11 1 Identifying and Accounting for Intangible Assets Financial Accounting

intangible assets balance sheet

Tangible assets, on the other hand, have a physical shape, which means they can be handled and grasped. Tangible assets, such as property, equipment, and inventory, are among the main assets that a company holds. The $1 billion asset would then be written off over a number of years via amortization. Indefinite life intangible assets, such as goodwill, are not amortized. Rather, these assets are assessed each year for impairment, which is when the carrying value exceeds the asset’s fair value. They have a physical form, which means they can be held and manipulated.

Unfortunately, any alternative number that can be put forth to replace historical cost also has its own set of problems. At the present time, authoritative accounting literature holds that historical cost is the appropriate basis for reporting intangibles. According to the IFRS, intangible assets are non-monetary assets without physical substance. Like all assets, https://www.online-accounting.net/what-is-a-pro-forma-financial-statement/ intangible assets are expected to generate economic returns for the company in the future. As a long-term asset, this expectation extends for more than one year or one operating cycle. Overall, both tangible and intangible assets are important components of a company’s balance sheet, and their value contributes to the overall net worth of the company.

intangible assets balance sheet

For example, if a business pays a graphic artist to design a logo for it, then the artist’s fee can be recorded as an intangible asset. If the logo had been designed in-house by a staff person, it would not be possible to record an asset. While PP&E is depreciated, intangible assets are amortized (except for goodwill).

Examples of intangible assets

When intangible assets do have an identifiable value and lifespan, they appear on a company’s balance sheet as long-term assets valued according to their purchase prices and amortization schedules. Efforts are being made to address these challenges and improve the consistency and comparability of intangible asset reporting. Standardized methodologies and increased transparency in reporting practices can enhance the reliability and usefulness of information related to intangible assets. Lastly, goodwill is an intangible asset that arises from business acquisitions. It represents the premium paid to acquire a company beyond its net tangible assets.

Companies are required to disclose relevant information about their intangible assets in the notes to the financial statements. This includes details about the nature of the assets, their useful lives or amortization periods, methods used to determine fair value, and any restrictions on the use of the assets. At the end of the first year, the copyright appears on the balance sheet of the automobile company as $750,000, the remainder of its historical cost.


Any intangible asset acquired by an enterprise as a result of a business combination can be valued reliably. It is an identifiable non-monetary asset that has no physical existence. It is a resource held by a company due to a past event(patent creation by research), and an economic benefit in the future is expected from it.

  1. The purchasing company records the premium paid as an intangible asset on its balance sheet.
  2. Amortization of an intangible for tax purposes implies that it will be amortized over a specific number of years irrespective of actual useful life.
  3. For several reasons, governments at all levels may choose to provide financial assistance to companies that engage in certain activities.
  4. College accounting textbooks such as this one tend to focus on general rules rather than delve into the specifics of accounting as it applies to a particular industry.
  5. If a reliable amortization method cannot be determined, the straight-line method will be used to amortize the asset.

While tangible assets such as buildings, equipment, and inventory are easily recognizable and accounted for on a balance sheet, there is another category of assets that often goes unnoticed – intangible assets. These assets, though lacking a physical presence, can be equally if not more valuable to a company’s success. Historical cost for copyrights and other similar intangibles typically includes attorney fees as well as any money spent for legal filings and registration with the appropriate authorities. Subsequently, such intangible assets are sometimes the subject of lawsuits if other parties assert claims to the same ideas and creations. The cost of a successful defense is also capitalized and then amortized over the shorter of the remaining legal life or the estimated useful life. For example, copyrights extend for seventy years beyond the creator’s life.

Advantages of Not Capitalizing Intangible Assets

The company went from holding a copyright to play this music in its commercials for an expected four years to a copyright that will only be used for three more years. Most intangible assets appear as long-term assets on corporate balance sheets. The value is determined based on the purchase or acquisition price along with their amortization schedules. Some intangible assets, such as goodwill, don’t appear on corporate balance sheets. Intangible assets are typically nonphysical assets used over the long-term. Proper valuation and accounting of intangible assets are often problematic, due in large part to how intangible assets are handled.

Acquired intangibles (such as the copyright for this song) often have lives legally limited by the contractual agreement. However, the true useful how to find the best tax preparer for you life of most intangibles is generally only a small number of years. Few intangibles manage to help a company generate revenues for decades.

This means that any intangible assets listed on a balance sheet were most likely gained as part of the acquisition of another business, or they were purchased outright as individual assets. Since intangible assets have no shape or form, they cannot be held or manipulated. Common types of intangible assets include brands, goodwill, and intellectual property. Businesses have several ways to value these assets, which can be challenging because they have no shape or form. They are in contrast to tangible assets, which have physical forms and can be held. Even though fair value accounting seems quite appealing to many decision makers, accountants have proceeded slowly because of potential concerns.

The initial measurement of an intangible asset will be made on its cost. Financial securities, such as stocks and bonds, are also considered tangible assets even though they can’t be held. Government grants may be in the form of a specific grant that includes specific requirements/stipulations such as employment levels or pollution control levels. If these stipulations are not met, then the grants may need to be refunded by the company.

Valuation of Intangible Assets

Amortization of an intangible for tax purposes implies that it will be amortized over a specific number of years irrespective of actual useful life. The pattern of amortization should be self-explanatory of how a company gets to benefit from the item. If a reliable amortization method cannot be determined, the straight-line method will be used to amortize the asset. The subsequent measurement of an intangible asset differs based on the classification under the useful life of an asset.

Another common form of valuation is by comparing it to the cost of a replacement. For example, a business may create a mailing list of clients or establish a patent. If a business creates an intangible asset, it can write off the expenses from the process, such as filing the patent application, hiring a lawyer, and paying other related costs. Intangible assets can also include internet domain names, service contracts, computer software, blueprints, manuscripts, joint ventures, medical records, and permits. Brand equity is an intangible asset since the value of a brand is determined by the perception of the company’s customers and is not a physical asset. The rise in the value and importance of intangible assets might well be the biggest change experienced in the reporting of businesses over the last ten to twenty years.

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