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Indirect Method


The indirect method is a technique for calculating cash flow from operating activities in a company’s cash flow statement. It starts with net income and subsequently adds or deducts items to arrive at cash from operations. This method adjusts net income for changes in non-cash items, such as depreciation, accounts payable, and accounts receivable.


The phonetics of the keyword ‘Indirect Method’ is /ɪndɪ’rekt ‘meθəd/.

Key Takeaways

  1. Detailed financial insights: The indirect method, often used in creating cash flow statements, offers a more detailed breakdown of a business’s financial health. It highlights adjustments for depreciation, changes in inventory, and other non-cash items, providing a comprehensive insight into the company’s operations and financial activities.
  2. Real Cash Flow: The indirect method emphasizes the differences between net income and net cash flow from operating activities, that is not visible using the direct method. Thus, it provides a more accurate picture of the actual cash flow within a business.
  3. Standard Accounting Practice: The indirect method is the generally accepted accounting principle (GAAP) for constructing a Statement of Cash Flows as it reconciles net income with the net cash provided by (used in) operating activities. This makes it more regularly used by businesses in comparison to the direct method.


The indirect method is an important business/finance term as it is widely used in preparing the cash flow statement, a critical aspect of a company’s financial health. This method primarily focuses on net income and adjusts it for non-cash expenses, non-cash income, and changes in working capital, providing a detailed picture of how a company’s operations are driving its cash position. Businesses regularly use indirect method for practical reasons as it offers insights into details that the direct method might not reveal, such as depreciation or changes in inventory and accounts payable. Thus, indirect method plays a vital role in business management, financial analysis, and decision making.


The indirect method is primarily utilized in the generation of the statement of cash flows, an essential facet in financial reporting. This method shines a light on the fundamental shifts in a company’s balance sheet figures, demonstrating it in the operating cash flow section. By focusing on net income and scrutinizing it for alterations in non-cash operating activities, it delivers a picture of cash flow that’s derived indirectly. Meaning, it backs into a company’s cash flow figure instead of straightforwardly recording cash inflows and outflows as the direct method does.The main purpose of the indirect method is to uncover and showcase the actual cause and effects of changes in cash flows under operating activities. By starting the process with net income and then executing adjustments for items that influenced net income but did not affect cash, it globally provides the insight a company, investors, and stakeholders require. It serves the critical function of completely revealing how a company’s operations are independently impacting its cash flows, enabling a deeper understanding of the corporation’s financial health over the period.


The Indirect Method, as it relates to business and finance, is a way of preparing the cash flow statement where net income is adjusted for changes in assets and liabilities during a specific period. Here are three real world examples:1. **Manufacturing Company:** In a large manufacturing company like General Motors, the Indirect Method is used to reconcile net income with operating cash flow. This is because operations involve large amounts of financial transactions, from purchasing raw materials to selling finished goods. The company starts with their net income and makes adjustments for depreciation, changes in inventory, and changes in payables and receivables to examine how much cash is generated from operations.2. **Retail Business:** Walmart, a large retail business, utilizes the Indirect Method for its cash flow statement. This method helps Walmart determine changes in cash position by adjusting net income with changes in assets and liabilities. For instance, during the holiday season, when merchandise inventory increases significantly due to higher sales, the company will need to adjust the net income to reflect this change and yield a clearer picture of actual cash flow.3. **Software Company:** Tech enterprises such as Microsoft also use the Indirect Method. They start with net income and adjust for non-cash expenses (like depreciation and amortization of intangible assets) and changes in working capital (accounts receivable, accounts payable, prepaid expenses, accrued expenses, etc.). This adjustment provides a more accurate view of cash flows from the company’s operations, which is essential for stakeholders interested in the company’s ability to generate cash.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Indirect Method in finance?

The Indirect Method, also known as Indirect Cash Flow Method, is a system used in financial accounting to calculate the cash flows from operating activities. It starts with net income and works backward to convert that figure to the total amount of cash flow from operating activities.

How does the Indirect Method work?

The Indirect Method adjusts the Net Income (Profit After Tax) for items that affected reported net income but did not result in actual inflow or outflow of cash. This includes depreciation, changes in working capital, and deferred taxes. The eventual result is the amount of cash that was received or paid during the period.

What is the importance of the Indirect Method?

The Indirect Method is important because it provides insights into differences between net income and net cash provided or used by operating activities. It helps investors and management understand the operating cash flows within a company.

When is the Indirect Method typically used?

The Indirect Method is most commonly used in preparing statements of cash flows, as part of an organization’s financial reports. It is the preferred method by most businesses as it is simpler and less costly to prepare.

Does the Indirect Method only consider cash flow from operating activities?

While the Indirect Method is primarily concerned with cash flow from operating activities, a complete cash flow statement also includes cash flow from investing and financing activities. However, these sections are calculated differently.

What are the limitations of the Indirect Method?

The limitation of the Indirect Method is that it can be somewhat confusing for users to understand, and it does not provide a clear picture of cash receipts and cash payments as they aren’t directly reported. It merely adjusts net income for non-cash transactions.

How does the Indirect Method differ from the Direct Method?

The main difference between these two methods lies in the cash flow from operating activities section. While the Direct Method focuses solely on cash inflow and outflow, the Indirect Method starts with net income and then adds back or deducts non-cash items. However, both methods will arrive at the same total for cash flow from operating activities, assuming they are correctly applied.

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