Capital Maintenance

Capital maintenance refers to the accounting concept of maintaining the purchasing power or real value of an entity’s capital or investment over time. It involves the preservation of the initial investment amount, ensuring that it remains intact despite changes in the value of money due to inflation, deflation, or changes in the overall economic environment. The concept of capital maintenance is crucial in financial management as it provides a framework for measuring the financial performance and profitability of an organization accurately.


The underlying principle of capital maintenance is geared towards the preservation of an entity’s capital base in real terms. While financial statements are primarily prepared to report financial performance, their significance lies in reflecting the changes in the capital amount over time. Capital maintenance ensures that the capital invested at the beginning of a period is not eroded or diminished due to factors such as inflation.

There are two main approaches to capital maintenance: financial capital maintenance and physical capital maintenance.

1. Financial Capital Maintenance:

Financial capital maintenance emphasizes the preservation of the nominal or monetary amount of an entity’s capital. Under this approach, the focus is on ensuring that the financial capital at the end of a period is at least equal to the financial capital at the beginning of the period. This means that any gains or losses due to inflation are not considered relevant, as long as the nominal amount of the capital is maintained.

2. Physical Capital Maintenance:

Physical capital maintenance, on the other hand, concentrates on preserving the physical productive capacity or the operating capability of an entity. It requires the maintenance of the real value of the capital invested, taking into account the effects of inflation. In this approach, any gains or losses resulting from changes in the general price level are considered significant in determining the true economic performance of the entity.

The selection of the appropriate capital maintenance concept depends on various factors, including the nature of the entity’s operations, the stability of the economic environment, and the user’s information needs. Most frequently, financial capital maintenance is used as it provides a simpler and more practical framework for financial reporting purposes.

Capital maintenance is closely related to the concept of profit determination. To compute an accurate measure of profit, entities need to consider the impact of inflation or deflation on the capital amount. The concept of capital maintenance helps ensure that reported profits are not distorted by changes in the value of money over time.

Maintaining the real value of capital is important for both investors and creditors. Investors are concerned with the long-term growth and profitability of their investments, while creditors seek assurance that the entity’s ability to repay debts is not compromised due to erosion in its capital. Capital maintenance facilitates effective decision-making by providing a true and fair view of an entity’s financial position and performance.

In conclusion, capital maintenance is a fundamental concept in financial accounting that aims to preserve the real value of an entity’s capital over time. It encompasses the idea of maintaining the purchasing power of the capital invested, considering the impact of inflation or deflation. By adopting appropriate capital maintenance methods, entities can accurately assess their financial performance and ensure transparency in financial reporting.

This glossary is made for freelancers and owners of small businesses. If you are looking for exact definitions you can find them in accounting textbooks.

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