Accounting recognition of intangible assets: theory and evidence on economic determinants

American Accounting Association
Publication Type:
Journal Article
The Accounting Review, 2005, 80 (3), pp. 967 - 1003
Issue Date:
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This paper examines the extent to which management makes accounting choices to record intangible assets based on their insights into the underlying economics of their firm. It exploits a setting in which management has accounting discretion to record a wide range of intangible assets. The results suggest that management's choice to record intangible assets is associated with the strength of the technology affecting the firms operations, the length of the technology cycle time, and property- rights-related factors that affect the firm's ability to appropriate the investment benefits. These effects are more important than other contracting and signaling factors consistent with the underlying economics operating as a first-order effect as envisaged by GAAP. The results also indicate that the intangible assets management has a voluntary (unregulated) choice to recordidentifiable intangible assetsare more highly correlated with underlying economic factors than the regulated classes, purchased goodwill and R&D assets. This result suggests that limiting managements' choices to record intangible assets tends to reduce, rather than improve, the quality of the balance sheet and investors' information set.
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