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NPV ( Net Present Value ) – Formula, Meaning & Calculator

Updated on: May 11th, 2021


7 min read

The Net Present Value (NPV) is a method that is primarily used for financial analysis in determining the feasibility of investment in a project or a business. It is the present value of future cash flows compared with the initial investments. Let us understand NPV in detail.

What is Net Present Value?

As an organization expands, it needs to take important decisions which involve immense capital investment. An organization must take the decisions regarding the expansion of business and investment very wisely. In such cases, the organization will take assistance of Capital Budgeting tools, one of the most popular NPV method and take a call on the most profitable investment.

Net present value is a tool of Capital budgeting to analyze the profitability of a project or investment. It is calculated by taking the difference between the present value of cash inflows and present value of cash outflows over a period of time.

As the name suggests, net present value is nothing but net off of the present value of cash inflows and outflows by discounting the flows at a specified rate.

Formula for NPV

As seen in the formula – To derive the present value of the cash flows we need to discount them at a particular rate.  This rate is derived considering the return of investment with similar risk or cost of borrowing, for the investment. NPV takes into consideration the time value of money. The time value of money simply means that a rupee today is of more value today than it will be tomorrow. NPV helps in deciding whether it is worth to take up a project basis the present value of the cash flows.

After discounting the cash flows over different periods, the initial investment is deducted from it.  

If the result is a positive NPV then the project is accepted. If the NPV is negative the project is rejected.  

And if NPV is zero then the organization will stay indifferent.

Illustration Let us say Nice Ltd wants to expand its business and so it is willing to invest Rs 10,00,000. The investment is said to bring an inflow of Rs.  1,00,000 in first year, 2,50,000 in the second year, 3,50,000 in third year, 2,65,000 in fourth year and 4,15,000 in fifth year. Assuming the discount rate to be 9%. Let us calculate NPV using the formula.  

YearFlowPresent valueComputation
11,00,00091,7431,00,000 /
22,50,0002,10,4192,50,000 /
33,50,0002,70,2643,50,000 /
42,65,0001,87,7322,65,000 /
54,15,0002,69,721415000 /

Here, the cash inflow of Rs. 1,00,000 at the end of the first year is discounted at the rate of 9% and the present value is calculated as Rs. 91,743. The cash inflow of Rs, 2,50,000 at the end of the year 2 is discounted and the present value is calculated as Rs. 2,10,429 and so on.
The total sum of present value of cash inflows for all the 5 years is Rs. 10,29,879. The initial investment is Rs. 10,00,000. Hence, the NPV is Rs.  29879. 
Since the NPV is positive the investment is profitable and hence Nice Ltd can go ahead with the expansion.

Advantages of Net present value method

Time value of money

Net present value method is a tool for analyzing profitability of a particular project. It takes into consideration the time value of money. The cash flows in the future will be of lesser value than the cash flows of today.  And hence the further the cash flows, lesser will the value. This is a very important aspect and is rightly considered under the NPV method.
This allows the organisation to compare two similar projects judiciously, say a Project A with a life of 3 years has higher cash flows in the initial period and a Project B with a life of 3 years has higher cash flows in latter period, then using NPV the organisation will be able to choose sensibly the Project A as inflows today are more valued than inflows later on.

Comprehensive tool

Net present value takes into consideration all the inflows, outflows, period of time, and risk involved.  Therefore NPV is a comprehensive tool taking into consideration all aspects of the investment.  

Value of investment

The Net present value method not only states if a project will be profitable or not,  but also gives the value of total profits. Like in the above example the project will gain Rs. 29879 after discounting the cash flows. The tool quantifies the gains or losses from the investment.

Limitations of the Net Present Value method

Discounting rate

The main limitation of Net present value is that the rate of return has to be determined.  If a higher rate of return is assumed, it can show false negative NPV, also if a lower rate of return is taken it will show the false profitability of the project and hence result in wrong decision making.

Different projects are not comparable

NPV cannot be used to compare two projects which are not of the same period. Considering the fact that many businesses have a fixed budget and sometimes have two project options,  NPV cannot be used for comparing the two projects different in period of time or risk involved in the projects.

Multiple Assumptions

The NPV method also makes a lot of assumptions in terms of inflows, outflows. There might be a lot of expenditure that will come to surface only when the project actually takes off.  Also the inflows may not always be as expected. Today most software perform the NPV analysis and assist management in decision making.  With all its limitations, the NPV method in capital budgeting is very useful and hence is widely used.  

To calculate NPV of the money you have try ClearTax’s NPV calculator

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Quick Summary

Net Present Value (NPV) is a key method in financial analysis to determine investment feasibility. It calculates the present value of future cash flows vs. initial investment. NPV considers the time value of money, helping decide whether to undertake projects. The formula involves discounting cash flows at a specified rate. Advantages include considering the time value of money, being a comprehensive tool, and providing the value of investment. Limitations include the need to determine the discounting rate, inability to compare projects of different periods, and the need for multiple assumptions.

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