What Is Depreciation and How Does It Work?

Depreciation is an accounting method for allocating the cost of a tangible or physical asset over its usable life or expected life. Depreciation is a term used to describe how much of an asset's worth has been used. Depreciating assets allows businesses to generate revenue while depreciating a percentage of the asset's cost each year it is in use. Depreciation can have a significant impact on a company's profitability if it is not taken into consideration. Long-term investments can also be depreciated for tax and accounting purposes.

important takeaways

  • The cost of using a tangible item is tied to the benefit gained over its useful life through depreciation.
  • Depreciation can take numerous forms, including straight-line and other types of accelerated depreciation.
  • The total depreciation reported on an asset up to a certain date is referred to as accumulated depreciation.
  • On the balance sheet, an asset's carrying value is its past cost minus all accrued depreciation.
  • Salvage value refers to an asset's carrying value after all depreciation has been deducted.

Depreciation: An Overview

Machinery and equipment, for example, are costly assets. Companies can use depreciation to stretch out the cost of an asset and produce revenue instead of realizing the complete cost in the first year. This is accomplished through depreciation, which allows a business to write off the value of an item over time, most notably its usable life. It can be used to account for changes in the carrying value over time, which is the difference between the original cost and the years' cumulative depreciation.

Depreciation is taken on a regular basis so that the asset's cost can be transferred from the balance sheet to the income statement.

 When a corporation purchases an asset, it records the transaction as a debit on the balance sheet to increase an asset account and a credit on the balance sheet to lower cash (or increase accounts payable). Neither journal entry has an impact on the income statement, which reports revenues and expenses.

  • An accountant records depreciation for all capitalized assets that have not been fully depreciated at the end of each accounting period. The following are the components of a journal entry:
  • credit to accumulated depreciation, which is recorded on the balance sheet, debit to depreciation expense, which flows through to the income statement

As previously stated, firms can use depreciation for both tax and accounting objectives. This implies they can deduct the cost of the item from their income, lowering their taxable income. However, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), while depreciating assets, businesses must spread the cost out over time. The IRS also provides guidelines for when businesses can deduct expenses.

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Particular Points to Consider

Because depreciation does not represent a cash outflow, it is classified as a non-cash expense. When an asset is purchased, the entire cash outlay may be paid at once, but the expense is recorded progressively for financial reporting purposes. This is due to the fact that assets provide long-term value to the organization. Depreciation expenses, on the other hand, diminish a company's earnings, which is beneficial for tax purposes.4

The matching principle is an accrual accounting concept that states that expenses must be matched to the same period that the relevant revenue is earned. Depreciation is a method of tying an asset's cost to the benefit of its use over time. In other words, the asset is used each year and generates revenue, as well as the increased expense associated with its utilization.

The depreciation rate is a percentage that represents the total amount of money depreciated each year. For example, if a company's total depreciation throughout the asset's estimated life was $100,000 and the yearly depreciation was $15,000, the total depreciation would be $100,000. This indicates that the annual rate would be 15%.

Threshold Amounts

Different companies may determine their own depreciation thresholds for fixed assets, such as property, plant, and equipment (PP&E). A small business, for example, might set a $500 threshold for depreciating an asset. A larger corporation, on the other hand, may set a $10,000 threshold below which all purchases are expensed immediately.

Accumulated Depreciation

Because accumulated depreciation is a contra asset account, its natural balance is a credit that lowers the net asset value (NAV). The total depreciation of a specific asset up to a certain point in its life is known as accumulated depreciation.

Carrying value, as previously established, is the sum of the asset account and accrued depreciation. The salvage value is the carrying value that remains on the balance sheet after all depreciation has been taken into account until the asset is sold or disposed of.

It is based on the amount of money a corporation anticipates to obtain in exchange for an asset when it reaches the end of its useful life. The anticipated salvage value of an asset is a significant factor in determining depreciation.

Depreciation Types


The straight-line technique of depreciating assets is the most basic method of recording depreciation. It records the same amount of depreciation expense each year for the duration of the asset's useful life until the asset is depreciated to its salvage value. 5

Assume that a $5,000 machine is purchased by a firm. The corporation decides on a $1,000 salvage value and a five-year useful life. The depreciable amount is $4,000 ($5,000 cost - $1,000 salvage value) based on these estimates.

