Home » Bookkeeping articles » 5 Differences Between Tangible and Intangible Assets

5 Differences Between Tangible and Intangible Assets

August 1, 2023
Bill Kimball

Intangible assets add to a company’s future worth and can be far more valuable than tangible assets. Both of these types of assets are initially recorded on the balance sheet, which helps investors, creditors, and banks assess the value of the company. Most companies choose to employ a mixture of both tangible and intangible assets because it is a better method to diversify an organization’s balance sheet. With that caveat, some industries make use of one more than the other.

Depreciation and amortization are tax deductions you can claim with the IRS. Generally, you can only record acquired intangible assets on your balance sheet, meaning assets you obtain from another business. You will not include intangible assets that your company internally generated (e.g., a patent you purchased). Accounting for intangibles on financial statements can be challenging since their value fluctuates much more than tangibles.

Retirement should be a time to enjoy the fruits of your labor, not worry about taxes. With careful tax planning, you can ensure that your retirement savings last as long as possible, providing you with a secure and comfortable retirement. Navigating the complex world of taxes doesn’t have to be a solo journey.

intangible vs tangible assets

Examples include goodwill, brand name, client relationships, and brand reputation. Fixed assets are always considered tangible assets as they have physical dimensions and presence. Fixed assets are long-term assets that can be sold for cash and are depreciated over their useful life. While intangible assets carry no physical form or value, they still prove to be invaluable when developing a balance sheet. Essentially, operating assets are anything that a company uses in the course of business to raise cash and generate income.

You can typically group tangible assets into current and fixed assets. Consider brand reputation, which is an example of an intangible asset. You can’t see or touch it, but it significantly improves customer trust, retention, and brand advocacy, leading to more sales.

Collateral refers to a form of debt financing in which an individual puts their physical assets forward to secure credit or a loan. A business owner can use equipment, facilities and properties, and even company vehicles as a form of collateral. This means that if the loan is not properly repaid, the lending institution can seize all the assets put forth by the company.

How to trade Commodities: A Comprehensive Guide to an Unusual Market

While the cost approach is typically used for tangible assets, you can also use it to value intangibles like computer software. Identifiable intangibles typically add value to your business over the long term. But they can exist without your business, and you can sell them as assets to another company. For example, suppose you buy a new pizza oven worth $25,000—not a cheap investment—for your business. If you write off the entire cost of the pizza oven in the year you buy it, it’ll throw off your income statement.

  • Today, surveys show that companies generate the better part of their value through the effective usage of intangible assets.
  • Generally, you can only record acquired intangible assets on your balance sheet, meaning assets you obtain from another business.
  • Depreciation helps to reflect the wear and tear on tangible assets during their lifetime.

Depreciation is the process of allocating a tangible asset’s cost over the course of its useful life. An asset’s useful life is the duration it adds value to your business. The three most common types of these long-term assets are property, plant, and equipment (or PPE). For example, the fixed assets of a pizza shop might include a pizza place (property), kitchen (plant), and pizza oven (equipment). Fixed assets (also called long-term or non-current assets) are physical items like machines that help you run business operations.

One important thing to note about operating assets is that they are typically reported on a company’s balance sheet (income statement) at their fair value. Fair value is the price that would be received to sell an asset in an orderly transaction between market participants at the measurement date. Thus, it is important to keep in mind that the fair value of an operating asset can fluctuate over time based on market conditions. Tangible and intangible assets can benefit your business come tax time, too. You can reduce your tax liability through depreciation and amortization.

Goodwill is the portion of the purchase price that is greater than the fair market value of the assets and liabilities of the company that was bought. Goodwill is meant to capture the value of a company’s brand name, customer base, relationships with stakeholders, and employee relations. Various industries have companies with a high proportion of tangible assets.

The cost of some intangible assets can be spread out over the years for which the asset generates value for the company or throughout its useful life. However, whereas tangible assets are depreciated, intangible assets are amortized. Fixed assets, on the other hand, are long-term assets that cannot be converted into cash within one year. Read on to learn the differences between tangible assets vs. intangible assets.

This is often used when a company is going out of business and looking to recoup some of the losses. For instance, a brand logo can become more valuable over time if the brand rises to prominence and joins the league of big market players. That’ll help you estimate the risk your business carries—especially its liquidity and solvency (ability to pay debts). You can also use it to access financing to meet your future goals. You also benefit from distributing the tax savings of the pizza oven.

Working with a Certified Public Accountant can provide invaluable assistance, understanding your tax obligations and strategizing. Below is a portion of the balance sheet for Exxon Mobil Corporation (XOM) as of Dec. 31, 2021, as reported on the company’s annual 10-K filing. The Sensodyne brand has positive equity that translates to a value premium for the manufacturer.

Thank you for your submission! Our team will reach out to you shortly.

