Fixed Assets Accounting for a Not-For-Profit Organization


In the accounting world, the asset is defined as an owned resource from which future economic benefits are expected. On the balance sheet of any organization, be it a not-for-profit or for-profit, the carrying amount of all assets is reported.

All such assets are divided into two categories on the balance sheet based on how quickly they can be turned into cash; current assets and non-current assets (also known as fixed assets).

Current assets are resources that are used up within one year, whereas fixed assets or non-current assets have a useful life of more than one year.

Following are a few examples of fixed assets:

  • Desks
  • Chairs
  • Fixtures
  • Collection items
  • Buildings
  • Land
  • Computer
  • Printer

In this article, we will discuss how fixed assets are reported on the balance sheet of a not-for-profit organization.

Recognition of Fixed Assets:

As per the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) used around the world, every organization should determine a capitalization policy for its assets.

A capitalization policy for each organization defines a certain threshold amount over which any expenditure incurred would be qualified as a capital expenditure and hence, will be reported on the balance sheet.

On the other hand, any expense incurred under the threshold would be categorized as revenue expenditure and hence, expensed out on the income statement. For small non-profit organizations, the capitalization criterion usually ranges between $500 and $1,000.

The other criterion that an asset has to meet to be recognized as a fixed asset is having a useful life of more than one year.

In other words, the asset should be able to provide benefits throughout the period in which it is used, and the specified period must be of more than one year.

Once an asset is classified as a fixed asset, it is recorded in the books of accounts in the year of purchase.

Cost of Asset:

The fixed asset is recognized at cost plus any expenses incurred to bring it to its current condition of use.

However, if the tangible asset is a contribution, then it must be recognized at its fair value on the date of donation except when the fair value cannot be reasonably determined when it is recorded at a nominal amount.

Journal Entry:

The following entry is recorded in the accounting journals if the fixed asset is purchased through cash:

DR         Fixed Asset                    xx

CR         Cash                   xx

On the other hand, if the fixed asset is a contribution, then the following journal entry is reported:

DR Fixed Asset              xx

CR         Contribution Revenue                            xx

Calculation of Depreciation:

The fixed asset after being recorded is depreciated every period it is used. Non-profit organizations usually use a straight-line method to depreciate their assets.

In other words, the cost of assets less salvage value is evenly distributed throughout the asset’s useful life. The formula to calculate depreciation is:

Depreciation = (Cost – Salvage Value) / Useful Life

Reporting Depreciation:

Depreciation is expensed out each year as a non-cash expense on the statement of activities also known as the statement of operations.

The accumulated depreciation i.e. the sum of depreciation expense up to the reporting date is reported under the amount of the fixed asset on the statement of financial position of the non-profit organization.

Accounting depreciation vs tax depreciation

Accounting depreciation

Accounting depreciation is the use and tear and wears of tangible assets allocated by the company over the useful life of assets generally governed by corporate laws and accounting standards.

The recognition of accounting depreciation is driven by accounting principles and standards such as US GAAP or IFRS or the country’s financial reporting standard.

Depreciation is a non-cash item and does not represent actual cash movements. Despite being a non-cash item, it appears on the income statement and ultimately in balance sheet getting accumulated to compute written down value of the asset.

So, this non-cash item is ought to be reported by the company. Accounting depreciation is also popularly called book depreciation.

Accounting depreciation is computed using different methods such as:

  1. Straight-line method
  2. Double declining method
  3. Physical units’ method of production and so on.

The most popular method is the straight-line method of depreciation. It distributes depreciation equally over all the periods of asset’s useful lives.

Other methods are accelerated methods allowing for higher depreciation in the earlier years and lower in the subsequent years.

For example, the double-declining method allows for twice the rate of straight-line depreciation in the earlier years.

Example of accounting depreciation

Majestic Inc purchases equipment worth $100,000 with a salvage value of $10,000 and a useful life of 10 years.

In this case, the straight-line method of depreciation is used meaning equal depreciation over the useful life of assets.

Depreciation = (purchase price- salvage)/Useful life = (100,000-10,000)/10 = $ 9000 per year

Tax depreciation

Tax depreciation is depreciation computed as per tax laws and to be reported on the tax return. It is subject to a tax deduction as per jurisdiction. BY deducting depreciation, tax authorities allow individuals and businesses to reduce taxable income.

