What Is an Intangible Asset? Definition and Type 2023

what is a intangible asset

In accounting, limited-life intangible assets are amortized over the exact period they’re deemed useful. Amortization means dividing the cost of the asset according to how much it was used in each accounting period. An intangible asset is a resource that has no physical presence and has long-term value for a business.

While intangible assets can’t be seen or touched, they can still hold value and are important when it comes to ensuring the success and growth of a business. These types of assets can also contribute to shareholder value as well. Another way companies measure value is by taking amortization into account to determine how much the intangible asset is worth for the current year and future years. Finally, businesses can use cash flow projections to measure the future benefits the specific asset will bring to the business. If your business struggles to create intangible assets, consider how acquisitions, mergers and exchanges can help your business make up for those shortcomings.

Customer lists

Consider what you think or feel when you hear the words Coca Cola, Apple, or Starbucks. Customer lists like mailing lists are a valuable intangible asset because having it can help businesses increase or sustain profits. If you have a list of people who have placed an order before or prospects that are likely to become customers in the future, you can use this information in your marketing and sales strategies. “Goodwill does not always make it onto a balance sheet and will show up on a separate line than other intangible assets if it does,” says Milan. “This is somewhat due to the more difficult nature of measuring them directly from a valuation standpoint.” An intangible asset can be classified specifically as definite or indefinite.

what is a intangible asset

An intangible asset with a finite useful life is amortised and is subject to impairment testing. An intangible asset with an indefinite useful life is not amortised, but is tested annually for impairment. When an intangible asset is disposed of, the gain or loss on disposal is included in profit or loss. The $1 billion asset would then be written off over a number of years via amortization. Indefinite life intangible assets, such as goodwill, are not amortized. Rather, these assets are assessed each year for impairment, which is when the carrying value exceeds the asset’s fair value.

Issued Standards

Real estate like buildings, offices, and land are tangible assets, not intangible assets. While you can’t hold a building in your hand, it’s still a physical asset and therefore tangible. 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. If you invest in specific companies, you may want to examine which intangible assets have contributed to the company’s value and success.

  • They have value because a business has sole legal or intellectual rights to them and they can help buy back destroyed tangible assets like equipment, according to Business Dictionary.
  • For example, a social media platform’s algorithm governing its feed is an indefinite intangible asset, because it can exist as long as the company does and will add value over the long term.
  • Examples of intangible assets are copyrights, patents, and licenses.
  • If you have a list of people who have placed an order before or prospects that are likely to become customers in the future, you can use this information in your marketing and sales strategies.
  • “Goodwill does not always make it onto a balance sheet and will show up on a separate line than other intangible assets if it does,” says Milan.

As noted above, tangible assets are the opposite of intangible ones. They have a physical form, which means they can be held and manipulated. These are among the main assets that a company has in its portfolio. You’ve probably heard of depreciation, the term used to describe how an asset decreases in value over time. A typical example is a new car, which depreciates as soon as you drive it off the lot. Amortization is conceptually similar to depreciation but is applied to intangible assets instead of tangible ones.

Let’s look at some of the most common types of intangible assets—notably brands, goodwill, and intellectual property. For example, a business may create a mailing list of clients or establish a patent. If a business creates an intangible asset, it can write off the expenses from the process, such as filing the patent application, hiring a lawyer, and paying other related costs.

What Are the Main Types of Intangible Assets?

The accounting is essentially the same as for other types of fixed assets. It’s important to know how to track your tangible, intangible and financial assets. A balance sheet is a financial statement that helps you monitor all these things and gives you an overview of your company’s financial health. According to Angela Nedd, a tax preparer at Expect Tax & Accounting Inc., balance sheets show your assets (what you own), liabilities (what you owe) and equity (net value) at a moment in time. Some elements, such as goodwill, have an indefinite useful life, whereas patents only possess a useful lifetime of 20 years.

The costs of generating other internally generated intangible assets are classified into whether they arise in a research phase or a development phase. Development expenditure that meets specified criteria is recognised as the cost of an intangible asset. Most intangible assets appear as long-term assets on corporate balance sheets.

This includes using (intentionally or unintentionally), mimicking, or copying another entity’s brand name, logo, or other assets. Brands are important because they contribute to a company’s brand equity and help keep customers loyal. Some consumers may choose to ignore pricing and pay more for one company’s product out of loyalty even if it is priced higher than a similar product offered by a competitor.

Goodwill is considered an intangible asset, according to Dummies. It comes into existence when a business is bought for a higher price than the market value of its net assets (total asset value minus liabilities such as debts). It is of long-term financial value but has no physical presence. As noted above, an intangible asset is one that has no physical form. These assets are generally considered long-term whose value increases over time. Even though it doesn’t have a physical form, an intangible asset can be very valuable for the owner and critical to their long-term success (or failure).

Limited-Life Intangible Assets

But, intangible assets don’t always appear on balance sheets, according to Accounting Tools. Companies are regularly advised to carry intangible assets on balance sheets at cost rather than perceived value. They are usually listed on this financial statement only if they can be amortized or have a specific value. Not all intangible assets can be amortized—only those with a finite useful life, which refers to the set amount of time you own an intangible asset.

what is a intangible asset

Unidentifiable intangible assets are a type of intangible asset that can’t be bought or sold because they only exist in relation to the company. Unidentifiable intangible assets include reputation, client relationships, goodwill, and brand recognition. You can’t sell any of these; they’re difficult—if not impossible—to quantify, but they greatly contribute to the value of a company. Assets normally appear on a company’s balance sheet, a common financial statement generated in accounting software.

Purpose of Intangible Assets in Business

They’re long-term assets that the company plans to use for more than one year. They are increasingly part of the economy and make life a lot easier for startups, according to the Houston Chronicle. There’s no need to store or mail them and adding inventory is often just a matter of clicking a few buttons.

IFRS Sustainability

For example, the value of cash in the market is the same entered in the accounting books. Intangible assets have value thanks to the sole legal or intellectual rights they enjoy. The meaning of intangible is something that can’t be touched or physically seen, according to the Cambridge Dictionary. Intangible resources don’t exist physically, though they still have value. Any unauthorized use of someone else’s intellectual property is called infringement.