In looking at Table 2.4 , notice that the more a corporation makes, the greater is the percentage of taxable income paid in taxes. Put another way, under current tax law, the average tax rate never goes down, even though the marginal tax rate does. As illustrated, for corporations, average tax rates begin at 15 percent and rise to a maximum of 35 percent. Normally, the marginal tax rate will be relevant for financial decision making. The reason is that any new cash flows will be taxed at that marginal rate. Because financial decisions usually involve new cash flows or changes in existing ones, this rate will tell us the marginal effect of a decision on our tax bill. There is one last thing to notice about the tax code as it affects corporations. It’s easy to verify that the corporate tax bill is just a flat 35 percent of taxable income if our taxable income is more than $18.33 million. Also, for the many midsize corporations with taxable incomes in the range of $335,000 to $10,000,000, the tax rate is a flat 34 percent. Because we will usually be talking about large corporations, you can assume that the average and marginal tax rates are 35 percent unless we explicitly say otherwise. Before moving on, we should note that the tax rates we have discussed in this section relate to federal taxes only. Overall tax rates can be higher if state, local, and any other taxes are considered. 2.4 Net Working Capital Net working capital is current assets minus current liabilities. Net working capital is positive when current assets are greater than current liabilities. This means the cash that will become available over the next 12 months will be greater than the cash that must be paid out. The net working capital of the U.S.
Composite Corporation is $275 million in 2010 and $252 million in 2009. In addition to investing in fixed assets (i.e., capital spending), a firm can invest in net working capital. This is called the change in net working capital. The change in net working capital in 2010 is the difference between the net working capital in 2010 and 2009—that is, $275 million – $252 million = $23 million. The change in net working capital is usually positive in a growing firm. 2.5 Financial Cash Flow Perhaps the most important item that can be extracted from financial statements is the actual cash flow of the firm. An official accounting statement called the helps to explain the change in accounting cash and equivalents, which for U.S. Composite is $33 million in 2010. (See Section 2.6 .) Notice in Table 2.1 that cash and equivalents increase from $107 million in 2009 to $140 million in 2010. However, we will look at cash flow from a different perspective: the perspective of finance. In finance, the value of the firm is its ability to generate financial cash flow. (We will talk more about financial cash flow in a later chapter.) The first point we should mention is that cash flow is not the same as net working capital. For example, increasing inventory requires using cash. Because both inventories and cash are current assets, this does not affect net working capital. In this case, an increase in inventory is associated with decreasing cash flow.