Changes in Net Working Capital

Article byHarsh Katara
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What is Changes in Net Working Capital?

Change in the net working capital is the difference between available funds and outstanding payments of the company in an accounting period when compared with other accounting periods, which is calculated to make sure that sufficient working capital is maintained by the company in every accounting period so that there should not be any shortage or underutilization of funds.

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For eg:
Source: Changes in Net Working Capital (

The essence of the concept is that if a company has a positive working capital, it means they have funds in surplus. The inverse of having a negative working capital indicates that the company owes more than it has in its cash flow. It acts as the company’s metric for liquidity.

Key Takeaways

  • Change in net working capital refers to the difference in a company’s net working capital between two accounting periods.
  • It is assessed to ensure that the company has sufficient working capital to sustain its operations in the future.
  • If the increase in current assets and liabilities is proportional, then there will be no change in net working capital.
  • A positive net working capital change occurs when current liabilities increase more than current assets, while a negative net working capital change occurs when current assets increase more than current liabilities.

Change in Net Working Capital Explained

Change in net working capital refers to the differences in the liquidity of the company. As in, it is a measure of if the company will be able to pay off its current liabilities with the assets in hand.

If the Net Working capital increases, we can conclude that the company’s liquidity is increasing. It could indicate that the company can utilize its existing resources better. Some companies have negative working capital Negative Working CapitalNegative Working Capital refers to a scenario when a company has more current liabilities than current assets. It implies that the available short-term assets are not enough to pay off the short-term debts. read more, and some have positive, as we have seen in the above two examples of Microsoft and Walmart. Generally, companies like Walmart, which have to maintain a large inventory, have negative working capital.

Software companies generally tend to have a positive change in working capital cash flow because they do not have to maintain an inventory before selling the product. It means that it can generate revenue without increasing current liabilitiesCurrent LiabilitiesCurrent Liabilities are the payables which are likely to settled within twelve months of reporting. They're usually salaries payable, expense payable, short term loans more. Cash flow cannot increase with only a change in working capital. But if it is not sufficient, the company’s efficiency is greatly reduced.

  • If the current assets and current liabilities have increased by the same amount, there would be no change in net working capital.
  • If the change is positive, then the change in current liabilities has increased more than the current assets.
  • If the change is negative, the change in the current assets has increased more than the current liabilities.

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Changes in Net Working Capital in Video



Let us understand the formula that shall act as a basis for us to understand the intricacies of the concept and its related factors.

Changes in Net Working Capital = Working Capital (Current Year) – Working Capital (Previous Year)


Change in a Net Working Capital = Change in Current AssetsCurrent AssetsCurrent assets refer to those short-term assets which can be efficiently utilized for business operations, sold for immediate cash or liquidated within a year. It comprises inventory, cash, cash equivalents, marketable securities, accounts receivable, more – Change in Current Liabilities.

How to Calculate?

Now that we understand the basics and the formula of the concept, let us understand how to calculate the changes in net working capital cash flow through the step-by-step explanation below.

  1. Find the Current Assets for the current year and previous year.

    From the point of the current asset of view, we consider the below:
    Accounts Receivable
    Prepaid Expenses

  2. Find the Current Liability for the Current Year and Previous Year.

    From the current liabilities, we consider the below:
    Accounts Payable
    Accrued Expenses
    Interest Payable
    Deferred Revenue

  3. Find Working Capital for the Current Year and Previous Year

    Working Capital (Current Year) = Current Assets (current year) – Current Liabilities (current year)
    Working Capital (Current Year) = Current Assets (current year) – Current Liabilities (current year)

  4. Calculate Changes in Net Working Capital using the formula below:

    Changes in Net Working Capital Formula = Working Capital (Current Year) – Working Capital (Previous Year);

Calculation (Colgate)

Below is the Snapshot of Colgate’s 2016 and 2015 balance sheets. This example shall give us a practical outlook of the concept and its ebbs and flows.

Net Working Capital - colgate

Let us calculate the Working Capital for Colgate.

Working Capital (2016)

  • Current Assets (2016) = 4,338
  • Current Liabilities (2016) = 3,305
  • Working Capital (2016) = 4,338 – 3,305 = $ 1,033 million

Working Capital (2015)

  • Current Assets (2015) = 4,384
  • Current Liabilities (2015) = 3,534
  • Working Capital (2015) = 4,384 – 3,534 = $850 million

Net change in Working Capital = 1033 – 850 = $183 million (cash outflow)


Change in Working capital cash flow means an actual change in value year over year, i.e., the change in current assets minus the change in current liabilities. With the change in value, we will understand why the working capital has increased or decreased.

Below are a number of actions that will cause a change in Net Working capital:

  1. If the company does not allow outstanding credit, the account receivables will get reducedAccount Receivables Will Get ReducedAccounts receivables is the money owed to a business by clients for which the business has given services or delivered a product but has not yet collected payment. They are categorized as current assets on the balance sheet as the payments expected within a year. read more. But sales may have a declining effect. Below are several actions that will cause a change in Net Working capital:
  2. Inventory planning also impacts the change in working capital. An increase in inventory increases the usage of cash.
  3. Stretching accounts payable impacts the change in working capital.
  4. If the company’s growth rate is high, it uses the cash more to buy inventories and increase account receivables. Cash will be heavily used for it then.

It is an indicator of operating cash flowOperating Cash FlowCash flow from Operations is the first of the three parts of the cash flow statement that shows the cash inflows and outflows from core operating business in an accounting year. Operating Activities includes cash received from Sales, cash expenses paid for direct costs as well as payment is done for funding working more, and it is recorded on the statement of cash flowsStatement Of Cash FlowsA Statement of Cash Flow is an accounting document that tracks the incoming and outgoing cash and cash equivalents from a more. And the cash flow is one of the important factors to be considered when we value a company. It indicates whether the short-term assets increase or decrease concerning the short-term liabilities from one year to the next.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How does a change in net working capital impact a company’s financial health? 

Changes in net working capital can have significant implications for a company’s financial health. For example, if a company experiences a positive change, it may have more funds to invest in growth opportunities, repay debt, or distribute to shareholders. Conversely, a negative change may signal that a company struggles to meet its short-term obligations.

2. How does a company’s growth rate affect its change in net working capital requirements?

A company’s growth rate can affect its change in net working capital requirements. As the company grows, it may need to invest more in its working capital to support increased production or inventory levels, resulting in a higher net working capital requirement. Conversely, if a company is not growing, it may not need as much working capital and may experience a decrease in net working capital requirements.

3. What is the difference between gross working capital and change in net working capital?

Gross working capital refers to the total current assets a company has on hand to conduct its business operations, such as cash, inventory, and accounts receivable. On the other hand, the change in net working capital measures the change in a company’s working capital over a period.

This has been a guide to what is Changes in Net Working Capital. Here we explain its meaning, formula, and how to calculate along with examples. You may also have a look at the related articles: