercise price can be more than, equal to, or less than the fair market value of the stock at the time of the grant, depending upon the extent of the incentive the employer wishes to give. Also, the exercisability of the option will likely vest in stages over time. Often, however, the founding entrepreneur cannot bring herself to give an employee a current or potential portion of the corporation’s stock. Although she has been assured that the block of stock going to the employee is too small to have any effect on her control over the company, the objection may be psychological and impossible to overcome. Or, in the case of a subchapter S corporation operating in numerous states, the employee may not want to have to file state income tax returns in all those jurisdictions. The founder seeks a device which can grant the employee a growth potential similar to that granted by stock ownership but without the stock. Such devices are often referred to as phantom stock or stock appreciation rights (SARs). In a phantom stock plan, the employee is promised that he may, at any time during a defined period so long as he remains employed by the corporation, demand payment equal to the then value of a certain number of shares of the corporation’s stock. As the corporation grows, so does the amount available to the employee just as would be the case if he actually owned some stock. SARs are very similar except that the amount available to the employee is limited to the growth, if any, that the given number of shares has experienced since the date of grant.

Tax Effects of Phantom Stock and SARs Having described these devices to Morris and Brad, it is, of course, important to discuss their varying tax impacts upon employer and employee. If Brad has been paying attention, he might immediately object to the phantom stock and SARs as vulnerable to the constructive receipt rule. After all, if he may claim the current value of these devices at any time he chooses, might not the IRS insist that he include each year’s growth in his taxable income as if he had claimed it? Although the corporation’s accountants will require that these devices be accounted for in that way on the corporation’s financial statements, the IRS has failed in its attempts to require inclusion of these amounts in taxable income because the monies are not unconditionally available to the taxpayer. In order to receive the money, one must give up any right to continue to share in the growth represented by one’s phantom stock or SAR. If the right is not exercisable without cost, the income is not constructively received. However, there is another good reason for Brad to object to phantom stock and SARs from a tax point of view. Unlike stock and stock options, both of which represent a recognized form of intangible capital asset, phantom stock and SARs are really no different from a mere promise by the corporation

332 Planning and Forecasting to pay a bonus based upon a certain formula. Since these devices are not recognized as capital assets, they are not eligible to be taxed as long-term capital gains when redeemed. This difference is quite meaningful since the maximum tax rate on ordinary income in 2001 is 39.1% and on long-term capital gains is 20%. Thus, Brad may have good reason to reject phantom stock and SARs and insist on the real thing.

Taxability of Stock Options If Morris and Brad resolve their negotiations through the use of stock options, careful tax analysis is again necessary. The Code treats stock options in three ways depending on the circ*mstances, and some of these circ*mstances are well within the control of the parties (see Exhibit 11.5). If a stock option has a “readily ascertainable value,” the IRS will expect the employee to include in his taxable income the difference between the value of the option and the amount paid for it (the amount paid is normally zero). Measured in that way, the value of an option might be quite small, especially if the exercise price is close or equal to the then fair market value of the underlying stock. After all, the value of a right to buy $10 of stock for $10 is only the speculative value of having that right when the underlying value has increased. That amount is then taxed as ordinary compensation income, and the employer receives a compensating deduction for compensation paid. When the employee exercises the option, the Code imposes no tax, nor does the employer receive any further deduction. Finally, should the employee sell the stock, the difference between, on the one hand, the price received and on the other the total of the previously taxed income and the amounts paid for the option and the stock is included in his income as a capital gain. No deduction is then granted to the employer since the employee’s decision to sell his stock is not deemed to be related to the employer’s compensation policy. This taxation scenario is normally quite attractive to the employee because she is taxed upon a rather small amount at first, escapes tax entirely upon EXHIBIT 11.5

Taxation of stock options. Grant



No tax No deduction

Capital gain No deduction

No tax No deduction

Tax on spread Deduction

Capital gain No deduction

No tax No deduction

No tax No deduction

Capital gain No deduction

Readily Ascertainable Value Employee Employer

Tax of value Deduction

No Readily Ascertainable Value Employee Employer ISOP Employee Employer

Taxes and Business Decisions


exercise, and then pays tax on the growth at a time when she has realized cash with which to pay the tax at a lower long-term capital gain rate. Although the employer receives little benefit, it has cost the employer nothing in hard assets, so any benefit would have been a windfall. Because this tax scenario is seen as very favorable to the employee, the IRS has been loathe to allow it in most cases. Generally, the IRS will not recognize an option as having a readily ascertainable value unless the option is traded on a recognized exchange. Short of that, a case has occasionally been made when the underlying stock is publicly traded, such that its value is readily ascertainable. But the IRS has drawn the line at options on privately held stock and at all options that are not themselves transferable. Since Morris’s corporation is privately held and since he will not tolerate Brad’s reserving the right to transfer the option to a third party, there is no chance of Brad’s taking advantage of this beneficial tax treatment. The second tax scenario attaches to stock options which do not have a readily ascertainable value. Since, by definition, one cannot include their value in income on the date of grant (it is unknown), the Code allows the grant to escape taxation. However, upon exercise, the taxpayer must include in income the difference between the then fair market value of the stock purchased and the total paid for the option and stock. When the purchased stock is later sold, the further growth is taxed at the applicable rate for capital gain. The employer receives a compensation deduction at the time of exercise and no deduction at the time of sale. Although the employee receives a deferral of taxation from grant to exercise in this scenario, this method of taxation is generally seen as less advantageous to the employee, since a larger amount of income is exposed to ordinary income rates, and this taxation occurs at a time when the taxpayer has still not received any cash from the transaction with which to pay the tax. Recognizing the harshness of this result, Congress invented a third taxation scenario which attaches to incentive stock options (ISOs). The recipient of such an option escapes tax upon grant of the option and again upon exercise. Upon sale of the underlying stock, the employee includes in taxable income the difference between the price received and the total paid for the stock and option and pays tax on that amount at long-term capital gain rates. This scenario is extremely attractive to the employee who defers all tax until the last moment and pays at a lower rate. Under this scenario, the employer receives no deduction at all, but since the transaction costs him nothing, that is normally not a major concern. Lest you believe that ISOs are the perfect compensation device, however, be aware that, although the employee escapes income taxation upon exercise of the option, the exercise may be deemed taxable under the alternative minimum tax described later in this chapter. The Code imposes many conditions upon the grant of an incentive stock option. Among these are that the options must be granted pursuant to a written plan setting forth the maximum number of shares available and the class of employees eligible; only employees are eligible recipients; the options cannot

334 Planning and Forecasting be transferable; no more than $100,000 of underlying stock may be initially exercisable in any one year by any one employee; the exercise price of the options must be no less than the fair market value of the stock on the date of grant; and the options must expire substantially simultaneously with the termination of the employee’s employment. Perhaps most important, the underlying stock may not be sold by the employee prior to the expiration of two years from the option grant date or one year from the exercise date, whichever is later. This latter requirement has led to what was probably an unexpected consequence. Assume that Plant Supply has granted an incentive stock option to Brad. Assume further that Brad has recently exercised the option and has plans to sell the stock he received. It may occur to Brad that by waiting a year to resell, he will be risking the vagaries of the market for a tax savings which cannot exceed 19.1% (the difference between the maximum income-tax rate of 39.1% and the maximum capital-gain rate of 20%). By selling early, Brad will lose the chance to treat the option as an incentive stock option but will pay, at worst, only a marginally higher amount at a time when he does have the money to pay it. Furthermore, by disqualifying the options, he will be giving his employer a tax deduction at the time of exercise. An enterprising employee might go so far as to offer to sell early in exchange for a split of the employer’s tax savings.

Tax Impact on Restricted Stock The taxation of restricted stock is not markedly different from the taxation of nonqualified stock options without a readily ascertainable value (see Exhibit 11.6). Restricted stock is defined as stock that is subject to a condition that affects its value to the holder and which will lapse upon the happening of an event or the passage of time. The Code refers to this as “a substantial risk of forfeiture.” Since the value of the stock to the employee is initially speculative, the receipt of the stock is not considered a taxable event. In other words, since Brad may have to forfeit whatever increased value his stock may acquire, if he leaves the employ of the corporation prior to the agreed time, Congress has allowed him not to pay the tax until he knows for certain whether he will be able to retain that value. When the stock is no longer restricted (when it “vests”),


Restricted stock tax impact. Grant

Restriction Removed


Tax based on current value Deduction

Capital gain No deduction

No tax

Capital gain

No deduction

No deduction

Restricted Stock Employee Employer

No tax No Deduction

Restricted Stock 83(b) Election Employee Employer

Tax based on value without restriction Deduction

Taxes and Business Decisions


the tax is payable. Of course, Congress is not being entirely altruistic in this case; the amount taxed when the stock vests is not the difference between what the employee pays for it and its value when first received by the employee but the difference between the employee’s cost and the stock’s value at the vesting date. If the value of the stock has increased, as everyone involved has hoped, the IRS receives a windfall. Of course, the employer receives a compensating deduction at the time of taxation, and further growth between the vesting date and the date of sale is taxed upon sale at appropriate capital gain rates. No deduction is then available to the employer. Recognizing that allowing the employee to pay a higher tax at a later time is not an unmixed blessing, Congress has provided that an employee who receives restricted stock may, nonetheless, elect to pay ordinary income tax on the difference between its value at grant and the amount paid for it, if the employee files notice of that election within 30 days of the grant date (the socalled 83b election). Thus, the employee can choose for herself which gamble to accept. This scenario can result in disaster for the unaware employee. Assume that Morris and Brad resolve their differences by allowing Brad to have an equity stake in the corporation, if he is willing to pay for it. Thus, Brad purchases 5% of the corporation for its full value on the date he joins the corporation, say, $5.00 per share. Since this arrangement still provides incentive in the form of a share of growth, Morris insists that Brad sell the stock back to the corporation for $5.00 per share should he leave the corporation before he has been employed for three years. Brad correctly believes that since he has bought $5.00 shares for $5.00 he has no taxable income, and he reports nothing on his income tax return that year. Brad has failed to realize that despite his paying full price, he has received restricted stock. As a result, Congress has done him the favor of imposing no tax until the restrictions lapse. Three years from now, when the shares may have tripled in value and have finally vested, Brad will discover to his horror that he must include $10.00 per share in his taxable income for that year. Despite the fact that he had no income to declare in the year of grant, Brad must elect to include that nullity in his taxable income for that year by filing such an election with the IRS within 30 days of his purchase of the stock. In situations in which there is little difference between the value of stock and the amount an employee will pay for it (e.g., in start-up companies when stock has little initial value), a grant of restricted stock accompanied by an 83b election may be preferable to the grant of an ISO, since it avoids the alternative minimum tax which may be imposed upon exercise of an ISO.

VACATION HOME Morris had much reason to congratulate himself on successfully acquiring the plastics-molding operation as well as securing the services of Brad through an

336 Planning and Forecasting effective executive compensation package. In fact, the only real disappointment for Morris was that the closing of the deal was scheduled to take place during the week in which he normally took his annual vacation. Some years ago, Morris had purchased a country home for use by himself and his wife as a weekend getaway and vacation spot. With the press of business, however, Morris and his wife had been able to use the home only on occasional weekends and for his two-week summer vacation each year. Morris always took the same two weeks for his vacation so he could indulge his love of golf. Each year, during those two weeks, the professional golfers would come to town for their annual tournament. Hotels were always booked far in advance, and Morris felt lucky to be able to walk from his home to the first tee and enjoy his favorite sport played by some of the world’s best. Some of Morris’s friends had suggested that Morris rent his place during the weeks that he and his wife didn’t use it. Even if such rentals would not generate much cash during these off-season periods, it might allow Morris to deduct some of the expenses of keeping the home, such as real estate taxes, mortgage payments, maintenance, and depreciation. Morris could see the benefit in that, since the latter two expenses were deductible only in a business context. Although taxes and mortgage interest were deductible as personal expenses (assuming, in the case of mortgage interest, that Morris was deducting such payments only with respect to this and his principal residence and no other home), the previously mentioned limits on the use of itemized deductions made the usefulness of these deductions questionable. However, in addition to the inconvenience of renting one’s vacation home, Morris had discovered a few unfortunate tax rules which had dissuaded him from following his friends’ advice. First, the rental of a home is treated by the Code in a fashion similar to the conduct of a business. Thus, Morris would generate deductions only to the extent that his expenses exceeded his rental income. In addition, to the extent he could generate such a loss, the rental of real estate is deemed to be a passive activity under the Code, regardless of how much effort one puts into the process. Thus, in the absence of any relief provision, these losses would be deductible only against other passive income and would not be usable against salary, bonus, or investment income. Such a relief provision does exist, however, for rental activities in which the taxpayer is “actively” involved. In such a case, the taxpayer may deduct up to $25,000 of losses against active or portfolio income, unless his total income (before any such deduction) exceeds $100,000. The amount of loss which may be used by such taxpayer, free of the passive activity limitations, is then lowered by $1 for every $2 of additional income, disappearing entirely at $150,000. Given his success in business, the usefulness of rental losses, in the absence of passive income, seemed problematic to Morris, at best. Another tax rule appeared to Morris to limit the usefulness of losses even further. Under the Code, a parcel of real estate falls into one of three categories: personal use, rental use, or mixed use. A personal use property is one which is rented 14 days or less in a year and otherwise used by the taxpayer and

Taxes and Business Decisions


his family. No expenses are deductible for such a facility except taxes and mortgage interest. A rental use property is used by the taxpayer and his family for less than 15 days (or 10% of the number of rental days) and otherwise offered for rental. All the expenses of such an activity are deductible, subject to the passive loss limitations. A mixed use facility is one that falls within neither of the other two categories. If Morris were to engage in a serious rental effort of his property, his occasional weekend use combined with his two-week stay around the golf tournament would surely result in his home falling into the mixed use category. This would negatively impact him in two ways. The expenses that are deductible only for a rental facility (such as maintenance and depreciation) would be deductible only on a pro rata basis for the total number of rental days. Worse yet, the expenses of the rental business would be deductible only to the extent of the income, not beyond. Expenses which would be deductible anyway (taxes and mortgage interest) are counted first in this calculation, and only then are the remaining expenses allowed. The result of all this is that it would be impossible for Morris to generate a deductible loss, even were it possible to use such a loss in the face of the passive loss limitations. Naturally, therefore, Morris had long since decided not to bother with attempting to rent his country getaway when he was unable to use it. However, the scheduling of the closing this year presents a unique tax opportunity of which he may be unaware. In a rare stroke of fairness, the Code, though denying any deduction of not otherwise deductible expenses in connection with a home rented for 14 days or less, reciprocates by allowing taxpayers to exclude any rental income should they take advantage of the 14-day rental window. Normally, such an opportunity is of limited utility, but with the tournament coming to town and the hotels full Morris is in a position to make a killing by renting his home to a golfer or spectator during this time at inf lated rental rates. All that rental income would be entirely tax-free. Just be sure the tenants don’t stay beyond two weeks.

