What Is Capitalized Interest? Definition, Examples, and Implications


Capitalized interest is a financial concept tied to long-term asset acquisition. Unlike typical interest expenses, it’s not immediately expensed but rather included in the asset’s historical cost. This article delves into the specifics of capitalized interest, its distinctions from expensed interest, its applications, and why it matters, especially in contexts like student loans. By the end, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of this financial practice and its implications.

What is capitalized interest?

Capitalized interest represents the cost of borrowing to secure long-term assets, such as production facilities, real estate, or ships. Notably, this interest isn’t treated as an immediate expense on a company’s income statement. Instead, it’s added to the balance sheet as part of the historical cost of the acquired asset. This approach aligns with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and serves to match the costs with the earnings generated by the asset over its useful life.

Capitalized interest vs. expensed interest

Capitalized interest follows accrual accounting principles, linking asset costs to the earnings generated during its use. However, it’s important to recognize that capitalized interest is only recorded when it materially affects a company’s financial statements. When booked, it doesn’t impact the income statement immediately but rather appears gradually through depreciation expenses. This contrast with expensed interest lies in the timing of when the expense is recognized.

Capitalized interest vs. accrued interest

Accrued interest is interest that accumulates on a loan between payments. While capitalized interest and accrued interest can sometimes align, they don’t always coincide. The treatment of accrued interest varies; it may be capitalized, but in some cases, it’s expensed immediately.

When should interest be capitalized?

The timing of capitalizing interest depends on the type of interest and the context. For student loans, it’s often part of the loan agreement and may vary based on the type of education and the deferment period. In construction projects, interest is typically capitalized during asset development.

Why capitalize interest?

Companies capitalize interest to defer interest expense deductions to future periods. This strategy aligns with generating income from the asset during the same period as the interest expense. Without capitalization, the company might not fully utilize the deduction if it lacks income to offset the expense.

How to calculate capitalized interest

Calculating capitalized interest involves multiplying the prevailing interest rate by the principal balance of debt for a specific period. Adjustments for the number of days outstanding are made, and this interest balance is added to the original principal balance.

Example of capitalized interest

Let’s illustrate with an example. Imagine a company constructing a $5 million production facility financed with a 10% interest rate loan. During the one-year construction period, the company capitalizes an annual interest expense of $500,000. When completed, the facility’s book value includes the construction costs and the capitalized interest. Subsequently, depreciation expenses include the interest as part of the cost.

How does capitalized interest work?

Capitalized interest is a mechanism for charging interest against an outstanding principal balance. Instead of immediate expensing, it’s incorporated into the asset’s historical cost. Over time, companies recognize this interest by depreciating the asset.

Capitalized interest and student loans

In student loans, capitalized interest refers to interest accruing when a borrower doesn’t make payments. This interest is added to the principal balance, increasing the interest paid in the long run. It’s crucial for borrowers to understand how this can impact their loan balance and repayment plan.


Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks of capitalizing interest:

  • Deferred Expense: Capitalizing interest allows companies to defer interest expense deductions to future periods, aligning them with potential income from the asset. This can lead to more efficient use of deductions.
  • Higher Asset Valuation: It increases the asset’s historical cost on the balance sheet, potentially leading to a higher asset valuation, which can be beneficial for financial reporting and attracting investors.
  • Matching Principle: Capitalized interest adheres to the matching principle in accounting, aligning costs with earnings generated by the same asset over its useful life.
  • Deferred Expense Recognition: While deferring expenses can be an advantage, it may also delay the recognition of expenses, making it challenging to assess the immediate financial health of the company.
  • Complex Accounting: Capitalizing interest involves complex accounting and additional administrative work, which may be a disadvantage for smaller companies with limited resources.
  • Misuse: Some companies might misuse interest capitalization to artificially inflate asset values, which can lead to accounting irregularities and misrepresentations of financial health.

Frequently asked questions

Why do companies capitalize interest?

Companies capitalize interest to defer interest expense deductions, aligning them with income generated by the asset over time.

Is capitalized interest the same as accrued interest?

Not necessarily. While they can overlap, capitalized interest and accrued interest don’t always align. The treatment of accrued interest depends on the context.

When is interest capitalized?

Interest is capitalized based on the type of interest and the specific situation. For student loans, it’s often part of the loan agreement. In construction, interest is usually capitalized during asset development.

How does capitalized interest impact student loans?

Capitalized interest in student loans refers to the interest that accumulates when a borrower doesn’t make payments. It’s added to the principal balance, affecting future interest payments.

Is capitalized interest tax-deductible?

Capitalized interest may be tax-deductible in certain cases, such as when it is incurred for business purposes. However, tax laws can vary, and it’s essential to consult with a tax professional or review tax regulations specific to your situation.

Are there any limitations on when interest can be capitalized?

Yes, there are limitations on when interest can be capitalized. The interest must be incurred during the construction, production, or acquisition of a qualifying asset. Additionally, it should meet specific criteria outlined by accounting standards and tax regulations.

Can individuals capitalize interest on personal loans or mortgages?

Individuals generally cannot capitalize interest on personal loans or mortgages. Capitalized interest is a concept more commonly applied in business and financial contexts, especially when acquiring income-generating assets.

How does capitalizing interest affect financial ratios and analysis?

Capitalizing interest can impact financial ratios and analysis by altering the asset’s historical cost and depreciation schedules. Analysts and investors need to consider this when evaluating a company’s financial health and performance.

What is the role of auditors and accountants in ensuring proper interest capitalization?

Auditors and accountants play a crucial role in ensuring that interest capitalization adheres to accounting standards and regulatory requirements. They review financial statements, assess the compliance of interest capitalization, and provide assurance to stakeholders.

How does capitalized interest affect a company’s cash flow?

Capitalized interest has the potential to improve a company’s cash flow in the short term. By deferring interest expenses to future periods, a company can allocate resources more efficiently, helping with cash management and liquidity.

Key takeaways

    • Capitalized interest is the cost of borrowing for long-term assets, not immediately expensed.
    • It aligns with GAAP principles to match costs with earnings over the asset’s useful life.
    • Capitalized interest differs from expensed interest in timing and impact on financial statements.
    • Accrued and capitalized interest may or may not overlap, depending on the context.
    • Interest capitalization is strategic for companies to optimize deductions and income alignment.
    • Calculating capitalized interest involves the prevailing interest rate and days outstanding.
    • Capitalized interest is common in student loans, affecting borrowers during deferment periods.
View Article Sources
  1. capitalized interest – Cornell Law School
  2. Interest and Capitalization – Financial Wellness
  3. Capitalization of Interest – University of Kentucky
  4. What Increases Your Total Loan Balance? – SuperMoney