How To Create Subtraction Formula in Excel (With Steps)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 8, 2022

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Knowing how to use Excel is an important workplace skill. One Excel skill that professionals may need to know is how to create and apply subtraction formulas to complete specific calculations. Learning about subtraction formulas and how to create them in your spreadsheet may help you perform specific and accurate calculations. In this article, we explain what subtraction formulas are, describe when you might use them and outline the process for how to create subtraction formulas in Excel for different purposes.

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What is a subtraction formula in Excel?

A subtraction formula is a formula that users apply to perform specific calculations in the program. Since the program doesn't include any embedded functions to perform subtractions, users need to apply formulas manually to perform these tasks. The formula for performing subtractions depends on what type of subtraction the user wishes to conduct. For example, users input a different formula to subtract two values than they would to subtract a cell range from a single value. Knowing which formula to use based on the output goal allows the user to apply the right formula to fulfill their needs.

Why would you use a subtraction formula in Excel?

Users apply subtraction formulas when they need to subtract two or more values. Although users can enter equations into the program to perform simple subtractions, such as subtracting one value from another, they may also use it to complete more complex calculations. For example, if you're working in a spreadsheet that contains extensive amounts of data, you may use specific formulas to indicate a range cell values to include in the calculation. This allows you the flexibility to perform calculations for specified values to arrive at figures that fit your needs.

As an example, a human resources professional might use a spreadsheet to track employee payroll data. In this spreadsheet, they might use a subtraction formula to subtract withholdings and deductions from each employee's base pay to calculate their net salary for each pay period. If the company has many employees and different employees have different deductions, the HR professional may apply a specialized subtraction formula that automatically performs the correct calculations for each specified value. Using this formula makes the calculation efficient and accurate, and knowing how to create formulas allows professionals to apply them flexibly to suit their objectives.

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How to create a subtraction formula in Excel

There are several methods for performing subtractions that serve different purposes in Excel. Here are some different methods for conducting subtractions in Excel:

How to subtract values

To subtract values in the program, use the subtraction equation. The subtraction equation in the program is:


Here are the steps for how to apply this formula:

  1. Click on the cell in which you want the calculation to appear.

  2. Type in the equation with the values you want the program to subtract.

  3. Press the "enter" key to complete the calculation.

Additionally, you can subtract multiple values at a time by including them in the equation. For example, if you wanted to subtract 10 and 20 from a value of 100, use this formula:


How to subtract cell values

To subtract values entered in existing cells, use cell references in the subtraction formula. Here's the formula for subtracting cell values:


For example, to subtract a value in cell C5 from cell A1, use this formula:


You can either input the formula by clicking the cell in which you want the answer to appear and typing in the cell references manually, or you can add the formula by selecting the correct cells. Here are the steps for performing the calculation using the cell selection method:

  1. Click the cell where you want the result to appear and type the equals sign.

  2. Select the cell containing the number from which you want to subtract another value. The program automatically adds the cell reference to the formula.

  3. Type the minus sign.

  4. Click the cell containing the value you want to subtract from the first value.

  5. Press "enter" to complete the calculation, or type another minus sign and pick another cell to add more values to the formula.

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How to subtract columns

Users can also subtract values from two columns using the subtraction formula. For example, this is what the formula would look like to subtract a value in column B from column A for a single row:


Using this method only allows you to apply the formula in a single row. Here are the steps for applying the formula to multiple rows:

  1. Click on the topmost cell in which you want the calculation to appear.

  2. Enter the subtraction formula for the row's corresponding columns. Press the "enter" key.

  3. Click on the cell where you performed the calculation and drag your cursor down to copy the formula into each cell of the column. The program automatically applies the formula for the whole column.

How to subtract a percentage from a number

If you need to subtract a specified percentage from a number, use the following formula:


For example, if you wanted to subtract 25% from a value listed in cell A7, use this equation:


Here are the steps for performing this calculation:

  1. Click the cell in which you want the answer to appear.

  2. Type the equals sign and either enter the formula manually or click the cell containing the value from which you want to make the subtraction. If you click the cell to add the reference to the equation, finish typing the formula manually.

  3. Press the "enter" key to have the program perform the calculation.

Related: Basic Excel Formulas and How To Use Them

How to subtract dates

There are two methods to subtract dates in the program. Here are the steps for the first method:

  1. Enter two different dates in two columns.

  2. Click the cell in which you want the result to appear.

  3. Enter the cell value subtraction formula and press the "enter" key to perform the calculation.

The second method is to use the DATE or DATEVALUE functions to enter the formulas. Here's an example equation to subtract using the DATE function:

=DATE (2021, 5, 16)-DATE (2020, 9, 10)

Here's an example of how the equation looks using the DATEVALUE function:

=DATEVALUE ("5/16/2021")-DATEVALUE ("9/10/2020")

How to subtract values across several worksheets

Knowing how to subtract values across several worksheets in the program allows you to work with numbers in different tabs. For example, if you wanted to subtract a value entered in cell B7 in the second sheet from cell C12 in the first sheet, you would use this formula:


Here are the steps for how to subtract values across worksheets:

  1. Choose a cell in which you want the answer to appear.

  2. Type the equals sign and either click on the cells you want to use for the subtraction or manually type them using the formula.

  3. Press the "enter" key to have the program automatically perform the calculation.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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