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Research and Development Expenses: Implications for Profitability Measurement and Valuation

Authors: Damodaran, Aswath
Issue Date: 1999
Series/Report no.: FIN-99-024
Abstract: Most valuation models begin with a measure of accounting earnings to arrive at cash flow estimates. When using accounting earnings, we implicitly assume that the income is obtained by netting out only those expenses that are operating expenses, i.e., expenses designed to generate revenues in the current period. Expenses that are intended to provide benefits over multiple periods are assumed to be considered as capital expenditures, and these expenses are depreciated or amortized over multiple periods. In addition, when computing profitability measures such as return on equity and capital, we stick with this assumption that operating income measures income generated by assets in place. In this paper, we examine the accounting treatment of research and development expenses, and the effects of the treatment on operating income, capital and profitability. We argue that research and development expenses should be treated as tax-deductible capital expenditures, for purposes of valuation, and this can have significant effects on operating income, capital and expected growth measures for firms with substantial research expenses.
Appears in Collections:Finance Working Papers

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