Amortization vs Depreciation: What’s the Difference?

what is amortization in accounting

Amortizing debt simply mean its repayment, where the type refers to the method of repayment. It keeps track of the rate at which the debtor pays both the interest and the principal, which together make up an installment (the total payment made towards the debt balance). Amortization can be found both on a company’s Income Statement and on the Cash Flow Statement. While separate terms, depreciation, and amortization are usually coupled as they are both considered non-cash expenses.


Enterprises with an economic interest in mineral property or standing timber may recognize depletion expenses against those assets as they are used. Depletion can be calculated on a cost or percentage basis, and businesses generally must use whichever provides the larger deduction for tax purposes. The IRS has schedules that dictate the total number of years in which to expense tangible and intangible assets for tax purposes.

Amortization of Intangible Assets

In order to avoid owing more money later, it is important to avoid over-borrowing and to pay off your debts as quickly as possible. Accountants use amortization to spread out the costs of an asset over the useful lifetime of that asset. Suppose a company purchases a patent for 50,000 with a useful life of 5 years. The company should not show it as a one-time charge; instead, it should spread the cost over its life and expense off by 10,000 per year.

Depreciation Methods

Amortization is an important concept because it is helpful for keeping track of payments and debt balances as well as valuing intangible assets, and for investors looking to understand a company’s financials better. Many must create a repayment plan to pay off their mortgages, which is covered below. This is especially true when comparing depreciation to the amortization of a loan. Almost all intangible assets are amortized over their useful life using the straight-line method. This means the same amount of amortization expense is recognized each year.

  1. By definition, depreciation is only applicable to physical, tangible assets subject to having their costs allocated over their useful lives.
  2. Depletion can be calculated on a cost or percentage basis, and businesses generally must use whichever provides the larger deduction for tax purposes.
  3. This method, also known as the reducing balance method, applies an amortization rate on the remaining book value to calculate the declining value of expenses.
  4. The sum-of-the-years digits method is an example of depreciation in which a tangible asset like a vehicle undergoes an accelerated method of depreciation.
  5. Amortized loans feature a level payment over their lives, which helps individuals budget their cash flows over the long term.

Example with Accumulated Amortization Account

Amortizing intangible assets is also important because it can reduce a company’s taxable income and therefore its tax liability, while giving investors a better understanding of the company’s true earnings. Amortization is a technique of gradually reducing an account balance over time. When amortizing loans, a gradually escalating portion of the monthly debt payment is applied to the principal. When amortizing intangible assets, amortization is similar to depreciation, where a fixed percentage of an asset’s book value is reduced each month.

In the first month, $75 of the $664.03 monthly payment goes to interest. Working Note – The difference of 20,000 will be treated as Goodwill of the business and written off annually for the next 10 years. Amortization is an important concept not just to economists, but to any company figuring out its balance sheet.

It is the concept of incrementally charging the cost (i.e., the expenditure required to acquire the asset) of an asset to expense over the asset’s useful life. Of the different options mentioned above, a company often has the option of accelerating depreciation. This means more depreciation expense is recognized earlier in an asset’s useful life as that asset may be used heavier when it is newest. Negative amortization is when the size of a debt increases with each payment, even if you pay on time. This happens because the interest on the loan is greater than the amount of each payment. Negative amortization is particularly dangerous with credit cards, whose interest rates can be as high as 20% or even 30%.

It should be noted that if an intangible asset is deemed to have an indefinite life, then that asset is not amortized. Amortization in accounting is a technique that is used to gradually write-down the cost of an intangible asset over its expected period of use or, in other words, useful life. Amortization and depreciation are the two main methods of calculating the value of these assets, with the key difference between the two methods involving the type of asset being expensed. There are also differences in the methods allowed, components of the calculations, and how they are presented on financial statements. Whether it is a company vehicle, goodwill, corporate headquarters, or a patent, that asset may provide benefit to the company over time as opposed to just in the period it is acquired.

A loan amortization schedule represents the complete table of periodic loan payments, showing the amount of principal and interest that comprise each level payment until the loan is paid off at the end of its term. A higher percentage of the flat monthly payment goes toward interest early in the loan, but with each subsequent payment, a greater percentage of it goes toward the loan’s principal. First, amortization is used in the process of paying off debt through regular principal and interest payments over time. An amortization schedule is used to reduce the current balance on a loan—for example, a mortgage or a car loan—through installment payments. Ensure that amortization expense is accurately recorded by reviewing the intangible asset’s useful life and estimated salvage value.

In this example imagine the company finds that it will depreciate $5,000 each year and it has a residual value of $15,000. For the past 52 years, Harold Averkamp (CPA, MBA) has worked as an accounting supervisor, manager, consultant, university instructor, and innovator in teaching accounting transaction analysis and accounting equation what is transaction analysis video and lesson transcript online. A patent is a legal right provided by the government to the inventor or the owner of an invention (if a patent is sold). This gives the owner the exclusive right to make, use, and sell their invention. No one can copy or use the invention without the patent owner’s permission.

The annual journal entry is a debit of $10,000 to the amortization expense account and a credit of $10,000 to the accumulated amortization account. Although, many intangible assets do have a definite useful life, but are required to be expensed within 15 years regardless. While most intangible assets by far are subject to this regulation, there are a few exceptions.

what is amortization in accounting

The Accumulated Amortization account acts as a running total of the amount of the asset’s cost written off over time. Another catch is that businesses cannot selectively apply amortization to present value of an ordinary annuity table goodwill arising from just specific acquisitions. A greater portion of earlier payments go toward paying off interest while a greater portion of later payments go toward the principal debt.

Goodwill in accounting refers to the intangible value of a business that is above and beyond its tangible assets, such as equipment or inventory. It represents the reputation, customer base, and other non-physical assets contributing to the business’s value. However, like other assets, patents also lose their value over time as they can be obsolete, expire, etc.

Depreciation applies to expenses incurred for the purchase of assets with useful lives greater than one year. A percentage of the purchase price is deducted over the course of the asset’s useful life. For example, capitalization is the action of amortizing or depreciating an asset or expense over a period of time other than when the expense took place. This expense is found both on the Income Statement and the Cash Flow Statement.

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