Net Cash Flow: Definition, Formula & Calculation

Understanding Net Cash Flow

Net cash flow is the difference between cash received and spent during a specific period, typically a month, quarter, or year.

Net cash flow provides insights into a company’s liquidity and the business’s ability to generate and manage cash. It represents the net outcome of cash inflows and outflows, focusing solely on the actual cash that enters and exits the company, excluding non-cash items like depreciation or accruals.

Net cash flows are a crucial indicator to understand whether a company generates more cash (positive cash flow) than it is spending or vice versa (negative cash flow).

Positive net cash flow means that a company has generated more cash inflows than outflows, while negative net cash flow indicates that it has spent more cash than it has generated.


Components of net cash flow

 Cash Flow from Operating Activities

It represents the cash generated or used from a company’s core business operations. It includes cash receipts from customers, interest received, dividends received, and other cash payments for administrative expenses like salaries, taxes, and interest paid.

Cash Flow from Investing Activities

It reflects the cash flows from buying or selling long-term assets and investments. It includes cash inflows from the sale of property, plant, and equipment, as well as proceeds from the sale of investments or other businesses.

It also includes business acquisitions, like when a company purchases new assets, such as buildings, machinery, or investments in stocks or bonds.

Cash Flow from Financing Activities

It accounts for the cash flows related to a company’s financing sources and capital structure. For example, it includes cash inflows from issuing equity or debt, such as proceeds from issuing new shares or obtaining loans. Or expenditures when a company repurchases its shares, pays off debt, or dividends paid to shareholders.

Formula and Calculation

The most simple net cash flow formula is –

Net Cash Flow = Cash Inflows – Cash Outflows

Another net cash flow formula is –

Net Cash Flow = Cash Flow from Operations + Cash Flow from Investing + Cash Flow from Financing

To calculate net cash flow using the net cash flow formula, determine the total cash inflows and outflows for a given period.

Cash inflows can include:

  • Cash received from customers for sales of goods or services
  • Interest received
  • Dividends received
  • Proceeds from the sale of assets or investments

Cash outflows can include:

  • Cash payments to suppliers for goods or services
  • Salaries and wages
  • Taxes
  • Interest paid
  • Operating expenses
  • Purchase of assets or investments

Once you have identified how much cash is received and spent, subtract the total cash outflow from the total cash inflow to calculate the net cash flow.


Example 1:

Let’s say ABC Corporation has the following transactions for a specific period:

  • Cash received from customers: $50,000
  • Interest received: $2,000
  • Cash payments to suppliers: $30,000
  • Salaries and wages: $10,000
  • Operating expenses: $5,000

To calculate net cash flow, plug in the values from our example in the net cash flow formula:

Net Cash Flow = Total Cash Inflows – Total Cash Outflows

= ($50,000 + $2,000) – ($30,000 + $10,000 + $5,000)

= $52,000 – $45,000

Net Cash Flow = $7,000

As per the net cash flow calculation, ABC Corporation has a positive cash flow of $7,000, indicating that it generated more cash than it spent during the specified period.

Example 2:

Assume we have the following cash flow figures for a company, XYZ Corp., for a specific period:

  • Cash Flow from Operating Activities: $50,000
  • Cash Flow from Investing Activities: -$10,000
  • Cash Flow from Financing Activities: -$5,000

To calculate net cash flow for XYZ Corp., we can use the net cash flow formula:

Net Cash Flow = Cash Flow from Operations + Cash Flow from Investing + Cash Flow from Financing

Net Cash Flow = $50,000 + (-$10,000) + (-$5,000)

= $50,000 – $10,000 – $5,000

= $35,000

XYZ Corp. has a positive cash flow of $35,000, indicating that it generated more cash inflow than cash outflow from its operating, investing, and financial activities during the specified period.

Use in Financial Analysis

Net cash flow is a valuable metric used in financial analysis to assess a company’s cash-generating ability and financial health. It provides insights into a company’s liquidity, ability to meet short-term obligations, and cash management practices.

Here are some key ways net cash flows are used in financial analysis:

  • Assess cash-generating ability and financial health
  • Determine if the company can cover expenses and meet obligations
  • Evaluate operating efficiency and cash conversion cycle
  • Analyze investment decisions and capital expenditures
  • Understand reliance on external financing or the ability to generate cash internally
  • Compare net cash flow to net income to assess the quality
  • Make meaningful comparisons with industry peers
  • Gain insights into overall financial performance
  • Inform investment or lending decisions

Benefits and Limitations

Provides insights into a company’s liquidity and ability to meet short-term obligationsIt does not capture non-cash items such as depreciation or accruals
Enables evaluation of operating efficiency and working capital managementIt does not indicate profitability or long-term viability
Assists in analyzing investment decisions and capital allocation strategiesIt does not consider the impact of changes in market conditions or economic factors
Helps identify trends and patterns in cash generation and utilizationMay be influenced by one-time or non-recurring cash flows
Facilitates informed decision-making for investors, lenders, and stakeholdersRequires supplementary analysis and consideration of other financial indicators

Relationship between Net Cash Flow, Net Profit & Net Income

Net cash flow and net income are related but focus on different aspects of a company’s performance. For example, net cash flow measures the actual cash movement, while net income or profit assesses profitability.

Net cash flow represents the actual cash generated or used by a company from its operations. It does not consider non-cash expenses, non-operating gains or losses, changes in working capital, etc.

But net income or profit represents the remaining revenue after deducting all expenses, including cash and non-cash items, such as operating expenses, interest, taxes, and depreciation.

Net profit (or net income) is calculated on an accrual basis, which means it considers revenue and expenses regardless of whether cash has been exchanged.

Final Words

Net cash flow is crucial in assessing a company’s financial well-being by focusing on the actual cash received and utilized. It offers a realistic perspective on a company’s liquidity, aids decision-making, and is a key metric for evaluating the company’s financial health and sustainability.

Looking to expand your knowledge of accounting concepts? Akounto has got you covered! Head to the Akounto blog to access different accounting concepts to support your learning journey.

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