Beware of decimals in Microsoft SQL Server

Every year, we adjust prices for services according to the inflation rate and some business requirements. This year we have got new requirements to increase and round the prices according to specific business rules. We use Microsoft SQL Server and the prices are stored there. To update prices we should implement SQL script. Nothing fancy, except after executing the SQL script update customers started to complain about strange price changes. It turned out that SQL Server decimal type behaves totally unobvious. I would like to share our unexpected findings.

people shocked


For me, as C# developer decimal type is always associated with financial calculations. This is clearly written here:

Decimal value type is appropriate for financial calculations that require large numbers of significant integral and fractional digits and no round-off errors — Microsoft Learn

So it was obvious to choose decimal for the price change task. Let’s see the SQL function we have implemented to adjust and round. It increases the prices to 10% and then round depending on the currency.

create function dbo.AdjustAndRound(@currency varchar(max), @price decimal)
  returns decimal as
  if @currency = 'EUR'
    return round(@price * 1.10, 2);
  return floor(@price * 1.10);

As a result, Expected column is what we expected to get, Actual column is what customers actually have got.

|Currency |Price |Expected | Actual |
|EUR      |0.4   |0.4400   | 0      |
|EUR      |1.2   |1.3200   | 1      |
|EUR      |1.6   |1.7600   | 2      |
|DKK      |59.2  |65.0000  | 64     |
|DKK      |59.6  |65.0000  | 66     |

Nice price adjustment especially for those customers who received 0 price :) But, how come?

It turned out decimal is an alias for decimal(18,0) where 0 is the number of decimal digits that are stored to the right of the decimal point. Meaning, a provided value will be rounded to the nearest integer. Well, it was not expected, especially after C#. Good job SQL Server team confusing people. I double-checked decimal type on PostgreSQL, and it works as expected.

To sum up the problem, the following SQL query will return 100 in SQL Server and 99.50 in PostgreSQL. 100 is not what I would expect.

select cast(99.50 as decimal);


decimal type has 2 arguments in Microsoft SQL Server and basically in any other database engines, including PostgreSQL:

  • precision - the maximum total number of decimal digits to be stored.
  • scale - the number of decimal digits that are stored to the right of the decimal point.

However, that arguments are optional and have default values: precision = 18, scale = 0. For me, this was a really strange choice having scale = 0 as default, making decimal to behave like int.

Knowing this, there is an easy fix is to explicitly provide the required scale so the AdjustAndRound function will look like this:

create function dbo.AdjustAndRound(@currency varchar(max), @price decimal(10,4))
  returns decimal(10,4) as
  if @currency = 'EUR'
    return round(@price * 1.10, 2);
  return floor(@price * 1.10);

And now it works as expected.


  • Never use decimal type without explicit arguments in Microsoft SQL Server.
  • Ask your teammate to solve
    select iif(cast(0.1 + 0.2 as decimal) = 0, 'true', 'false')
  • Play with this issue on db<>fiddle without installing SQL Server: here and there.
  • See a similar issue on StackOverflow.