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Capex vs Opex

Capex vs Opex
Corinne Boyd

By Corinne Boyd Digital Marketing Manager, Updated 09 January 2018

It’s rare to hear a discussion about business expenses without coming across the vital concepts of Capex and Opex. Both refer to money being paid out of a company, but in different ways. Understanding the difference is crucial for anyone who wants to optimally utilise Cloud computing by making sure they’re using the correct model for them. This is a convenient guide to Capex vs Opex, explaining what they are, the benefits and disadvantages of both, and how these concepts can help you choose a Cloud computing model.


Capex stands for ‘capital expenditure’, and refers to expenses a business incurs to create benefit in the future. For example, buying new buildings or machinery would be considered Capex since businesses incur these expenses in order to generate profit in the future. Capex can also refer to the improvements or additions to existing assets a business needs.

The significance of Capex in business budgets is that it reflects how much a business is spending to invest in its future. Analysts are often especially interested in the capital expenditure budgets of major companies for this reason. Capex can vary considerably from year to year, meaning that capital expenditures ought to be considered over a period of time.

The appropriate capital expenditure depends on the industry. Some industries such as oil and gas necessitate a lot of capital investment, whilst others such as retail do not need nearly as much. Capex is also easier to understand when compared to the capital expenditure of rival organisations.


Opex is short for ‘operational expenditure’ and refers to expenses a business incurs in its day to day operations. Operational expenditures such as expenses like wages, utilities and rent tend not to have future benefits. General repairs and maintenance of buildings are also considered operating expense, supposing improvements and additions aren’t being made which impact the efficiency or longevity of the asset.

Opex is important to consider as they accurately reflect the costs of doing business, since no future benefits are gained. If the Opex is too high, a company can easily lose money. Unlike Capex, the debt of which can be offset by future benefits, suffering debt to pay for Opex is always a problem.

Like Capex, the appropriate Opex depends on the industry, and is more readily understood when looking at the figures of other businesses.

Accounting for Capex and Opex

A major difference between these two types of expenses is the way they are accounted for in an income statement.

As Capex acquires assets that have a useful life beyond the tax year, these expenses can’t be fully deducted in the year they’re incurred. Instead, they’re capitalised and either amortised or depreciated over the life of the asset. Intangible assets such as intellectually property are amortised and tangible assets such as equipment are depreciated over their lifespan.

However, operating expenditure can be fully deducted. This means that Opex can be subtracted from the revenue when calculating the profit/loss of the organisation. Most companies are taxed on the profit they make, so any expenses you deduct influences your tax bill.

Capex vs Opex

In terms of income tax, organisations usually prefer Opex to Capex. For this reason, businesses will lease hardware from a vendor instead of buying it outright. Buying equipment is Capex, so not all of the money paid upfront can be deducted. The amount paid to a vendor for leasing is Opex as it is incurred as part of the daily business operations. Therefore, the organisation can deduct the cash that it spent that year.

Deducting expenses reduces income tax, which is levied on net income. It is also beneficial when considering the time value of money – money available at the present time is worth more than in the future due to its earning capacity.

However, if a company wants to boost its earnings and book value, it may decide to make a capital expense and only deduct a small portion of it as an expense. This will lead to a higher value of assets on its balance sheet, as well as a higher net income that it can report to investors.

Capex, Opex and the Cloud

There are three popular types of Cloud computing: private, public, and hybrid. Understanding Capex and Opex is instrumental in recognising the differences between the different types of Clouds.

With the public Cloud, the service provider is the one making the Capex, so that their users can buy in an Opex or pay as you go model.

A private Cloud involves an organisation’s IT team doing the Capex, so that users or business units within a company will be able to consume the resources in an Opex or pay as you go model.

Businesses can use resources from both private and public Clouds, which becomes a hybrid Cloud. A hybrid Cloud can be managed by a single solution. If the buyer of the public Cloud is your IT team, then the hybrid Cloud essentially becomes a combination of Capex and Opex models. This gives businesses better flexibility to control their costs.

Cloud Services are fast becoming the norm for any modern business. However, there are so many solutions available that spending time finding the right system for you can cost your business a significant amount of time and money, and runs the risk of you implementing a solution that isn’t ideal.

Software Advisory Service can help you find the right cloud service for your needs. We offer expert, non-chargeable buying advice to help find the right system for you, and can provide a shortlist of potential vendors depending on your specific requirements. Complete the form here so that we can find the solution you need today!