What is Capital Employed?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

While there are several working definitions for capital employed, just about all of them include one basic element. Capital employed is involved in identifying the financial resources that are necessary for a corporation to continue functioning and engage in the important task of revenue generation. The type of financial resources that are considered to be part of these resources are somewhat limited, however, and do not include all the assets currently in the possession of the company.

Businessman with a briefcase
Businessman with a briefcase

Generally, capital employed is concerned with the value of capital investments rather than all the assets of the company. A capital investment would include any shares of stock or any bonds issued by the corporation. Arriving at an accurate figure in this scenario would also involve allowing for any current liabilities, specifically long term liabilities.

A slightly different view would take into consideration any current assets and current liabilities. With this formula, both fixed assets as well as current assets are taken into consideration. Current liabilities, including both short term and long term liabilities, would be subtracted from the overall value of the assets.

While the exact formula may vary slightly from one situation to another, the result usually is utilized for the same purpose. This figure is considered essential to determining the ROCE or return on capital employed. In simple, terms, understanding this number and comparing it to the amount of revenue generated from the efforts will help a company to determine two things. First, it's need to determine if the ratio between the two is sufficient to cover all expenses. Second, identifying the relationship between capital employed and the value of products sold can also help the company determine if a net profit was achieved.

Comparing the capital employed to the generated revenue for a given period can often yield information about the overall performance of the company. By having a clear picture of the end result of the efforts, it is possible to begin assessing how assets are being used and determine how to make better use of them in order to increase profitability.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


@feasting – I know what you mean. I have a friend who is studying to become an accountant right now, and she has to do things like figure up the capital employed turnover ratio. She does word problems that are set up like the ones we used to do in high school math, but they are so much more complex.

I have respect for people who understand things like this. I believe that accountants are special people, because not everyone can wrap their minds around what they do.


I can see how the return on capital employed formula would differ from one situation to the next. Every business is different and has a variety of things that have to be taken into consideration.


I always thought that operating on capital employed meant that you were doing the best possible with what you had. It actually sounds like it's a lot more complicated than that.

I would definitely hire someone to help me with the financial aspect of a business if I decided to open one of my own. Terms like this just baffle me. I'm great at English, but I'm terrible at math and economics.


Studying economics is the best thing that i have ever done in my life. So i wouldn't see a reason for you not to study economics.


Since I have not studied economics, I always assume that things like capital ratio and therefore income are just reliant on money in, money out- and making sure the second number is smaller than the first. However, it seems like there are so many other factors to consider that make it more complex.

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