Owners Cash Flow Defined
Owners Cash Flow is defined as the income before deducting the primary owner's compensation and benefits, other discretionary, non-operating, or non-recurring income or expense, depreciation, interest, and taxes. This is also referred to as Sellers Discretionary Earnings. This is the amount of money available to pay the buyer an income, pay off debt, and provide for capital to operate the business. In order to accurately calculate Owners Cash Flow, we use tax returns, income statements, and other financial records.
Owners Cash Flow includes owner compensation. Discretionary expenses and perks, such as the owner's company automobile, personal travel, meals and entertainment, and the owner's discretionary insurance, are also included. Since health insurance is legally required in Massachusetts, lenders don't include it in calculating the owners cash flow. Interest expense is added back because the buyer is generally not assuming the debt of the business. Depreciation and amortization are added back because they are not cash expenses, however, if it is necessary to replace equipment within the next year that expense is deducted. Taxes are added back because a new owner may have a different tax expense. Additional adjustments are made for non-recurring expenses or income like one-time legal fees or the sale of a business asset. Non-operating income and expense are adjusted out also.
In order for an expense to be considered discretionary, it must meet certain criteria:
• The expense must be for the benefit of the owner (like health insurance) or a close family member
• The expense cannot benefit the business or the employees
• The expense must be documented on tax returns and income statements
• The expense must be verifiable as discretionary by a potential buyer
Counting meals and entertainment that gain the business new clients or counting auto expenses when the automobile is used to conduct business are not included. To pass due diligence, it is important to count only verifiable discretionary expenses.
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