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Glossary  -> Assets


Assets are items owned by or receivable by a company or individual, such as cash and investments, inventories, prepaid expenses, accounts receivable, fixed assets (land, buildings, machinery and equipment), and intangible assets (goodwill, intellectual property, etc.).

Assets are generally shown at cost on a balance sheet.  Under previous Generally Accepted Accounting Principals (GAAP), fixed assets and intangible assets were shown at book value (cost less accumulated depreciation or amortization).

Under new International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), which are in effect as of January 1, 2011 or earlier for publicly traded corporations, a corporation can choose whether to show their fixed assets (property, plant and equipment) on their balance sheets using the "cost model" or the "revaluation model".

When the cost model is used, the treatment is the same as it was under GAAP - the fixed assets are shown at cost less accumulated depreciation and any accumulated impairment losses.

When the revaluation model is used, the fixed assets are shown at the fair value as of the date of revaluation, less any subsequent accumulated depreciation and subsequent accumulated impairment losses.  Revaluations should be done regularly so that the value on the balance sheet does not differ materially from the fair value at the end of the reporting period.

Under new Accounting Standards for Private Enterprises (ASPE), which can be used by most private corporations starting January 1, 2011, fixed assets are reported using the cost model, but there is a one-time opportunity to revalue fixed assets at their fair value when ASPE are first adopted.

Under both IFRS and ASPE, investments in equity securities that are quoted in an active market are shown on the balance sheet at current market value, with changes in the market value reflected on the income statement each reporting period.  For tax purposes, the changes in market value are unrealized gains and losses, and do not affect taxable income.

Revised: October 26, 2023


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