The definition of DPO and its calculation

A company’s survival needs to have a clear grasp of its cash flow. To better manage outflows, it is crucial to monitor the days payable outstanding (DPO). It’s the typical timeframe within which a firm pays its vendors after receiving invoices. Everything you need to know about DPO, including pros, examples, and how to calculate and use it, is in this overview.

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What does DPO define?

The average number of days it takes a company to pay its trade creditors, such as suppliers, vendors, or financiers, is measured by a metric called days payable outstanding (DPO). This ratio, which is typically calculated once a year, shows how well a business controls its cash outflows.

If the firm has a DPO that is significantly higher than average, this might mean that it is having trouble paying its bills on time, which could put its relationships with its suppliers at risk.

A high DPO may serve as an early warning sign of a business’ incapacity to meet its payment obligations promptly. In contrast, a higher DPO value can suggest that it will take longer for the company to pay its invoices, which means it may hold on to cash for a longer period, giving it more time to decide how best to put that funds to use. An organization with a large DPO might put off payments and thereby improve its working capital and free cash flow.

DPO’s determination

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To create a saleable good, a company needs access to resources like raw materials, utilities, and so on. The amount that a firm owes its suppliers for goods and services that were purchased on credit is shown in the accounts payable ledger entry.

Payment for utilities like electricity and wages is also a cost associated with manufacturing the marketable output. The cost of goods sold (COGS) reveals how much it costs a business to buy or produce the things it subsequently sells. Both statistics represent cash outflows and are used to calculate DPO.

The standard number of days in a year is 365, whereas the standard number of days in a quarter is 90. The estimate takes into consideration the company’s average daily cost of manufacturing a salable product. The numerator figure shows outstanding payments. The net factor is the typical time it takes for a firm to make good on its debts after receiving payment.

Two different DPO formulas are in use, one of which is based on which accounting methods are preferred. In the variant, such as “at the end of the fiscal year or quarter ending Sept. 30”, the accounts payable (AP) amount is considered the total recorded after the accounting period. This version represents the DPO value as of the date specified.

In another variant, the DPO value is determined by averaging the AP values at the start and finish of a certain time interval. Both versions have the same COGS.

The formula for DPO

You can calculate days payable outstanding with the following simple formula:

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DPO = (AP x Number of Days) / COGS = Beginning Inventory + P – Ending Inventory,


  • AP indicates Accounts Payable.
  • COGS stands for Cost of Goods Sold.
  • P means purchases.
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What services does DPO offer?

In most circumstances, a firm buys commodities, utilities, and other necessary services on credit. An essential accounting item demonstrates an organization’s dedication to satisfying its short-term responsibilities to creditors and suppliers. Aside from the actual monetary amount to be paid, the timeliness of the payments — from the day the bill is received until the cash leaves the company’s account — becomes a crucial component of the business. DPO seeks to measure the average time cycle for external payments and is determined by applying standard accounting statistics throughout a period.

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Firms with a high DPO may prioritize short-term expenditures that boost working capital and free cash flow (FCF). But higher DPO values are not always preferable for a business. The longer the company takes to pay its debts, the more likely its suppliers and creditors will be to deny future trade credit or to grant it under less favorable conditions. The business may lose out on discounts on timely payments if it had any, and pay more.

A company’s outflow length may need to be matched with its inflow. Imagine an organization that gives its customers 90 days to pay for their purchases but only 30 days to pay its vendors and suppliers. Because of this mismatch, the organization will constantly confront financial constraints.

Note! A high DPO might mean a corporation is either spending well or struggling to pay its creditors.

Important information to remember

Values for the typical DPO might differ by as much as two orders of magnitude for different businesses. Instead, a company’s management will compare its DPO to the industry standard to evaluate whether it is paying its vendors too quickly or too slowly. The DPO value of a specific organization can change a lot from one year to the next, from one company to the next, and from one industry to the next, depending on global and local factors like the overall health of the economy, the locality, and the sector, as well as any seasonal effects.

The cash conversion cycle (CCC), which measures how long it takes for a company to turn its resource inputs into cash flows from sales, also includes the DPO value as a key input. While DPO focuses on the business’s current outstanding payables, the superset CCC keeps track of the whole cash time cycle as funds turn into inventory, expenses, and accounts due, then sales and accounts receivable, and finally back into cash in hand when received.

DPO example

The cost of goods sold (accounts payable) totaled $420.3 billion, and accounts payable were $49.1 billion for Walmart’s (WMT fiscal) year that ended January 31, 2021. You may find these figures in the company’s annual balance sheet and income statement.

Walmart’s DPO is [(49.1 x 365) / 420.1] = 42.7 days if we use a year’s worth of data (a full 365 days). For comparison, Microsoft (MSFT) had an equivalent of $2.8 billion in AP and $41.3 billion in COGS for a DPO of 24.7 days.

Based on information from the fiscal year that ends in 2021, Walmart paid its bills an average of 43 days after receiving them, while it took Microsoft about 25 days.

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If you compare these values with Amazon (AMZN), which had an AP of $72.5 billion and COGS of $233.3 billion for the fiscal year 2020, you can see a DPO of 113.4 days. This high value is tied to Amazon’s business approach, which sees third-party merchants supply nearly 50% of its sales. After a customer purchases an item from a third-party seller in the Amazon marketplace, the latter immediately gets cash in its bank account.

Although it collects money from buyers, it may not pay sellers right away. Instead, Amazon may do so on a weekly or monthly basis or based on some other criterion. Thanks to this method of operation, the marketplace can hold on to the cash for a longer period, which generates a significantly higher DPO for the industry leader.

DPO’s limitations

Days payable outstanding (DPO) is a useful metric for comparing the health of different businesses, although it varies widely by industry, market position, and bargaining power. Large companies have more power in negotiations, so they can usually get better deals from their suppliers and debtors. This makes their DPO numbers lower.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s answer a few questions that are usually asked by those who have just started to study DPO.

In accounting, what does DPO mean?

The number of days a company takes to pay its creditors, vendors, or suppliers is quantified by a metric called days of payment outstanding. The DPO may give some recommendations for increasing a firm’s cash flow, such as changes to the way it invests its cash on hand or controls its cash flow. The metric is assessed once a quarter or once per year.

How do you calculate DPO?

Days payable outstanding is calculated using the following formula:

DPO = Accounts Payable X Number of Days / Cost of Goods Sold.

Accounts Payable (AP) is the money that a company owes to vendors for goods and services that were bought on credit. Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) is defined as beginning inventory plus purchases minus ending inventory.

In what ways do DPOs differ from DSOs?

The number of days an organization takes to pay its bills is expressed in a metric called “days payable outstanding” (DPO). A high DPO could be seen as a sign that the company is not managing its free cash flow well or that it is using its cash on hand to build up more working capital.

Days sales outstanding (DSO) measures how long it typically takes for a firm to receive payment for sales made. When the DSO is high, it means the business is waiting a long time to get paid for goods or services provided on credit.

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