Capital Goods – Definition

Cite this article as:"Capital Goods – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated September 17, 2019, last accessed September 26, 2020,


Capital Goods Definition

Capital goods are the assets that can be seen and touched, and help a firm in manufacturing goods and services that are further used by another firm as inputs or resources for manufacturing consumer goods. In other words, they are tangible assets like building, equipment, machinery, etc. that a business firm utilizes in order to manufacture goods and services that another firm uses as an input for manufacturing its final goods and services for consumers. Companies manufacturing automobiles, vehicles, machinery, equipment, etc. fall under the capital goods industry. The products of these companies help other companies in production, shipping, and delivery process.

A firm uses capital goods such as building, equipment, automobiles, etc. in order to manufacture products and services. The ultimate objective of firms using capital goods is to produce consumer goods. Many firms such as Boeing, Caterpillar and Lockheed Martin manufacture capital goods for other company’s use.

A Little More on What is a Capital Good

If a firm is unable to make use of its capital goods within a year of manufacturing, it cannot include them in the business expense deduction category for the year they purchased them. Rather, these goods need to be depreciated throughout their life. Also, firms can claim a portion of tax deductions for the years these goods are put to use. Firms use many accounting methods like depreciation, depletion, amortization, etc. in order to ascertain the depreciated or amortized amounts of these goods.

Capital goods as Tax Deductions

Every capital good or asset experiences a reduction in its overall value every year throughout the course of its life. Amortization makes an alignment with the yearly costs associated with the asset and the revenue generated by it throughout its life. Depletion refers to an accounting method that firms use for allocating the costs of resources used by them.

Firms usually ascertain the amount of depletion of capital goods by employing either cost depletion or percentage depletion method. In order to make deductions from the cost of standing timber, it is important for taxpayers to consider using the cost depletion technique. They need to ascertain the total number of recoverable units, and the number of units that were sold in the taxation period. On the other side, percentage depletion determines the ratio of material costs and the gross income earned by the firm during a specific period of time.

Types of Capital Goods

Capital goods don’t always revolve around fixed assets like machinery, equipment, building, etc. The electronics sector offers a mountain of devices that serve the purpose of capital goods for others. Such devices vary from tin wire assemblies to high-resolution digital imaging systems.

Service sector also makes a big use of capital goods. For instance, hair stylists using hair clips or hair pins, painters using paint on walls, musicians using musical instruments like guitar, all come under the category of capital goods used by service providers.

Core capital goods refer to a category of capital goods that doesn’t include aircraft and items manufactured for the Defense Department such as guns, rifles, army uniforms, etc. The Census Bureau issues a monthly Advance Report on Durable Goods Orders, and it covers information on purchases made on core capital goods which are also called core capex. This data helps in identifying the firms that are planning to grow in the near future. Durable goods are the items that are expected to be used for a period of minimum three years.

Reference for “Capital Goods” › Investing › Financial Analysis › Investing › US Economy › Supply › Economics help blog › Glossary Terms

Academics research on “Capital Goods”

Trade in capital goods, Eaton, J., & Kortum, S. (2001). Trade in capital goods. European Economic Review45(7), 1195-1235. Innovative activity is highly concentrated in a handful of advanced countries. These same countries are also the major exporters of capital goods to the rest of the world. We develop a model of trade in capital goods to assess its role spreading the benefits of technological advances. Applying the model to data on production and bilateral trade in capital equipment, we estimate the barriers to trade in equipment. These estimates imply substantial differences in equipment prices across countries. We attribute about 25% of cross-country productivity differences to variation in the relative price of equipment, about half of which we ascribe to barriers to trade in equipment.

High profit strategies in mature capital goods industries: A contingency approach, Hambrick, D. C. (1983). High profit strategies in mature capital goods industries: A contingency approach. Academy of Management journal26(4), 687-707. High profit and low profit strategic “gestalts” in two different types of mature capital goods industries are examined. Multiple avenues to high profits are found within both types, but they differ between the two types in ways that can be reconciled with industry characteristics. Cluster analysis emerges as a promising technique for strategy research.

Capital goods imports and long-run growth, Lee, J. W. (1995). Capital goods imports and long-run growth. Journal of development economics48(1), 91-110. This paper presents an endogenous growth model of an open economy in which the growth rate of income is higher if foreign capital goods are used relatively more than domestic capital goods for the production of capital stock. Empirical results, using cross country data for the period 1960–1985, confirm that the ratio of imported to domestically produced capital goods in the composition of investment has a significant positive effect on per capita income growth rates across countries, in particular, in developing countries. Hence, the composition of investment in addition to the volume of total capital accumulation is highlighted as an important determinant of economic growth.

Equilibrium dynamics with heterogeneous capital goods, Hahn, F. H. (1966). Equilibrium dynamics with heterogeneous capital goods. The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 633-646.

Investment tax incentives, prices, and the supply of capital goods, Goolsbee, A. (1998). Investment tax incentives, prices, and the supply of capital goods. The Quarterly Journal of Economics113(1), 121-148. Using data on the prices of capital goods, this paper shows that much of the benefit of investment tax incentives does not go to investing firms but rather to capital suppliers through higher prices. A 10 percent investment tax credit increases equipment prices 3.5–7.0 percent. This lasts several years and is largest for assets with large order backlogs or low import competition. Capital goods workers’ wages rise, too. Instrumental variables estimates of the short-run supply elasticity are around 1 and can explain the traditionally small estimates of investment demand elasticities. In absolute value, the demand elasticity implied here exceeds 1.

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