Understanding Assets

An asset is a valuable resource that an organization can utilize to generate revenue or other benefits. These resources hold value and can be used by the business.

Assets are broadly categorized into two major types:

  1. Fixed Assets: These assets are used over an extended period within the business, typically spanning multiple financial years.
  2. Current Assets: Current assets are expected to be used or converted into cash within a year. Examples include cash, inventory, and accounts receivable.
What is an Asset? | Source: Investopedia

The Significance of Asset Accounting

Given their long-term value, assets are recorded in the balance sheet at their cost after deducting any accumulated depreciation.

The price of an investment may include cash spent or the value of goods exchanged to acquire the help.

Assets like real estate or factory machinery are often acquired on credit and involve more complex buying and selling processes.

Consequently, asset accounting is regulated by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) rules.

GAAP ensures that financial statements accurately reflect the organization’s proper financial position by accounting for asset acquisition, use, and disposal.

This standardization allows for easy comparison and meaningful analysis of financial statements.

Key Characteristics of an Asset

To be classified as an asset, an item must possess three essential characteristics:

  1. Ownership or Control: The asset must be owned or controlled by the organization, granting it the ability to convert it into cash or a cash equivalent. Some assets with usage rights may not be convertible. For instance, lease agreements often prohibit their sale or transfer. While companies may refer to their employees as their “biggest asset,” from an accounting perspective, they have limited control over them as employees can quickly leave for other positions.
  2. Economic Value: An asset must hold economic value and can be sold or converted into cash, except for certain right-of-use assets like lease agreements.
  3. Resourcefulness: An asset must be a resource that can generate potential economic value in the present or future. Typically, this refers to an asset’s potential to create positive cash inflows in the future.

Liabilities and Equity

Assets are resources controlled by an organization contributing to revenue generation or expense reduction.

On the other hand, liabilities represent future financial obligations that the organization must fulfill.

Both assets and liabilities are recorded on the balance sheet.

While the distinction between assets and liabilities is clear, the line between assets and equity can be blurred.

Equity refers to the owners’ ownership stake in the business, representing the difference between assets and liabilities.

Since equity does not generate revenue for the company, it is not considered an asset.

Asset Liquidity

Assets can be grouped based on their liquidity, which reflects how quickly they can be converted into cash. Cash, the most liquid asset, can be readily used to settle debts.

Conversely, purchases like a factory are considered illiquid as it may take time to sell and convert into cash.

Current assets are the most liquid assets, including cash, marketable securities, inventories, and accounts receivable.

These assets can be converted into cash within a year and contribute to the business’s cash flow.

Fixed assets, on the other hand, are non-liquid assets.

This category encompasses buildings, vehicles, and equipment.

Fixed assets generally require significant capital investment and have a longer useful life within the organization.