What Is Days Payable Outstanding: Formula And How To Calculate It?

29 May, 2024
10 mins
Rachelle Fisher, AVP, Digital Transformation

Table of Content

Key Takeaways
What Is Days Payable Outstanding (DPO)?
Formula for Calculating Days Payable Outstanding
How to Calculate Days Payable Outstanding
Why Is Days Payable Outstanding Important?
Factors Influencing Days Payable Outstanding
How to Interpret Days Payable Outstanding?
Days Payable Outstanding Industry Benchmarks
Best Practices for Managing Days Payable Outstanding
Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) vs. Days Payable Outstanding (DPO)
Wrapping Up

Key Takeaways

  • Days Payable Outstanding(DPO) is a metric used to determine the average time it takes a company to clear its suppliers’ invoices.
  • The number of DPO days gives an idea of the company’s cash flow and performance during the calculation period.
  • A high DPO indicates that the company takes longer to pay its suppliers, whereas a low DPO suggests good cash flow.


Effective cash management is essential for the financial health of any business. One way to measure the efficiency of cash management practices is by evaluating specific metrics. A key metric in this area is days payable outstanding (DPO), which measures a company’s efficiency in managing its accounts payable. DPO indicates the average number of days a company takes to pay its suppliers after receiving an invoice. Understanding DPO can help businesses optimize their cash flow, negotiate better payment terms, and maintain strong supplier relationships. 

This blog will dive into the concept of DPO, explain the formula for its calculation, and provide a better understanding of DPO.

What Is Days Payable Outstanding (DPO)?

Days payable outstanding (DPO) is a financial metric that measures the average time a company takes to pay its bills and invoices to suppliers, vendors, or creditors. A higher DPO indicates that a company is taking longer to pay its bills, while a lower DPO indicates that the company is paying its bills more quickly.

Formula for Calculating Days Payable Outstanding

A company’s Days Payable Outstanding days is generally calculated annually. It gives an idea as to how many days the company takes to pay its suppliers. The formula to calculate days payable outstanding is:

Days Payable Outstanding (DPO)= (Account Payable/ Cost of Goods Sold) x Number of Days



  • Accounts Payable: The amount a company owes to its suppliers for purchases made on credit.
  • Cost of Goods Sold (COGS): The direct cost of production of the goods sold by the company.
  • Number of Days: Typically, this is taken as 365 days for a year.

How to Calculate Days Payable Outstanding

Let’s break down the calculation into a step-by-step process.

  1. Determine Accounts Payable:

Accounts payable is found on the company’s balance sheet. It represents the short-term liabilities owed to suppliers.

  1. Determine Cost of Goods Sold (COGS):

COGS is found on the company’s income statement. It includes all direct costs related to the production of goods sold, such as raw materials and labor.

  1. Determine the Time Period:

The number of days in the period is usually a year (365 days) but can be adjusted for shorter periods like a quarter (90 days) or a month (30 days).

  1. Apply the DPO Formula:

Days Payable Outstanding (DPO)= (Account Payable/ Cost of Goods Sold) x 365

 Example Calculation

Let’s assume Company XYZ has the following financial information:

  • Accounts Payable: $500,000
  • COGS: $3,000,000
  • Number of Days: 365

Using the DPO formula:

DPO = (500,000)/3,000,000) x 365

DPO = 0.1667 x 365

DPO = 61

So, Company XYZ takes approximately 61 days on average to pay its suppliers.

Why Is Days Payable Outstanding Important?

It is crucial to track your DPO as it can help you plan your spends and review payment terms.

Maintaining a balanced DPO is essential; both very short and very long DPO periods can negatively impact your business. To ensure healthy cash flow, it’s important to manage the timing of your payments effectively.

1. Cash flow management

Extending the payment period through a higher DPO allows companies to keep cash on hand for longer periods. This retained cash can be used for various purposes:

  • Operational needs: Companies can use the extra cash to cover day-to-day expenses such as payroll, rent, and utilities without needing to dip into reserves or secure additional financing.
  • Investments: The retained cash can be invested in growth opportunities, such as purchasing new equipment, expanding operations, or increasing marketing efforts, which can lead to higher revenues in the long run.
  • Emergencies: Maintaining a higher DPO can serve as a financial buffer, providing liquidity during unforeseen circumstances like economic downturns or sudden drops in sales. This helps ensure the company remains stable and can continue operations without significant disruptions.

2. Supplier relationships

Balancing a high DPO while maintaining good supplier relationships is crucial for long-term success.

  • Negotiation & communication: Clear and open communication with suppliers about payment terms is essential. Explaining your payment schedule and ensuring that suppliers are comfortable with it can prevent misunderstandings and build trust.
  • Flexible terms: Striking a balance by negotiating flexible payment terms that might include early payment discounts or extended terms for bulk orders can benefit both parties.
  • Reliability: Consistently meeting agreed-upon payment terms builds a reputation of reliability. Even if the DPO is relatively high, suppliers will value predictable and on-time payments.
  • Partnerships: Strong relationships with suppliers can lead to better deals, priority service, and more favorable terms, all of which can contribute to the company’s competitive advantage.

