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Fixed assets, also known as a non-current asset or as property, plant, and equipment (PP&E), is a term used in accounting for assets and property which cannot easily be converted into cash. This can be compared with current assets such as cash or bank accounts, which are described as liquid assets. In most cases, only tangible assets are referred to as fixed. International Accounting Standard (IAS) 16, defines Fixed Assets as assets whose future economic benefit is probable to flow into the entity, whose cost can be measured reliably.
Moreover, a fixed/non-current asset can also be defined as an asset not directly sold to a firm's consumers/end-users. As an example, a baking firm's current assets would be its inventory (in this case, flour, yeast, etc.), the value of sales owed to the firm via credit (i.e. debtors or accounts receivable), cash held in the bank, etc. Its non-current assets would be the oven used to bake bread, motor vehicles used to transport deliveries, cash registers used to handle cash payments, etc. Each aforementioned non-current asset is not sold directly to consumers.
These are items of value which the organization has bought and will use for an extended period of time; fixed assets normally include items such as land and buildings, motor vehicles, furniture, office equipment, computers, fixtures and fittings, and plant and machinery. These often receive favorable tax treatment (depreciation allowance) over short-term assets.
It is pertinent to note that the cost of a fixed asset is its purchase price, including import duties and other deductible trade discounts and rebates. In addition, cost attributable to bringing and installing the asset in its needed location and the initial estimate of dismantling and removing the item if they are eventually no longer needed on the location.
The primary objective of a business entity is to make profit and increase the wealth of its owners. In the attainment of this objective it is required that the management will exercise due care and diligence in applying the basic accounting concept of “Matching Concept”. Matching concept is simply matching the expenses of a period against the revenues of the same period.
The use of assets in the generation of revenue is usually more than a year, i.e. long term. It is therefore obligatory that in order to accurately determine the net income or profit for a period depreciation is charged on the total value of asset that contributed to the revenue for the period in consideration and charge against the same revenue of the same period. This is essential in the prudent reporting of the net revenue for the entity in the period.
Net book value of an asset is basically the difference between the historical cost of that asset and its associated depreciation. From the foregoing, it is apparent that in order to report a true and fair position of the financial jurisprudence of an entity it is relatable to record and report the value of fixed assets at its net book value. Apart from the fact that it is enshrined in Standard Accounting Statement (SAS) 3 and IAS 16 that value of asset should be carried at the net book value, it is the best way of consciously presenting the value of assets to the owners of the business and potential investor.
Depreciating a fixed asset
Depreciation is, simply put, the expense generated by the uses of an asset. It is the wear and tear of an asset or diminution in the historical value owing to usage. Further to this; it is the cost of the asset less any salvage value over its estimated useful life. It is an expense because it is matched against the revenue generated through the use of the same asset. Depreciation is usually spread over the economic useful life of an asset because it is regarded as the cost of an asset absorbed over its useful life. Invariably the depreciation expense is charged against the revenue generated through the use of the asset. The method of depreciation to be adopted is best left for the management to decide in consideration to the peculiarity of the business, prevailing economic condition of the assets and existing accounting guideline and principles as implied in the organizational policies.
It is worth noting that not all fixed assets depreciate in value year-over-year. Land and buildings, for example, may often increase in value depending on local real-estate conditions.
Fixed assets are sometimes collectively referred to as "plant".