Accounting Treatment of Depreciation

Depreciation is systematic allocation the cost of a fixed asset over its useful life. It is a way of matching the cost of a fixed asset with the revenue (or other economic benefits) it generates over its useful life. Without depreciation accounting, the entire cost of a fixed asset will be recognized in the year of purchase. This will give a misleading view of the profitability of the entity. The observation may be explained by way of an example.


ABC LTD purchased a machine costing $1000 on 1st January 2001. It had a useful life of three years over which it generated annual sales of $800. ABC LTD's annual costs during the three years were $300.

If ABC LTD expensed the entire cost of the fixed asset in the year of purchase, its income statement would present the following picture the end of the three years:

Income Statement200120022003
Cost of Sales(300)(300)(300)
Fixed Asset Cost(1000)--
Net Profit (Loss)(500)500500

As you can see, income statement of ABC LTD shows net loss in the first year even though it earned the same revenue as in the subsequent years. Conversely, no fixed asset will appear in ABC LTD's balance sheet although it had earned revenue from the machine's use through out its useful life of 3 years.

If ABC LTD, instead of charging the entire cost of fixed asset at once, depreciates the capital expenditure over its useful life, its income statement and balance sheet would present the following picture at the end of the three years:

Income Statement200120022003
Cost of Sales(300)(300)(300)
Fixed Asset Cost(333.3)(333.3)(333.3)
Net Profit (Loss)166.7166.7166.7

Balance Sheet (Extract)200120022003
Fixed Assets1,0001,0001,000
Accumulated Depreciation(333.3)(666.7)(1,000)
Net Book Value666.7333.3Nill

As you can see, the process of relating cost of a fixed asset to the years in which the economic benefits from its use are realized creates a more balanced view of the profitability of the company. Hence, depreciation is an application of the matching principle whereby costs are matched to the accounting periods to which they relate rather than on the basis of payment.

Accounting Entry

Double entry involved in recoding depreciation may be summarized as follows:

DebitDepreciation Expense (Income Statement)
CreditAccumulated Depreciation (Balance Sheet)

Every accounting period, depreciation of asset charged during the year is credited to the Accumulated Depreciation account until the asset is disposed. Accumulated depreciation is subtracted from the asset's cost to arrive at the net book value that appears on the face of the balance sheet. Using the last example, following double entries will be recorded in respect of depreciation:

Depreciation Expense Account
2001Accumulated Depreciation333.32001Income Statement333.3
2002Accumulated Depreciation333.32002Income Statement333.3
2003Accumulated Depreciation333.42003Income Statement333.4

Accumulated Depreciation Account
2001Balance c/d333.32001Depreciation Expense333.3
2002Balance b/d333.3
2002Balance c/d666.62002Depreciation Expense333.3
2003Balance b/d666.6
2003Balance c/d10002003Depreciation Expense333.4