3. Financial health indicator

DPO serves as an important metric for assessing a company’s short-term financial health and operational efficiency.

  • Liquidity insight: A higher DPO indicates that a company can hold onto its cash longer, which can be a sign of good liquidity management. However, excessively high DPO might signal potential liquidity issues or strained supplier relations.
  • Operational efficiency: An optimal DPO suggests that the company is efficiently managing its payables. It indicates a well-structured accounts payable process where the company takes advantage of credit terms without compromising its relationships with suppliers.
  • Benchmarking: Comparing DPO against industry standards and competitors helps assess whether a company’s payable practices are in line with or better than the market average. Significant deviations might warrant a review of the company’s payment strategies and practices.
  • Risk management: Monitoring DPO helps in identifying potential risks related to cash flow management and supplier dependency. Companies can take proactive measures to mitigate these risks, ensuring sustainable operations and financial stability.

Factors Influencing Days Payable Outstanding

Several factors can affect days payable outstanding, including:

1. Industry norms: Different industries have varying standards for payment terms. For example, manufacturing companies might have longer DPO due to extended production cycles.

2. Supplier relationships: Companies with strong supplier relationships might negotiate longer payment terms, increasing DPO.

3. Negotiating power: Larger companies often have more negotiating power to extend payment terms.

4. Internal policies: Company policies regarding cash management and payment cycles can significantly influence DPO.

5. Economic conditions: During economic downturns, companies might extend their DPO to conserve cash, while in better times, they might shorten it to maintain good supplier relationships.

How to Interpret Days Payable Outstanding?

DPO is a crucial financial metric for every business. It indicates the average time a company takes to pay its invoices. However, a higher DPO does not necessarily mean better performance, so it is important to interpret DPO effectively.

Generally, a higher DPO means the company retains its cash for extended periods, which can benefit cash flow. However, striking a balance is essential; holding onto cash for too long can strain supplier relationships. An optimal DPO helps a company manage its cash flow effectively. With that in mind, let’s learn how to interpret DPO:

The state of a company’s financial performance is defined basis its DPO days. A high DPO leads to strained relationships with the suppliers whereas a low DPO leads to reduced cash flow.


High DPO interpretation

A high DPO indicates that a company takes longer to pay its suppliers. This can have both positive and negative implications:

  • Advantages:
    • Improved Cash Flow: Retaining cash for a longer period can help a company invest in other operational needs, such as inventory, marketing, or research and development.
    • Better Liquidity: By delaying payments, a company can maintain a higher level of liquid assets, which can be crucial for managing unexpected expenses or taking advantage of business opportunities.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Strained Supplier Relationships: Suppliers may become frustrated with delayed payments, which can lead to deteriorated relationships, less favorable terms in the future, or even the loss of the supplier.
    • Risk of Penalties: Some suppliers may impose late payment penalties, increasing costs.
    • Credit Reputation: Consistently high DPO might signal financial distress to investors and creditors, potentially affecting the company’s credit rating and borrowing costs.

Low DPO interpretation

A low DPO indicates that a company pays its suppliers relatively quickly. This can also have both positive and negative implications:

  • Advantages:
    • Strong Supplier Relationships: Paying suppliers promptly can foster goodwill, leading to better negotiation terms, such as discounts or priority service.
    • Potential Discounts: Some suppliers offer discounts for early payments, which can reduce overall costs.
    • Positive Credit Reputation: Timely payments can enhance the company’s creditworthiness and improve relationships with creditors and investors.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Reduced Cash Flow: Paying suppliers quickly can limit the company’s available cash for other operational needs or investments.
    • Opportunity Cost: The company might miss out on potential investment opportunities that could yield higher returns if it retains cash for a longer period.

Days Payable Outstanding Industry Benchmarks

Interpreting DPO also requires considering industry benchmarks. Different industries have varying norms for payment terms. For example:

  • Retail: Typically has lower DPO due to the fast turnover of inventory and the need for strong supplier relationships.
  • Manufacturing: Often has higher DPO due to longer production cycles and more complex supply chains.
  • Technology: It can vary widely depending on the type of services being offered.

Best Practices for Managing Days Payable Outstanding

Now that you know improving your DPO can help you increase your working capital and free cash flow, let’s learn a few ways to do that.

1. Balance DPO with Supplier Relationships

Maintaining good relationships with suppliers is crucial for the long-term success of a business. When a company extends its DPO, it essentially delays payments to suppliers. While this can improve cash flow, it might strain supplier relationships if not managed properly.

  • Regular communication: Keep an open line of communication with suppliers about your payment policies and any changes in payment schedules. This transparency helps in building trust.
  • Transparency: Clearly explain the reasons behind longer payment terms, whether it’s to manage cash flow better or due to economic conditions.
  • Commitment to agreements: Honor payment terms and agreements to maintain credibility. Suppliers are more likely to be flexible if they trust your reliability.

2. Leverage Technology

Utilizing modern technology can significantly improve the management of accounts payable and optimize DPO.