LIK E-KIND EXCHANGES Having acquired the desired new business and secured the services of the individual he needed to run it, Morris turned his attention to consolidating his two operations so that they might function more efficiently. After some time, he realized that the factory building acquired with the plastics business was not contributing to increased efficiency because of its age and, more important, because of its distance from Morris’s home office. Morris located a more modern facility near his main location that could accommodate both operations and allow him to eliminate some amount of duplicative management. Naturally, Morris put the molding facility on the market and planned to purchase the new facility with the proceeds of the old one plus some additional capital. Such a strategy will result in a tax on the sale of the older facility equal

338 Planning and Forecasting to the difference between the sale price and Plant Supply’s basis in the building. If Morris purchased the molding company by merging or purchasing its assets for cash, then the capital gain to be taxed here may be minimal because it would consist only of the growth in value since this purchase plus any amount depreciated after the acquisition. If, however, Morris acquired the molding company through a purchase of stock, his basis would be the old company’s preacquisition basis, and the capital gain may be considerable. Either way, it would surely be desirable to avoid taxation on this capital gain. The Code affords Morris the opportunity to avoid this taxation if, instead of selling his old facility and buying a new one, he can arrange a trade of the old for the new so that no cash falls into his hands. Under Section 1031 of the Code, if properties of “like kind” used in a trade or business are exchanged, no taxable event has occurred. The gain on the disposition of the older facility is merely deferred until the eventual disposition of the newer facility. This deferral is accomplished by calculating the basis in the newer facility, starting with its fair market value on the date of acquisition, and subtracting from that amount the gain not recognized on the sale of the older facility. That process builds the unrecognized gain into the basis of the newer building so that it will be recognized (along with any future gain) upon its later sale. There has been considerable confusion and debate over what constitutes like-kind property outside of real estate, but there is no doubt that a trade of real estate used in business for other real estate to be used in business will qualify under Section 1031. Although undoubtedly attracted by this possibility, Morris would quickly point out that such an exchange would be extremely rare since it is highly unlikely that he would be able to find a new facility which is worth exactly the same amount as his old facility, and thus any such exchange would have to involve a payment of cash as well as an exchange of buildings. Fortunately, however, Section 1031 recognizes that reality by providing that the exchange is still nontaxable to Morris so long as he does not receive any non-like-kind property (i.e., cash). Such non-like-kind property received is known as boot, and would include, besides cash, any liability of Morris’s (such as his mortgage debt) assumed by the exchange partner. The facility he is purchasing is more expensive than the one he is selling, so Morris would have to add some cash, not receive it. Thus, the transaction does not involve the receipt of boot and still qualifies for tax deferral. Moreover, even if Morris did receive boot in the transaction, he would recognize gain only to the extent of the boot received, so he might still be in a position to defer a portion of the gain involved. Of course, if he received more boot than the gain in the transaction, he would recognize only the amount of the gain, not the full amount of the boot. But Morris has an even more compelling, practical objection to this plan. How often will the person who wants to purchase your facility own the exact facility you wish to purchase? Not very often, he would surmise. In fact, the proposed buyer of his old facility is totally unrelated to the current owner of the facility Morris wishes to buy. How then can one structure this as an exchange of

Taxes and Business Decisions


the two parcels of real estate? It would seem that a taxable sale of the one followed by a purchase of the other will be necessary in almost every case. Practitioners have, however, devised a technique to overcome this problem, known as the three-corner exchange. In a nutshell, the transaction is structured by having the proposed buyer of Morris’s old facility use his purchase money (plus some additional money contributed by Morris) to acquire the facility Morris wants to buy, instead of giving that money to Morris. Having thus acquired the new facility, he then trades it to Morris for Morris’s old facility. When the dust settles, everyone is in the same position he would have occupied in the absence of an exchange. The former owner of the new facility has his cash; the proposed buyer of Morris’s old facility now owns that facility and has spent only the amount he proposed to spend; and Morris has traded the old facility plus some cash for the new one. The only party adversely affected is the IRS, which now must wait to tax the gain in Morris’s old facility until he sells the new one. This technique appears so attractive that when practitioners first began to use it, they attempted to employ the technique even when the seller of the old facility had not yet found a new facility to buy. They merely had the buyer of the old facility place the purchase price in escrow and promise to use it to buy a new facility for the old owner as soon as she picked one out. Congress has since limited the use of these so-called delayed like-kind exchanges by requiring the seller of the old facility to identify the new facility to be purchased within 45 days of the transfer of the old one and by further requiring that the exchange be completed within six months of the first transfer.

DIVIDENDS Some time after Morris engineered the acquisition of the molding facility, the hiring of Brad to run it, and the consolidation of his company’s operations through the like-kind exchange, Plant Supply was running smoothly and profitably enough for Morris’s thoughts to turn to retirement. Morris intended to have a comfortable retirement funded by the fruits of his lifelong efforts on behalf of the company, so it was not unreasonable for him to consider funding his retirement through dividends on what would still be his considerable holdings of the company’s stock. Although Brad already held some stock and Morris expected that Lisa and Victor would hold some at that time, he still expected to have a majority position and thus sufficient control of the board of directors to ensure such distributions. Morris also knew enough about tax law, however, to understand that such distributions would cause considerable havoc from a tax viewpoint. We have already discussed how characterizing such distributions as salary or bonus would avoid double taxation, but with Morris no longer working for the company such characterization would be unreasonable. These payments would be deemed dividends on his stock. They would be nondeductible to the corporation (if it

340 Planning and Forecasting were not a subchapter S corporation at the time) and would be fully taxable to him. But Morris had another idea. He would embark on a strategy of turning in small amounts of his stock on a regular basis in exchange for the stock’s value. Although not a perfect solution, the distributions to him would no longer be dividends but payments in redemption of stock. Thus, they would be taxable only to the extent they exceeded his basis in the stock and, even then, only at long-term capital gain rates (not as ordinary income). Best of all, if such redemptions were small enough, he would retain his control over the company for as long as he retained over 50% of its outstanding stock. However, the benefits of this type of plan have attracted the attention of Congress and the IRS over the years. If an individual can draw monies out of a corporation, without affecting the control he asserts through the ownership of his stock, is he really redeeming his stock or simply engaging in a disguised dividend? Congress has answered this question with a series of Code sections purporting to define a redemption.

Substantially Disproportionate Distributions Most relevant to Morris is Section 302(b)(2), which provides that a distribution in respect of stock is a redemption (and thus taxable as a capital gain after subtraction of basis), only if it is substantially disproportionate. This is further defined by requiring that the stockholder hold, after the distribution, less than half of the total combined voting power of all classes of stock and less than 80% of the percentage of the company’s total stock that he owned prior to the distribution. Thus, if Morris intended to redeem 5 shares of the company’s stock at a time when he owned 85 of the company’s outstanding 100 shares, he would be required to report the entire distribution as a dividend. His percentage of ownership would still be 50% or more (80 of 95, or 84%), which in itself dooms the transaction. In addition, his percentage of ownership will still be 80% or more than his percentage before the distribution (dropping only from 85% to 84%—99% of his percentage prior to the distribution). To qualify, Morris would have to redeem 71 shares, since only that amount would drop his control percentage below 50% (14 of 29, or 48%). And since his percentage of control would have dropped from 85% to 48%, he would retain only 56% of the percentage he previously had (less than 80%). Yet, even such a draconian sell-off as thus described would not be sufficient for the Code. Congress has taken the position that the stock ownership of persons other than oneself must be taken into account in determining one’s control of a corporation. Under these so-called attribution rules, a stockholder is deemed to control stock owned not only by himself but also by his spouse, children, grandchildren, and parents. Furthermore, stock owned by partnerships, estates, trusts, and corporations affiliated with the stockholder may also be attributed to him. Thus, assuming that Lisa and Victor owned 10 of the remaining 15 shares of stock (with Brad owning the rest), Morris begins with

Taxes and Business Decisions


95% of the control and can qualify for a stock redemption only by selling all his shares to the corporation.

Complete Termination of Interest Carried to its logical conclusion, even a complete redemption would not qualify for favorable tax treatment, since Lisa and Victor’s stock would still be attributed to Morris, leaving him in control of 67% of the corporation’s stock. Fortunately, however, Code Section 302(b)(3) provides for a distribution to be treated as a redemption if the stockholder’s interest in the corporation is completely terminated. The attribution rules still apply under this section, but they may be waived if the stockholder files a written agreement with the IRS requesting such a waiver. In such an agreement, Morris would be required to divest himself of any relationship with the corporation other than as a creditor and agree not to acquire any interest in the corporation for a period of 10 years. In addition to the two safe harbors described in Sections 302(b)(2) and (3), the Code, in Section 302(b)(1), grants redemption treatment to distributions which are “not essentially equivalent to a dividend.” Unlike the previous two sections, however, the Code does not spell out a mechanical test for this concept, leaving it to the facts and circ*mstances of the case. Given the obvious purpose of this transaction to transfer corporate assets to a stockholder on favorable terms, it is unlikely that the IRS under this section would recognize any explanation other than that of a dividend. Thus, Morris’s plan to turn in his stock and receive a tax-favored distribution for his retirement will not work out as planned unless he allows the redemption of all his stock; resigns as a director, officer, employee, consultant, and so forth; and agrees to stay away for a period of 10 years. He may, however, accept a promissory note for all or part of the redemption proceeds and thereby become a creditor of the corporation. Worse yet, if Lisa obtained her shares from Morris within the 10 years preceding his retirement, even this plan will not work unless the IRS can be persuaded that her acquisition of the shares was for reasons other than tax avoidance. It may be advisable to ensure that she acquires her shares from the corporation rather than from Morris, although one can expect, given the extent of Morris’s control over the corporation, that the IRS would fail to appreciate the difference.

Employee Stock Ownership Plans Although Morris should be relatively happy with the knowledge that he may be able to arrange a complete redemption of his stock to fund his retirement and avoid being taxed as if he had received a dividend, he may still believe that the tax and economic effects of such a redemption are not ideal. Following such a plan to its logical conclusion, the corporation would borrow the money to pay for Morris’s stock. Its repayments would be deductible only to the extent of the interest. At the same time, Morris would be paying a substantial capital gain

342 Planning and Forecasting tax to the government. Before settling for this result, Morris might well wish to explore ways to increase the corporation’s deduction and decrease his own tax liability. Such a result can be achieved through the use of an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), a form of qualified deferred compensation plan as discussed earlier in the context of Brad’s compensation package. Such a plan consists of a trust to which the corporation makes deductible contributions of either shares of its own stock or cash to be used to purchase such stock. Contributions are divided among the accounts of the corporation’s employees (normally in proportion to their compensation for that year), and distributions are made to the employees at their retirement or earlier separation from the company (if the plan so allows). ESOPs have been seen as a relatively noncontroversial way for U.S. employees to gain more control over their employers, and they have been granted a number of tax advantages not available to other qualified plans, such as pension or profit-sharing plans. One advantage is illustrated by the fact that a corporation can manufacture a deduction out of thin air by issuing new stock to a plan (at no cost to the corporation) and deducting the fair market value of the shares. A number of attractive tax benefits would f low from Morris’s willingness to sell his shares to an ESOP established by his corporation rather than to the corporation itself. Yet, before he could appreciate those benefits, Morris would have to be satisfied that some obvious objections would not make such a transaction inadvisable. To begin with, the ESOP would have to borrow the money from a bank in the same way the corporation would; yet the ESOP has no credit record or assets to pledge as collateral. This is normally overcome, however, by the corporation’s giving the bank a secured guarantee of the ESOP’s obligation. Thus, the corporation ends up in the same economic position it would have enjoyed under a direct redemption. Morris might also object to the level of control an ESOP might give to lower-level employees of Plant Supply. After all, his intent is to leave the corporation under the control of Lisa and Brad, but qualified plans must be operated on a nondiscriminatory basis. This objection can be addressed in a number of ways. First, the allocation of shares in proportion to compensation, along with standard vesting and forfeiture provisions, will tilt these allocations toward highly compensated, long-term employees, such as Lisa and Brad. Second, the shares are not allocated to the employees’ accounts until they are paid for. While the bank is still being paid, an amount proportional to the remaining balance of the loan would be controlled by the plan trustees (chosen by management). Third, even after shares are allocated to employee accounts, in a closely held company, employees are allowed to vote those shares only on questions which require a two-thirds vote of the stockholders, such as a sale or merger of the corporation. On all other more routine questions (such as election of the board) the trustees still vote the shares. Fourth, upon an employee’s retirement and before distribution of his shares, a closely held corporation

Taxes and Business Decisions


EXHIBIT 11.7 Corporate redemption versus ESOP purchase. Corporate Redemption Only interest deductible Capital gain

ESOP Purchase Principal and interest deductible Gain deferred if proceeds rolled over

must offer to buy back the distributed shares at fair market value. As a practical matter, most employees will accept such an offer rather than moving into retirement with illiquid, closely held company stock. If Morris accepts these arguments and opts for an ESOP buyout, the following benefits accrue. Rather than being able to deduct only the interest portion of its payments to the bank, the corporation may now contribute the full amount of such payment to the plan as a fully deductible contribution to a qualified plan. The plan then forwards it to the bank as a payment of its obligation. Furthermore, the Code allows an individual who sells stock of a corporation to the corporation’s ESOP to defer paying any tax on the proceeds of such sale, if the proceeds are rolled over into purchases of securities. No tax is then paid until the purchased securities are ultimately resold. Thus, if Morris takes the money received from the ESOP and invests it in the stock market, he pays no tax until and unless he sells any of these securities, and then only on those sold. In fact, if Morris purchases such securities and holds them until his death (assuming he dies prior to 2010), his estate will receive a step-up in basis for such securities and thus will avoid income tax on the proceeds of his company stock entirely (see Exhibit 11.7).

ESTATE PLANNING Should Morris rebel at the thought of retiring from the company, his thoughts may naturally turn to the tax consequences of his remaining employed by the company in some capacity until his death. Morris’s lifelong efforts have made him a rather wealthy man, and he knows that the government will be looking to reap a rather large harvest from those efforts upon his death. He would no doubt be rather disheartened to learn that after a $675,000 exemption (which increases to as much as $3.5 million in 2009), the federal government will receive 37% to anywhere from 45% to 55% of the excess upon his death, depending upon the year in which he dies. Proper estate planning can double the amount of that grace amount by using the exemptions of both Morris and his wife, but the amount above the exemptions appears to be at significant risk. It should further be noted that the federal estate tax is currently scheduled for repeal in 2010, but, under current law, will be reinstated in 2011.

344 Planning and Forecasting Redemptions to Pay Death Taxes and Administrative Expenses Since much of the money to fund this estate tax liability would come from redemption of company stock, if Morris had not previously cashed it in, Morris might well fear the combined effect of dividend treatment and estate taxation. Of course, if Morris’s estate turned in all his stock for redemption at death, dividend treatment would appear to have been avoided and redemption treatment under Section 302(b)(3) would appear to be available, since this would amount to a complete termination of his interest in the company and death would appear to cut off Morris’s relationship with the company rather convincingly. However, if the effect of Morris’s death on the company or of other circ*mstances made a wholesale redemption inadvisable or impossible, Morris’s estate could be faced with paying both ordinary income and estate tax rates on the full amount of the proceeds. Fortunately for those faced with this problem, Code Section 303 allows capital gain treatment for a stock redemption if the proceeds of the redemption do not exceed the amount necessary to pay the estate’s taxes and those further expenses allowable as administrative expenses on the estate’s tax return. To qualify for this treatment, the company’s stock must equal or exceed 35% of the value of the estate’s total assets. Since Morris’s holdings of company stock will most likely exceed 35% of his total assets, if his estate finds itself in this uncomfortable position, it will at least be able to account for this distribution as a stock redemption instead of a dividend. This is much more important than it may first appear and much more important than it would have been were Morris still alive. The effect, of course, is to allow payment at long-term capital gain rates (rather than ordinary income tax rates) for only the amount received in excess of the taxpayer’s basis in the stock (rather than the entire amount of the distribution). Given that the death of the taxpayer prior to 2010 increases his basis to the value at date of death, the effect of Section 303 is to eliminate all but that amount of gain occurring after death, thus eliminating virtually all income tax on the distribution. This step-up of basis will be significantly less generous for taxpayer’s dying after 2009. Of course, assuring sufficient liquidity to pay taxes due upon death is one thing; controlling the amount of tax actually due is another. Valuation of a majority interest in a closely held corporation is far from an exact science, and the last thing an entrepreneur wishes is to have his or her spouse and other heirs engage in a valuation controversy with the IRS after his or her death. As a result, a number of techniques have evolved over the years which may have the effect of lowering the value of the stock to be included in the estate or, at least, making such value more certain for planning purposes.

Family Limited Partnerships One such technique that has recently gained in popularity is the so-called family limited partnership. This strategy allows an individual to decrease the size

Taxes and Business Decisions


of his taxable estate through gifts to his intended beneficiaries both faster and at less tax cost than would otherwise be possible, while at the same time retaining effective control over the assets given away. Were Morris interested in implementing this strategy, he would form a limited partnership, designating himself as the general partner and retaining all but a minimal amount of the limited partnership interests for himself. He would then transfer to the partnership a significant portion of his assets, such as stock in the company, real estate, or marketable securities. Even though he would have transferred these interests out of his name, he would be assured of continued control over these assets in his role as general partner. The general partner of a limited partnership exercises all management functions; limited partners sacrifice all control in exchange for limited liability. Morris would then embark on a course of gifting portions of the limited partnership interests to Lisa, Victor, and perhaps even Brad. You will remember that in each calendar year, Morris and his wife can combine to give no more than $20,000 to each beneficiary before eating into their lifetime gift tax exemption. The advantage of the family limited partnership, besides retaining control over the assets given away, is that the amounts which may be given each year are effectively increased. For example, were Morris and his wife to give $20,000 of marketable securities to Lisa in any given year, that would use up their entire annual gift tax exclusion. However, were they instead to give Lisa a portion of the limited partnership interest to which those marketable securities had been contributed, it can be argued that the gift should be valued at a much lower amount. After all, while there was a ready market for the securities, there is no market for the limited partnership interests; and while Lisa would have had control over the securities if they had been given to her, she has no control of them through her limited partnership interest. These discounts for lack of marketability and control can be substantial, freeing up more room under the annual exclusion for further gifting. In proper circ*mstances, one might use this technique when owning a rapidly appreciating asset (such as a pre-IPO stock) to give away more than $20,000 in a year, using up all or part of the lifetime exclusion, to remove the asset from your estate at a discount from its present value, rather than having to pay estate tax in the future on a highly inf lated value. Of course, the IRS has challenged these arrangements when there was no apparent business purpose other than tax savings or when the transfer occurred just before the death of the transferor. And you can expect the IRS to challenge an overly aggressive valuation discount. But if Morris is careful in his valuations, he might find this arrangement attractive, asserting the business purpose of centralizing management while facilitating the grant of equity incentives to his executive employees.

