How to Calculate Before Tax Cost of Debt

  Reviewed by: Ryan Cockerham, CISI Capital Markets and Corporate Finance      Updated October 17, 2018
  Written by: Mark Kennan
How to Calculate Before Tax Cost of Debt

Most companies that deduct the interest they pay on their income taxes reduce the actual cost of their debt. In some scenarios, companies present the after-tax cost of debt without acknowledging the before-tax cost. Although that may be effective for the current year, the company could lose the tax benefits and have to pay full cost without receiving the tax benefits if the tax code changes. To calculate the before-tax cost of debt, you need to know the after-tax cost of debt and the income tax rate for the company in question.

Getting Started With Debt

To get started, you'll need information on the specific debt and the company's current tax rate. Often this information is well documented in a company's financial statements. You can sometimes pull the information you need directly from these statements, since they'll reflect the exact interest the company paid on their debts in a given timeframe. You may also be able to pull the information from a business's cash flow statements, since they'll often detail pretax money movements there. The after-tax metrics may be saved for their income statements.

Calculating  Before-Tax Debt

Divide the company's effective tax rate by 100 to convert to a decimal. For example, if the company pays 29 percent in taxes, divide 29 by 100 to get 0.29. Subtract the company's tax rate expressed as a decimal from 1. In this example, subtract 0.29 from 1 to get 0.71.

Divide the company's after-tax cost of debt by the result to calculate the company's before-tax cost of debt. In this example, if the company's after-tax cost of debt equals $830,000. You'll then divide $830,000 by 0.71 to find a before-tax cost of debt of $1,169,014.08. If you need the after-tax cost, you can then backtrack to show the difference side by side. You can also express this number as a percentage by dividing the pretax cost of debt by total debt outstanding. This percentage can come in handy when presenting your findings to a team.

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Moving Forward With Your Data

If you're pulling this information, chances are there's a reason. The data can be essential to moving a business forward, since it shows just how much interest they're paying on the debts they owe. If you can go through the balance sheets and calculate the pretax cost of debt for various items, you may be able to show businesses where they can cut back and save significant money.

About the Author

Based in the Kansas City area, Mike specializes in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."

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