  • Accounting software: Implement robust accounting software to track invoices, due dates, and payments accurately. This helps prevent missed payments and late fees.
  • ERP systems: Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems can integrate various business processes, providing real-time insights into financial data, improving forecasting, and helping manage payment schedules more effectively.
  • Automation: Automate routine tasks like invoice processing and payment scheduling to reduce errors and increase efficiency. Automation ensures timely payments, optimizing DPO without compromising supplier relationships.

3. Monitor and Adjust

Regularly monitoring and adjusting your DPO ensures it aligns with your business’s financial strategy and cash flow needs.

  • Regular reviews: Conduct monthly or quarterly reviews of your DPO. Analyze how it impacts your cash flow and liquidity.
  • Adjust payment strategies: Based on the reviews, adjust your payment strategies. For instance, if your cash flow improves, consider reducing DPO to strengthen supplier relationships.
  • KPIs: Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to track the efficiency of your accounts payable process. Use these KPIs to make informed decisions about adjusting DPO.

4. Negotiate Terms

Actively negotiating payment terms with suppliers can help achieve a balance that benefits both parties.

  • Understand supplier needs: Recognize that suppliers also have cash flow needs. Negotiating terms that work for both can foster long-term relationships.
  • Flexible terms: Negotiate for flexible payment terms. For example, you might agree on longer terms but with early payment discounts, benefiting both parties.
  • Bulk purchases: Use your purchasing power to negotiate better terms. Larger, bulk purchases might give you more leverage to negotiate extended payment terms.

5. Analyze Industry Benchmarks

Comparing your DPO with industry benchmarks helps you understand your position and identify areas for improvement.

  • Industry standards: Research industry-specific standards for DPO to gauge where your company stands. Industries like retail might have lower DPOs, while manufacturing might have higher ones.
  • Competitive analysis: Analyze the DPOs of your competitors. If your DPO is significantly higher or lower, investigate why and what adjustments might be necessary.
  • Performance improvement: Use benchmark analysis to identify best practices within your industry. Implementing these practices can help optimize your DPO and improve overall financial management.


Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) vs. Days Payable Outstanding (DPO)

Understanding the financial health and efficiency of a business involves examining various key metrics, including Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) and Days Payable Outstanding (DPO). These two metrics provide insights into how effectively a company manages its receivables and payables. 

While DSO measures the average time it takes for a company to collect payment from its customers, DPO gauges the average time it takes to pay its suppliers. Comparing and analyzing these metrics helps businesses optimize their cash flow, maintain good supplier relationships, and ensure overall financial stability.




Example Calculation

Days Sales Outstanding (DSO): The average number of days it takes for a company to collect payment after making a sale

DSO = (Account Receivables÷Total Credit Sales) x 365

  • Total Credit Sales: $500,000
  • Accounts Receivable: $100,000 (amount customers owe to ABC)

(100,000÷500,000) x 365 =73 Days

Days Payable Outstanding (DPO): The average number of days it takes for a company to pay its suppliers after receiving an invoice

DPO = (Account Payables ÷ COGS) x 365

  • Cost of Goods Sold (COGS): $300,000
  • Accounts Payable: $50,000 (amount ABC owes to suppliers)

(50,000÷300,000) x 365 =61 Days


  • DSO (73 days): ABC Manufacturing takes an average of 73 days to collect payment from its customers after making a sale.
  • DPO (61 days): ABC Manufacturing takes an average of 61 days to pay its suppliers after receiving an invoice.

Understanding these metrics helps ABC Manufacturing manage its cash flow efficiently, ensuring it collects receivables promptly while also balancing its payable obligations.

Wrapping Up

Days Payable Outstanding is a crucial metric for understanding a company’s efficiency in managing its payables and overall cash flow. By calculating and analyzing DPO, businesses can gain insights into their financial health, negotiate better payment terms, and optimize their cash management strategies. The key is to strike a balance by building and maintaining solid relationships with suppliers. Regular monitoring and strategic adjustments of DPO can significantly contribute to a company’s operational and financial success.



1. What is the average number of days accounts payable outstanding?

The average number of days accounts payable outstanding (DPO) typically ranges from 30 to 90 days, depending on the industry. For example, a retail company might have a DPO of 45 days, meaning it takes 45 days on average to pay its suppliers.

2. What is a good DPO?

There is no good or bad DPO, but generally, a high DPO suggests effective cash use, while a low DPO may signal issues with vendors. So striking a balance is essential, as holding onto cash for too long can strain supplier relationships.

3. Is high or low DPO good?

A moderate DPO is ideal. For example, a manufacturing company with a DPO of 60 days can improve cash flow. However, it may strain supplier relationships if it rises to 90 days. Conversely, a DPO of 30 days maintains supplier goodwill but tightens cash flow. 

4. What is the DPO ratio?

The DPO ratio measures the average time a company takes to pay its suppliers, calculated as:

DPO = (Accounts Payable ÷ COGS) x Number of Days


Accounts Payable: It is the amount that the company owes to its suppliers

COGS: Cost of goods sold is the total cost of the products/services availed in that particular time. 

Number of Days: The time period during which the DPO is calculated. Generally, it’s calculated on an annual basis. 

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