Buy-Sell Agreements Short of establishing a family limited partnership, Morris might be interested in a more traditional arrangement requiring the corporation or its stockholders

346 Planning and Forecasting to purchase whatever stock he may still hold at his death. Such an arrangement can be helpful with regard to both of Morris’s estate-planning goals: setting a value for his stock that would not be challenged by the IRS and assuring sufficient liquidity to pay whatever estate taxes may ultimately be owed. There are two basic variations of these agreements. Under the most common, Morris would agree with the corporation that it would redeem his shares upon his death for a price derived from an agreed formula. The second variation would require one or more of the other stockholders of the corporation (e.g., Lisa) to make such a purchase. In both cases, in order for the IRS to respect the valuation placed upon the shares, Morris will need to agree that he will not dispose of the shares during his lifetime without first offering them to the other party to his agreement at the formula price. Under such an arrangement, the shares will never be worth more to Morris than the formula price, so it can be argued that whatever higher price the IRS may calculate is irrelevant to him and his estate. This argument led some stockholders in the past to agree to formulas that artificially depressed the value of their shares when the parties succeeding to power in the corporation were also the main beneficiaries of the stockholders’ estates. Since any value forgone would end up in the hands of the intended beneficiary anyway, only the tax collector would be hurt. Although the IRS long challenged this practice, this strategy has been put to a formal end by legislation requiring that the formula used result in a close approximation to fair market value. Which of the two variations of the buy-sell agreement should Morris choose? If we assume for the moment that Morris owns 80 of the 100 outstanding shares and Lisa and Brad each own 10, a corporate redemption agreement leaves Lisa and Brad each owning half of the 20 outstanding shares remaining. If, however, Morris chooses a cross-purchase agreement with Lisa and Brad, each would purchase 40 of his shares upon his death, leaving them as owners of 50 shares each. Both agreements leave the corporation owned by Lisa and Brad in equal shares, so there does not appear to be any difference between them. Once again, however, significant differences lie slightly below the surface. To begin with, many such agreements are funded by the purchase of a life insurance policy on the life of the stockholder involved. If the corporation were to purchase this policy, the premiums would be nondeductible, resulting in additional taxable profit for the corporation. In a subchapter S corporation, such profit would pass through to the stockholders in proportion to their shares of stock in the corporation. In a C corporation, the additional profit would result in additional corporate tax. If, instead, Lisa and Brad bought policies covering their halves of the obligation to Morris’s estate, they would be paying the premiums with after-tax dollars. Thus, a redemption agreement will cause Morris to share in the cost of the arrangement, whereas a cross-purchase agreement puts the entire onus on Lisa and Brad. This burden can, of course, be rationalized by arguing that they will ultimately reap the benefit of the

Taxes and Business Decisions


arrangement by succeeding to the ownership of the corporation. Or, their compensation could be adjusted to cover the additional cost. If the corporation is not an S corporation, however, there is an additional consideration that must not be overlooked. Upon Morris’s death, the receipt of the insurance proceeds by the beneficiary of the life insurance will be excluded from taxable income. However, a C corporation (other than certain small businesses) is also subject to the alternative minimum tax. Simply described, that tax guards against individuals and profitable corporations paying little or no tax by “overuse” of certain deductions and tax credits otherwise available. To calculate the tax, the taxpayer adds to its otherwise taxable income, certain “tax preferences” and then subtracts from that amount an exemption amount ($40,000 for most corporations). The result is taxed at 20% for corporations (26% and 28% for individuals). If that tax amount exceeds the income tax otherwise payable, the higher amount is paid. The result of this is additional tax for those taxpayers with substantial tax preferences. Among those tax preferences for C corporations is a concept known as adjusted current earnings. This concept adds as a tax preference, three-quarters of the difference between the corporation’s earnings for financial reporting purposes and the earnings otherwise reportable for tax purposes. A major source of such a difference would be the receipt of nontaxable income. And the receipt of life insurance proceeds is just such an event. Therefore, the receipt of a life insurance payout of sufficient size would ultimately be taxed, at least in part, to a C corporation, whereas it would be completely tax free to an S corporation or the remaining stockholders. An additional factor pointing to the stockholder cross-purchase agreement rather than a corporate redemption is the effect this choice would have on the taxability of a later sale of the corporation after Morris’s death. If the corporation were to redeem Morris’s stock, Lisa and Brad would each own onehalf of the corporation through their ownership of 10 shares each. If they then sold the company, they would be subject to tax on capital gain measured by the difference between the proceeds of the sale and their original basis in their shares. However, if Lisa and Brad purchased Morris’s stock at his death, they would each own one-half of the corporation through their ownership of 50 shares each. Upon a later sale of the company, their capital gain would be measured by the difference between the sale proceeds and their original basis in their shares plus the amount paid for Morris’s shares. Every dollar paid to Morris lowers the taxable income received upon later sale. In a redemption agreement, these dollars are lost (see Exhibit 11.8).

SPIN-OFFS AND SPLIT-UPS Morris’s pleasant reverie caused by thoughts of well-funded retirement strategies and clever estate plans was brought to a sudden halt a mere two years after the acquisition of the molding operation, when it became clear

348 Planning and Forecasting EXHIBIT 11.8

Corporate redemption versus cross-purchase agreement.

Corporate Redemption


(Assume all parties purchased stock at $100 per share. Current fair market value, is $200 per share.) Morris



























Total basis:




Total basis:

that the internecine jealousies between Brad and Lisa were becoming unmanageable. Ruefully, Morris conceded that it was not unforeseeable that the manager of a significant part of his business would resent the presence of a rival who would be perceived as having attained her present position simply by dint of her relationship to the owner. This jealousy was, of course, inf lamed by the thought that Lisa might succeed to Morris’s stock upon his death and become Brad’s boss. After some months of attempting to mediate the many disputes between Lisa and Brad, which were merely symptoms of this underlying disease, Morris came to the conclusion that the corporation could not survive with both of them vying for power and inf luence. He determined that the only workable solution would be to break the two businesses apart once again, leaving the two rivals in charge of their individual empires, with no future binding ties. Experienced in corporate transactions by this time, Morris gave the problem some significant thought and devised two alternate scenarios to accomplish his goal. Both scenarios began with the establishment of a subsidiary corporation wholly owned by the currently existing company. The assets, liabilities, and all other attributes of the molding operation would then be transferred to this new subsidiary in exchange for its stock. At that point in the first scenario (known as a spin-off ), the parent corporation would declare a dividend of all such stock to its current stockholders. Thus, Morris, Lisa, and Brad

Taxes and Business Decisions


would own the former subsidiary in the same proportions in which they owned the parent. Morris, as the majority owner of the new corporation, could then give further shares to Brad, enter into a buy-sell agreement with him, or sell him some shares. In any case, upon Morris’s death, Brad would succeed to unquestioned leadership in this corporation. Lisa would stay as a minority stockholder or, if she wished, sell her shares to Morris while he was alive. Lisa would gain control of the former parent corporation upon Morris’s death. In the second scenario (known as a split-off ), after the formation of the subsidiary, Brad would sell his shares of Plant Supply to that parent corporation in exchange for stock affording him control of the subsidiary. Lisa would remain the only minority stockholder of the parent corporation (Brad’s interest having been removed) and would succeed to full ownership upon Morris’s death through one of the mechanisms discussed earlier. Unfortunately, when Morris brought his ideas to his professional advisers, he was faced with a serious tax objection. In both scenarios, he was told, the IRS would likely take the position that the issuance of the subsidiary’s stock to its eventual holder (Morris in the spin-off and Brad in the split-off ) was a taxable transaction, characterized as a dividend. After all, this plan could be used as another device to cash out the earnings and profits of a corporation at favorable rates and terms. Instead of declaring a dividend of these profits, a corporation could spin off assets, with the fair market value of these profits, to a subsidiary. The shares of the subsidiary could then be distributed to its stockholders as a nontaxable stock dividend, and the stockholders could sell these shares and treat their profits as capital gain. The second scenario allows Brad to receive the subsidiary’s shares and then make a similar sale of these shares at favorable rates and terms. As a result, the Code characterizes the distribution of the subsidiary’s shares to the parent’s stockholders as a dividend, taxable to the extent of the parent’s earnings and profits at the time of the distribution. This would certainly inhibit Morris if he were the owner of a profitable C corporation. It would be less of a concern if his corporation were operating as an S corporation, although even then he would have to be concerned about undistributed earnings and profits dating from before the S election. Recognizing that not all transactions of this type are entered into to disguise the declaration of a dividend, the Code does allow spin-offs and splitoffs to take place tax-free, under the limited circ*mstances described in Section 355. These circ*mstances track the scenarios concocted by Morris, but are limited to circ*mstances in which both the parent and subsidiary will be conducting an active trade or business after the transaction. Moreover, each trade or business must have been conducted for a period exceeding five years prior to the distribution and cannot have been acquired in a taxable transaction during such time. Since Morris’s corporation acquired the molding business only two years previously and such transaction was not tax free, the benefits of Section 355 are not available now. Short of another solution, it would appear

350 Planning and Forecasting that Morris will have to live with the bickering of Brad and Lisa for another three years.

SALE OF THE CORPORATION Fortunately for Morris, another solution was not long in coming. Within months of the failure of his proposal to split up the company, Morris was approached by the president of a company in a related field, interested in purchasing Plant Supply. Such a transaction was very intriguing to Morris. He had worked very hard for many years and would not be adverse to an early retirement. A purchase such as this would relieve him of all his concerns over adequate liquidity for his estate and strategies for funding his retirement. He could take care of both Lisa and Victor with the cash he would receive, and both Lisa and Brad would be free to deal with the acquirer about remaining employed and collecting on their equity. However, Morris knew better than to get too excited over this prospect before consulting with his tax advisers. His hesitance turned out to be justified. Unless a deal was appropriately structured, Morris was staring at a significant tax bite, both on the corporate and the stockholder levels. Morris knew from his experience with the molding plant that a corporate acquisition can be structured in three basic ways: a merger, a sale of stock, and a purchase of assets. In a merger, the target corporation disappears into the acquirer by operation of law, and the former stockholders of the target receive consideration from the acquirer. In the sale of stock, the stockholders sell their shares directly to the acquiring corporation. In a sale of assets, the target sells its assets (and most of its liabilities) to the acquirer, and the proceeds of the sale are then distributed to the target’s stockholders through the liquidation of the target. A major theme of all three of these scenarios involves the acquirer forming a subsidiary corporation to act as the acquirer in the transaction. In each case, the difference between the proceeds received by the target’s stockholders and their basis in the target’s stock would be taxable as capital gain. Morris was further informed that this tax at the stockholder level could be avoided if these transactions qualified under the complex rules that define tax-free reorganizations. In each case, one of the requirements would be that the target stockholders receive largely stock of the acquirer rather than cash. Since the acquirer in this case was closely held and there was no market for its stock, Morris was determined to insist upon cash. He thus accepted the idea of paying tax on the stockholder level. Morris was quite surprised, however, to learn that he might also be exposed to corporate tax on the growth in the corporation’s assets over its basis in them if they were deemed to have been sold as a result of the acquisition transaction. For one thing, he had been under the impression that a corporation was exempt from such tax if it sold its assets as part of the liquidation process. He was disappointed to learn that this exemption was another victim of the repeal

Taxes and Business Decisions


of the General Utilities doctrine. He was further disappointed when reminded that even subchapter S corporations recognize all built-in gain that existed at the time of their subchapter S election, if their assets are sold within 10 years after their change of tax status. As a result of the previous considerations, Morris was determined to avoid structuring the sale of his corporation as a sale of its assets and liabilities, to avoid any tax on the corporate level. He was already determined not to structure it as a sale of stock by the target stockholders, because he was not entirely sure Brad could be trusted to sell his shares. If he could structure the transaction at the corporate level, he would not need Brad’s minority vote to accomplish it. Thus, after intensive negotiations, he was pleased that the acquiring corporation had agreed to structure the acquisition as a merger between Plant Supply and a subsidiary of the acquirer (to be formed for the purpose of the transaction). All stockholders of Plant Supply would receive a cash down payment and a fiveyear promissory note from the parent acquirer in exchange for their stock. Yet even this careful preparation and negotiation leaves Morris, Lisa, and Brad in jeopardy of unexpected tax exposure. To begin with, if the transaction remains as negotiated, the IRS will likely take the position that the assets of the target corporation have been sold to the acquirer, thus triggering tax at the corporate level. In addition, the target’s stockholders will have to recognize as proceeds of the sale of their stock both the cash and the fair market value of the promissory notes in the year of the transaction, even though they will receive payments on the notes over a period of five years. Under the General Utilities doctrine, a corporation that was selling substantially all its assets needed to adopt a “plan of liquidation” prior to entering into the sale agreement to avoid taxation at the corporate level. The repeal of the doctrine may have left the impression that the adoption of such a liquidation plan is unnecessary because the sale will be taxed at the corporate level in any event. Yet, the Code still requires such a liquidation plan if the stockholders wish to recognize notes received upon the dissolution of the target corporation on the installment basis. Moreover, the liquidation of the corporation must be completed within 12 months of adoption of the liquidation plan. Thus, Morris’s best efforts may still have led to disaster. Fortunately, a small adjustment to the negotiated transaction can cure most of these problems. Through an example of corporate magic known as the reverse triangular merger, the newly formed subsidiary of the acquirer may disappear into Morris’s target corporation, but the target’s stockholders can still be jettisoned for cash, leaving the acquirer as the parent. In such a transaction, the assets of the target have not been sold; they remain owned by the original corporation. Only the target’s stockholders have changed. In effect, the parties have sold stock without the necessity of getting Brad’s approval. Because the assets have not changed hands, there is no tax at the corporate level. In addition, since the target corporation has not liquidated, no plan of liquidation is required, and the target stockholders may elect installment treatment as if they had sold their shares directly (see Exhibit 11.9).

352 Planning and Forecasting EXHIBIT 11.9

Reverse triangle merger. Before


After SUB


S stock

S Owned by

Owned by T’s stockholders A


Owned by T’s stockholders

CONCLUSION Perhaps no taxpayer will encounter quite as many cataclysmic tax decisions in as short a time as did Morris and Plant Supply. Yet, Morris’s experience serves to illustrate that tax issues lurk in almost every major business decision made by a corporation’s management. Many transactions can be structured to avoid unnecessary tax expense if proper attention is paid to tax implications. To be unaware of these issues is to play the game without knowing the rules.

FOR FURTHER R EADING Gevurtz, Franklin A., Business Planning (New York: Foundation Press, 1995). Jones, Sally M., Federal Taxes and Management Decisions (New York: Irwin/ McGraw-Hill, 1998). Painter, William H., Problems and Materials in Business Planning, 3rd ed. (Connecticut: West / Wadsworth, 1994). Scholes, Myron S. et al., Taxes and Business Strategy (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2001).

INTER NET LINKS /sections/fn_taxes/articles.html /taxguide99/cover.htm

FindLaw for Business Deloitte and Touche Tax Planning Guide Smart tax guide

12 GLOBAL FINANCE Eugene E. Comiskey Charles W. Mulford

MANAGER IAL AND FINANCIAL R EPORTING ISSUES AT SUCCESSIVE STAGES IN THE FI RM’S LIFE CYCLE Fashionhouse Furniture started as a small southern retailer of furniture purchased mainly in bordering southeastern states. With a growing level of both competition and aff luence in its major market areas, Fashionhouse decided that its future lay in a niche strategy involving specialization in a high quality line of Scandinavian furniture. Its suppliers were mainly located in Denmark, and they followed the practice of billing Fashionhouse in the Danish krone. Title would typically pass to Fashionhouse when the goods were dropped on the dock in Copenhagen. Payment for the goods was required within periods ranging from 30 to 90 days. As its business expanded and prospered, Fashionhouse became convinced that it needed to exercise greater control over its furniture supply. This control was accomplished through the purchase of its principal Danish supplier. Because this supplier also had a network of retail units in Denmark, the manufacturing operations in Denmark supplied both the local Danish market as well as the U.S. requirements of Fashionhouse. More recently, Fashionhouse has been searching for ways to increase manufacturing efficiency and lower product costs. It is contemplating a relocation of part of its manufacturing activity to a country with an ample and low-cost supply of labor. However, Fashionhouse has noted that many such countries experience very high levels of inf lation and other potentially disruptive economic and political conditions. It has also become aware that in some of


354 Planning and Forecasting the countries under consideration business practices are occasionally employed that could be a source of concern to Fashionhouse management. In some cases, the practices raise issues that extend beyond simply ethical considerations. Fashionhouse could become involved in activities that could place it in violation, not of local laws, but of U.S. laws. Fashionhouse management is still attempting to determine how to evaluate and deal with some of the identified managerial and financial issues associated with this contemplated move. Each of the new stages in the evolution of the Fashionhouse strategy creates new challenges that have important implications for both management and financial reporting. The evolution from a strictly domestic operation to one involving the purchase of goods abroad thrusts Fashionhouse into the global marketplace, with its attendant risks and rewards. It is common for U.S. firms with foreign activities to enumerate some of these risks. These disclosures are normally made, at least in part, to comply with disclosure requirements of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). As an example, consider the disclosures made by Western Digital Corporation of risk factors associated with its foreign manufacturing operations: • • • • • • • •

Obtaining requisite U.S. and foreign governmental permits and approvals. Currency exchange-rate f luctuations or restrictions. Political instability and civil unrest. Transportation delays or higher freight fees. Labor problems. Trade restrictions or higher tariffs. Exchange, currency, and tax controls and reallocations. Loss or nonrenewal of favorable tax treatment under agreements or treaties with foreign tax authorities.1

While not listed above as a specific concern, there is the risk that a foreign government will expropriate the assets of a foreign operation. There were major expropriations of U.S. assets, for instance, located in Cuba when Fidel Castro came to power. There were also expropriations by Iran surrounding the hostage taking at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Moreover there has been turmoil in Ecuador in recent years. Baltek, a New Jersey corporation with most of its operations in Ecuador, disclosed that it had taken out expropriation insurance to deal with this risk: All of the Company’s balsa and shrimp are produced in Ecuador. The dependence on foreign countries for raw materials represents some inherent risks. However, the Company, or its predecessors, has operated without interruption in Ecuador since 1940. Operating in Ecuador has enabled the Company to produce raw materials at a reasonable cost in an atmosphere that has been favorable to exporters such as the Company. To mitigate the risk of operating in Ecuador, in 1999 the Company obtained a five-year expropriation insurance policy. This policy provides the Company coverage for its assets in Ecuador

Global Finance


against expropriatory conduct (as defined in the policy) by the government of Ecuador.2

Some of the important issues implicit in the Fashionhouse scenario outlined above are identified below and are discussed and illustrated in the balance of this chapter: 1. Fashionhouse incurs a foreign-currency obligation when it begins to acquire furniture from its Danish suppliers. A decrease in the value of the dollar between purchase and payment date increases the dollars required to discharge the Danish krone obligation and results in a foreign-currency transaction loss. Financial reporting issue: How are the foreign-currency obligations initially recorded and subsequently accounted for in the Fashionhouse books, which are maintained in U.S. dollars? Management issue: What methods are available to avoid the currency risk associated with purchasing goods abroad and also being invoiced in the foreign currency, and should they be employed? 2. The purchase of one of its Danish suppliers requires that this firm henceforth be consolidated into the financial statements of Fashionhouse and its U.S. operations. Financial reporting issues: (a) How are the Danish statements converted from the krone in order to consolidate them with the U.S. dollar statements of Fashionhouse? (b) What differences in accounting practices, if any, exist between Denmark and the United States and what must be done about such differences? Management issues: (a) Is there currency risk associated with the Danish subsidiary comparable to that described previously with the foreign purchase transactions? Are there methods available to avoid the currency risk associated with ownership of a foreign subsidiary and should they be employed? (b) How will the financial aspects of the management of the Danish subsidiary be evaluated in view of (1) the availability of two different sets of financial statements, those expressed in krone and those in U.S. dollars, and (2) the fact that most of its sales are to Fashionhouse, its U.S. parent? 3. Fashionhouse relocates its manufacturing to a high-inf lation and lowlabor cost country. Financial reporting issues: How will inf lation affect the local-country financial statements and their usefulness in evaluating the performance of the company and its management? Management issues: (a) Are their special risks associated with locating in a highly inf lationary country and how can they be managed? (b) What are the restrictions on U.S. business practices related to dealing with business and governmental entities in other countries?

356 Planning and Forecasting For clarification and to indicate their order of treatment in the subsequent discussion, the issues raised above are enumerated below, without distinction between those that are mainly financial reporting as opposed to managerial issues: 1. Financial reporting of foreign-currency denominated transactions. 2. Risk management alternatives for foreign-currency denominated transactions. 3. Translation of the financial statements of foreign subsidiaries. 4. Managing the currency risk of foreign subsidiaries. 5. Dealing with differences between U.S. and foreign accounting policies. 6. Evaluation of the performance of foreign subsidiaries and their management. 7. Assessing the effects of inf lation on the financial performance of foreign subsidiaries. 8. Complying with U.S. restrictions on business practices associated with foreign subsidiaries and governments.

FINANCIAL R EPORTING OF FOR EIGN-CURR ENCY DENOMINATED TRANSACTIONS When a U.S. company buys from or sells to a foreign firm, a key issue is the currency in which the transaction is to be denominated.3 In the case of Fashionhouse, its purchases from Danish suppliers were invoiced to Fashionhouse in the Danish krone. This creates a risk, which is born by Fashionhouse and not its Danish supplier, of a foreign exchange transaction loss should the dollar fall in value. Alternatively, a gain would result should the dollar increase between the time the furniture is dropped on the dock in Copenhagen and the required payment date. With a fall in the value of the dollar, the Fashionhouse dollar cost for the furniture will be more than the dollar obligation it originally recorded. Fashionhouse is said to have liability exposure in the Danish krone. If, instead, Fashionhouse had been invoiced in the U.S. dollar, then it would have had no currency risk. Rather, its Danish supplier would bear the currency risk associated with a claim to U.S. dollars, in the form of a U.S. dollar account receivable. If the dollar were to decrease in value, the Danish supplier would incur a foreign exchange transaction loss, or a gain should the dollar increase in value. The Danish firm would have asset exposure in a U.S. dollar account receivable. The essence of foreign-currency exposure or currency risk is that existing account balances or prospective cash f lows can expand or contract simply as a result of changes in the values of currencies. A summary of foreign exchange gains and losses, by type of exposure, due to exchange rate movements is provided in Exhibit 12.1. To illustrate some of the computational aspects of the

Global Finance


EXHIBIT 12.1 Type of foreign currency exposure. Exposure

Change in Foreign Currency Value



Appreciates Depreciates

Gain Loss

Loss Gain

patterns of gains and losses in Exhibit 12.1, and the nature of exchange rates, assume that Fashionhouse recorded a 100,000 krone purchase when the exchange rate for the krone was $0.1180. That is, it takes 11.8 cents to purchase one krone. This expression of the exchange rate, dollars per unit of the foreign currency, is referred to as the direct rate. Alternatively, expressing the rate in terms of kroner per dollar is referred to as the indirect rate. In this case, the indirect rate is 1/0.1180, or K8.475. It requires 8.475 kroner to purchase one dollar. Both the direct and indirect rates are typically provided in the tables of exchange rates found in the financial press. The rates at which currencies are currently trading are called the spot rates. When Fashionhouse records the invoice received from its Danish supplier, it must do so in its U.S. dollar equivalent. With the direct rate at $0.1180, the dollar equivalent of K100,000 is $0.1180 × K100,000, or $11,800. That is, Fashionhouse records an addition to inventory and an offsetting account payable for $11,800. Assume that Fashionhouse pays this obligation when the dollar has fallen to $0.1190. It will now take $11,900 dollars to acquire the K100,000 needed to pay off the account payable. The combination of liability exposure and a decline in the value of the dollar results in a foreign-currency transaction loss. This result is summarized below: The exchange rate is $0.1190 when the account payable from the purchase is paid. Dollar amount of obligation at payment date, 100,000 × $0.1190 Dollar amount of obligation at purchase date, 100,000 × $0.1180 Foreign exchange transaction loss

$11,900 11,800 $ 100

The dollar depreciated against the krone during the time when Fashionhouse had liability exposure in the krone. As a result, it took $100 more to discharge the account payable than the amount at which the liability was originally recorded by Fashionhouse. If the foreign exchange losses incurred were significant, it might prove difficult to pass on this increased cost to Fashionhouse customers, and it could cause its furniture to be somewhat less competitive than that offered by other U.S. retailers with domestic suppliers. Fashionhouse might attempt to avoid the currency risk by convincing its Danish suppliers to invoice it in the dollar. However, this means that the Danish suppliers would bear the currency risk.

358 Planning and Forecasting Experience indicates that such suppliers would expect to be compensated for bearing this risk and would charge more for their products.4 An alternative approach, the use of various hedging procedures, is the more common method employed to manage the risk of foreign-currency exposure.

R ISK MANAGEMENT ALTER NATIVES FOR FOR EIGN-CURR ENCY DENOMINATED TRANSACTIONS Hedging is designed to protect the dollar value of a foreign-currency asset position or to hold constant the dollar burden of a foreign-currency liability.5 At the same time, the volatility of a firm’s cash f low or earnings stream is also reduced. This reduction is accomplished by maintaining an offsetting position that produces gains when the asset or liability position is creating losses, and vice versa. These offsetting positions may be created as a result of arrangements involving internal offsetting balances created through operational activities, or they may entail specialized external transactions with financial firms or markets.

Hedging with Internal Offsetting Balances or Cash Flows Firms generally attempt to close out as much foreign-currency exposure as possible by relying upon their own operations. These arrangements are often referred to as natural hedges. As an example, consider the following commentary about currency exposure from the 1999 annual report of Air Canada: Foreign exchange exposure on interest obligations in Swiss francs and Deutsche marks is fully covered by surplus cash f lows in European currencies, while yendenominated cash f low surpluses provide a natural hedge to fully cover yen interest expense.6

Air Canada is able to prevent net exposure in the identified foreign currencies by having offsetting cash f lows in the same currencies or in currencies whose values move in parallel to the currencies in which Air Canada has interest obligations. With the full transition to the Euro in 2002, Air Canada’s currency exposure should be markedly reduced because most of the European Community countries will share the Euro as their currency.7 This will not, of course, alter their exposure in the case of Asian currencies. A sampling of other arrangements that could be characterized as natural hedges is provided in Exhibit 12.2. Virtually all of these examples illustrate the offsetting of exposure through the results of normal operations. In the cases of Baldwin Technologies and Interface, the hedges could be seen to be seminatural if they result from a conscious action to create offsetting exposure. That is, does Baldwin Technology determine the cash balances to maintain after first

Global Finance


EXHIBIT 12.2 Natural foreign currency hedges. Company

Natural Hedge

Adobe Systems Inc. (1999)

We currently do not use financial instruments to hedge local currency denominated operating expenses in Europe. Instead, we believe that a natural hedge exists, in that local currency revenue from product upgrades substantially offsets the local currency denominated operating expenses.

Armstrong World Industries Inc. (1999)

Armstrong’s global manufacturing and sales provide a natural hedge of foreign currency exchange-rate movements as foreign currency revenues are offset by foreign currency expenses.

Baldwin Technology Company Inc. (1999)

The Company also maintains certain levels of cash denominated in various currencies which acts as a natural hedge.

Baltek Corporation (1998)

During 1997, the Company began borrowing in Ecuador in local currency (sucre) denominated loans as a natural hedge of the net investments in Ecuador.

Interface Inc. (1999)

During 1998, the Company restructured its borrowing facilities which provided for multi-currency loan agreements resulting in the Company’s ability to borrow funds in the countries in which the funds are expected to be utilized. Further, the advent of the Euro has provided additional currency stability with the Company’s European markets. As such, these events have provided the Company natural hedges of currency f luctuations.

Pall Corporation (2000)

About one quarter of Pall’s sales are in countries tied to the Euro. At current exchange rates, this could reduce our sales by close to 4%. Fortunately, many of our costs in Europe are also reduced by a weak Euro. The weak British Pound also reduces our exposure as most Pall sales to Europe are manufactured in England. This provides a natural hedge and helps preserve profitability.

Telef lex Inc. (1999)

Approximately 65% of the company’s total borrowings of $345 million are denominated in currencies other than the US dollar, principally Euro, providing a natural hedge against f luctuations in the value of non-domestic assets.


Companies’ annual reports. The year following each company name designates the annual report from which each example is drawn.

determining the extent of their liability exposure? Similarly, does Interface make decisions about the currency in which to borrow depending upon its existing asset exposure?8 Being the product of calculation and design does not make the seminatural hedges any less effective or desirable. In fact, their existence prompts management to be proactive in identifying hedging opportunities that do not

360 Planning and Forecasting require, for example, the use of either exchange-traded or over-the-counter derivative instruments. While somewhat less contemporary, there are other examples of using a firm’s own operations and activities to offset foreign-currency exposure. For example, California First Bank (now part of Union Bank) had a Swiss franc borrowing in the amount of Sfr20 million.9 As this represented liability exposure to California First, Exhibit 12.1 shows that an increase in the value of the Swiss franc results in a foreign-currency transaction loss. The goal of the hedge would be to create a gain in this circ*mstance to offset the loss on the Swiss franc borrowing. Again, Exhibit 12.1 reveals that a gain would be produced from asset exposure in the Swiss franc in the case where the Swiss franc appreciated in value. California First Bank sought an opportunity to establish an asset position in the Swiss franc for the same amount and term as the existing Swiss franc obligation. It created this offsetting position by making a loan and denominating the loan in the Swiss franc. This apparently met the borrower’s needs and also served the hedging objective of California First Bank. In an even more creative arrangement, Federal Express created a natural hedge of a term loan that was denominated in the Japanese yen.10 This was accomplished by a special structuring of transactions with its own customers. As Federal Express explained: To minimize foreign exchange risk on the term loan, the Company has commitments from certain Japanese customers to purchase a minimum level of freight services through 1993.

Federal Express needed Japanese yen to make periodic repayments on the term loan. The arrangements with its Japanese customers ensured that yen would be available to pay down the term loan. If the yen appreciates against the dollar, the dollar burden of the Federal Express yen debt increases and results in a transaction loss. However, this loss is offset in turn by the increase in the dollar value of the stream of yen receipts from the freight-service contracts.11 If instead the yen depreciates, a gain on the debt will be offset by losses on the service contracts. A summary of the operation of this hedge is provided in Exhibit 12.3. California First and Federal Express both employed arrangements with their customers in order to create hedges. In addition, purely natural hedges

EXHIBIT 12.3 Of fsetting gains and losses produced by Federal Express hedge. Change in the value of Foreign Currency

Change in Dollar Value of the Loan (Liability)

Change in Dollar Value of the Revenue (Asset)

Appreciates Depreciates

Increases (loss) Decreases (gain)

Increases (gain) Decreases (loss)

Global Finance


may exist due to offsetting balances that result from ordinary business transactions with no special arrangements being required. Several hedges that appear to be of this nature were presented in Exhibit 12.2, for example, Adobe Systems and Armstrong World Industries. Two other examples that appear to be totally natural are the cases of Lyle Shipping and Australian mining companies. Lyle Shipping, a Scottish firm, had borrowings in the U.S. dollar. An increase in the value of the dollar would increase the pounds required to repay Lyle’s dollar debt and result in a transaction loss. However, because Lyle’s ships were chartered out at fixed rates in U.S. dollars, there would be an offsetting increase in the pound value of future lease receipts—a transaction gain.12 A similar natural hedge is generally held to exist for Australian mining companies whose product is priced in U.S. dollars. Should the U.S. dollar depreciate, the exposure to shrinkage in the Australian dollar value of U.S. receipts (asset exposure) is offset by similar shrinkage in the Australian dollar value of their U.S. dollar debt (liability exposure).13 Fashionhouse would probably find it difficult to duplicate the hedging techniques used above by California First and Federal Express. Circ*mstances giving rise to a natural hedge, as in the case of Lyle Shipping, may not exist. It might have some capacity to hedge by applying the method of leading and lagging. This method involves matching the cash f lows associated with foreigncurrency payables and receivables by speeding up or slowing down their payment or receipt. Moreover, once Fashionhouse has operations in Denmark, it may be able to create at least a partial hedge of its asset exposure by funding operations with Danish krone debt. If natural hedging opportunities are not available, then Fashionhouse has the full range of both exchange-traded and privately negotiated currency derivatives that it can use as a hedging instrument to hedge currency risks. The hedging requirements of the European operations of Fashionhouse should be reduced by the introduction of the Euro. Even though Denmark is not one of the original 11 members of the European Monetary Union (EMU), its European exposure with the 11 countries will be reduced to a single currency, the Euro.

