Difference between Authorized, Issued, and Paid-up Capital

In the corporate world, understanding the financial lingo is crucial not just for professionals, but for investors, shareholders, and other stakeholders. One of the most commonly misunderstood areas is the different types of share capital a company might refer to in its financial statements. This article delves into the distinction between authorized, issued, and paid-up capital.

Introduction to Share Capital

At its core, share capital refers to the total amount that a company is authorized to raise from its shareholders in exchange for shares. It’s the backbone of a company’s financial structure and acts as a significant source of funds. The categories of share capital – authorized, issued, and paid-up – provide insights into a company’s fundraising activities and its financial health.

What is Authorized Capital?

Definition: Authorized capital, often referred to as the nominal or registered capital, is the maximum amount of share capital that a company is authorized to issue to shareholders.


  • It sets an upper limit.
  • It can be changed by altering the company’s articles of association, typically requiring approval from shareholders.
  • The company pays a fee to the government based on its authorized capital.

What is Issued Capital?

Definition: Issued capital refers to the portion of the authorized capital which a company offers to its investors during public offerings or other forms of capital raising.


  • It can never exceed the authorized capital.
  • Not all authorized shares need to be issued.
  • Shares can be issued at par, premium, or discount.

What is Paid-up Capital?

Definition: Paid-up capital is the amount of money a company has actually received from shareholders in exchange for shares. It represents the portion of the issued capital that investors have fully paid.


  • It can never exceed the issued capital.
  • Represents actual cash infusion.
  • Shares can remain partly paid up if all the money hasn’t been received for them.

Key Differences & Interplay Between Them

  • Limits & Boundaries: Authorized capital sets the uppermost limit. Issued capital works within this boundary, and paid-up capital is within the confines of the issued capital.
  • Change Flexibility: Changing the authorized capital requires alteration of the articles of association and possibly regulatory approvals. However, the difference between issued and paid-up capital can be modified based on company decisions and shareholder actions.
  • Financial Health Indicator: A significant gap between issued and paid-up capital could indicate a reluctance or inability of shareholders to pay up, possibly highlighting financial or trust issues.

Importance for Stakeholders

Understanding these terms is vital for various stakeholders:

  • Shareholders: Gives an idea about the company’s potential to raise more capital and its financial robustness.
  • Investors: Aids in gauging the company’s financial strategies, future fundraising possibilities, and the existing trust of shareholders in the company.
  • Creditors: A low paid-up capital can raise red flags about a company’s liquidity and its ability to meet short-term obligations.


The nuances between authorized, issued, and paid-up capital offer a window into a company’s financial strategies and strength. While they might seem like just numbers or financial jargon, they play a pivotal role in shaping a company’s operations, its future growth strategies, and its interactions with shareholders and investors.

Understanding these differences not only offers clarity to those within the corporate sector but also ensures that investors and other stakeholders can make informed decisions based on a company’s financial status and potential.

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