Accounting for intangible investments

Publisher:
CPA Australia
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Australian Accounting Review, 2008, 18 (2), pp. 95 - 107
Issue Date:
2008-01
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The traditional categorisation of expenditures evident in many firms' charts of accounts and financial statements does not identify and measure expenditures on intangible investment separately from tangible investment and operating expenditures. This contrasts with the accounting for tangible investment, which separately accounts for all expenditures as assets unless the future benefits are consumed in a single accounting period. Further, in searching for better ways to account for intangibles, regulators and researchers have focused on the accounting choice problem relating to the existence and recognisability of intangible assets. In this paper, we argue that identifying and separately reporting the expenditures on intangible investment is the logical first step in accounting for intangible investments. Learning about the firm's categories of value driving (and sometimes potentially value destroying) expenditures has important implications for understanding aspects of the value chain, performance measurement, valuation, corporate governance and the external audit. There are significant expenditures invested in intangibles including resources such as human capital, the long-term customer base, product and process related technologies, information technology, and brands and intellectual property.1 To date, the traditional categorisation of expenditures evident in many firms' charts of accounts and the financial statements does not identify and measure expenditures on these intangibles separately from expenditures on tangible investment and current production (operating expenditures).2 This contrasts with the accounting for tangible investment, which separately accounts for all expenditures not consumed in a single accounting period as assets. In searching for better ways to account for intangibles, regulators and researchers have focused on the accounting choice problem relating to the existence and recognisability of intangible assets.
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