Hedging with Foreign-Currency Derivatives Foreign-currency derivatives are financial instruments that derive their value from an underlying foreign-currency exchange rate. Some of the more common currency derivatives include forward contracts to buy or sell currencies in the future at fixed exchange rates, foreign-currency swaps, foreign-currency futures, and options. The forward contracts and over-the-counter options have the advantage of making it possible to tailor hedges to meet individual requirements in terms of amounts and dates. The exchange-traded futures and options have liquidity and a ready market, but a limited number of dates and contract sizes. Examples of the use of both types of instruments, privately negotiated and exchange traded, are discussed next.

362 Planning and Forecasting Forward Exchange Contracts A forward contract is an agreement to exchange currencies at some future date at an agreed exchange rate. The exchange rate in a contract for either the purchase or sale of a foreign currency is referred to as the forward rate. Forward contracts are among the most popular of the foreign-currency derivatives, followed by privately negotiated (over-the-counter) currency options.14 These privately negotiated contracts can be tailored to meet the user’s needs in term of both the amount of currency and maturity of the contract. Exchange-traded currency derivatives, such as options and futures, come in standard amounts of currency and a limited number of relatively short maturities. Forward-Contract Hedging Example An example may help to illustrate the application of a forward contract to hedging currency exposure. Near the end of 2000, the forward contract rate for the British pound sterling (£), with a term of one month, was about $1.45. The $1.45 is the direct exchange rate because it expresses the price of the foreign currency in terms of dollars. The comparable indirect rate is found by simply taking the reciprocal of $1.45: 1/$1.45 equals 0.69. The dollar is worth 0.69 pounds. If a U.S. firm had an account payable of 100,000 pounds due in 30 days, a hedge of this liability exposure could be effected by entering into a forward contract to buy £100,000 for delivery in 30 days. Buying the currency through the forward contract is necessary because the firm needs the pound in 30 days to satisfy its account payable. If the dollar were to decline to $1.48 against the pound over this 30-day period, then the dollar value of the account payable would increase, creating a foreign-currency transaction loss. That is, it would take more dollars to purchase the £100,000. However, offsetting this loss would be a gain from an increase in the value of the forward contract. The right to buy £100,000 at the fixed forward rate of $1.45 increases in value as the value of the pound increases to $1.48. The effects of this foreign-currency exposure and associated forward-contract hedge are summarized in Exhibit 12.4. For the

EXHIBIT 12.4 Hedge of foreign-currency liability exposure with a forward contract. Item hedged: account payable of £100,000 Value of the account payable at payment date, £100,000 × $1.48 = Value of the account payable when initially recorded, £100,000 × $1.45 =

$148,000 145,000

Foreign currency transaction loss



Value of the forward contract at maturity, £100,000 × ($1.48 − $1.45) = Value of the forward contract at inception, £100,000 × ($1.45 − $1.45) =


3,000 0

Gain on forward contract



Hedging instrument: forward contract to buy £100,000 @ $1.45, 30 days

Global Finance


sake of simplicity, we are assuming that the spot value of the pound is equal to the forward rate at the inception of the forward contract.15 The gains and losses would be reversed if the U.S. firm in the above example had a pound sterling accounting receivable. Moreover, the creation of a hedge of this asset exposure in the pound sterling would call for the sale and not the purchase of the pound sterling through the forward contract. Appreciation of the pound sterling to $1.48 produces a transaction gain on the account receivable for the U.S. firm. This would in turn be offset by a loss on the forward contract. The value of the forward contract declines when the spot value of the pound sterling, $1.48, is greater than the rate to be received through the forward contract, $1.45. Beckman Coulter Inc. provides a useful description of the offsetting gains and losses created by hedges: When we use foreign-currency contracts and the dollar strengthens against foreign currencies, the decline in the value of the future foreign-currency cash f lows is partially offset by the recognition of gains in the value of the foreigncurrency contracts designated as hedges of the transactions. Conversely, when the dollar weakens, the increase in the value of the future foreign-currency cash f lows is reduced by . . . the recognition of any loss in the value of the forward contracts designated as hedges of the transactions.16

Notice that Beckman Coulter talks of its future foreign-currency cash f lows. This constitutes asset exposure to Beckman Coulter in the foreign currency. If the dollar strengthens, then it follows that the foreign currency declines in value. The dollar value of the steam of foreign cash f low decreases. Because Beckman Coulter is long the cash f low, it would hedge this exposure by selling (taking a short position) the foreign currency through the forward contract. Examples of Forward-Contract Hedging from Annual Reports A sampling of firms that disclosed the use of forward contracts, and the types of exposure they are hedging, is provided in Exhibit 12.5. There are a substantial number of different hedge targets in this small set of companies. They include: • • • • • • •

Inter-company loans. Cash f lows associated with anticipated transactions. Bonds payable. Accounts payable. Accounts receivable. Net investments in foreign subsidiaries. Expected acquisition transaction.

Over-the-counter currency options are a close second in popularity as a hedging instrument and their nature and use are discussed next.

364 Planning and Forecasting EXHIBIT 12.5 Hedging with forward contracts. Company

Hedging Targets

Armstrong World Industries Inc. (1999)

Armstrong also uses foreign currency forward exchange contracts to hedge inter-company loans.

Arvin Industries Inc. (1999)

Arvin manages the foreign currency risk of anticipated transactions by forecasting such cash f lows at the operating entity level, compiling the total Company exposure and entering into forward foreign exchange contracts to lessen foreign exchange exposures deemed excessive.

Dow Chemical Company (1999)

The Company enters into foreign exchange forward contracts and options to hedge various currency exposures or create desired exposures. Exposures primarily relate to assets and liabilities and bonds denominated in foreign currencies, as well as economic exposure, which is derived from the risk that the currency f luctuations could affect the dollar value of future cash f lows related to operating activities.

Tenneco Inc. (1999)

Tenneco enters into foreign currency forward purchase and sales contracts to mitigate its exposure to changes in exchange rates on inter-company and third party trade receivables and payables. Tenneco has from time to time also entered into forward contracts to hedge its net investments in foreign subsidiaries.

UAL Inc. (1999)

United enters into Japanese yen forward exchange contracts to minimize gains and losses on the revaluation of short-term yen-denominated liabilities. The yen forwards typically have short-term maturities and are marked to fair value at the end of each accounting period.

Vishay Intertechnology Inc. (1999)

In connection with the Company’s acquisition of all the common stock of TEMIC Semiconductor GmbH and 80.4% of the common stock of Siliconix, Inc., the Company entered into a forward exchange contract in December 1997 to protect against f luctuations in the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the Deutsche mark since the purchase price was denominated in Deutsche marks and payable in U.S. dollars. At December 31, 1997, the Company had an unrealized loss on this contract of $5,295,000, which resulted from marking the contract to market value. On March 2, 1998, the forward contract was settled and the Company recognized an additional loss of $6,269,000.


Companies’ annual reports. The year following each company name designates the annual report from which each example is drawn.

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Currency Option Contracts A common feature of option contracts is that they provide the right, but not the obligation, to either acquire or to sell the contracted items at an agreed price. The agreed price is called the strike price. In addition, options are considered to be in the money or out of the money based upon the relationship between the strike price and the current price. The prices in the case of currency options are currency exchange rates. For example, a currency option contract is out of the money if the option provides the right to buy the Irish Punt at $1.12 when its spot price is $1.10. Conversely, an option is in the money if it provides the right to sell the German Mark at $0.45 when its spot value is $0.43. An option contract that gives the holder the right to sell a currency at an agreed rate, the strike price, is called a put option. The contract that provides the right to purchase the currency at an agreed rate is termed a call option. The cost of acquiring an option is termed the option premium. The option premium is a function of a number of variables. These include the strike price, the spot value of the currency, the time remaining to expiration of the option and the volatility of currency and interest-rate levels. Option values are estimated using methodologies such as the widely used Black-Scholes optionpricing model. Options Contrasted with Forwards Options are frequently characterized as one-sided arrangements. Consider the case of a firm that wishes to hedge exposure resulting from an Euro account receivable. The Euro amount of the receivable is E62,500. Because the firm wishes to protect the dollar value of an asset position (exposure) in the Euro, it would invest in a Euro put option, with a maturity that is consistent with the collection date for the receivable. A single exchange-traded option is acquired and the option premium is $1,000. The spot value of the Euro is $0.88, resulting in a dollar valuation for the Euro receivable of $55,000 ($0.88 × 62,500 = $55,000). The strike price is also $0.88, meaning that the option contract is at the money, that is, the strike price and spot value of the currency are the same.17 We will assume that at the expiration date for the option contract the spot value of the Euro is, alternatively, $0.84 and $0.92. The effects of these two different outcomes are summarized in Exhibit 12.6. Unlike the option contract, a forward contract does not permit the holder to decline to fulfill the obligation simply because the hedged currency did not move in an unfavorable direction. The forward contract is a symmetrical arrangement. If a forward contract had been used to hedge the Euro exposure in Exhibit 12.6, then there would be offsetting gains and losses on both the Euro accounts receivable and on the forward contract, whether the Euro appreciated or depreciated in value. One-Sided Nature a Hedge with a Currency Option An option contract is simply permitted to expire unexercised if an option contract is out of the

366 Planning and Forecasting EXHIBIT 12.6 The operation of a currency option. Expiration-date spot value of $0.84 Notional amount of the put-option contract, in Euros Strike price of the Euro put option Spot value of the Euro Amount by which option is in the money

62,500 $0.88 0.84 .04

Contract gain Initial dollar value of the Euro receivables Accounts receivable in Euros Times spot exchange rate

0.04 $ 2,500

62,500 $0.88 $55,000

Final dollar value of the Euro receivables Accounts receivable in Euros Times spot exchange rate

62,500 $0.84

Transaction loss on accounts receivable

52,500 $ 2,500

Expiration-date spot value of $0.92 Strike price of the Euro put option Spot value of the Euro

$0.88 $0.92

The option is permitted to expire without being exercised. The contract provides the opportunity to sell the Euro for $0.88 when its value in the spot market is $0.92. It has no value upon its expiration. Initial dollar value of the Euro receivables Accounts receivable in Euros Times spot exchange rate

62,500 $0.88 $55,000

Final dollar value of the Euro receivables Accounts receivable in Euros Times spot exchange rate Transaction gain on accounts receivable

62,500 $0.92

57,500 $ 2,500

money at its maturity. The option contract is designed to protect the holder against possible shrinkage in the dollar value of the Euro account receivable that would result from a decline in the value of the Euro. In the first case, where the spot value of the Euro did decline, then the option is exercised and a gain of $2,500 is produced to offset the transaction loss of $2,500 on the Euro account receivable. However, in the second case, where the spot value of the Euro rose, the option is permitted to expire unexercised. After all, it permits the sale of the Euro at $0.88 when the spot value of the Euro is $0.92. The option contract expires without value. Hedging a Euro receivable with a forward contract will result in a gain on the forward contract when the Euro declines in value and a loss when the Euro increases in value. These gains and losses will in turn offset the loss on

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the account receivable that results when the Euro declines in value and the gain that results when the Euro increases in value. The behavior of a hedge using a forward contract versus an option is summarized in Exhibit 12.7. The symmetrical behavior of the forward contract in its hedging application is evident in Exhibit 12.7. In each of the four combinations of exposure and exchange rate movement the gains and losses on the balance sheet exposure are offset in turn by the losses and gains on the forward contracts. However, the option contracts produce offsetting gains and losses only in those cases where the unfavorable exchange rate change takes place.18 Notice that a gain is produced on the option contract to offset the loss on the balance sheet asset exposure when the foreign currency depreciated. Currency depreciation when the firm has asset exposure is an unfavorable rate movement. In the case of liability exposure, notice that a gain is produced by the option contact when the foreign currency appreciated. The corollary of appreciation of the foreign currency is depreciation of the dollar. This is an unfavorable rate movement because it causes the dollar value of the liability to increase. In the other two cases, where the option contracts expire without value, the currency movements are favorable: (a) asset exposure and the foreign currency appreciated and (b) liability exposure and the foreign currency depreciated. The positions taken in the forward and option contracts differ based upon the nature of the foreign-currency exposure. With the forward contract, the foreign currency is purchased in the case of liability exposure and sold in the

EXHIBIT 12.7 Behavior of hedge gains and losses with a forward versus an option. Type of Exposure Hedged Asset Foreign currency appreciates Gain on asset exposure

Foreign currency depreciates Loss on the asset exposure Liability

Derivative Contract Forward Contract

Put Option

Loss on the forward contract

Contract expires with neither gain nor loss; option holder loses initial option premium paid

Gain on the forward contract

Contract expires with a gain

Forward Contract

Call Option

Foreign currency appreciates Loss on the liability exposure

Gain on the forward contract

Contract expires with a gain

Foreign currency depreciates Gain on the liability exposure

Loss on the forward contract

Contract expires with neither gain nor loss; option holder loses initial option premium paid

368 Planning and Forecasting case of asset exposure. With the option contract, a call option is acquired in the case of liability exposure and a put option in the case of asset exposure. Some relevant commentary, in relation to the above discussion, on the effects of hedging with currency options, is provided by the disclosures of Analog Devices Inc.: When the dollar strengthens significantly against the foreign currencies, the decline in value of the future currency cash f lows is partially offset by the gains in value of the purchased currency options designated as hedges. Conversely, when the dollar weakens, the increase in value of the future foreign-currency cash f lows is reduced only by the premium paid to acquire the options.19

The Analog commentary highlights the one-directional nature of a hedge that employs a currency option as opposed to a forward contract. The corollary of the decline in the dollar is a weakening of the foreign currency. This is the unfavorable outcome that the hedge is designed to offset. Indeed, the above comments indicate that a gain on the option contract is produced to offset the decline in future cash f lows that result from a strengthening of the dollar. However, when the dollar instead weakens, there is no offsetting loss, beyond “the premium paid to acquire the options.” The corollary of the weakening of the dollar is the strengthening of the foreign currency. A strengthening of the foreign currency is not the unfavorable currency movement that the currency option was intended to protect against. As with the forward contracts, a sampling of disclosures by companies that are using currency options for hedging purposes is provided in Exhibit 12.8. Currency options are used less frequently than forward contracts. Most of the options used are over-the-counter (OTC) as opposed to exchangetraded options. Given the OTC character of these currency options, they share the tailoring feature of the forward contracts. That is, unlike exchange traded options that come in standard amounts of currency and limited maturities, both forward contracts and options can be tailored in terms of currency amount and maturity. However, unlike forward contracts, the currency options do require an initial investment—the option premium. Little or no initial investment is required in the case of the forward contract. Forwards and options are the most popular currency derivatives, and it is very common, as both Exhibits 12.5 and 12.8 reveal, for firms to use both instruments. The last currency derivative that is only brief ly reviewed is the futures contract. The futures contract shares the symmetrical gain and loss feature of the forward contract. Currency Futures Currency futures are exchange-traded instruments. Entering into a futures contract requires a margin deposit and a round-trip commission must also be paid. As is true of exchange-traded currency options, futures contracts come in fixed currency amounts and for a limited set of maturities. Futures contracts

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EXHIBIT 12.8 Hedging with option contracts. Company Analog Devices Inc. (1999)

Arch Chemicals Inc. (1999)

Olin Corporation (1999)

Polaroid Corporation (1999)

Quaker Oats Company (1999)

York International Corporation (1999)

Hedging Targets The Company may periodically enter into foreign currency option contracts to offset certain probable anticipated, but no firmly committed, foreign exchange transactions related to the sale of product during the ensuing nine months. The Company enters into forward sales and purchases and currency options to manage currency risk resulting from purchase and sale commitments denominated in foreign currencies (principally Euro, Canadian dollar, and Japanese yen) relating to anticipated but not yet committed purchases and sales expected to be denominated in those currencies. The Company enters into forward sales and purchase contracts and currency options to manage currency risk resulting from purchase and sale commitments denominated in foreign currencies (principally Australian dollar and Canadian dollar) and relating to particular anticipated but not yet committed purchases and sales expected to be denominated in those currencies. The Company has limited f lexibility to increase prices in local currency to offset the adverse impact of foreign exchange. As a result, the Company primarily purchases U.S. dollar call/foreign currency put options which allows it to protect a portion of its expected foreign currency denominated revenues from adverse currency exchange movement. The Company uses foreign currency options and forward contracts to manage the impact of foreign currency f luctuations recognized in the Company’s operating results. To reduce this risk, the Company hedges its foreign currency transaction exposure with forward contracts and purchased options.


