Updated on May 13, 2024
Article byGayatri Ailani
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Discounting Meaning

Discounting refers to a technique used to determine the present value (PV) of a future payment or a sequence of cash flows that will be received in the future. It is an important technique in the valuation process and price estimation.


The time value of money is one of its underlying fundamentals, and it is relevant in analyzing the present value of future cash flows. Hence it is the main variable utilized to price a stream of future cash flows. Furthermore, businesses use various discounting techniques like NPV (Net Present Value) and IRR (Internal Rate of Return) to estimate the profitability of potential investments. 

Key Takeaways

  • Discounting is the method of converting a future sum into its present value. By using a discount rate, the technique helps determine the present value of future cash flows.
  • Businesses and investors use a wide range of these techniques and rates, including weighted average cost of capital, cost of equity, cost of debt, and hurdle rate, depending on the need and requirements. 
  • Compounding is different from it. Compounding indicates the future value of the present investment.

How Does Discounting Work?

The discounting process involves converting the value estimated to be obtainable in the future to its current equivalent value. It’s like converting future dollars into today’s dollars. Businesses and governments use it to understand the costs and benefits of policies and projects fully.

Discount rates are the rates of return used to assess the present value of future receipts. Discount rates and their type can vary depending on variables, most notably the duration and level of uncertainty. While low discount rates are less susceptible to uncertainty, large discount rates carry a higher risk. Discount rates make it possible for investors and businesses to assess the risk involved in an investment.


The companies opt for different types of discount rates. As a result, depending on their nature and intended use, multiple discount rates apply to investments. 

  • Weighted Average Cost of Capital: The WACC discount rate calculates the NPV of a business. 
  • Cost of Equity: The cost of equity is the rate of return a business provides to its equity investors. It is employed to determine a company’s equity value
  • Cost of Debt: The interest rate a business pays on its debt or to its bondholders. It is utilized in the appraisal of fixed-income assets.
  • Hurdle Rate: The hurdle rate is the lowest allowable rate of return for a project investment. 
  • Risk-Free Rate: The rate of return provided by an investment with no risk is known as the risk-free rate. Additional or more risk is not acceptable until the possible rate of return is higher than the risk-free rate; investors set the risk-free rate as the minimal return they expect from any investment.


Let us look at an example using the NPV technique to understand the concept better:

Suppose X makes an initial investment of $3000. The future cash flow for the four years is given below.

Discount rate10%
Initial investment$3000
Year 1$500
Year 2$1000
Year 3$1500
Year 4$2000

In order to calculate Net Present Value, the following formula is used, and it involves discounting cash flows by applying discounting factor formula to the cash flows:

Net Present Value
  • F = Projected cash flow of the year in the future
  • R = Discount rate
  • n = Number of years of cash flow in future

Applying the given values to the above formula gives the following values:

= ($454.5455 + $826.4463 + $1126.972 + $1366.027) -$3000

= $3773.991 – $3000

= $773.9908

The investment is successful since the NPV value is positive.

Advantages & Disadvantages


  • It considers the time value of money.
  • The discounting principle operates because the money received today is worth more than the money that comes in the future. In simplest terms, it is the transformation of a future value into an equivalent value that is received now.
  • For organizations, the discount rate method facilitates decision-making. It aids in not only comparing projects of the same size but also in determining whether a given investment is profitable or not.


  • Certain techniques cannot be used to compare projects of various sizes. For example, NPV is not a percentage but an absolute number. As a result, a project of a larger scale would certainly have a higher NPV than one of a smaller size. The smaller project’s returns might exceed its investment, but the NPV value might be lower.
  • The technique depends on significant data projections, including revenue and expenses.

Discounting vs. Compounding

They are strategies used to determine the value of money at various points in time.

In order to determine the value of money in the future, the compounding method is applied. On the other hand, discounting is a method for determining the present value of future money.

Convert the future value into a present value that is the present value of a future sum.Convert present value to future value, the future value of present money.
The result of the computation indicates what we should invest today in order to receive the desired amount tomorrow, indicated by applying a discount rate to a future sum.The result indicates what we will receive from an investment made today.
Discount rates are used.Compound interest rates are applied.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why is discounting important in accounting?

It is important since it deals with price concerns depending on a company’s potential financial success. For example, a company can use it to determine the current market value of a bond by applying a discount rate on the future interest stream.

What is discounting principle in economics?

In economics, its application or understanding helps to analyze the value and output of investment at different times. It makes present expenses and gains more valuable than those that will arise in the future.

What is the discounting factor?

The discount factor is an important element in present value calculations. For example, it is most frequently used to calculate the present value of future cash flows. The future cash flow is multiplied by a weighting factor in order to discount it to the present value. The factor is derived from the discount rate and the years taken in the calculation.

This article has been a Guide to Discounting and its meaning. We explain its discount types, examples, advantages, disadvantages, and vs. compounding. You can also go through our recommended articles on corporate finance –