However, the taxpayer cannot claim depreciation for all the assets. The conditions are specified in tax laws in order to be eligible for depreciation.

The regulations are country-specific and if countries have several tax jurisdictions like the US, it can be jurisdiction-specific.

The tax laws publish specifications of assets’ class, the period in which they are placed to use and the applicable depreciation allowed for such assets.

In the United States, the Internal Revenue Service is handed the responsibility to publish materials on depreciation.

Example of tax depreciation

Majestic Inc purchases equipment worth $100,000 with a salvage value of $10,000 and a useful life of 10 years.

Now, tax depreciation is as per IRS. IRS may require the equipment to be depreciated over the 7-year property as an accelerated method.

This will result in higher depreciation in the earlier years. The rate keeps changing with conditions. For example, if the equipment is placed in the third quarter of the year, there will be a separate rate for such equipment.

In a nutshell, following are differences between accounting and tax depreciation can be summarized as under:

Accounting depreciationTax depreciation
Depreciation is prepared as per accounting purposes and complies company lawsDepreciation is prepared to comply with tax laws.
The company has a choice in depreciation methods, rates, and useful life.The company has to use the depreciation rate and method as per tax law.
It is based on accounting principles, governed by accounting principles and accounting board.It is governed by tax authorities (IRS in US)

Accounting for decommissioning costs

Decommissioning costs

Installation of fixed assets requires sincere work and incurs certain charges called commissioning costs for setting up and making a modification to the landscape for erecting the asset.

Similarly, the decommissioning cost is the cost incurred by the companies to reverse modifications that were made in setting up in the landscape.

This means the asset is used up and set for sale or salvage. Decommissioning costs are also popularly called asset retirement costs.

In this article, we will discuss detail on how to account for decommissioning costs

Industries where decommissioning is done.

The asset heavy industries such as metal industries and oil and other companies requiring large asset to be set for manufacturing incurs decommissioning cost.

These costs are usually very high in oil industries due to the nature of functioning. They have to keep and put drilling instruction in use so as to not let harmful gases leakage to earth.

Standards for Decommissioning costs

Decommissioning costs may require a provision in certain industries as per the prudent approach. IAS 37 on Provisions, contingent liabilities, and Contingent Assets require the creation of provision.

Similarly, IAS 16 Property, Plant and Equipment require including the initial estimate of the costs of dismantling and removing the item and restoring the site into the cost of an asset.

Further, IFRS has developed IFRIC 1 Changes in Existing Decommissioning, Restoration and Similar Liabilities to account for such decommissioning costs.

Computation of decommissioning costs

Since, these costs are future costs and likely, time value concept loops into the computation of decommissioning costs. The following are the steps in the calculation of the cost:

  • Compute decommissioning present cost using the time value of the asset assuming no improvement in decommissioning procedure.
  • Take into account the expected inflation to the time of actual decommissioning of the asset.
  • Use the discount rate and compute decommissioning liabilities or provisions to be included in the cost of the asset.
  • Unwind the discount on decommissioning assets that equal the opening balance of the decommissioning obligation. This will result in the period end balance of decommissioning liability.

Accounting treatment for decommissioning costs

 Initial Recognition and Measurement

The retirement of production assets may be required by operating licenses or past practices. As per IAS 37, this ought to create an obligation and thus a liability.

Further, a corresponding asset is created as per IAS 16 on Property, Plant, and Equipment, which defines cost as an initial estimate of dismantling and removing the asset and restoring the site on which it is located.

The required accounting treatment in this scenario would be

DateParticularsDebit ($)Credit ($)
 Property, Plant and equipmentXXX 
           Provisioning for decommission XXX

Such provisions are calculated by using present value concept

Subsequent Recognition and Measurement

When the asset is used up, unwind the discount and charge the interest on provisions to build up the required provisions over the life of the asset. This discount has to be recognized as a finance cost in the income statement.

DateParticularsDebit ($)Credit ($)
 Finance costsXXX 
           Provisioning for decommission XXX

Further, this cost of provision has to be depreciated over the useful life of fixed asset.

