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CapEx vs. OpEx: What’s the Difference?

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Businesses incur a range of costs ranging from important assets required for their overall growth to the price of raw materials and the wages paid to staff. Such costs are organized in different categories to simplify them.

The two most common categories you need to know to run a business successfully are:

  • Capital Expenditure (CapEx)
  • Operational Expenditure (OpEx)

CapEx and OpEx decrease a business’s net income in different ways but also contribute to its productivity as well as value in the long run. Whenever businesses make any purchase, it’s classified as either CapEx or OpEx.

Read on to understand the terms better, including their functions, examples, differences, and importance for a business for smooth operations.

CapEx vs. OpEx: An Overview

Businesses may incur both CapEx and OpEx in exchange for cash, primarily via similar purchasing processes such as contracting, soliciting a bid, orchestration of financial payment, legal review, and purchase receipt.

Both expenditures can be similarly planned while tracking them separately. Irrespective of that, each expenditure has its budget, forecast, long-term plan, and financial manager to monitor its planning and reporting.

What is CapEx?

CapEx refers to money that a company spends on purchasing, maintaining, or upgrading physical and intangible assets for its business. This includes buying assets that create future benefits as well as increase a business’s value.

You can identify CapEx by the following features:

  • Purchases are one-off advance payments.
  • The asset must be solely owned by the business after the purchase.
  • The purchased asset must benefit a business for more than one tax year.

CapEx is beneficial to a business, but it also comes with its disadvantages, some of which are as follows:

  • The purchases made are more expensive than an OpEx-based asset.
  • With this expenditure type, businesses have a higher risk of losing money. Hence, it requires precise resource forecasting and budgeting.
  • It’s important to precisely assess your needs to avoid making a bad investment.

CapEx is further divided into two types. These are –

  • Maintenance CapEx: This refers to the purchase of new assets essential for the maintenance, renewal, or replacement of any existing asset.
  • Expansion CapEx: These are expenditures for expanding or amplifying the performance of assets that already exist within a business. These target the growth of a business.

You can find CapEx information in the cash flow statement section or the income statement and balance sheets.

What is OpEx?

OpEx is the daily expense that businesses need to function normally. These expenditures contribute to the core operations of a business. These don’t create any future benefits for the company, nor do these help boost the value of a business.

OpEx is further divided into the following categories:

  • Fixed Expenses: These costs are static and unavoidable since these occur consistently regardless of the output received. Additionally, fixed expenses are predictable because these aren’t related to the production of a business and rarely vary.

Fixed expenses cover staff payroll, accounting fees, legal fees, and the purchase of office supplies, to name a few.

  • Variable Expenses: These expenses are determined by the volume of business a company does. If a company produces more, the expenses increase and vice-versa. Variable expenses are also affected by any changes to the economy or corporate structure.

The purchase of raw materials, production supplies, and piece-rate labor all come under variable expenses.

Operational costs are significant because these assist in evaluating a company’s costs, cutting operating costs, and maximizing the effectiveness of stock management.

These essentially focus on the level of expenses that must be incurred to achieve revenue, which is ultimately a business’s primary objective.

If the business doesn’t successfully control its operating expenditure, it could lose money on spending oversights. For continued success, recognizing such operating costs immediately in accounting is necessary to keep profits growing.

What’s the Difference Between CapEx and OpEx?

The difference between CapEx and OpEx is primarily based on the accounting treatment of each expenditure. CapEx and OpEx are often confused with one another but these can’t be used interchangeably.

Hence, it’s essential to understand the difference between CapEx and OpEx if businesses are struggling to optimize their finances. Some of the differences are as follows:

CapEx OpEx
These are funds or expenses required to buy fixed assets and should be used no later than the financial year in which these are purchased. These are everyday costs necessary to run a business as efficiently as possible.
It’s a long-term expense. It’s a short-term expense.
Includes the purchase of equipment and machinery and obtaining intellectual property or innovation assets such as patents. Includes maintenance and repair on machines, energy supplies, rent, or wages.
All expenses are paid in one go, but it takes years for profits to materialize. Expenses are recurrent on a monthly or annual basis.
Listed as a property or equipment expense. Listed as costs related to the activities, support, or maintenance and operation of an income-generating property.
Can’t be deducted from income for tax purposes Can be deducted from taxes.
Can be seen in the company’s cash flow statement as a capitalized asset. Can be seen in a company’s income statement and is expensed immediately.
Requires approval via many layers of management, leading to delays in the purchasing process. If the item to be purchased is included in the budget, approval doesn’t take time.

