Managerial accountants define residual income as the amount of operating revenues left over from a department or investment center after the cost of capital used to generate the revenues have been paid. In other words, it’s the net operating income of a department or investment center. You can also think of it as the amount that a department’s profits exceed its minimum required return.


When most hear the term residual income, they think of excess cash or disposable income. Although that definition is correct in the scope of personal finance, in terms of equity valuation residual income is the income generated by a firm after accounting for the true cost of its capital. You might be asking, "but don't companies already account for their cost of capital in their interest expense?" Yes and no. Interest expense on the income statement only accounts for a firm's cost of its debt, ignoring its cost of equity, such as dividends payouts and other equity costs. Looking at the cost of equity another way, think of it as the shareholders' opportunity cost, or the required rate of return. The residual income model attempts to adjust a firm's future earnings estimates, to compensate for the equity cost and place a more accurate value to a firm. Although the return to equity holders is not a legal requirement like the return to bondholders, in order to attract investors firms must compensate them for the investment risk exposure.
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Managerial accounting defines residual income in a corporate setting as the amount of leftover operating profit after all costs of capital used to generate the revenues have been paid. It is also considered the company's net operating income or the amount of profit that exceed its required rate of return. Residual income is normally used to assess the performance of a capital investment, team, department or business unit.
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