Mastering Depreciation: Your Guide to Financial Clarity


Depreciation is an essential accounting practice utilised by Australian businesses to spread the cost of tangible assets over their effective useful lives.

This practice aids companies in accounting for the costs of assets over time, aligning these costs with the revenue they help to generate. Beyond providing a clearer financial picture, depreciation also plays a critical role in tax planning, aligning with guidelines set by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

Depreciation is a non-cash expense that helps distribute the costs of assets over their useful lives. It requires regular accounting entries that shift an asset’s costs from the balance sheet to the income statement. In the Australian context, depreciation serves two functions: it facilitates tax deductions on asset costs and adheres to ATO guidelines for the timing of these deductions.

Michele Bullock, first female RBA governor
Team doing a review

The depreciation rate, usually expressed as a percentage, defines the annual amount that will be depreciated. Businesses in Australia often set various cost thresholds to determine when an asset should begin to be depreciated.

Accumulated depreciation is classified as a contra-asset account, reducing the total value of the asset on the balance sheet. This is pivotal for determining both the carrying value and the salvage value, which is an estimation of the asset’s worth at the end of its effective life.

Depreciation methods are diverse tools in an accountant’s arsenal to distribute the cost of assets over time. Australian accountants have a variety of methods to choose from to depreciate assets over time, including:

Prime Cost: This method is similar to straight-line depreciation, distributing expenses consistently over an asset’s effective life.

Diminishing Value: Similar to the declining balance method, this approach calculates depreciation based on the remaining book value of the asset, leading to higher early-year expenses that gradually decrease.

Each method offers unique advantages and is chosen based on a company’s specific needs and financial reporting requirements.

Depreciation in Australia is not only an accounting function but also a tax strategy. It allows businesses to synchronise expenses with generated revenue by spreading the cost of assets over their useful lives. Depreciation schedules are often designed with potential tax benefits in mind, ranging from the Prime Cost method for a more straightforward approach to the Diminishing Value method for more rapid depreciation.

In Australian accounting, it’s essential to differentiate between depreciation, which applies to tangible assets, and amortisation, which is used for intangible assets such as intellectual property or even the gradual write-down of loans.

Depreciation expense is recorded on the income statement, while accumulated depreciation is noted as a contra-asset on the balance sheet. Both are instrumental for asset valuation, particularly when considering tax deductions and the selling price of assets. In accounting terms, depreciation is treated as an expense, reflecting the cost of using assets and recognising their wear and tear over time.


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