Fixed Assets

Commonly listed on the balance sheet as property, plant and equipment (PP&E), fixed assets are tangible items that companies own and use in their business operations for long-term financial benefits.

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What are fixed assets?

Fixed assets are physical or tangible items that a company owns and uses in its business operations to provide services and goods to its customers and help drive income. These assets, which are often equipment or property, provide the owner long-term financial benefits. It is expected that a business will keep and use fixed assets for a minimum of one year. The value of fixed assets decline as they are used and age (except for land), so they can be depreciated. At the end of their lifecycle, fixed assets are often converted into cash.

When a business acquires a fixed asset, it is recorded on the balance sheet - usually as property, plant and equipment (PP&E). Fixed assets are initially capitalized on a company’s balance sheet, and then periodically depreciated. Depreciation is found on the balance sheet, cash flow statement, and income statement.

It is not uncommon for a business to lease fixed assets. While the business does not own that asset, leased assets act as fixed assets. Under ASC 842, the recent lease accounting standard issued by Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), a lessee must record assets and liabilities for leases with lease terms of more than 12 months.

What are examples of fixed assets?

Common examples of fixed assets include:

  • Computer equipment
  • Vehicles
  • Machinery
  • Tools
  • Land
  • Buildings
  • Furniture

Intellectual property, like patents, copyrights and trademarks, can also be considered fixed assets. While they are not physical assets, they are intended to help generate revenue.

When classifying fixed assets, what may be considered a fixed asset for Company A might not be a fixed asset for Company B. For example, a tractor supply company would classify the tractors as inventory. A commercial farmer would classify them as fixed assets.

Therefore, when classifying and calculating fixed assets, take into account the type of business in which the client operates.

How do you calculate fixed assets?

Determining the actual value of fixed assets can be achieved by calculating the net fixed assets. This is a metric that takes the purchase price of the fixed assets (as well as any improvements) and deducts the accumulated depreciation to obtain the true value. Below is a formula for determining net fixed assets:

Formula A: Gross fixed assets — accumulated depreciation = net fixed assets

To determine how much of the net assets the client actually owns, consider an alternative formula that eliminates the fixed asset liabilities (debts and financial obligations the company owes on those assets).

Formula B: (Total fixed asset purchase price + improvements to the assets) — (accumulated depreciation + fixed asset liabilities) = net fixed assets.

Why are fixed assets important?

Fixed assets are important for several reasons. They can:

  • Help a company provide services, goods to customers, and generate revenue;

  • Educate creditors and investors on the financial health of a company; and

  • Indicate that a business may be in a high-growth mode.

What is the difference between fixed assets and current assets?

Both fixed and current assets are reported on the balance sheet. These are the differences between them:

  • Fixed assets are a type of non-current assets that are depreciable and illiquid. When a fixed asset is sold, it is capital profit or loss for the company. It is expected that a business will keep and use fixed assets for at least one year (often referred to as its “useful life”).

  • Current assets are liquid and include such items as inventory, cash, and cash equivalents. When a current asset is sold, it is a revenue profit or loss for the company. Current assets are not depreciable and are shorter term, meaning less than one year.

What is the lifecycle of fixed assets?

The fixed asset lifecycle is a series of stages that starts with the client acquiring an asset and ends when they dispose of that asset. The lifecycle includes four key stages:

  1. Acquisition: This is the first stage of the lifecycle. Purchasing a fixed asset, like new machinery, is obviously a common way to obtain a fixed asset. However, some clients may use internal workers to build their assets. In this case, take into consideration how much of the workers’ salary to include in the cost of the asset.
  2. Depreciation: During the second stage, the value of fixed assets, like machinery and office equipment, decline as they are used and age (except for land). This means fixed assets can be depreciated. An asset’s useful life, the salvage value, and depreciation method (i.e., straight-line, declining balance, units of production, or sum-of-the-years’ digits) are factors to consider when calculating depreciation.
  3. Maintenance and repairs: After some time of use, most fixed assets will need repairs and maintenance. Consider whether to capitalize or expense the work, especially if it is extensive and boosts the asset’s value.
  4. Disposal: This is the final stage. In this stage, fixed assets are often converted into cash. There are, however, several ways a client can dispose of a fixed asset. They could sell, donate, or, perhaps, replace it with a similar, newer asset.

What is fixed asset accounting?

Fixed asset accounting is the process of entering into the books the asset’s purchase cost, periodically depreciating the cost over the asset’s useful life as it declines in value, eventually disposing the asset and removing it from the books.

What is a fixed asset turnover ratio?

The fixed asset turnover ratio is an efficiency ratio. It is used to determine how successfully a company generates sales from its fixed assets. It is most useful among companies that require a large capital investment to conduct business, like manufacturers.

How do you determine the turnover ratio?

The formula for determining the fixed assets turnover ratio is as follows:

Net annual sales ÷ (Gross fixed assets - Accumulated depreciation) = Fixed asset turnover ratio

What is a good turnover ratio?

On average, most businesses have a turnover rate between 5 and 10. A higher turnover rate means greater success in its ability to manage fixed-asset investments. There is no specific ratio or range that defines a “good” turnover ratio. Instead, companies’ turnover ratios are very industry specific and other factors must be considered.

For example, if a company’s competitors have ratios of 2.25, 2.5 and 3, the company’s ratio of 3.75 is high compared with its rivals.

In addition, these are other factors that can influence results:

  • Heed caution if a company uses accelerated depreciation. It could result in the turnover ratio being higher than it should be.
  • Compare a client’s current ratio with previous periods, or the ratios of industry standards or comparable businesses. This will help better determine if they are efficient at generating revenue on such assets.
  • Avoid including intangible assets in the denominator. It can distort the results.

This information was last updated on 12/02/2022.

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