Bijal Gandhi
In this article, Bijal Gandhi (ESSEC Business School, Master in Management, 2019-2022) explains briefly the meaning of Depreciation.
This reading will help you understand the concept of depreciation, its main components and types with examples.

What is depreciation?

Depreciation is the accounting technique of dividing the total cost of a physical asset over its useful life period. The amount allocated is the value of the asset used up in that particular financial year. Depreciation is used by companies to spread the cost of an asset over time. This method eliminates the cost burden in one particular year. If not for depreciation, the company’s profits would seriously be affected in the year of purchase.

Depreciation for long-term assets may also be practiced by companies for tax benefits in a particular year. The reduction in taxable income can be achieved through tax deduction for the cost of an asset. Note that there are standard rules regarding the accounting practices of depreciation and firms cannot do what they want.

Types of depreciable assets

The guidelines for the types of assets to be depreciated is set by Internal revenue service (IRS) in the U.S. The following criteria are to be met with,
• The asset should be owned by the company.
• The asset should be used in the business to generate income.
• The life of the asset is determinable and is more than a year.
The most common examples of depreciable assets include plant and machinery, equipment, furniture, computers, software, land and vehicles.

Components of a depreciation schedule

A depreciation schedule is a detailed document that comprises of the information pertaining to depreciation for each asset owned by the company. It generally includes the following,
• Description and purchase price of asset
• Date of purchase and expected useful life.
• Depreciation method and salvage value.

Depreciation types with examples

Depreciation can be carried in several ways. The company can use any one of the four depreciation methods highlighted by Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) guidelines. GAAP is the set of rules and guidelines that are to be adhered to by accountants. The four methods for depreciation include the following,

Straight-line depreciation

Straight-line is one of the simplest methods of depreciation. In this method, the value of the asset is split evenly over the useful life of the asset. The value of the asset is calculated by subtracting the salvage value (scrap value) from the original cost incurred to purchase the asset. For example, if an equipment is bought for 10,000 euros, with a useful life of 10 years and a salvage value of 1,000 euros, the depreciation is computed as follows:

Depreciation per year= (asset cost – salvage value) / useful life
= (10,000-1,000) / 10
= 900 euros per year.
Therefore, 900 euros will be written off each year for 10 years.

Declining balance depreciation

The declining balance method of depreciation is an accelerated version of the straight-line method. Instead of an equal amount of depreciation for each year of useful life, unequal amounts depending upon the use are written off. In this method, more of the assets value is depreciated in the initial years than afterwards. This method is practiced by businesses who wish to recover maximum value upfront. For example, the equipment bought for 10,000 euros with a useful life of 10 years and salvage value of 1,000 will be depreciated by 20% each year,

For first year, the depreciable amount will be (9,000*20%) = 1,800 euros
For second year, the depreciable amount will be ((9,000-1,800) *20%) = 1,440 euros and so on.

Sum-of-the-years’ digits depreciation

This method serves a similar purpose as the declining balance method. It allows to depreciate more in the initial years as compared to the later years. It is a bit more even in terms of distribution per year as compared to the declining balance method.

The formula is as follows,
 (Remaining life in years / SYD) x (asset cost – salvage value)
Where, SYD is the sum of the years of the asset’s useful life. SYD for an asset with a useful life of 4 years is equal to 11, which we get from (1 + 2 + 3 + 4).

Units of Production Depreciation

A simple way to depreciate would be to quantify an asset’s use every year. For example, an equipment can be depreciated in proportion to the units produced. This is exactly what the units of production method of depreciation works.

The formula is as follows,
Depreciation: (asset cost – salvage value) / units produced in useful life.
The number will vary each year, depending upon the use of the asset.

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About the author

Article written in May 2021 by Bijal Gandhi (ESSEC Business School, Master in Management, 2019-2022).

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