What’s an Example Of CapEx?

The construction of buildings, vehicles, land, or machines expected to be in use for at least one year are examples of capital expenditure. In such cases, a business uses all of these resources for the longer term. To recognize the benefits of each over several reporting periods, these are treated as CapEx when acquired.

What’s an Example Of OpEx?

Repairs, salaries, supplies, and rentals are some examples of operating expenses. The company benefits from all these expenses in the short term. For example, when a company rents out a warehouse or office, it can use the space and receive its benefit for a given period. Such OpEx costs are ongoing and provide little to no benefit.

vector image showing examples of capital and operational expenditures

CapEx vs. OpEx – What Do Most Businesses Choose?

CapEx and OpEx are two sides of a coin, and it isn’t possible to rate one better than the other. Both categories are different ways businesses classify costs and are equally crucial for a business’s growth.

Businesses should invest in CapEx if they‘re looking for future growth and long-term capital. However, they can go for OpEx when the business needs to keep its capital and ensure flexibility.

So, which one must they opt for?

Keep reading to understand what suits you best.

When to Choose CapEx?

CapEx investments can pave the way for a company’s growth and success if all variables are considered when creating a capital expenditure plan.

Some of the areas where CapEx plays an important role are as follows:

  • Businesses can attract tax benefits by choosing CapEx, which might differ from one country to another if they invest in technology at an early stage.
  • CapEx investment can improve the efficiency of a business and allow it to gain a competitive edge.
    It increases the long-term benefit of a business.

When to Choose OpEx?

OpEx is an initiative designed to achieve the highest possible level of business performance. Post the Covid era, a business’s top priority lies in cost-savings. Taking that into consideration, OpEx can prove beneficial to a business for the following reasons:

  • Migrating to an OpEx model will enable the company to use available funds for other revenue-generating activities, such as generating leads, research & development, resource increases, etc.
  • If a business decides to opt for cloud-hosted services, it can save on the recruitment of IT resources as vendors are responsible for the maintenance of the hosted services.
  • A number of companies also choose OpEx for tax benefits since it enables them to deduct the entire cost of hosting services.

While one may seem more important than the other, it’s businesses that must choose whether CapEx, OpEx or a combination of both suits them best. It’s necessary to accurately forecast operating costs that’ll be incurred at a later date to invest the funds in capital expenditure.

As a business, regardless of what you choose, you need to have control over your company’s infrastructure. By understanding the role of these expenditures, you’ll be able to make decisions that affect the overall growth of your business.

Tip: Expense reporting can be a challenging task but you’ll need to choose an excellent time and expense tracking tool that can help you with configurable policies for time and expenses.

Keep in mind that the tool should offer you real-time analytics and
seamless integrations with project management, ERP, and accounting tools to make things easier while meeting required compliances.


1. What is included in OpEx?

OpEx includes selling, general, and administrative expenditures. A business incurs these expenses from its primary operations and these don’t cover the cost of goods sold (COGS), expenses directly related to creating and distributing certain goods & services, including components and raw materials.

2. What is included in CapEx?

CapEx includes purchases of large goods or services that a business utilizes to improve a company’s performance in the future. These include the acquisition of intellectual assets, such as patents and the transition of technology as well as the cost of fixed assets.


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Namrata Diengdoh


Namrata Diengdoh


Namrata is a freelance writer with Deltek | Replicon. With 12 years of experience in the content industry, she has never settled for just "good enough". She believes in content that can engage and attract readers, whether the niche is fitness, food, or tech. When she is not typing on her laptop, Namrata is crafting or painting. Other than that, she loves spending time with her family and pets.


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