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Understanding Depreciation, Amortization, Impairment, and Depletion: A Complete Guide

In the financial and accounting world, terms like depreciation, amortization, impairment, and depletion often come into play, especially when assessing the value of assets over time. While these concepts share similarities in that they all relate to the reduction of value of assets, they apply to different types of assets and under varying circumstances. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore each term in detail, highlighting their similarities and differences, to provide a clear understanding of their applications in financial accounting and reporting.


Depreciation is an accounting method used to allocate the cost of a tangible asset over its useful life. Tangible assets are physical assets such as machinery, equipment, vehicles, and buildings. The purpose of depreciation is to reflect the wear and tear on these assets as they are used in the operations of a business.

Types of Depreciation Methods:

  • Straight-line depreciation: The most simple and commonly used method, where the asset’s cost is evenly spread over its useful life.
  • Declining balance depreciation: A method that applies a higher depreciation rate in the earlier years of the asset’s life.
  • Units of production depreciation: The depreciation expense is based on the asset’s usage, production, or work hours during the period.

For example,

A company purchases a piece of machinery for Rs. 100,000. The machinery has an estimated useful life of 10 years and a salvage value of Rs. 10,000 at the end of its useful life.

Calculation Using Straight-Line Depreciation:

  • Depreciable amount: Rs. 100,000 (cost) – Rs. 10,000 (salvage value) = Rs. 90,000
  • Annual depreciation expense: Rs. 90,000 / 10 years = Rs. 9,000 per year

Over the next 10 years, the company will record a depreciation expense of Rs. 9,000 annually to reflect the machinery’s decline in value.


Amortization, similar to depreciation, is the process of spreading the cost of an intangible asset over its useful life. Intangible assets include patents, copyrights, trademarks, software, and goodwill. Unlike tangible assets, these do not have a physical presence but are crucial for the business’s operations and profitability.

Key Points:

  • Amortization typically uses the straight-line method.
  • The amortization period is often tied to the estimated useful life of the intangible asset.

For example,

A software company acquires a patent for Rs. 50,000. The patent has a useful life of 5 years.


  • Amortizable amount: Rs. 50,000
  • Annual amortization expense: Rs. 50,000 / 5 years = Rs. 10,000 per year

The company will record an annual amortization expense of Rs. 10,000 to spread the cost of the patent over its useful life.


Impairment is the reduction in the recoverable value of an asset, both tangible and intangible, below its carrying amount on the balance sheet. An impairment loss occurs when the asset’s market value decreases due to factors such as damage to the asset, significant changes in market conditions, or legal restrictions.

Important Aspects:

  • Impairment tests are required when there is an indication that an asset may be impaired.
  • The impairment loss is recognized in the income statement, and the carrying amount of the asset is reduced accordingly.

For example,

A company owns a building valued at Rs. 200,000 on its balance sheet. Due to a sudden market downturn, the fair market value of the building decreases to Rs. 150,000.


  • Carrying amount: Rs. 200,000
  • Recoverable amount (market value): Rs. 150,000
  • Impairment loss: Rs. 200,000 (carrying amount) – Rs. 150,000 (recoverable amount) = Rs. 50,000

The company must recognize a Rs. 50,000 impairment loss in its income statement, and the new carrying amount of the building on the balance sheet will be Rs. 150,000.


Depletion is the allocation of the cost of natural resources over their extraction period. This concept is primarily used in the mining, timber, petroleum, and similar industries. Depletion allows businesses to account for the reduction in the availability of natural resources as they are extracted and sold.

How It Works:

  • The cost of the resource is allocated based on the quantity of the resource extracted during the period.
  • Like depreciation and amortization, depletion is a way to match expenses with revenues generated from the natural resources.

For example,

A mining company purchases a coal mine for Rs. 5000000/-, which is estimated to have 1000000 tons of coal.


  • Cost per ton: Rs. 5,000,000 / 1,000,000 tons = Rs. 5 per ton
  • If the company extracts 100,000 tons of coal in the first year, the depletion expense for that year would be 100,000 tons * Rs. 5/ton = Rs. 500,000.

The company will record a depletion expense of Rs. 500,000 for the first year, reflecting the reduction in the coal mine’s value due to the extraction of coal.

Similarities and Differences


  • All four methods involve the systematic allocation of costs over a period.
  • They each aim to match the cost of an asset with the revenue it generates, adhering to the matching principle in accounting.


  • Application: Depreciation applies to tangible assets, amortization to intangible assets, impairment can apply to both, and depletion to natural resources.
  • Basis: Depreciation and amortization are based on time, while impairment is event-driven, and depletion is based on the quantity of resources extracted.
  • Impact: While depreciation, amortization, and depletion spread the cost over time, impairment represents an immediate reduction in an asset’s value.


Understanding the nuances between depreciation, amortization, impairment, and depletion is essential for anyone involved in financial accounting or interested in the financial health of a company. These concepts not only help in accurately reporting the value of a company’s assets but also in making informed decisions based on the company’s operational efficiency and asset management. By carefully applying these methods, businesses can ensure that they accurately reflect the value and usage of their assets in their financial statements, providing clear insights into their financial status and future prospects.

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