Accounting rate of return method

By: Rashid Javed | Updated on: October 21st, 2021

If you have already studied other capital budgeting methods (net present value method, internal rate of return method and payback method), you may have noticed that all these methods focus on cash flows. But accounting rate of return (ARR) method uses expected net operating income to be generated by the investment proposal rather than focusing on cash flows to evaluate an investment proposal.

Under this method, the asset’s expected accounting rate of return (ARR) is computed by dividing the expected incremental net operating income by the initial investment and then compared to the management’s desired rate of return to accept or reject a proposal. If the asset’s expected accounting rate of return is greater than or equal to the management’s desired rate of return, the proposal is accepted. Otherwise, it is rejected. The accounting rate of return is computed using the following formula:

Formula of accounting rate of return (ARR):


In the above formula, the incremental net operating income is equal to incremental revenues to be generated by the asset less incremental operating expenses. The incremental operating expenses also include depreciation of the asset.

The denominator in the formula is the amount of investment initially required to purchase the asset. If an old asset is replaced with a new one, the amount of initial investment would be reduced by any proceeds realized from the sale of old equipment.

Example 1:

The Fine Clothing Factory wants to replace an old machine with a new one. The old machine can be sold to a small factory for $10,000. The new machine would increase annual revenue by $150,000 and annual operating expenses by $60,000. The new machine would cost $360,000. The estimated useful life of the machine is 12 years with zero salvage value.


  1. Compute accounting rate of return (ARR) of the machine using above information.
  2. Should Fine Clothing Factory purchase the machine if management wants an accounting rate of return of 15% on all capital investments?


(1): Computation of accounting rate of return:

= $60,000* / $350,000**

= 17.14%

*Incremental net operating income:
Incremental revenues – Incremental expenses including depreciation
$150,000 – ($60,000 cash operating expenses + $30,000 depreciation)
$150,000 – $90,000

** The amount of initial investment has been reduced by net realizable value of the old machine ($360,000 – $10,000).

(2). Conclusion:

According to accounting rate of return method, the Fine Clothing Factory should purchases the machine because its estimated accounting rate of return is 17.14% which is greater than the management’s desired rate of return of 15%.


Cost reduction projects:

The accounting rate of return method is equally beneficial to evaluate cost reduction projects. The accounting rate of return of the assets that are purchased with a view to reduce business costs is computed using the following formula:


Example 2:

The P & G company is considering to purchase an equipment costing $45,000 to be used in packing department. It would reduce annual labor cost by $12,000. The useful life of the equipment would be 15 years with no salvage value. The operating expenses of the equipment other than depreciation would be $3,000 per year.

Required: Compute accounting rate of return/simple rate of return of the equipment.


= $6,000* / $45,000

= 13.33%

*Net cost savings:
$12,000 – ($3,000 cash operating expenses + $3,000 depreciation expenses)
$12,000 – $6,000

Comparison of different alternatives:

If several investments are proposed and the management have to choose the best due to limited funds, the proposal with the highest accounting rate of return is preferred.  Consider the following example:

Example 3:

The Good Year manufacturing company has the following different alternative investment proposals:


Required: Using accounting rate of return method, select the best investment proposal for the company.


If only accounting rate of return is considered, the proposal B is the best proposal for Good Year manufacturing company because its expected accounting rate of return is the highest among three proposals.

Advantages and disadvantages:


  1. Accounting rate of return is simple and straightforward to compute.
  2. It focuses on accounting net operating income. Creditors and investors use accounting net operating income to evaluate the performance of management.


  1. Accounting rate of return method does not take into account the time value of money. Under this method a dollar in hand and a dollar to be received in future are considered of equal value.
  2. Cash is very important for every business. If an investment quickly generates cash inflow, the company can invest in other profitable projects. But accounting rate of return method focus on accounting net operating income rather than cash flow.
  3. The accounting rate of return does not remain constant over useful life for many projects. A project may, therefore, look desirable in one period but undesirable in another period.
24 Comments on Accounting rate of return method
  1. OSP

    This is very informative discussion

  2. kuriakose M T

    Simple and lucid presentation helpful to the accounting students to extract the clear application of the theory. Above all the exemplifying adds to the interpretation corrects doubts if any.

  3. Bappy

    Every things I am clear but average investment. Somewhere showing different method somewhere different.

  4. bhullar

    How will ARR be calculated if the AVERAGE investment amount is used?

  5. Vishakh

    Simple and concise. Thanks for the post.

  6. Webby

    The ARR method used does not consider average income. How do u calculate the average initial investment in this case?

  7. Raj

    Hi, In First example how u take depreciation amount , how you calculated it ?

    1. Daniel Rukeha

      D(t) = Bv(r-1).r
      D depreciation amount in case u have been given
      Bv bookvalue
      r depreciation rate

  8. mahew olayinka

    It will be calculated thus; average investment= initial outlay+scrap value or salvage or residual value/2
    And ARR=average annual profit/average investment
    Average annual profit= total cash outlay/number of years

  9. salman nadaf

    It is best way of students and thanks to provide a material.

  10. Soumaila Doumbia

    Hello, to better in paper

  11. Soumaila Doumbia

    Hello Accounting for Management,
    How to better cite your documents according APA standards.
    Thank you.

  12. adritia nelson

    in example 1 the estimated ARR is greater than the required ARR so the factory should purchase the machine,,,,,,,,,great example

  13. saleem

    very helpful discussion!! thank you

  14. Lucy owino

    This great clear illustrations,,,thanks alot for the post

  15. Musah Suraiya

    I am not able to strike out the difference between average rate of return and accounting rate of return. I need help with that

  16. IVAN

    Ya, am impressed, good work

  17. Damon Rose

    Great example and explanation ! Thank you


    I understood nothing. The mathematics are more complicated as consists of huge data

  19. Woira Bumali- Islamic university in Uganda

    It would be better to state the formula as follows:
    ARR = Average Annual profit after tax divided by Average capital investment , then multiply the quotient by 100. First make seperate computations for the:
    1.Average annual profit over the given period of the investment, and
    2. Average capital investment in the project over the period taking into depreciation to ascertain the value at start and at the end of every year and then the average for the year. Do this for all the years to get the average capital investment for entire period of the investment.

  20. PETER

    Very helpful.. Thanks

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