Companies’ annual reports. The year following each company name designates the annual report from which each example is drawn.

also have the high level of liquidity that is characteristic of other exchangetraded derivatives. They also share the symmetrical character of the forward contract. That is, gains and losses will be produced by the futures contract to offset losses and gains, respectively, on hedged positions. Currency futures are used rather infrequently in the hedging of foreign-currency exposures. Summary of Currency Exposure and Hedging Positions It is common for firms to first attempt to reduce currency exposure by using their own operating activities and other internal actions. This point is made in the following comments from the disclosures of JLG Industries: “The Company manages its exposure to these risks (interest and foreign-currency rates)

370 Planning and Forecasting principally through its regular operating and financing activities.”20 These approaches to reducing currency exposure are usually referred to as natural hedges. A number of examples of natural hedges were provided in Exhibit 12.2. When natural hedges do not close out sufficient currency exposure, it is common for firms to turn to currency derivatives to reduce exposure still further. Based upon the previous discussion of selected currency derivatives, the positions to be taken in the face of asset versus liability exposure are summarized in Exhibit 12.9. The information in Exhibit 12.9 indicates how a number of different instruments can be used to hedge currency risk. However, management must decide whether, and to what extent, to hedge such risk. Some of the factors that bear on the hedging decision are discussed next.

Inf luences on the Hedging Decision The first hedging decision is whether or not to hedge currency exposure at all. The decision of whether or not to hedge currency exposure is inf luenced, at least in part, by the attitude of management towards the risk associated with foreign-currency exposure. Other things equal, a highly risk-averse management will be more inclined to hedge some or all currency-related risk. Moreover, not all currency exposure is seen to be equal. Firms have different demands for hedging based upon whether the exposure has the potential to affect cash f lows and earnings, or simply the balance sheet. Finally, the materiality of currency exposure as well as expected movement in exchange rates will also inf luence the demand for hedging. Is Currency Exposure Material? A common disclosure made by firms with currency exposure is the effect that a 10% change in exchange rates would have on results. For example, Titan International, Inc. has currency exposure from its net investment in foreign subsidiaries. Titan discloses the potential loss associated with an adverse movement in the exchange rates of these subsidiaries: The Company’s net investment in foreign subsidiaries translated into U.S. dollars at December 31, 1999, is $55.4 million. The hypothetical potential loss in

EXHIBIT 12.9 Foreign currency exposure and hedging decisions: Forwards, options, and f utures. Exposure

Hedging Instrument



Forward contract Option Futures

Sell foreign currency Buy put options Sell futures contract

Buy foreign currency Buy call options Buy futures contracts

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value of the Company’s investment in foreign subsidiaries resulting from a 10% adverse change in foreign-currency exchange rates at December 31, 1999 would amount to $5.5 million.21

Titan International disclosed no currency hedging activities. This is not surprising given that the $5.5 million loss in investment value amounts to only about 2% of its total shareholders’ equity at the end of 1999. Beyond this, as we will see in the subsequent discussion of the translation of the statements of foreign subsidiaries, the potential reduction in Titan’s investment value does not affect either earnings or cash f low.22 This, combined with the immaterial size of the potential loss in value, can easily explain the absence of hedging activity. What Are Hedging Motivations and Objectives? Much information on hedging motivation is implicit in the information provided in Exhibits 12.5 and 12.8. Recurrent themes are those of protecting earnings and cash f low from the potential volatility produced by exchange rate f luctuations. Information on the ranking of alternative hedging objectives, from a survey conducted at the Wharton Business School, is provided in Exhibit 12.10. The dominance of the desire to protect cash f lows and earnings is clearly the dominant motivator for hedging. However, as will be discussed in the section on translation of the statements of foreign subsidiaries, there is some level of hedging of balance-sheet exposure. How Much Exposure Is Hedged? The extent to which currency exposure is hedged ranges from zero to 100%. It is common for firms to announce that they simply do not use currency derivatives to hedge against currency risk. However, such firms may have already reduced currency risk to tolerable levels through natural hedges. Again, the appetite of management for bearing currency risk will in large measure determine the extent of the hedging. The cost and availability of hedging instruments is


Rank ings of alternative hedging objectives.

Hedging Objective

Percent of Respondents Ranking the Objective as Most Important

1. To manage volatility in cash f lows 2. To manage volatility in accounting earnings 3. To manage market value of the firm 4. To manage balance sheet accounts or ratios

49% 41 8 2 100%


G. Bodnar, G. Hayt, and R. Marston, “The Wharton Survey of Derivatives Usage by U.S. Non-Financial Firms,” Financial Management, 25 (Winter 1996), 114–115.

372 Planning and Forecasting also a factor. As with insurance generally, closing out fully the possibility of loss is more expensive. Some firms provide information on the extent of their hedging through schedules of net exposure. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Company (DuPont) provides such a schedule. A slightly abridged version is presented in Exhibit 12.11. DuPont also declares the following about the objective of its hedging program: The primary business objective of this hedging program is to maintain an approximately balanced position in foreign currencies so that exchange gains and losses resulting from exchange rate changes, net of related tax effects, are minimized.23

Exhibit 12.11 reveals that DuPont has hedged almost all of its exposure. The extent of their hedging means that their earnings and cash f lows will not be affected in a material way from the hedged exposures. This is reinforced by the following disclosure: Given the company’s balanced foreign exchange position, a 10 per cent adverse change in foreign exchange rates upon which these contracts are based would result in exchange losses from these contracts that, net of tax, would, in all material respects be fully offset by exchange gains on the underlying net monetary exposures for which the contracts are designated as hedges.24

Other firms disclose more limited hedging activity. For example, The Quaker Oats Company reported that about 60% of its net investment in foreign subsidiaries was hedged. This disclosure is presented in Exhibit 12.12.25 Other Hedging Considerations Discussed above are a number of factors that bear on the hedging decision, such as whether or not to hedge, what to hedge, how to hedge, and how much to hedge. Some other issues center on the cost and term or duration of hedging arrangements. A sampling of company references to these issues is provided in Exhibit 12.13.


Currency Brazilian real British pound Canadian dollar Japanese yen Taiwan dollar SOURCE :

Net currency exposure: E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Company, December 31, 1999 (in millions). After-Tax Net Monetary Asset/(Liability) Exposure

After-Tax Open Contracts to Buy/(Sell) Foreign Currency

Net After-Tax Exposure Asset/(Liability)

$ 109 (337) 514 76 (136)

$(101) 334 (509) (71) 136

$ 7 (3) 5 5 —

E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Company, annual report, December 1999, 37.

Global Finance EXHIBIT 12.12


Disclosure of net investment hedge: The Quaker Oats Company, December 31, 1999 (in millions).


Net Investment

Net Hedge

Net Exposure

Dutch guilders German marks

$15.1 18.3

$ 9.1 11.9

$6.0 6.4


The Quaker Oats Company, annual report, December 1999, 56.


Company references to hedging cost and the terms of currency derivatives.



Hedging Costs Baxter International Inc. (1999)

The Company’s hedging policy attempts to manage these risks to an acceptable level based on management’s judgment of the appropriate trade-off between risk, opportunity, and costs. As part of the strategy to manage risk while minimizing hedging costs, the Company utilizes sold call options in conjunction with purchased put options to create collars.

Compaq Computer Corporation (1999)

The Company also sells foreign exchange option contracts, in order to partially finance (reduce their cost) the purchase of these foreign exchange option contracts.

Interface Inc. (1999)

The Euro may reduce the exposure to changes in foreign exchange rates, due to the netting effects of having assets and liabilities denominated in a single currency.As a result, the Company’s foreign exchange hedging activity and related costs may be reduced in the future.

Derivative Maturities Blyth Industries Inc. (2000)

The foreign exchange contracts outstanding at January 31, 2000 have maturity dates ranging from February 2000 through June 2000.

Compaq Computer Corporation (1999)

The term of the Company’s foreign exchange hedging instruments currently does not extend beyond six months.

Johnson & Johnson (1999)

The Company enters into forward foreign exchange contracts maturing within five years to protect the value of existing foreign currency assets and liabilities.

Pall Corporation (2000)

The Company enters into forward exchange contracts, generally with terms of 90 days or less.

Polaroid Corporation (1999)

The term of these contracts (forward exchange contracts) typically does not exceed six months.

Tenneco Inc. (1998)

Tenneco uses derivative financial instruments, principally foreign currency forward purchase and sale contracts, with terms of less than one year.


Companies’ annual reports. The year following each company name designates the annual report from which each example is drawn.

374 Planning and Forecasting Hedging Costs There is little discussion in company reports about the cost of hedging. In some cases cost issues surely underlie decisions of firms not to hedge currency risk, but the consideration of cost is not reported. Also, the act of using internal operations to reduce currency exposure can be seen as designed to reduce the exposure that may then be hedged with currency derivatives—thus reducing hedging costs. Clear efforts to reduce hedging costs are represented by the activities of Baxter International and Compaq Computer. Each sells (is a writer of the option) currency option contracts from which it receives an option premium. They then use these amounts to reduce the cost of currency options used for hedging and where, as the holder of the option, they are paying an option premium. Many firms report that they expect to be able to reduce hedging activity and hedging costs as a result of the introduction of the Euro. This will result from the replacement of 11 European currencies with the Euro. Transactions can take place by one Euro country with up to 10 others without incurring any currency exposure. Terms of Currency Derivatives The terms of derivative contracts are kept relatively short, usually less than one year. This partly ref lects the fact that the maturity of the underlying item being hedged, an account payable or account receivable, for example, is also quite short. Moreover, the typical maturity of exchange traded derivatives are short. Also, the cost to acquire currency through either a forward or option contract also increases with the maturity. For example, the forward rate (rate at which the foreign currency can be purchased for future delivery) for the British pound sterling was the following at the end of 2000: Contract Term

Forward Rate

One month Three months Six months

$1.4574 $1.4588 $1.4606

The prices of currencies in both futures and option contracts display the same increasing cost as maturity lengthens. The discussion to this point has focused on currency risk and actions that management can take to reduce the effect of f luctuations in currency values on the volatility of earnings and cash f low. The examples have centered on what are normally termed transaction exposures. Examples of transaction exposure include accounts payable, accounts receivable and bonds payable that are denominated in foreign currencies. If left unhedged, increases and decreases in exchange rates cause these balances to expand and contract. This expansion and contraction produces transactional gains and losses. Transaction gains and losses are also produced by the combination of (1) positions in currency derivatives and (2) increases and decreases in exchange rates. Offsetting losses and gains result when the derivatives are used

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for hedging purposes. Holding a derivative contract for other than hedging purposes is normally termed a speculation. It is common for companies to declare that they do not hold derivatives for speculative purposes: “The Company does not use financial instruments for speculative or trading purposes, nor is the Company a party to leveraged derivatives.”26 The disclaimer on the use of currency derivatives, as well as leveraged derivatives, is the legacy of huge losses incurred on certain derivative transactions in the late eighties and early nineties. Attention now turns to translation currency risk. Here, currency exposure results from having foreign subsidiaries or investments in foreign firms that are accounted for using the equity method.27

TRANSLATION OF THE STATEMENTS OF FOR EIGN SUBSIDIAR IES A number of new financial and managerial issues were added to the Fashionhouse agenda when it purchased its former Danish supplier. Transactional issues continue to the extent that (1) Fashionhouse continues to make some of its purchases from foreign suppliers and (2) the foreign suppliers continue to invoice Fashionhouse in the foreign currency. In addition, the Danish subsidiary may also have its own transactional exposure. However, with the emergence of the euro, the Danish subsidiary’s currency exposure should be limited to the extent that it deals mainly with countries that have adopted the Euro.28 Since the Danish company is a wholly owned subsidiary, U.S. GAAP will call for its consolidation. However, the financial statements of the Danish subsidiary are in the Danish krone. This introduces a translational issue; the Danish subsidiary statements must be restated into dollars before their consolidation with its parent, Fashionhouse, can take place. To the extent that the accounting practices used in preparing a subsidiary’s statements differ from those of their parent, the subsidiary’s statements would need to be restated to conform to the accounting practices of the parent.29 This would, of course, be the case with Fashionhouse and its Danish subsidiary. International GAAP differences are discussed in a subsequent section of this chapter.

FINANCIAL STATEMENT TRANSLATION Translation means that the foreign-currency balances in the financial statements of a foreign subsidiary are restated into U.S. dollars. There is no conversion of currencies, which means that one currency is exchanged for another. Translation is accomplished by simply multiplying the foreign-currency statement balances by an exchange rate. Translation would be a nonevent if every balance in the statements of the foreign subsidiary were multiplied by the

376 Planning and Forecasting same exchange rate. Translation would simply amount to a scaling of the statements of the foreign subsidiary. However, each of the translation alternatives requires the translation of some balances at different exchange rates. In accounting parlance, this throws the books out of balance. The amount by which the books are thrown out of balance by translation is termed the translation adjustment or remeasurement gain or loss, depending upon the translation process being applied. In the process of illustrating statement translation, the creation and interpretation of these translation balances will be discussed.

TRANSLATION ALTER NATIVES There are two different translation methods under current GAAP. However, the second method is technically a remeasurement method as opposed to a translation method. As translation methods, the two alternatives are called the (1) all-current and (2) temporal methods, respectively. The key features of these two methods are summarized in Exhibit 12.14. Examples of accounting policy notes describing the use of each of these translation policies are provided below: The all-current translation method: H.J. Heinz Company (1999) For all significant foreign operations, the functional currency is the local currency. Assets and liabilities of these operations are translated at the exchange rate in effect at each year-end. Income statement accounts are translated at the average rate of exchange prevailing during the year. Translation adjustments arising from the use of differing exchange rates from period to period are included as a component of shareholders’ equity. The temporal remeasurement (translation) method: Storage Technology Corp. (1999) The functional currency for StorageTek’s foreign subsidiaries is the U.S. dollar, ref lecting the significant volume of intercompany transactions and associated cash f lows that result from the fact that the majority of the Company’s storage products sold worldwide are manufactured in the United States. Accordingly, monetary assets and liabilities are translated at year-end exchange rates, while non-monetary items are translated at historical exchange rates. Revenue and expenses are translated at the average exchange rates in effect during the year, except for cost of revenue, depreciation, and amortization that are translated at historical exchange rates.

The key to the determination of the use of the all-current translation method by H.J. Heinz is its statement that the functional currency is the local currency for its foreign subsidiaries. That is, these subsidiaries conduct their operations in their local currency. The company does not identify its translation method as all current, but the combination of (1) the use of year-end, or current,

Global Finance EXHIBIT 12.14


Alternative translation methods.

