EBITDA is an acronym for Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization. The value is generally known as operational profit before capital expenditures and tax obligations. EBITDA is frequently used for estimating value of small businesses as the earnings component of the market comparable valuation approach; one of three approaches used to value small business.

Accountants use the net profit and add back certain expenses to determine EBITDA. There are some tricks and nuances to calculating the number. In addition the earnings is also adjusted  for certain benefits paid to owners for smaller business operations. This article explains how EBITDA is derived and how to find those expenses that should be excluded which adjusts EBITDA. This article will first explain the standard formula for EBITDA and the effect each of the adjustments of interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization have on EBITDA. There are two more follow-up articles related to this subject covering a detailed case study and addressing the drawbacks of the formula. Be sure to read both in order to have a comprehensive understanding of EBITDA.

Standard Formula for EBITDA

In order to appreciate the formula the reader should first review a simple profit and loss statement (income statement) for the purpose of being reminded of important points along its structure that are instrumental with the formula.

                         White Diamond Marine Inc.
                                   Income Statement
                   For the Year Ending December 31, 2015
  Sales                                             $797,407
  Service                                            304,291
  Marina Fees                                      64,402
  Sub-Total                                                         $1,166,100
Other                                                                           4,601
Total Revenues                                                    1,170,701

Cost of Sales/Service/Marina:
  Boats                                            $603,492
  Labor                                              163,505
  Equipment                                        22,602
  Parts                                                  75,119
  Repairs                                              23,211
  Sub-Total Costs                                                    887,929

Gross Profit                                                            282,772
  Management                               $110,301
  Office Operations                           27,200
  Facilities                                         14,103
  Communications                              3,711
  Insurance                                          9,615
  Taxes and Licenses                         21,303
  Other                                                 7,137
  Sub-Total Expenses                                               193,370
Operational Profit                                                      89,402
Capital Costs:
  Interest                                          $23,702
  Depreciation                                     6,210
  Amortization                                    4,402
  Sub-Total Capital Costs                                          34,314
Profit                                                                         55,088
Taxes                                                                         23,402
Net Profit                                                                 $31,686

At first glance this income statement (profit and loss statement) appears straight forward. Based on the presentation format it would appear earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization is the operational profit value. All of the items affecting earnings are after operational profit.

This is when accountants ask questions. Nothing is as it first appears.  

Let’s first start in the revenue section. See the line identified as ‘Other’ revenue? Often small businesses include interest earned on short term loans and bank interest in other income. It turns out this business earned $1,310 of interest holding the debt for a used boat during the year. Let’s look at the ‘Interest’ adjustment associated with EBITDA.


An accountant will want to know how the boat costs are derived. Often in dealership accounting, floor plans are used to finance cars and big ticket items. Boats fall into this category. This dealership includes the cost of interest paid on the floor plan into the cost formula. There were 32 deals for a total of $31,204 of interest paid. In a traditional retail operation inventory is financed via vendor accounts therefore there is no interest expense on the income statement. However, with big ticket items interest is generally a result of using outside financing to carry the inventory for extended periods of time. But under normal business financing options interest isn’t used to finance inventory. Therefore the interest included in the cost of sales is added back to the earnings to neutralize the effect it has on the reported amount. EBITDA is adjusted as follows:

EBITDA Without Adjustments:                                  $89,402
Less Interest Earned on Short Term Note                      (1,310)
Add Back Interest Paid on Floor Plan Included in
Costs of Boats Sold                                                       31,204
EBITDA With Interest Adjusted                               $119,296

Several readers are probably still scratching their head in regard to the floor plan interest. Think of the floor plan loan as a working capital loan from a bank whereby each monthly payment is allocated as a cost of carrying that particular boat in the inventory. It this interest were transferred to the ‘Interest’ line under capital costs, cost of sales would be $31,204 lower and operational profit would be $31,204 higher.


I have reviewed over 200 different sets of books among 100 different types of businesses and I never saw taxes handled the same way twice. There are two problems with taxes, the first is a loose interpretation of the term and the second problem is the accounting process.

Let’s first address the term and the best way to interpret taxes with respect to EBITDA.

Here is a list of the various taxes:

  • Federal Income Tax
  • State Income Tax
  • Local Income Tax
  • Personal Property Tax
  • Real Estate Tax
  • Revenue Tax
  • Franchise Tax
  • Transfer Tax
  • Employment Taxes (Social Security/Medicare)
  • Recycling/Tire/Usage Tax

This is a list of taxes most small businesses pay to operate. This doesn’t include the traditional trustee taxes such as sales and meal taxes collected by a business for the benefit of the state or local government. Furthermore, there are other taxes included in traditional bills such as the 911 tax on the cellular bill.

Therefore, the question at hand is what does the word tax mean in the EBITDA acronym?

