What Is the Internal Rate of Return (IRR)?

What Is the Internal Rate of Return (IRR)?

By Charles Joseph | Editor, Financial Affairs
Reviewed by Corey Michael | Senior Financial Analyst

The Internal Rate of Return (IRR) is a financial metric usually used by firms to decide if they should make a certain investment. IRR is the percentage rate at which a specific set of cash flows—outflows first, followed by inflows—would result in a net present value of zero. In other words, it represents the discount rate that makes the net present value (NPV) of all cash flows (both positive and negative) from a project or investment equal to zero. Typically, if an investment’s IRR is greater than the required rate of return, the investment is considered a good choice, and vice versa.

Related Questions

1. How is IRR calculated?

The formula for IRR is quite complex as it involves using trial and error to derive the rate. In financial calculators or spreadsheets like Excel, the calculation is simplified using the inbuilt IRR function. You input all the cash flows including the initial investment and net cash flow for each period, and the software will compute the IRR.

2. What is the difference between the internal rate of return (IRR) and the return on investment (ROI)?

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While both IRR and ROI help in assessing the profitability of investments, they are generally used in different ways. ROI gives the total return on an investment expressed as a percentage of the cost of the investment, while IRR considers the time value of money and is calculated as the interest rate that makes the net present value of all cash flows equal to zero.

3. Is a higher IRR always better?

Essentially, a higher IRR is generally better as it means a higher return on investment. However, it’s worth noting that IRR should not be the sole determining factor for investments, as it does not consider important aspects like overall project scale or investment risk.

4. How do companies use IRR in decision making?

Companies often use IRR when deciding to embark on capital projects. If the IRR of a new project exceeds the company’s required rate of return, that project will most likely be undertaken. Conversely, if the IRR is less than the required rate of return, the project may be rejected.

5. What is a good IRR for a company?

This largely depends on factors such as the industry, the risk level of the project, and the company’s hurdle rate. Generally, if the IRR exceeds the company’s required return or hurdle rate, it can be considered a good IRR.