Internal Rate of Return (IRR)

Definition of Internal Rate of Return (IRR)

Internal rate of return (IRR) is the discount rate that sets the net present value of all future cash flow from a project to zero. It is commonly used to compare and select the best project, wherein, a project with an IRR over an above the minimum acceptable return (hurdle rate) is selected.

IRR Formula

Here is the Formula

IRR Formula
  • For calculating the IRR, the NPV value is set to zero, and then the discount rate is found out.
  • This discount rate is then the Internal Rate of Return value that we needed to calculate.
  • Due to the character of the formula, however, IRR can’t be calculated analytically, and should instead be calculated either through trial-and-error or by the use of some software system programmed to calculate the IRR.

Also, have a look at the differences between NPV and IRRDifferences Between NPV And IRRThe Net Present Value (NPV) method calculates the dollar value of future cash flows which the project will produce during the particular period of time whereas the internal rate of return (IRR) calculates the profitability of the more.

IRR Example

Let us assume that Nick invests $1,000 in a project A and gets a return of $1400 in 1 year. Calculate Internal Rate of Return of project A?

Below is the Net present value calculation table of the project with different discount rates (cost of capital).

IRR example

We note that for the Cost of Capital @ 10%, the NPV is $298.

Internal Rate of Return (IRR)

From the graph above, we note that the Net Present value is zero at the discount rate of 40%. This discount rate of 40% is the IRR of the project.

Internal Rate of Return in Excel

Step 1 – Cash inflows and outflows in a standard format

Below is the cash flow profile of the project. You should put the cash flow profile in the standardized format as given below

IRR Step 1

Step 2 – Apply the IRR formula in excel

IRR Step 2

Step 3 – Compare IRR with the Discount Rate

  • From the above calculation, you can see that the NPV generated by the plant is positive, and IRR is 14%, which is more than the required rate of return.
  • It implies when the discounting rate will be 14%, NPV will become zero.
  • Hence, the XYZ company can invest in this plant.

What is the Significance of IRR?

Internal Rate of Return is much more useful when it is used to carry out a comparative analysis rather than in isolation as one single value. The higher a project’s Internal Rate of the Return value, the more desirable it is to undertake that project as the best available investment option. IRR is uniform for investments of varied sorts and, as such, IRR values are often used to rank multiple prospective investment options that a firm is considering on a comparatively even basis. Assuming the amount of investment is equal among the different available options of investment, the project with the highest IRR value is considered as the best, and that particular option is (theoretically) taken up first by an investor.

The IRR of any project is calculated by keeping the following three assumptions in mind:

  1. The investments made will be held until their maturity dates.
  2. The intermediate cash flows will be reinvested in IRR itself.
  3. All the cash flowsCash FlowsCash Flow is the amount of cash or cash equivalent generated & consumed by a Company over a given period. It proves to be a prerequisite for analyzing the business’s strength, profitability, & scope for betterment. read more are periodic, or the time gaps between different cash flows are equal.

The IRR value provides the organization with a rate of growth that can be expected to be obtained by making an investment in the project considered. While the actual Internal Rate of Return obtained may vary from the theoretical value that we have calculated, the highest value will surely provide the best growth rate among all. The most common use of the Internal Rate of Return is seen when an organization uses it to consider investing in a new project or increase the investment in a currently ongoing project. As an example, we can take the case of an energy company that opts to start a new plant or to expand the working of a current working plant. The decision, in this case, can be taken by calculating IRR and thus finding out which of the options will provide a higher net profit.

Hurdle Rate and IRR

The hurdle rate or required rate of returnRequired Rate Of ReturnRequired Rate of Return (RRR), also known as Hurdle Rate, is the minimum capital amount or return that an investor expects to receive from an investment. It is determined by, Required Rate of Return = (Expected Dividend Payment/Existing Stock Price) + Dividend Growth Rateread more is a minimum return expected by an organization on the investment they are making. Most organizations keep a hurdle rate, and any project with an Internal Rate of Return exceeding the hurdle rate is considered profitable. Although this is not the only basis of considering a project for investment, the Hurdle rate Hurdle Rate The hurdle rate in capital budgeting is the minimum acceptable rate of return (MARR) on any project or investment required by the manager or investor. It is also known as the company’s required rate of return or target moreis an effective mechanism in screening out projects which will not be profitable or profitable enough. Usually, a project with the highest difference between the Hurdle rate and IRR is considered the best project to invest.

  • Independent Projects: IRR > Cost of Capital (hurdle rate), accept the project.
  • Independent Projects: IRR < Cost of Capital (hurdle rate), reject the project

There are few thumb rules to be followed while any IRR calculations are done. They are:

  1. The invested amount is always taken with a negative sign. So if you invest $100, it is taken as -$100.
  2. The money you gain is always taken as a positive value, so if you receive an amount of $60, it is taken as $60.
  3. By default, all the payments are taken as yearly, either at the start or the end of the year.

It can even be compared to the prevailing rates of return within the securities market. If a firm cannot notice any investment options with Internal Rate of Return values more than the returns which will be generated within the monetary markets, it may merely opt to invest its retained earningsRetained EarningsRetained Earnings are defined as the cumulative earnings earned by the company till the date after adjusting for the distribution of the dividend or the other distributions to the investors of the company. It is shown as the part of owner’s equity in the liability side of the balance sheet of the more into the market. Even though the Internal Rate of Return is considered a standalone metric with great importance, it should always be used in conjunction with NPV for getting a clearer picture of a project’s potential in earning the organization a better profit.


  • The need for the use of NPV in conjunction is considered to be a big drawback of IRR. Although considered an important metric, it can’t be useful when used alone. The problem arises in situations where the initial investment gives a small IRR value but a greater NPV value. It happens on projects which give profits at a slower pace, but these projects may benefit in enhancing the overall value of the organization.
  • A similar problem is when a project gives a faster-paced result for a short period of time. A small project may seem like giving a large profit in a short time, giving a greater IRR value but a lower NPV value. The project length has a greater significance in this case.
  • Another problem with the Internal Rate of Return, which is not strictly inherent to the metric itself, but related to a typical misuse of IRR. Individuals might assume that once positive cash flows are generated throughout the course of a project (not at the end), the money will be reinvested at the project’s rate of return. It may seldom be the case. Instead, once positive cash flows are reinvested, it’ll be at a rate that represents the value of the total capital employedCapital EmployedCapital employed indicates the company's investment in the business, i.e., the total amount of funds used for expansion or acquisition and the entire value of assets engaged in business operations. "Capital Employed = Total Assets - Current Liabilities" or "Capital Employed = Non-Current Assets + Working Capital."read more. Misreading and misusing IRR in this way could result in the conclusion that a project is a lot more profitable than it truly is.
  • Another common drawback is termed as multiple IRR. Multiple IRR drawbacks occur in cases where the cash flows in the course of the project’s lifespan are negative (i.e., the project operates at a loss or the organization needs to contribute additional capital). It is referred to as a “non-normal cash flow” situation, and such cash flows can provide multiple Internal Rate of Return.

These drawbacks of multiple Internal Rate of Return occurrences and the inability to handle multiple duration projects have brought up the need for a better procedure to find out the best project to invest. And so, a new modified metric known as the modified internal rate of return or in short MIRR is designed.


This article is a guide to what is Internal Rate of Return (IRR) and its definition. Here we also discuss the formula to IRR. You may also have a look at the following articles on Corporate Finance –

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