If you look at the tax list above there are two inherent forms of tax. First are those tied to a form of basis that changes very little from year to year. Personal property and real estate taxes are perfect examples of this formula. The local county values these two assets and may change their value a little from year to year. But in general this basis remains relatively flat from year to year. The same is true for payroll taxes. This form of taxation is across the board for all entities and is tied to payroll. Some of the taxes are flat fees like the franchise tax or the recycling tax.

However the tax tied to overall performance of the business is the ‘T’ in EBITDA. These are your income taxes and transfer taxes. These taxes are controllable based on exterior circumstances and therefore excluded.

Key Business Principle




This raises the question about revenue taxes.

Revenue taxes are a very similar to income taxes and are a very small percentage of the revenue a business reports; the tax is assessed by local governments for a business license. In general they are mandatory and there is no method or offset as with income taxes to reduce the tax. Therefore they indeed are included in determining earnings.

Now let’s shift the focus to how the taxes are recorded. Improper accounting can change the EBITDA value significantly. To illustrate, go back to the income statement and look at the taxes and licenses line. After pulling the detail ledgers, this is the report’s results:

Taxes & Licenses:
   State Franchise Tax                              $250
   State Securities Fee                                  50
   Marine Dealers License                          500
   Marine Dealer Tags                                380
   Local License                                       1,842
   MD Revenue Income Tax (2014)       10,233
   Annapolis Property Tax                           714
   Real Estate Tax (County)                      5,040
   Coast Guard Levy                                    741
   IRS Penalty                                           1,250
   Extension Payment (2014)                       303
Total Taxes and Licenses                                    $21,303

Look closely at the details. Notice the $10,233 for 2014 taxes? The bookkeeper records the actual final tax as reported on the state return as an expense in taxes and licenses. It turns out that the income taxes at the bottom of the report is the estimated amount for 2015. The state income taxes covers two years in the report. Furthermore White Diamond Marine paid $303 for the 2014 extension of the return to the IRS. This should be excluded too. Now review the EBITDA through the letter ‘T’.

EBITDA Adjusted for Interest                              $119,296
Add Back MD Income Tax for 2014                         10,233
Add Back IRS Extension Payment                                 303
EBITDA Adjusted Through the Letter ‘T’             $129,832


For readers not familiar with depreciation, it is encouraged that you to read the following articles:

Depreciation is a methodical allocation of a capital investment in tangible assets or real estate (land is excluded). Since a capital investment is a function of financing via debt or equity it is excluded as an operational expense in the earnings calculation.

Most businesses generate a single line for depreciation on the income statement. However, sometimes management separates depreciation into that which is general in business operations and the amount utilized by the respective profit centers.

Go back and look at White Diamond’s revenue and cost of sales section. Notice the three distinct profit centers? They are:

  1. Sale of Boats – Consisting of one line of revenue and the inventory costs of those boats including floor plan interest. Commissions paid to salesmen is a function of labor costs.
  2. Service Department – Service fees and the costs include labor and parts.
  3. Marina Fees – Marina fees consist of two sources, one is rental income also known as slip fees and extraction/insertion fees (lifting and setting of boats out/in the water using a heavy lift crane, boat crane system).   The costs associated with this piece of equipment is included in the equipment line and there are repair costs to maintain the docks. White Diamond Marine depreciates the boat crane as a cost to that work center. Of the $22,602 of equipment costs, $9,457 is depreciation.

This is an example of a functional income statement and not the traditional presentation format. This $9,457 of depreciation is an expense included in the original stated operational profit. Continuing with the adjustment schedule:

    EBITDA Adjusted for Interest/Taxes:                             $129,832
    Depreciation Adjustment                                                       9,457
    EBITDA Adjusted for Interest/Taxes/Depreciation:       $139,289


Amortization is similar to depreciation except the expense allocation is for intangible assets. These include financial costs, organizational costs, training and some legal work. With White Diamond Marine they fully exclude amortization expense from the determining operational profit and presented this information in the capital costs section.

Be careful though, similar to depreciation some businesses will allocate out amortization to cost of sales. The prudent step as a seller is to identify this. As a buyer, you may not want to ask.

Summary – EBITDA

The following is a schedule illustrating all the adjustments to the original operating profit.

  Operating Profit                                                   $89,402
     Less Interest Revenue                                         (1,310)
     Add Interest Expense in COS-Boats                  31,204
    Add MD Income Tax 2014 Paid                          10,233
    Add Extension Payment to IRS                                303
    Add Equipment Depreciation                                9,457
  EBITDA                                                             $139,289

This is almost a $50,000 difference over the initial operational profit as reported. If this Marina were for sale and the multiplier is a three (under the Discretionary Income Method of Valuation), the negotiated price between the two values is $150,000 ($50,000 * 3).

Any businessperson wants to adjust operational profit to the correct EBITDA; it is important to understand the formula and how EBITDA is calculated. More importantly, sophisticated entrepreneurs realize that small businesses do not follow strict rules or universally accepted standards (GAAP) to report income. A reader of information must ask questions to gain a high level of confidence that the derived EBITDA is accurate. Act on Knowledge.

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