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Return on Total Capital

Assessing a business' use of its capital structure

What is Return on Total Capital?

Return on Total Capital (ROTC) is a return on investment ratio that quantifies how much return a company has generated through the use of its capital structure. This ratio is different from return on common equity (ROCE) as the former quantifies the return a company has made on its common equity investment. The ROCE figure can be misleading as it does not take into account a company’s use of debt. A company that employs a large amount of debt in its capital structure would have a high ROCE, which can be a misleading metric to look at.


Return on Total Capital


ROTC gives a fairer assessment of the company’s use of funds to finance its projects and functions better as an overall profitability metric. Thus, the ratio is immune from artificial inflation induced by a capital structure that employs a significantly higher amount of debt capital than equity capital, or a significantly lower amount of debt capital than equity capital.

Return on Total Capital can be used to evaluate how well the company’s management has utilized its capital structure to generate value for both equity and debt holders. Thus, it can be said that ROTC is a better measure to assess management’s abilities than the ROCE ratio since the latter only monitors management’s use of common equity capital.


How to Calculate Return on Total Capital

Return on Total Capital can be calculated using the formula below:


Return on Total Capital - Formula
Expressed as a percentage



Earnings Before Interest & Taxes (EBIT) – Represents profit that the business has realized, without the inclusion of interest or tax payments

Total Capital – Refers to the business’ total available capital, calculated as Total Capital = Short Term Debt + Long Term Debt + Shareholder’s Equity

In the case that a business had no liabilities outside of its short-term debt, long-term debt and total equity, return on total capital would be virtually identical to the return on assets (ROA) ratio. It is because the business’ capital structure would make up the entirety of the business’ liability section on its balance sheet, which would be equal to the business’ total assets (Assets = Liabilities + Equity).

While ROA is also a useful profitability metric, it takes a more reactive approach to computing the business’ use of capital. It is because ROA measures the value a business is able to generate based on the assets that it employs, rather than capital allocation decisions.


Return on Total Capital Example

Mark’s Doughnuts wants to assess how well it has deployed its capital structure by calculating the ROTC of the business for the past few years. Below are the business’ financial statements for the past few years:


Return on Total Capital Example - IS
From CFI’s Income Statement Template


Return on Total Capital Example - BS
From CFI’s Balance Sheet Template


The red boxes highlight the important information that we will need to calculate ROTC, namely EBIT and the capital structure. Using the formula provided above, we arrive at the following figures:


Return on Total Capital Example - Ans


In such as case, we see that ROTC more than tripled from 2015 to 2017, which may be an indication that the company is making good use of its capital structure, and is pursuing NPV-positive projects.


Additional Resources

Thank you for reading this article! CFI offers the Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst (FMVA)™ certification program for those looking to take their careers to the next level. To learn more about related topics, check out the following resources:

  • How to Calculate Debt Service Coverage Ratio
  • Current Portion of Long-Term Debt
  • Defensive Interval Ratio
  • ROAS (Return on Ad Spend)

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