What are capital expenditures?

Capital expenditures or capex are the amounts spent for tangible assets that will be used for more than one year in the operations of a business. Capital expenditures can be thought of as the amounts spent to acquire or improve a company's fixed assets. Some examples include the purchase of machinery, equipment, furniture, building improvements, computer information systems, and leasehold improvements.

The amount of capital expenditures for an accounting period is reported in the cash flow statement. The amount is an outflow of cash and is listed in the investing activities section of the statement. Sometimes the amount is listed as capital expenditures and sometimes it is listed as purchase of property and equipment.

The capital expenditures will also increase the respective asset accounts which are reported in the noncurrent asset section of the balance sheet entitled property, plant and equipment. Once the assets are placed in service they are depreciated over their useful lives. The accumulated depreciation for the assets is also reported as part of the property, plant and equipment.

The current period's amount of capital expenditures is often subtracted from the cash from operating activities to arrive at the company's free cash flow.