Non-Recurring Expenses

What are Non-Recurring Expenses?

Non-recurring expenses are irregular costs a business incurs and records on its balance sheet. They’re typically one-off or infrequent and arise from events outside normal business operations. They don’t affect long-term profit margins, and analysts leave them out of earnings per share (EPS) calculations.

Examples of non-recurring expenses include:

  • Restructuring costs
  • Legal fees
  • Emergency costs
  • Impairments (write-downs / write-offs)
  • Gains or losses on an asset sale
  • Purchasing a new office building or manufacturing facility
  • Equipment and vehicle purchases
  • Severance pay (after companywide layoffs)
  • Repair costs after a natural disaster

Unlike recurring expenses — which happen regularly and are predictable — non-recurring expenses are unpredictable. They don’t happen on a regular schedule.


  • Non-recurring charges
  • Non-recurring expenses on financial statements

Recurring vs. Non-Recurring Expenses

Recurring Expenses Defined

If you have a Netflix subscription or pay rent every month, you’re already familiar with this concept. A recurring expense is a regular, unavoidable cost that repeats at regular intervals. They’re typically the essential costs a business needs to cover to maintain its daily operations.

Examples of recurring expenses include:

  • Wages and salaries
  • Rent (for office and retail space)
  • Utilities
  • Marketing expenses
  • Professional services, like marketing agencies and accounting firms
  • Software subscriptions and managed services
  • Inventory costs
  • Loan payments

Since these expenses are consistent and predictable, financial planning, budgeting, and forecasting cash flows is a lot easier and more accurate when they’re isolated. They’re directly tied to financial stability (you can’t operate without them). So a company’s ability to manage them is critical for long-term profitability and growth.

Non-Recurring Expenses Defined

As mentioned above, non-recurring expenses are irregular costs that arise outside normal business operations. They’re either one-time expenses or they don’t happen on a regular schedule.

The importance of identifying and understanding non-recurring items lies in their impact on a company’s financial analysis. Since they aren’t part of the company’s future long-term profitability, analysts normally adjust their analyses to exclude these items to accurately visualize a company’s ongoing performance. They also exclude them from earnings per share (EPS) calculations.

Accounting for Non-Recurring Expenses on Financial Statements

Under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), recurring and non-recurring expenses are categorized differently on financial reports.

Accounting for Recurring Expenses

  • On the income statement, they’re (usually) indirect costs
  • On the balance sheet, they’re liabilities
  • On the cash flow statement, they’re operating activities

Accounting for Non-Recurring Expenses

  • On the income statement, they’re indirect costs
  • On the balance sheet, they’re short-term liabilities
  • On the cash flow statement, they’re operating, investing, or financing activities

Budgeting for Non-Recurring Expenses

Recurring expenses are fixed. The comprise the majority of your operating expenses, so they’re relatively easy to budget for. The only way they’ll change is if the company doesn’t need those services anymore, reduces their dependence on them, or finds a new provider.

You might, for example, start shopping around for new suppliers if your current one raises the cost of an item by 30%. When you find a less expensive one, you’d consider the cost savings as additional profit for the business.

Budgeting for recurring expenses is as simple as…

  1. Identifying and listing them
  2. Using historical data
  3. Negotiating with vendors and suppliers
  4. Adjusting for inflation and price changes
  5. Setting aside funds

Non-recurring expenses are quite different. You can’t predict or anticipate extraordinary items like emergency repairs. So, 100% accurate budgeting is next to impossible.

For instance, you might spend $15,000 in attorney fees and legal costs to patent a new software product. Even though it won’t affect you long-term, it’s still a critical part of your financial plan because it has an immediate, short-term impact on that month’s revenue. 

The budgeting process is a little different.

  1. Pinpoint known and potential non-recurring expenses
  2. Create a contingency fund (using a portion of your total budget)
  3. Use conservative estimates and a flexible approach
  4. Prioritize spending for essential vs. non-essential non-recurring expenses

Impact of Non-Recurring Expenses on Financial Ratios

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Effects

Non-recurring costs, if they’re large enough, significantly impact financial ratios. Understanding their potential short- and long-term impacts is crucial for accurate financial analysis and decision-making.

Short-term effects of a non-recurring expense include:

  1. Earnings impact. Non-recurring expenses can temporarily reduce net income, impacting your net profit margin, return on assets (ROA), and return on equity (ROE).
  2. Liquidity ratios. Expenses like large one-time purchases and legal settlements deplete cash reserves. This impacts your current ratio and quick ratio.
  3. Debt ratios. If non-recurring expenses are financed through debt, this could increase the company’s leverage, reflected in higher debt-to-equity and debt-to-asset ratios.
  4. Operational ratios. In periods with high-cost, infrequent items, ratios like gross margin, operating margin, and EBITDA margin will take a hit.

The most significant long-term implications are:

  1. Post-expense improvement or loss. If the non-recurring expense was an investment (like technology upgrades), it could improve efficiency and profitability in the long term, positively affecting ratios like ROA and ROE. Of course, the inverse is also true.
  2. Balance sheet adjustments. Non-recurring expenses that lead to asset write-downs affect your long-term solvency ratios.
  3. Distortion on YoY comparisons. Once the expense’s effect normalizes over subsequent periods, your ratios should reflect true operational performance. When you’re looking from one year to the next, you won’t see this yet.

How Investors and Analysts Interpret Non-Recurring Expenses

Companies generally report non-recurring expenses separately to help investors and analysts understand their impact without distorting their view of operational performance. Analysts might also adjust financial ratios to exclude non-recurring items to gauge the company’s ongoing operational performance more accurately.

Investors and VCs — or, in the case of a public company, the market — sometimes react to non-recurring expenses depending on their nature and perceived impact on future company performance.

They might view strategic investments positively if they understand the rationale behind them. If it seems like the spending is a sign of poor management or wastefulness, investors might lose confidence.

Importance for Investors

For investors, non-recurring expenses play a critical role in assessing a company’s financial health and future potential. They initially throw off the company’s financial ratios, making it appear less profitable than it actually is. So, investors need to discern and isolate these one-time costs before developing thoughts about the company’s health.

They look at the following when making that discernment:

  1. Adjusted financial ratios, which exclude non-recurring expenses, to grasp the true operational performance of a company.
  2. Notes to financial statements that provide detailed information about the nature of non-recurring expenses.
  3. Cash flow statement insights into how non-recurring expenses were funded and their impact on a company’s liquidity.
  4. YoY performance to compare current-year performance with past periods that didn’t include non-recurring expenses.

Some non-recurring expenses, like legal settlements or restructuring costs, may raise concerns about underlying risks in the business model or management. For example, litigation expenses might be more common in pharmaceuticals due to patent disputes. So, investors also apply contextual knowledge when evaluating these expenses on a case-by-case basis.

The bottom line is: Companies can improve investor confidence through transparent reporting and open communication with stakeholders (who may or may not have a say in company decision-making). Consistent reporting over time is a positive sign for investors because it shows transparency and reliability in financial reporting.

People Also Ask

What is an example of a non-recurring expense?

An example of a non-recurring expense would be a company’s legal fees for settling a lawsuit. This expense is not expected to occur again in the future. And it isn’t part of the company’s regular operating expenses.

What does non-recurring mean on an income statement?

A non-recurring gain or loss on an income statement represents a one-off or infrequent item that is non-operational in nature. It does not reflect the company’s ongoing performance and should be viewed separately from regular operating expenses. It’s excluded from earnings per share (EPS) calculations.