The straight-line technique calculates annual depreciation by dividing the depreciable amount by the total number of years. It comes to $800 each year ($4,000 x 5) in this situation. This results in a 20 percent depreciation rate ($800 $4,000).

Declining Balance

The decreasing balance technique is a depreciation method that accelerates the rate of depreciation. This method depreciates the machine each year by multiplying the straight-line depreciation percentage by the remaining depreciable amount. Because the carrying value of an asset is higher in earlier years, the same percentage results in a higher depreciation expense in early years, which decreases each year. 6

Using the straight-line example above, the machine costs $5,000, has a salvage value of $1,000, a five-year life, and is depreciated at 20% annually, therefore the first year's expense is $800 ($4,000 depreciable amount x 20%), the second year's expense is $640 (($4,000 - $800) x 20%), and so on.

Double Declining Balance (DDB)

Another accelerated depreciation method is the double-declining balance (DDB). This rate is applied to the depreciable base, book value, for the duration of the asset's estimated life after twice the reciprocal of the asset's useful life.

An asset with a five-year useful life, for example, would have a reciprocal value of 1/5, or 20%. Depreciation is applied to the asset's current book value at twice the rate, or 40%. Because the rate is multiplied by a smaller depreciable base for each period, the dollar value will fall over time even if the rate remains constant.

Sum-of-the-Year's-Digits (SYD)

Accelerated depreciation is also possible with the sum-of-the-year's-digits (SYD) approach. To begin, add all of the asset's expected life digits together.

For example, a five-year asset's base would be the sum of the numbers one through five, or 1+ 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 = 15. The first depreciation year would depreciate 5/15 of the depreciable base. Only 4/15 of the depreciable base would be depreciated in the second year. This process continues until the remaining 1/15 of the base is depreciated in year five.

Units of Production

This method necessitates a prediction of how many total units an asset will create throughout the course of its useful life. The annual depreciation expense is then computed depending on the number of units manufactured. Depreciation expenses are also calculated using this method depending on the depreciable amount.

Depreciation Example

If a corporation spends $50,000 on equipment, it can either expense the entire cost in the first year or write off the asset's value during the asset's 10-year useful life. This is why depreciation is popular among business owners. The majority of business owners choose to merely expense a portion of the cost, which increases net income.

The corporation can also scrap the equipment for $10,000 when it reaches the end of its useful life, giving it a $10,000 salvage value. Depreciation expense is calculated as the difference between the asset's cost and its salvage value, divided by the asset's useful life, using these variables. In this case, the calculation is ($50,000 - $10,000) x 10. Depreciation expenses total $4,000 per year as a result of this.

As a result, even if the corporation paid out $50,000 in cash, the company's accountant does not have to expense the entire $50,000 in year one. Instead, the corporation will simply have to deduct $4,000 from net profits. The corporation spends $4,000 the following year, $4,000 the year after that, and so on until the asset's salvage value reaches $10,000 in ten years.

What Causes Assets to Depreciate?

Newer assets are usually worth more than older ones. Depreciation is the rate at which an asset loses value over time, either directly via wear and tear or indirectly through the introduction of new product models and factors such as inflation.

For tax purposes, how are assets depreciated?

When individuals talk about accounting depreciation, they usually mean depreciation. This is the process of allocating an asset's cost throughout the term of its useful life to match expenses and income-generating.

Depreciation on assets is deductible as a business expense under IRS standards, thus businesses establish accounting depreciation schedules with tax benefits in mind.

Simple straight-line depreciation plans to accelerated or per-unit measurements are all options.

What Is the Difference Between Depreciation and Amortization?

Only tangible assets or property are subject to depreciation. Amortization is a financial word that refers to the gradual depreciation of intangible assets like intellectual property or commercial real estate loan interest.

Depreciation Expense vs. Accumulated Depreciation: What's the Difference?

The primary distinction between depreciation expense and accumulated depreciation is that one is presented as an expense on the income statement, while the other is reported as a counter asset on the balance sheet.

Both refer to the deterioration of equipment, machinery, or another asset and assist in determining its true value, which is crucial when calculating year-end tax deductions and valuing assets when a firm is sold.

Although all of these depreciation entries should appear on year-end and quarterly reports, depreciation cost is the more typical of the two due to its use in tax deductions and capacity to reduce a company's tax burden. Accumulated depreciation is typically used to estimate an item's lifetime or to track depreciation over time.

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