How are assets classified in accounting?
In my previous post, I introduced assets. Now let’s see how assets are classified in accounting.
There are two major asset classifications 1) non-current and current, 2) tangible and intangible. Let’s have a brief look at each.
Non-current versus current assets
A non-current assets is one which typically cannot be converted into cash within one year. The classic example of a non-current asset is plant, property and equipment. Current assets normally convert into cash within one year e.g. receivables from customers, inventories. This non-current and current classification is used in the financial statements of most organisations.
Tangible versus intangible assets
This one is a little more tricky to understand, and it is something not normally seen on financial statements. As you might guess, a tangible asset is one which you can see and touch i.e it physically exists. Typically examples are again, plant, property and equipment, but also inventories are a tangible asset. Money due from customers is also arguably a tangible asset, as it does exist as money albeit somewhere outside the business. Intangible assets are those which do not physically exist, but yet have a value. This value may arise from intellectual or legal rights. For example, trademarks, patents, in-house software or knowledge built up through research and development are intangible assets. The accounting standard which governs intangible assets is IAS 38, and it gives some examples:
- computer software
- motion picture films
- customer lists
- mortgage servicing rights
- import quotas
- customer and supplier relationships
- marketing rights.