If changes to provision relate to removal of asset, then there is the case of decrease in value of asset as:

DateParticularsDebit ($)Credit ($)
 Provisioning for decommissionXXX 
           Property, Plant and Equipment          XXX

However, the asset cannot go below zero and neither can go above its recoverable amount . If the decrease in provision exceeds the carrying amount of the asset, the excess is recognized immediately in profit or loss.

At the end of useful life of asset, the company decommissions the asset and restores the site to required condition and all the expenses are charged against the provision. The entry to be made here is :

DateParticularsDebit ($)Credit ($)
 Provisioning for decommissionXXX 
           Cash XXX

Accounting for exploration costs


Exploration costs mean the cost incurred for the search of mineral resources including minerals, oils, natural gas, and other similar non-regenerative resources after the entity has obtained the rights to explore in specific areas by determining technical feasibility and commercial viability of extracting the mineral resource. (adapted from IFRS 6).

IFRS 6 allows the company to develop accounting policy for recognition of exploration and evaluation expenditures without adhering to much of the policy requirements of IAS 8 on Policies, changes in Accounting estimates, and errors. The evaluation phase is after the exploration but is dealt with likewise as one in IFRS.

Elements of cost of exploration and evaluation

After recognizing exploration cost as per IFRS 6, the following are the components that form part of the cost:

  1. Acquisition of rights to explore.
  2. Cost of exploratory drilling
  3. Trenching and sampling
  4. Cost of study towards topography and geology
  5. Cost of activities related to technical feasibility and commercial viability of extracting mineral

However, expenditure related to the development of mineral resources shall not be recognized as exploration and evaluation costs. These are dealt in as per IAS 38 on intangible assets as development costs.

Accounting for exploration and evaluation.

An entity may have a past practice of deferring all exploration and evaluation expenditure as an asset even if the outcome is highly uncertain. Other entities may have a past practice of expensing all exploration and evaluation expenditure until the technical feasibility and commercial viability of extracting a mineral resource have been established.

An entity can change its accounting policy for E&E only if the change results in an accounting policy that is closer to the principles of the Framework.

Initial recognition

The entity should determine the unit to which exploration and evaluation cost will be allocated. The common method is to allocate between areas of interest.

This should involve determining areas to examine and track separately the costs incurred for each area. The area of interest contracts over time as work progresses.

Subsequent measurement of exploration and evaluation

There are two methods to determine the cost of exploration and evaluation. These methods are cost method and the revaluation method.

Whichever method is applied, it shall be consistent with the classification of the costs/assets. Depreciation and amortization of E&E assets usually do not commence until the assets are placed in service.

The revaluation method is applied to intangible assets only if there is an active market in relevant intangible assets.

However, such criteria are seldom met and cost method is used then. The ‘fair value as deemed cost’ exemption in IFRS only applies to tangible fixed assets and thus is not available for intangible assets.

Reclassification of Exploration and evaluation assets.

Exploration and evaluation assets are reclassified procedures that have been completed to recognize as such.

Those expenditures which are commercially viable have to reclassified to development cost viz. as development assets. The exploration and evaluation assets shall also be tested for impairment.

Impairment of Exploration and evaluation assets

There are various indicators to determine the impairment of exploration and evaluation assets as :

  1. The right to explore in the geographical area has expired or about to expire with no option to renew.
  2. Further exploration and evaluation are not planned.
  3. There is sufficient data to conclude that exploration and evaluation will be discontinued due to a lack of commercial reserves.

Disclosure requirements

The disclosure requirements of exploration and evaluation assets generally include:

  1. The accounting policy used for allocating exploration and evaluation assets cash-generating units for impairment purposes
  2. The amount recognized in financial statement w.r.t. exploration and evaluation activities including the disclosure in operating cash flows and investing cash flows
  3. Last but not least the reconciliation statement of amounts carried forward as exploration and evaluation assets at the beginning and closing of the accounting period. The reconciliation statement includes transfers to development, amounts written off, and impairments.

Accounting for restoration costs


A tenant should recognize restoration cost as part of the right of use asset while incurring obligation for them. This shall be decided based on the circumstances, that it may start at the commencement date or can be a consequence of having used the asset for a particular period.

The obligation is covered under IAS 37 Provisions, Contingent Liabilities, and Contingent Assets. Regular wear and tear occur during the period of the lease which can increase the tenant’s hand-back obligation but it does not give rise to an asset.

