What Does It Mean to Capitalize an Expense

Learn about the implications of capitalizing expenses, examples of how it works, and why it’s a common accounting practice. Find out how capitalizing expenses can impact a business’s financial health.


When it comes to accounting practices, understanding how to properly treat expenses is crucial for businesses. One common practice is capitalizing expenses, but what does that really mean? In this article, we will dive into the concept of capitalizing expenses, its implications, and examples of how it works.

What Does Capitalizing an Expense Mean?

Capitalizing an expense means treating a cost as an asset rather than an immediate expense. Instead of recognizing the cost in the period it was incurred, it is spread out over time and considered an investment in the business.

Implications of Capitalizing Expenses

By capitalizing expenses, a business can increase its assets on the balance sheet, which can lead to higher reported earnings in the future. However, this also means that the expenses are not immediately recognized, which can distort the company’s financial health.

Examples of Capitalizing Expenses

One common example of capitalizing expenses is with the purchase of equipment. Instead of expensing the full cost of the equipment in the year it was purchased, the cost is capitalized and depreciated over its useful life. This allows the business to spread out the expense and match it with the revenue it generates.

  • Software development costs
  • Advertising expenses
  • Research and development costs

Case Studies

Company A decides to capitalize its software development costs rather than expense them immediately. As a result, their reported earnings for the year are higher, but their assets on the balance sheet also increase. This decision can impact how investors perceive the company’s financial health.

Statistics on Capitalizing Expenses

According to a study by the Financial Accounting Standards Board, 70% of businesses capitalize expenses to some extent. This practice has become increasingly common as companies look to improve their financial performance and attract investors.


Capitalizing expenses is a common accounting practice that can have significant implications for a business’s financial statements. By understanding the concept and examples of capitalizing expenses, businesses can make informed decisions about how to treat their expenses to accurately reflect their financial health.

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