How to Calculate Cash Flow?

how to calculate cash flow
| Updated on: September 27, 2021

Cash flow is the lifeblood of business. The way you manage the cash flow will define the success of your business. If managed well, it will help you to create more cash cushion that is essential for business growth. On the other hand, if not managed efficiently, it will be the major reason for the failure of business due to insufficient funds.

To define cash flow, it is a statement that summarizes the change in the cash position i.e. inflow and outflow of cash and cash equivalents. Read Cash Flow: What is Cash Flow Statement Definition and Example to know more.

If your cash inflow is more than the outflow, it is positive cash flow.  If the cash outflow is more than the inflow, it is called negative cash flow and indicates that the business will run out cash on a longer run.  

To know and measure whether the cash flow has positively impacted the business, you need to calculate the cash flow. There are different formulas and method to calculate cash flows as detailed in the next section.

How to calculate cash flow

To calculate cash flow, you can either apply the direct method or the indirect method. Each method uses different formulas to calculate cash flow.

Direct method of cash flow calculation

Under the direct method of cash flow, the gross cash outflow and inflow of business operations are considered to arrive the net cash flow. The cash inflow i.e. cash receipts from sales, accounts receivables etc. are reduced with the cash outflow made towards various expenses like rent, salary, accounts payables etc.  The remaining balance is the net cash flow.

Here, all non-cash aspects like depreciation, bad debts etc. are not included.

Let us understand how to calculate cash flow using the direct method with an example.

Calculating cash flow using the direct method

Cash inflow


Receipts from customers


Cash sales


Interest received


Total cash inflow


Cash outflow


Payment to vendors


Salaries and wages


Office expenses


Tax paid


Total cash outflow


Net cash flow (10,25,000 – 7,05,000)


Indirect method of cash flow calculation

To calculate cash flow using an indirect method, the net income is adjusted with all non-cash-items.  Here, an increase in the asset is reduced from net income and an increase in liability is added back to net income.

Under this method, the cash flow is divided into three sections – operating, investing, and financing activity. For each section, the net cash flow is arrived after making the suitable adjustments

Let’s understand how to calculate cash flow using the indirect method

Calculating Cash flow using the indirect method

Cash flow from operating activities


Net Income




Add: Non-cash adjustments debited to P&L a/c












Bad debts




Less: Non-cash adjustments credited to P&L a/c




Profit on sale of fixed assets      




Increase in accounts receivables




Decrease in accounts payables




Cash from operating activities




Cash flow from investing activities




Sales of fixed assets




Less: Purchase of fixed assets (land, building, furniture, machinery)




Net cash from operating activities (50,000 – 8,00,000)




Cash flow from financing activities




Issue of equity and preference share capital (cash only)




Less: Payment of dividend




Net Cash from financing activities (4,00,000 – 70,000)




Net increase in cash and cash equivalents (The net cash flow from the first three activities)




Cash and cash equivalents and the beginning of the period




Cash and cash equivalents and the end of the period (net cash flow + cash at the beginning of the period)




Rules for calculating cash flow using the indirect method

Add or Reduce from Net income



Decrease in non-cash current assets


Increase in non-cash current asset


Increase in current liabilities


Decrease in current liabilities


Non-cash adjustments (Depreciation and/or amortization


Non-cash revenues


Non-operating losses


Non-operating gains

Preparing cash flow statements helps businesses to know the net cash position and enables business owners to make smart decisions. Also, one can investigate the areas that require attention and accordingly optimize the cash position. Read 6 Tips for Efficient Cash Flow Management to know what all you can do to optimize the cash flow.

Cash flow statement being a key report, using accounting software helps you to get these reports instantly over and above helping you to manage your business more efficiently.

Today, accounting software is provisioned to generate the cash flow projection report that indicates a projected cash flow position considering the anticipated revenues and outflow. This helps you make a better business decision.


Accounting solutions to help you manage your business just the way you want.