All-Current Translation Method The all-current translation method is the standard procedure applied to foreign subsidiaries whose operations are conducted in the local foreign currency. That is, the local currency is the subsidiary’s functional currency. The local foreign currency is expected to be the functional currency when the foreign subsidiary’s operations are “relatively self-contained and integrated within a particular country.” A further requirement for use of the all-current method is that the subsidiary not be located in a country that has experienced cumulative inf lation over the previous three-year period of 100% or more. The logic is that meaningful results cannot be produced under these conditions by simply multiplying the foreign currency balances by current exchange rates. • All asset and liability balances are translated at the current or end-of-period exchange rate. • Paid-in capital is translated at the exchange rate when the funds were raised. • Revenues and expenses are translated at the average exchange rate for the current period. • The translation adjustment is included in other comprehensive income. Temporal (Remeasurement) Translation Method This method is applied in those cases where the local foreign currency is not the functional currency of the subsidiary. The functional currency is defined as “the currency of the primary economic environment in which the entity operates; normally, that is the currency of the environment in which the entity generates and spends cash.” Moreover, as noted above, “A currency in a highly inf lationary environment is not considered stable enough to serve as a functional currency and the more stable currency of the reporting parent is to be used instead.” • All monetary assets and liabilities are remeasured at current exchange rates. • All nonmonetary assets, liabilities, and equity balances are remeasured at historical exchange rates. • Revenues and expenses are remeasured at average exchange rates for the period. However, cost of sales and depreciation are remeasured at the same rates used to remeasure the related inventory and fixed assets, respectively. • The remeasurement gain or loss is included in realized net income.

exchange rates and (2) the inclusion of translation adjustments in shareholders’ equity marks it as using the all-current translation method. Unlike H.J. Heinz, Storage Technology declares that the functional currency of its foreign subsidiaries is the U.S. dollar, not the local foreign currency. The explanation for this condition is found it its reference to significant volume of inter-company transactions and the manufacture of most of its products in the United States. As with H.J. Heinz, Storage Technology does not identify the translation method it is using. However, the fact that the U.S. dollar is the functional currency of its foreign subsidiaries determines that it must be the temporal method. Moreover, it describes its method as translating monetary assets and liabilities at year-end exchange rates and nonmonetary items at

378 Planning and Forecasting historical exchange rates. These procedures are followed when translation (remeasurement) follows the temporal method. Translation under the all-current method and remeasurement under the temporal method are illustrated next.

The All-Current Translation Method Illustrated Following the guidance in Exhibit 12.14, the all-current translation method is illustrated using the data below: 1. Foreign Sub is formed on January 1, 2002 with an initial funding from a stock issue that raised FC1,000 (FC = Foreign current units). 2. Selected exchange rates for 2002: Direct Exchange Rates At January 1, 2002 Average for 2002 At December 31, 2002

$0.58 0.62 0.66

The above rates indicate the amount of U.S. currency required to equal (buy) a single unit of the foreign currency. The increase in the rate across the year means that the dollar has lost value and that the foreign currency has appreciated. 3. The trial balance of Foreign Sub, both in FC and in U.S. dollars and translated following the all-current rule, is given in Exhibit 12.15. Those accounts that would have debit balances, assets and expenses, are EXHIBIT 12.15

Trial Balance in FC and translated US$ at December 31, 2002.

Accounts Cash Accounts receivable Inventory Property and equipment Cost of sales SG&A expense Tax provision Totals Accounts payable Notes payable Common stock Retained earnings Translation adjustment Sales Totals

FC $ 200 100 300 2,000 600 100 120

Exchange Rates $0.66 0.66 0.66 0.66 0.62 0.62 0.62

$3,420 $ 400 1,020 1,000 0 0 1,000 $3,420

U.S.$ $ 132 66 198 1,320 372 62 74 $2,224

0.66 0.66 0.58


$ 264 673 580 0 87 620 $2,224

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grouped first, and those with credit balances, liabilities, equities, and revenues, are grouped second. The totals of the two groupings of account balances must be equal, that is, in balance. Notice that this is only achieved in the U.S. dollar trial balance through introduction of a translation adjustment account, with a balance just sufficient to establish this equality. Without the addition of the $87 translation adjustment account balance, the total of the translated assets and expenses, $2,224, exceeds the total of the translated liabilities, shareholders’ equity and sales accounts by $87. This translation adjustment can also be directly calculated as shown next: Beginning net assets (assets minus liabilities) times change in exchange rate from 1/1/02 to 12/31/02 (0.66 − 0.58)

FC1,000 0.08

Net income times difference between end of year and average exchange rates (0.66 − 0.62)


FC180 0.04


Translation adjustment


The $80 component represents the growth in the beginning net assets due to appreciation in the value of Sub’s foreign currency. The $7 component is the additional net assets due to the translation of the income statement balances at the average rate for the year of $0.62 and balance sheet amounts at the end of year rate of $0.66. There is no retained earnings balance in the above trial balance because 2002 is the first year of operation and the net income for the year is added to retained earnings through a later process of closing the books. The translated balance sheet and income statements are presented in Exhibits 12.16 and 12.17. They can be constructed from the translated data above. The translation of the FC data is presented again in these statements simply to reinforce the nature of the translation process.


Translated income statement, year ending December 31, 2002.

Income Statement Sales Less cost of sales


Exchange Rates


$1,000 600

$0.62 0.62

$620 372

Gross margin Less SG&A

400 100


248 62

Pretax profit Less tax provision

300 120


186 74

Net income Other comprehensive income Comprehensive income

$ 180

$112 87 $199

380 Planning and Forecasting EXHIBIT 12.17

Translated balance sheet, December 31, 2002.

Balance Sheet


Exchange Rates $0.66 0.66 0.66 0.66


Cash Accounts receivable Inventory Property and equipment

$ 200 100 300 2,000

$ 132 66 198 1,320

Total assets


Accounts payable Notes payable Common stock Accumulated OCI* Retained earnings

$ 400 1,020 1,000 180

$ 264 673 580 87 112

Total liabilities and equity



$1,716 0.66 0.66 0.58

* OCI = Other comprehensive income.

In the absence of dividends, the retained earnings in the balance sheet are simply the net income for the year. The translation adjustment of $87 is included in consolidated shareholders’ equity as accumulated other comprehensive income. The net assets of Foreign Sub are in a currency that appreciated across the year. This growth in net assets is captured in the process of translation and represented, again, by the translation adjustment balance. It is common for the translation adjustment in this case to be referred to as a translation gain. It resulted because the U.S. parent has a net investment (assets minus liabilities) in a country whose currency appreciated against the U.S. dollar. If, instead, the FC had depreciated, then the translation adjustment would represent a negative balance in the initial accumulated other comprehensive income for 2002. Also, in this circ*mstance it is common to see the translation adjustment referred to as a translation loss. With the translation completed, the above statements in Exhibit 12.16 and 12.17 would now be ready for consolidation with those of the U.S. parent.30

The Remeasurement of Statements (Temporal Translation) Illustrated This illustration of the remeasurement of the statements of a foreign subsidiary uses the same data as used in the illustration of the all-current translation method.31 However, some additional information is required: 1. Property and equipment were acquired when the exchange rate was $0.58. 2. Depreciation on this property and equipment of FC60 was included in SG&A expense.

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3. The ending inventory was acquired at the average exchange rate of $0.62, and cost of sales is also made up of goods that were acquired when the exchange rate averaged $0.62. The previous trial balance is remeasured into the U.S. dollar as shown in Exhibit 12.18. The income statement and balance sheet, prepared with the remeasured trial balance data, are presented in Exhibits 12.19 and 12.20.32 Notice how application of the remeasurement method sharply changes comprehensive income. Comprehensive income was $199 with translation under the all-current method but only $27 with the temporal method of remeasurement. This difference of $85 is explained as follows: All-current method comprehensive income


Reduction in depreciation under temporal method: FC60 (.62 − .58) Translation gain under the all-current method Deduct remeasurement loss under temporal method

2* $(87) 87 (174)

Temporal method net income

$ 27

*Depreciation was translated at $0.62 as part of SG&A under the all-current method. However, because the fixed assets, which give rise to the depreciation expense, are translated at their historical exchange rate of $0.58, the depreciation component of SG&A is reduced by $2 with remeasurement under the temporal method.


Remeasured trial balance, December 31, 2002.



Cash Accounts receivable Inventory Property and equipment Cost of sales SG&A expense Depreciation Tax provision Remeasurement loss

$ 200 100 300 2,000 600 40 60 120



Accounts payable Notes payable Common stock Retained earnings Sales

$ 400 1,020 1,000 0 1,000



Exchange Rates $0.66 0.66 0.62 0.58 0.62 0.62 0.58 0.62

U.S.$ $ 132 66 186 1,160 372 25 35 74 87 $2,137

0.66 0.66 0.58 0.62

$ 264 673 580 0 620 $2,137

382 Planning and Forecasting EXHIBIT 12.19

Remeasured income statement, year ended December 31, 2002.



Sales Less Cost of sales

$1,000 600

Gross margin Less: SG&A Depreciation Remeasurement loss

400 40 60

Pretax profit Less: tax provision

300 120

Net income

Exchange Rates $0.62 0.62 0.62 0.58 (Exhibit 12.18) 0.62

$ 180

U.S.$ $620 372 248 25 35 87 101 74 $ 27

Other comprehensive income

Comprehensive income

$ 27

The explanation for the remeasurement loss of $87 is that balance-sheet exposure changed from net asset under the all-current method to net a liability position under the temporal (remeasurement) method. Asset exposure in an appreciating foreign currency results in a gain. However, liability exposure in the same circ*mstance results in a loss. In the all-current example, all assets and liabilities are translated using the current rate. Asset exposure existed under the all-current method because assets exceeded liabilities. As a result, the appreciation of the foreign currency resulted in a growth (gain) in net assets. This gain of $87 was reported as other comprehensive income. Under the temporal method of remeasurement, balance sheet exposure is the net of monetary assets and liabilities. These balance sheet accounts are


Remeasured balance sheet, December 31, 2002.

Balance sheet


Cash Accounts receivable Inventory Property and equipment

$ 200 100 300 2,000

Total assets


Accounts payable$ Notes payable Common stock Retained earnings

$ 400 1,020 1,000 180

Total liabilities and equity


Exchange Rates $0.66 0.66 0.62 0.58

U.S.$ $ 132 66 186 1,160 $1,544

0.66 0.66 0.58 (income statement)

$ 264 673 580 27 $1,544

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remeasured at the ever-changing current rate. However, none of the other nonmonetary balance-sheet accounts creates exposure because their dollar value is frozen at fixed, historical exchange rates. In the above example, monetary liabilities (accounts payable of FC400 plus notes payable of FC1,020) are well in excess of monetary assets (cash of FC200 plus accounts receivable of FC100) and net liability exposure results. Appreciation of the foreign currency increased the dollar valuation of this net liability exposure and produced a remeasurement loss of $87. This remeasurement loss is included in computing conventional net income, and not in other comprehensive income as is the case under the all-current translation method. Beyond these separately reported income statement effects of translation gains and losses, the translated financial statements are affected in some other less obvious ways. These are discussed next.

Other Effects of Statement Translation and Remeasurement The most noticeable effects of the statement translation and remeasurement are (1) the translation adjustment that is part of other comprehensive income under all-current translation and (2) the remeasurement gain or loss that is included in realized net income with statement remeasurement under the temporal method. Statement Relationships under Translation versus Remeasurement Significant differences in earnings resulted in the above example with translation under the all-current method versus remeasurement under the temporal method. These results are due to (1) differences in currency exposure under the two methods and (2) differences in the location of translation-related gains and losses in the financial statements under the two methods. Translation adjustments go to other comprehensive income under all-current translation, but remeasurement gains and losses are included in net income with remeasurement under the temporal method. Key statement relationships are affected by translation versus remeasurement. For example, both the current ratio (ratio of current assets to current liabilities) and the debt to equity ratios differ between the two methods. It is also common for gross margins to differ between the two methods. However, the simple nature of this constructed example results in the same gross margins under each translation/remeasurement method. These measures are presented in Exhibit 12.21. Noticeable in Exhibit 12.21 is the fact that the values of each of the measures from the foreign-currency statements are preserved with translation under the all-current method. However, both the working capital and debt to equity measures differ from these values in the case of remeasurement under

384 Planning and Forecasting EXHIBIT 12.21

Key statement relationships under translation versus remeasurement.

Measurement Working capital ratio Gross margin Debt to equityb


In the FC Statements



1.50/1 40% .86/1

1.50/1 40% .86/1

1.45/1 40% 1.11/1


Only the accounts payable are included in current liabilities. Debt includes only the notes payable. Equity under the all-current method includes accumulated other comprehensive income. b

the temporal method. The working capital ratio differs because inventory is translated at a rate of only $0.62 under remeasurement, but at $0.65 with translation under the all-current method. The debt-to-equity ratio is higher with the remeasured statements because of the remeasurement loss under the temporal method, but a translation gain under the all-current method. Preserving the relationships of the foreign-currency statements in the translated statements is seen to be a desirable feature of translation under the all-current method. Effects of Exchange Rate Changes not Captured by Translation and Remeasurement It is common for firms to comment on the effects of exchange-rate changes on key financial statement items. In particular, the effects of exchange-rate changes on the growth or decline in sales are frequently commented upon in Management’s Discussion and Analysis (MD&A). The processes of translation and remeasurement summarize the joint effects of currency exposure and exchange rate changes in a single summary statistic. However, there are other effects associated with changing exchange rates that are not set out separately in any financial statement. For example, assume that the physical volume of sales and local-currency sales prices are unchanged for a foreign subsidiary. If the currency of the country in which the subsidiary is located depreciates in value, then the translated amount of sales revenue will decline. If the product being sold is manufactured in the foreign country, then there should also be a partially offsetting decline in cost of sales.33 The disclosures in Exhibit 12.22 attempt to identify the effect of changing exchange rates on sales and profits. Galey & Lord’s disclosure identifies a common concern about the dollar appreciating in value: it makes U.S. goods more expensive in the export market. This point is echoed by Illinois Tool Works and its disclosure that its operating revenues were reduced each of the last three years because of the strengthening of the U.S. dollar. Revenue reductions associated with a strengthened dollar normally come from a combination of (1) foreign sales

Global Finance EXHIBIT 12.22


Exchange rate ef fects on sales and prof it growth.

Galey & Lord Inc. (1999) In addition to the direct effects of changes in exchange rates, which are a changed dollar value of the resulting sales and related expenses, changes in exchange rates also affect the volume of sales or the foreign currency sales price as competitors products become more or less attractive. Illinois Tool Works Inc. (1999) The strengthening of the U.S. dollar against foreign currencies in 1999, 1998 and 1997 resulted in decreased operating revenues of $59 million in 1999, $122 million in 1998 and $166 million in 1997 and decreased net income by approximately 1 cent per diluted share in 1999 and 4 cents per diluted share in 1998 and 1997. Philip Morris Companies Inc. (1999) Currency movements decreased operating revenues by $782 million ($517 million, after excluding excise taxes) and operating companies income by $46 million during 1999. Declines in operating revenues and operating companies income arising from the strength of the U.S. dollar against Western European and Latin American currencies were partially mitigated by currency favorabilities recorded against the Japanese yen and other Asian currencies. Praxair Inc. (1999) The sales decrease of 4% in 1999 as compared to 1998 was due primarily to unfavorable currency translation effects in South America. Excluding the impact of currency, sales grew by 2%. The productivity improvements and currency translation impacts resulted in an $18 million decrease in selling, general, and administrative expenses despite the increase due to acquisitions. Sales for 1998 were f lat when compared to 1997, primarily because sales volume growth of 4% and price increases of 2% were offset by negative currency translation effects. SOURCES :

Companies’ annual reports. The year following each company name designates the annual report from which each example is drawn.

simply translating into fewer dollars as well as (2) declines in the volume of foreign sales due to the weakening of the foreign currency. The Philip Morris disclosures highlight the value of diversification in foreign sales by currency. Whereas revenues and profits were reduced by the depreciation of Western European and Latin American currencies, the Japanese yen appreciated and offset, but not fully, these negative effects. Notice that Philip Morris identifies the net effect of the appreciation and depreciation of foreign currencies on both revenues and income. Praxair provides sufficient detail to reconcile its actual percentage growth or decline in sales to the results in the absence of changes in exchange rates. Notice that Praxair’s sales declined by 4% in 1999, and that the decline was largely explained by currency depreciation in South America. However, explaining the behavior of sales in 1998 is more involved. The information disclosed by Praxair for 1998 is summarized here:

386 Planning and Forecasting Disclosed sales growth Breakdown of Sales-Change Components Volume Price changes Currency depreciation Sales growth

0% +5% +2% −7% 0%

The Praxair zero change in sales revenue in 1998 could be interpreted in a manner that is too negative. After all, in the face of the zero growth in actual dollar sales revenue, Praxair was able to increase prices and still improve sales volume by 5%. Disclosure of quantitative details on the effects of the three elements, volume, price and currency makes it possible to develop a much better understanding of Praxair’s 1998 business performance. In the case of positive revenue growth, increases from volume or price adjustments should be preferred to growth resulting from favorable exchangerate movements. Revenue growth driven by changes in exchange rates may prove to be only temporary. Sustained revenue growth, in the absence of volume growth and /or price increases, would require ongoing strengthening of foreign currencies—not a very likely prospect. The effects of changes in exchange rates on sales and profits can be controlled to some extent by management. As with most foreign-currency exposure, management can elect to control or hedge this risk through operational arrangements and currency derivatives. Much discussion of these matters has already been provided. However, the focus of the next section is on the management of currency risks associated with foreign subsidiaries.