Amortization is the same concept as depreciation, but it’s only used for intangibles. Amortization spreads out the cost of the asset each year as it is expensed on the income statement. A music production company might own the rights to songs, which means that whenever a song is played or sold, revenue is earned. Although these assets have no physical properties, they provide a future financial benefit for the music company and the musical artist.

intangible vs tangible assets

For example, a pharmaceutical company can make a good estimate as to the market value of the patent for a new drug based on projected sales of the drug. In addition, because patents are time-limited, it’s relatively easy to amortize their value. A 10-year drug patent will be worth less if five of the 10 years have already passed. Amortization, meanwhile, is the process of spreading out the cost of an intangible asset (a patent, copyright, etc.) over a period of time. Current assets are recorded at the top of the statement and reflect the short-term assets of the company. Current assets include items such as cash, inventory, and marketable securities.

Defining Tangible and Intangible Assets

These items can be readily sold to raise cash for emergencies and are typically used within a year. When money lenders look at these assets or appraise them, they can determine a finite market value for the objects. They can assign value to the objects because there is a market value for tangible assets.

To find the market value of an intangible asset, monitor your competitors and see if they’ve publicly sold a similar intangible asset. There are some tangible assets that are not considered depreciable by the IRS such as land. Inventory, for example, is a tangible asset that when used in the production process, becomes included in the cost of goods sold for a company. Cost of goods sold represents the costs directly involved with the production of a good.

  • Amortization is the process of allocating an intangible asset’s cost over the course of its useful life.
  • A business balance sheet is a financial statement that lists your company’s assets, liabilities, and equity.
  • Since brand equity is an intangible asset, as is a company’s intellectual property and goodwill, it cannot be easily accounted for on a company’s financial statements.
  • This means that if the loan is not properly repaid, the lending institution can seize all the assets put forth by the company.

Companies record both tangible and intangible in their accounting books, and they do it for a good reason. While a company’s tangible assets are required to ensure the flawless operation of an entity, intangibles inconspicuously build its future worth. A successful company masterfully combines the benefits of tangible and intangible assets. The cost of intangible assets is difficult to determine because they are not physical items. For example, there isn’t a price tag on the value of your company’s logo. Fixed assets are non-current assets that a company uses in its business operations for more than a year.

One of their distinctive features is that external natural forces or malefactors can damage them. Intangible assets can’t be destroyed by natural disasters but are exposed to rash business decisions. Tangible assets can boast physical form, so one can actually touch or at least see them.

What are Tangible vs. Intangible Assets?

Depreciation is the process of allocating a portion of the cost of an asset over the years as it is used to generate revenue for the company. Depreciation helps to reflect the wear and tear on tangible assets during their lifetime. Tangible assets are the easier to account for because they normally have a finite value and life span. As they are used up, an expense representing this use gets carried over to the income statement. Intangible assets don’t physically exist, yet they have a monetary value because they represent potential revenue. The record company that owns the copyright would get paid a royalty each time the song is played.

Both types of assets are depended on by businesses to varying degrees based on the type of business you are in. On the other hand, intangible assets may not have a physical form, but they add value to your company’s future worth. Tangible assets are physical items you can touch, while intangible assets are non-physical properties that a business owns.

What this means is that you should aim for both tangibles and intangibles to succeed. With that in mind, let’s look at the different types of tangible and intangible assets to understand their differences further. Tangible assets are physical and measurable assets that are used in a company’s operations. Assets such as property, plant, and equipment are tangible assets. Tangible assets form the backbone of a company’s business by providing the means by which companies produce their goods and services.

You must know how to record tangible and intangible assets in accounting. Keep in mind that assets are increased by debits and decreased by credits. Current assets are liquid items that can easily be converted into cash within one year. Cash, inventory, and accounts receivable are examples of current assets. In short, tangible assets will help you run your business and deliver quality products and services, while intangible assets will help you grow.

Difference between Tangible and Intangible Assets (table format)

On the other hand, intangible assets are types of assets that have no physical properties that a business or organization can create or acquire. A key defining characteristic of a business’s net worth and operational value depends on its assets. In properly managing its tangible and intangible assets, a company or organization can maintain a healthy balance sheet and ensure operational success. To that end, succeeding in asset management is shown to directly increase an organization’s value. Fixed or long-term tangible assets are, on the contrary, not so liquid assets; the conversion process lasts for more than one year. The most notable examples of long-term assets are corporate buildings, offices, land property, and specific equipment.

So, rather than deducting the entire $25,000 in the first year, you can spread that cost over five years and deduct $5,000 every year. In general, it’s easy to distinguish between physical and non-physical properties. Positive brand equity occurs when favorable associations exist with a given product or company that contribute to a brand’s value. It’s achieved when consumers are willing to pay more for a product with a recognizable brand name than they would pay for a generic version. Liquidating an asset is essentially selling an asset should the company need more capital.