Residual income is calculated as net income less a charge for the cost of capital. The charge is known as the equity charge and is calculated as the value of equity capital multiplied by the cost of equity or the required rate of return on equity. Given the opportunity cost of equity, a company can have positive net income but negative residual income.

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The best illustration for this principle is a residential property investment: you renovate a multi-family residence, then collect rent every month. Royalties from creative works (books, films, music recordings) are also a form of residual income. Finally, entrepreneurship comes with a host of residual income-generating opportunities. Say you take after Richard Branson, create 400 companies assign a CEO to each, then let the dollars roll in. Or you create a co-op with professionals in your field, who leverage their results by compensating you for your initial investment in them. Finally, the online world is chockfull of residual income opportunities—but more on that in a separate section below.
Managerial accounting defines residual income in a corporate setting as the amount of leftover operating profit after all costs of capital used to generate the revenues have been paid. It is also considered the company's net operating income or the amount of profit that exceed its required rate of return. Residual income is normally used to assess the performance of a capital investment, team, department or business unit.