MANAGING THE CURR ENCY R ISK OF FOR EIGN SUBSIDIAR IES It is a common view that translation-related currency risk associated with the statements of foreign subsidiaries is quite different from currency risk associated with foreign-currency transactions. Transactional exposure has the clear potential to expand or contract the cash f lows associated with foreign-currency asset and liability balances. If a U.S. firm holds a Japanese yen account receivable and the yen falls in value, then there is a loss of cash inf low. If a Japanese firm has an account payable in the U.S. dollar and the yen strengthens, then a smaller cash outf low is required to discharge this liability. There are no identifiable cash inf lows or outf lows in the case of translation gains or losses that result from either statement translation or remeasurement. A study of both U.S. and U.K. multinationals found that “it was generally agreed that translation exposure management was a lesser concern” (less than transaction exposure management).34 The Wharton survey results on hedging (Exhibit 12.10) found the management of the volatility of cash f lows as the major objective of hedging. However, it is very common for disclosures of transaction-related currency hedging to cite the goal of protecting cash f lows.

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The reduced level of currency risk-management in the case of translation exposure is explained largely by the absence of direct cash f low and earnings risk. There is a somewhat greater effort to manage remeasurement-related risk because, unlike under the all-current method, remeasurement gains and losses are included in net income. Some companies do hedge translation exposure even though the translation adjustments are only included in other comprehensive income, with this element generally going straight to shareholders’ equity. However, the absence of an impact on earnings under all-current translation makes it less likely that this exposure will be hedged. Prior to the issuance of SFAS No. 52, Foreign Currency Translation, SFAS No. 8, Accounting for the Translation of Foreign Currency Transactions and Foreign Financial Statements, required all firms to use the temporal method and to include all translation gains and losses in the computation of net income.35 As a result, one would expect the hedging of translation exposure to have declined after the issuance of Statement No. 52. Under SFAS No. 52, most translation is by the current-rate method and translation adjustments are omitted from conventional net income. Available evidence supports this view. For example, Houston and Mueller note: “In particular, firms that must no longer include all translation gains or losses arising from their foreign operations in their income statements are more likely to have stopped or reduced hedging translation exposure.”36 To gain some insight into translation hedging practices, disclosures of translation-hedging policies by a number of firms are presented in Exhibit 12.23. The examples in Exhibit 12.23 are selective and do not represent the relative frequency with which translation exposure is hedged. Rather, the disclosures are simply designed to present some of the matters that appear to inf luence decisions on the hedging of translation exposure. Notice that AGCO does not hedge its translation exposure. However, it attempts to achieve what could be called a natural hedge by the device of financing its foreign operations with local borrowings. Increasing local-currency borrowings reduces the net investment in the subsidiary—assets minus liabilities—and with it translation exposure. This example suggests a potential for misinterpretation of company statements about their translation hedging. AGCO apparently means that it does not use currency derivatives to hedge translation exposure. However, it does attempt to reduce exposure by other means. Becton Coulter indicates occasional hedging of translation exposure. Note the reference to the hedge of the market (exchange rate) risk of a subsidiary’s net-asset position. Again, in the case of translation with the allcurrent method, exposure is approximated by a subsidiary’s net-asset position, that is, assets minus liabilities. Becton Coulter must be making reference to subsidiaries translated using the all-current method because it indicates that any gains or losses on hedges of translation exposure are included in accumulated other comprehensive income. This is also the location of the translation gains and losses that result from the all-current translation method. The gains and losses on the hedges of this translation exposure are included in other comprehensive income and offset, respectively, translation losses and gains.

388 Planning and Forecasting EXHIBIT 12.23

Hedging of translation exposure: Selected company policies.


Hedging Policy

AGCO Corporation (1999)

The Company’s translation exposure resulting from translating the financial statements of foreign subsidiaries into U.S. dollars is not hedged. When practical, this translation impact is reduced by financing local operations with local borrowings.

Becton Coulter Inc. (1999)

We occasionally use foreign currency contracts to hedge the market risk of a subsidiary’s net asset position. Market value gains and losses on foreign currency contracts used to hedge the market risk of a subsidiary’s net asset position are recognized in “Accumulated Other Comprehensive Income” as translation gains and losses.

Becton, Dickenson & Company (1999)

The Company does not generally hedge these translation exposures since such amounts are recorded as cumulative currency translation adjustments, a separate component of shareholders’ equity, and do not affect earnings or current cash f lows.

DaimlerChyrsler AG (1999)

The net assets of the Group which are invested abroad in subsidiaries and affiliated companies are not included in the management of currencies.

The Quaker Oats Company (1999)

The Company uses foreign currency forward and option contracts and currency swap agreements to manage foreign currency rate risk related to certain cash f lows from foreign entities and net investments in foreign subsidiaries.

Henry Schein Inc. (1998)

The Company considers its investments in foreign operations to be both long-term and strategic. As a result, the Company does not hedge the long-term translation exposure in its balance sheet.

Titan International (1999)

The Company views its investments in foreign subsidiaries as long-term commitments and does not hedge foreign currency transaction or translation exposures.


Companies’ annual reports. The year following each company name designates the annual report from which each example is drawn.

The Becton Dickenson statement is the clearest statement of the case for not hedging translation exposure. The key elements of the Becton Dickenson position are that: (1) translation adjustments are included in shareholders’ equity; (2) translation adjustments do not affect conventional net income; and (3) translation adjustments do not affect cash f low. The DaimlerChyrsler reference to the net assets of subsidiaries located abroad not being included in the management of currencies means that they are not hedged. The Quaker Oats Company does do some hedging of net investments in foreign subsidiaries. Both Henry Schein and Titan International emphasize the long-term nature of the investments in foreign subsidiaries in explaining the decision not to hedge this exposure.

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There is some hedging of translation, but the hedging of translation exposure is clearly less common than the hedging of transaction exposure. Hedging practice, based upon cited surveys and our own study of hundreds of company reports, suggests the following ordering of management demand for hedging, from high to low: 1. To protect cash f low and earnings, both level and stability. 2. To protect earnings, both level and stability. 3. To protect shareholders’ equity, both level and stability. In continuing to observe hedging motivated by both two and three above, it is important to consider the significance of earnings and equity amounts without regard to the issue of cash f lows. For example, there is a tremendous current focus on whether or not earnings meet the consensus forecasts of Wall Street. The penalty for missing the forecast, sometimes by pennies, can be dramatic reductions in share value. Of the two translation methods, only the temporal (remeasurement) method includes the remeasurement gains or losses in the computation of net income. There is no evidence that a failure to meet the Wall Street consensus will be forgiven if it results from unhedged remeasurement exposure. Management compensation is often based, directly or indirectly, upon reported earnings. This provides an incentive for management to hedge in order to avoid earnings reductions from remeasurement losses. Finally, it is common for debt and credit agreements to include financial covenants that require the maintenance of minimum amounts of shareholders’ equity or minimum ratios of debt to equity. Unhedged translation exposure, under either the all-current or temporal (remeasurement) methods, may reduce shareholders’ equity and cause these covenants to be violated. Differences in hedging practices are explained in part by different attitudes towards bearing currency risk as well as the cost and capacity to hedge exposures in different countries. In addition, firms will differ in their capacity to minimize currency exposure through various operational, organizational and business arrangements. As a final topic in this coverage of currency risk and hedging, an overview of the current requirements in the accounting for currency derivatives is provided.

ACCOUNTING FOR HEDGES: CURR ENT GAAP R EQUI R EMENTS Important changes in the accounting for currency derivatives were introduced with the issuance of SFAS No. 133, Accounting for Derivative Instruments and Hedging.37 Initial required application of the standard begins with the first fiscal quarter of the first fiscal year beginning after June 15, 2000. One of the most important requirements of the new standard is that all derivative instruments must be recognized on the balance sheet and carried

390 Planning and Forecasting at their fair values. Whether or not these changes in fair value go immediately into the computation of net income will depend upon (1) whether or not the derivative is used for hedging purposes and (2) the nature of the hedge applications. The accounting for changes in the fair value of a foreign-currency derivative depend upon its intended use. Possibilities include (1) the hedging of exposure to changes in the fair value of a recognized asset, liability or an unrecognized firm commitment, (2) the hedging of exposure to variable cash f lows of a forecasted transaction, and (3) the hedging of a net investment in a foreign operation. These three hedging applications are referred to as fair value, cash f low and net-investment hedges, respectively. Changes in the fair values of currency derivatives will either be reported in the income statement as these changes take place or they will initially be reported in other comprehensive income (OCI). The gains and losses that are initially included in OCI will subsequently be included in the income statement when the hedged transaction affects net income.

Fair Value Hedges A firm purchase commitment in a foreign currency is an example of a transaction that could be a fair-value hedge candidate. Normally, there is no initial recording on the books of the firm commitment. However, there is currency risk and subsequent increases and decreases in the value of the foreign currency give rise to losses and gains, respectively. To illustrate how a hedge would be accounted for in this case, assume a purchase commitment made for 100 million yen when the yen rate was $0.008976. By the end of the accounting period the yen has appreciated to $0.009000. This increase in the yen of $0.000024 ($0.009000 − $0.008976) creates a loss on the purchase commitment of $2,400 ($0.000024 × 100 million yen). Also assume that the firm had entered into a forward contract to buy 100 million yen as a hedge of the firm commitment. We will assume that the forward contract (the currency derivative) also increased in value by $2,400. Under SFAS No. 133, the $2,400 increase in the cost of the purchase commitment would be recorded as a loss on the commitment. In addition, the forward contract would also be marked to market value, creating an offsetting gain of $2,400. Each of these items would be reported in the income statement where they will offset each other. The special feature of the above accounting (i.e., hedge accounting), is the recognition of the loss on the purchase commitment. Prior to SFAS No. 133, it would have been common not to recognize the loss on the purchase commitment, but to recognize and defer the gain on the forward contract. Then the loss on the purchase commitment would not be recognized until the purchase was made. At this time, the deferred gain on the currency derivative would be deducted from the cost of the purchase. SFAS No. 133 basically eliminates this type of gain or loss deferral on financial derivatives.


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Many of the hedging examples disclosed in Exhibits 12.5 and 12.8 involved balances that were already recorded on the balance sheet of the hedging firms. The use of hedges in these cases requires no special hedge accounting. For example, consider the case of a one million pound sterling account receivable recorded when the sterling rate was $1.50. By the end of the year, but before the pound receivable was collected, the pound depreciated to $1.45. Assume that the U.S. firm hedged the full amount of the pound sterling account receivable by entering a forward contract to sell the one million pounds at the expected collection date. Under current GAAP, the pound receivable must be revalued to the new rate of $1.45, and a foreign currency transaction loss of $50,000 would be recognized. Moreover, the currency derivative would be marked to its new market value, which is assumed to be $50,000, a perfect hedge.38 This activity is summarized below: £ Account Receivable Initial value of £1,000,000 at $1.50 equals Value at year-end: £1,000,000 at $1.45 equals

$1,500,000 1,450,000

Foreign-currency transaction loss Currency Derivative End-of-period value of the currency derivative Initial value of the forward contract

50,000 $

50,000 0

Gain on the currency derivative


Net effect on earnings


No special hedge accounting is required in the above case to cause the loss on the receivable and the gain on the currency derivative to offset each other in the income statement.

Cash Flow Hedges Hedges of forecasted transactions, cash f low hedges, are distinguished from hedges of firm commitments, which are classified as fair value hedges. As an example, a forecasted transaction might involve the future receipt of royalty payments in a foreign currency. There is currency exposure here because a decline in the value of the foreign currency will reduce the dollar value of the royalty, a cash f low, when it is received. A hedge of this exposure could be achieved by selling a futures contract, investing in a put option, or selling the foreign currency through a forward contract. In order to illustrate hedge accounting for a cash-f low hedge, assume that a firm forecasts the receipt of one million German marks (DM) from royalties. A currency derivative is acquired to hedge all of this exposure. At the date that the derivative contract is entered into, the DM rate is $0.45. At the end of the accounting period, but before the royalties are received, the DM depreciates to $0.43. The value of the derivative contract increases by $20,000. SFAS No. 133 requires that a gain from the increase in the fair value

392 Planning and Forecasting of a derivative contract be recognized as it occurs. However, GAAP does not permit recognition of the loss from the decline in the dollar value of the forecasted DM cash f low. Recognition of the $20,000 gain on the currency derivative as part of earnings would present a problem. There would be no offsetting loss in the income statement from the decline of the dollar value in the DM royalties. Hedge accounting deals with this problem by providing that the $20,000 gain on the derivative be included in other comprehensive income and not net income. Then, when the DM royalties are received, the $20,000 gain is reclassified out of accumulated other comprehensive income and in to net income. To illustrate the above fully, assume that the one million DM of royalties are received, and that the value of the DM has not changed in value from its previous year-end rate of $0.43. The hedge accounting is summarized in Exhibit 12.24. Notice that the total income recognized in the income statement in the period in which the royalty is received is $450,000. This is equal to the original value of the expected royalty cash f low. However, the $450,000 is made up of only $430,000 in royalty value and the remainder is the product of the cash f low hedge.

Hedges of Net Investments in Foreign Operations Earlier discussion of statement translation revealed far less hedging of translation as opposed to transaction exposure. Most translation of the net investments in foreign operations, typically foreign subsidiaries, employs the all-current method. Under this translation procedure, all translation adjustments (translation gains and losses) are recorded in other comprehensive income. These translation adjustments are only included in the computation of net income if all or a significant portion of the foreign operation is sold or otherwise disposed of. Some firms do hedge their translation exposure. Consistent with the translation adjustments being included in other comprehensive income, offsetting gains and losses on currency derivatives used to hedge translation exposure are


Hedge accounting for expected cash f low. Initial Period

Included in net income Gain on currency derivative Royalty cash inf low

0 0

Period of Receipt of Royalties $ 20,000 430,000 $450,000

Included in other comprehensive income: Gain on currency derivative


$ (20,000)

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also recorded in other comprehensive income (see Becton Coulter Inc. in Exhibit 12.23 for an example of this treatment). The review of current accounting requirements has not explored a number of technical points related to hedging. These matters go beyond the goals of this chapter. However, many of these items are included in more technical and comprehensive treatments of hedging and derivative instruments.39

U.S. AND INTER NATIONAL GAAP DIFFER ENCES A variety of new financial, accounting, tax, and managerial issues faced Fashionhouse when it acquired a Danish subsidiary. The issues of statement translation and currency risk-management were discussed above. Recall that the requirement to consolidate the Danish subsidiary into the dollarbased statements of Fashionhouse, the parent, requires translation. In addition, to the extent that Danish accounting practices differ from those in the U.S., adjustments must be made so that the subsidiary’s statements conform to U.S. GAAP.

International GAAP Differences and the IASC A review of the statements of companies located in different countries will reveal cases of both agreement and disagreement between foreign and U.S. GAAP. In order to address the high level of international disagreement found in accounting practices, the International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC) was formed in 1973. The IASC, which was comprised initially of representatives from the leading professional accounting bodies of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the United States, began working toward the harmonization of accounting standards internationally. Today, the IASC represents accounting bodies from over 70 countries. Each member body has agreed to work towards the compliance of accounting standards in their home countries with the standards issued by the IASC. In fact, a number of countries, such as India, Kuwait, Malaysia, Singapore, and Zimbabwe, either adopt IASC standards as their own generally accepted accounting principles or place heavy reliance on them in developing their own accounting standards. To date, 39 international accounting standards and several exposure drafts have been issued. The IASC has also issued a document that both identifies major differences in international accounting practices and categorizes them in terms of their being, (1) the required or preferred treatment, (2) the allowed alternative treatment, or (3) the treatment eliminated.40 The immediate goal of the proposal is to eliminate most of the choices in accounting treatment now available in standards issued by the IASC. The IASC enumerated the expected benefits of this harmonization in financial reporting as follows:41

394 Planning and Forecasting 1. Improve the quality of financial reporting. 2. Make easier the comparison of the financial position, performance and changes in financial position of enterprises in different countries. 3. Reduce the costs borne by multinational enterprises that presently have to comply with different national standards. 4. Facilitate the mutual recognition of prospectuses for multinational securities offerings. A subsequent statement has reported responses to this initial document and outlined plans for implementation of some of the initial proposals and additional study for others.42 The major approach to implementation of the IASC proposals is to incorporate those proposals on which agreement has been reached into revised International Accounting Standards. Examples of some of th