Further, the tenant shall apply provisions of IAS 2 Inventories if the leased asset is used to manufacture inventories in the lease period.


The legal owner of the asset may require the lessee/tenant to reinstate the leased space to its original state when the lease expires and the tenant decided not to renew the lease agreement.

Then, a provision for reinstatement cost/restoration cost needs to be recorded, as it is an existing obligation of the lessee/tenant.

This amount relates to the cost to be incurred to reinstate the lease space back to its original state. Such an amount is estimated with the help of a quotation from a renovator or building contractor.

DateParticularsDebit ($)Credit ($)
 XXXXReinstatement costXXX 
 XXXX         Provision for reinstatement XXX
(To record reinstatement cost)  

The amount capitalized above relates to the full cost to be incurred when the lease expires. For closing the account following entry shall be

DateParticularsDebit ($)Credit ($)
 XXXXReinstatement Cost- Profit and Loss AccountXXX 
 XXXX       Accumulated depreciation/ Fixed asset- reinstatement cost XXX

The depreciation entry is to record the cost capitalized into P&L on a straight-line basis. The reinstatement or restoration cost has to be expensed off on a straight-line basis until the end of the lease period.

Impact of increase in lease term

In the initial period, the tenant measures the right of use of the asset and includes appropriate estimates of the cost to dismantle and remove the asset or restore the asset to the prior situation before the contract begins.

The obligation for these costs is recognized and measured in accordance with IAS 37. The changes to the best estimate of the settlement amount may result from changes in the amount or timing of the outflows or changes in discount rates.

A lease modification may result in a change to a tenant’s obligations to restore the underlying asset at the end of the lease.  This may result in additional provisioning of restoration costs and should be provided immediately.

Is depreciation an implicit cost?


IAS 16 defines depreciation as ‘the systematic allocation of the depreciable amount of an asset over its useful life’. The depreciable amount equals the purchase cost of the asset less the salvage value or other amount like revaluation amount of the asset. Depreciation amounts to distributing the cost of assets to the income statement over the useful life of the asset.

Depreciation expense is a non-cash operating activity which is the result of qualitative wear and tear in the use of asset but it has been quantified by the use of accounting principles and assumptions in line with the enterprise’s own accounting policies.

Depreciation is computed using various methods. Popular methods include the straight-line method and accelerated depreciation methods.

Presentation in Financial Statement:

Income Statement: The asset cost less salvage value is spread over the useful life of the asset. The amount of depreciation needs to be calculated each year and is debited to Income Statement like any other operating expenses.

Balance Sheet: Depreciation reduces the value of assets over time. Depreciation cumulatively rises over the time and hits the cost less salvage value in the final year of useful life.

The historical value of the asset is reduced by this accumulated depreciation so as to arrive at the written down value of the asset.  Written down value is computed after charging depreciation accumulated over the years to the initial cost i.e. historical cost.

Implicit costs

These are the costs that have already been incurred. These are however not reported as separate expense. Implicit costs are opportunity costs that arise when a company use internal resources toward a project without any explicit compensation for the utilization of resources.

When a company allocates a resource, it has to forgo the ability to earn from other techniques or allocating elsewhere. In a nutshell, it comes from the use of assets but not from renting or buying it.

Example of implicit cost

When a tech company hires new tech employees, there are implicit costs to train that employee. If the senior manager takes the opportunity to train these new employees, he has to allocate some hours of his say 8 hours per week.

The implicit cost here in this scenario would be the hourly wage rate of senior managers multiplied by 8 hours. This is because the hours could have been allocated toward the senior manager’s current role in the top-level management

Are implicit costs shown in financial statements?

No implicit costs are not relevant to accounting as it does not involve the movement of money. These are just notional costs. Hence, these implicit costs are not recorded in financial statements.

Implicit vs Explicit

Explicit costs are defined costs in running the business. It includes expenses such as wage, rent, materials, depreciation, amongst others. Unlike implicit, these costs are real and presented in income statement in financial statements.


Depreciation is recognized expense. Although it has the feature of been incurred like implicit cost, however, depreciation represents the ongoing wear and tear of asset that has to be distributed over the number the years. In fact, depreciation is recognized as explicit cost and not implicit cost.