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What Are Intangible Assets? Definition, Explanation and Types

whats an intangible asset

Since it has a monetary value that the acquirer would pay to obtain it, it also gets its place in financial statements and books as a ‘customer list’. The customers’ list contains the list of buyers from a specific company who have had valuable relationships with them. Unlike other brand factors like customer loyalty or brand recognition, goodwill can be recorded in books too and it doesn’t depreciate over time. Because of their fluctuating, intangible values, banks don’t accept them. ● Intangible assets – Google’s brand recognition all over the world.

whats an intangible asset

There are no limits based on age, contract, or regulatory obligations. Companies tend to record intangible assets on a balance sheet but include only things that the business buys or acquires (like a patent, email list, or a solid website) are included. The intangible asset must have a long life span and value that’s clearly identifiable. While the most common examples of intangible assets include patents and software, they can be anything of value that isn’t physically substantive (except financial assets). Understanding the value of intangible assets will give your business an edge. You will better know how to use your existing intangible assets, as well as acquire new ones.

Limited-Life Intangible Assets

That $500 million is the value of the business’ net tangible assets. In a market increasingly driven by innovation, companies that invest most heavily in intangibles are reinforcing their competitive advantage and delivering the highest rates of growth in value. “An example of this is the brand recognition of Pepsi for PepsiCo,” says Milan.

  • Essentially, they describe the same process, just for different types of assets.
  • In order to record an intangible asset in the accounting records, it must be purchased (not developed internally) and have a useful life of longer than one accounting period.
  • This fabrication company is going to be purchased by another well-known metal industry.
  • An intangible asset can be classified specifically as definite or indefinite.

Accountants commonly amortize intangible assets using the straight-line method. The patent’s legal life is 20 years, but the company only plans to use the patent for 10 years before creating a newer product. The company would then be required to amortize the patent over 10 years, yielding a per-year amortization of $5,000. You must assess the asset’s value over its estimated economic life when you amortize intangible assets.

SASB Standards

However, if they were developed by the company (as opposed to purchased from another company), there may be no amount to report on the balance sheet. Intangible assets are non-physical, but just as valuable as tangible assets if not more in supporting the growth of your business. They can, however, be difficult to value due to market instability, the variability of assessments from investors to banks, as well as the uncertainty of your business’s future.

  • As noted above, tangible assets are the opposite of intangible ones.
  • They are usually listed on this financial statement only if they can be amortized or have a specific value.
  • And, finally, relational capital; derived via alliances formed with those outside the company, customer lists, friendly relations with regulators, competitors, etc.
  • Intangible assets are non-physical assets that have a theoretical value to a business.
  • Franchises can be granted by either a business enterprise or a governmental unit.

Our mission is to empower readers with the most factual and reliable financial information possible to help them make informed decisions for their individual needs. Finance Strategists is a leading financial literacy non-profit organization priding itself on providing accurate and reliable financial information to millions of readers each year. It represents the value today of the excess earnings of a particular enterprise. Excess earnings represent earnings above the normal earnings of an industry.


Intangible assets are assets that have no physical form, i.e., you cannot touch them. To be capitalised they must meet the definition of an intangible asset, i.e. identifiability, control over a resource and the existence of future economic benefits. If it fails, then expenditure should be expensed unless part of a business combination when it should be treated as part of goodwill.

The value of this asset is amortized over the due course of time when it’s useful. Amortization is how the value of the intangible asset is spread over the active duration of the asset which in turn gets recorded in accounting books. Intangible items are recorded in a balance sheet only when a merger or acquisition happens.

Brand recognition

However, that represents only about one-third of the worldwide tally for intangible asset value. Brand equity represents the worth of a brand and its ability to generate sales and profit for the company. Depending on the company, the brand name can be critical to the success of the business.

Contrary to limited life assets, unlimited lifetime assets cannot be amortized as their value is enjoyed by the business till it ceases to exist. Customer list is an intangible asset that is obtained from one company when another company acquires it. To be declared as intellectual property, this must have been a unique work that doesn’t replicate any other existed and existing. To protect intellectual property, a company can formulate legal measures. Indefinite assets are the ones that don’t have a monetary value yet hold greater importance. An impairment expense is recognized if the asset’s carrying value exceeds its fair value.

It may choose to measure the asset at fair value in rare cases when fair value can be determined by reference to an active market. Bankruptcy or other failure of a business will eliminate a business’s intangible assets. Not being careful enough with one’s intangible assets can also diminish or destroy their value.

What are the 5 intangible assets?

Examples of intangible assets include goodwill, brand recognition, copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade names, and customer lists.

That is, the firm is able to earn a rate of return on its recorded net assets above the industry average rate of return. Operating leases usually require regular monthly payments by the lessee, but the lessor retains control and ownership of the property. The property accept payments online or equipment always reverts to the lessor at the end of the lease term. Thus, it is difficult to measure the ultimate benefits that accrue from research and development expenditures that are made in 1982 but that may not result in a product until 1990.

What are the 6 intangible assets?

The main types of intangible assets are goodwill, brand equity, Intellectual properties (Trade Secrets, Patents, Trademark and Copyrights), licensing, Customer lists, and R&D. Usually, the values of intangible assets are not recorded in the balance sheet.

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