It’s a term we hear about, but don’t really understand. It’s an essential component of accounting. It’s is an expense that’s recorded at the same time and in the same period as other accounts. Long-term operating assets that are not held for sale in the course of business are called fixed assets. Fixed assets include buildings, machinery, office equipment, vehicles, computers and other equipment. It can also include items such as shelves and cabinets. It refers to spreading out the cost of a fixed asset over the years of its useful life to a business, instead of charging the entire cost to expense in the year the asset was purchased. That way, each year that the equipment or asset is used bears a share of the total cost. As an example, cars and trucks are typically depreciated over five years. The idea is to charge a fraction of the total cost to depreciation expense during each of the five years, rather than just the first year.
It applies only to fixed assets that you actually buy, not those you rent or lease. It is a real expense, but not necessarily a cash outlay expense in the year it’s recorded. The cash outlay does actually occur when the fixed asset is acquired, but is recorded over a period of time.
It is different from other expenses. It is deducted from sales revenue to determine profit, but the expense recorded in a reporting period doesn’t require any true cash outlay during that period. The expense is that portion of the total cost of a business’s fixed assets that is allocated to the period to record the cost of using the assets during period. The higher the total cost of a business’s fixed assets, then the higher its depreciation expense.
Businesses depreciate long-term assets for both tax and accounting purpose. The former affects the balance sheet of a business or entity, and the latter affects the net income that they report. Generally the cost is allocated, as depreciation expense, among the periods in which the asset is expected to be used. This expense is recognized by businesses for financial reporting and tax purposes. Methods of computing it, and the periods over which assets are depreciated, may vary between asset types within the same business and may vary for tax purposes. These may be specified by law or accounting standards, which may vary by country. There are several standard methods of computing depreciation expense, including fixed percentage, straight line, and declining balance methods.