What methods are used to calculate depreciation of noncurrent assets?

Companies use various depreciation methods such as straight-line, declining balance, or units of production to calculate the decrease in value of noncurrent assets over time. Each method offers distinct advantages and impacts financial statements differently, influencing tax obligations and profitability.

Several methods are used to calculate depreciation for noncurrent assets, with each method having its own advantages and suitability for different types of assets. Here are some commonly used depreciation methods:

  1. Straight-Line Method: This method allocates the cost of an asset evenly over its useful life. The formula is: (Cost of Asset - Salvage Value) / Useful Life. It's straightforward and easy to calculate, making it commonly used for financial reporting purposes.

  2. Declining Balance Method: This approach applies a fixed depreciation rate to the declining book value of the asset each period. Common variations include double declining balance and 150% declining balance methods. This method results in higher depreciation expenses in the early years of an asset's life.

  3. Units of Production Method: Depreciation is based on the actual usage or output of the asset. The formula is: (Cost of Asset - Salvage Value) / Total Expected Units of Production. This method is suitable for assets whose wear and tear depend on usage, like machinery or vehicles.

  4. Sum-of-the-Years’-Digits Method: This method considers an asset's useful life by adding up the digits of the years (e.g., for a 5-year asset, 5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 15). Depreciation is then calculated by allocating the cost based on the ratio of the remaining useful life to the sum of the digits.

  5. MACRS (Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System): Often used for tax purposes in the United States, MACRS assigns assets to specific asset classes and applies predetermined depreciation rates over fixed recovery periods.

  6. Group or Composite Depreciation: Used when assets have similar characteristics or are used together, this method depreciates assets as a group rather than individually, simplifying calculations.

The choice of method depends on factors such as the nature of the asset, its usage pattern, regulatory requirements, tax considerations, and the desired impact on financial statements. Companies often use different methods for financial reporting and tax purposes, ensuring compliance with accounting standards and optimizing tax benefits.

It's important to note that while these methods provide guidelines for calculating depreciation, the actual depreciation expense may vary based on the specific circumstances, changes in estimates, or reassessments of an asset's useful life or residual value. Consulting with accounting professionals or tax experts can help companies choose the most appropriate depreciation method for their assets and circumstances.

Depreciation Calculation Techniques for Long-Term Assets.

Depreciation Calculation Techniques for Long-Term Assets

Depreciation is an accounting practice that spreads the cost of a long-term asset over its useful life, recognizing the expense of the asset gradually as it wears out or becomes obsolete. Choosing the right depreciation method is crucial for accurately reflecting the asset's decreasing value and impacting various financial statements like profit and loss and balance sheet.

Here are some common depreciation calculation techniques:

1. Straight-Line Method:

  • This is the simplest and most widely used method. It involves calculating a constant depreciation expense by dividing the asset's cost (net of salvage value) by its estimated useful life.
  • Formula: (Cost - Salvage Value) / Useful Life = Annual Depreciation Expense
  • Example: A machine costs $10,000 with a salvage value of $2,000 and a useful life of 5 years. The annual depreciation expense would be ($10,000 - $2,000) / 5 = $1,600.

2. Double-Declining Balance Method:

  • This method accelerates depreciation in the early years of the asset's life, assuming it loses value faster when new. It applies a depreciation rate to the book value (carrying value) of the asset each year.
  • Formula: Book Value at Beginning of Year * Depreciation Rate = Annual Depreciation Expense
  • Example: Using the same machine as before with a 20% depreciation rate, the first year's depreciation expense would be $10,000 * 20% = $2,000, leaving a book value of $8,000. The second year's depreciation would be $8,000 * 20% = $1,600, and so on.

3. Units-of-Production Method:

  • This method allocates depreciation expense based on the asset's actual usage rather than its estimated useful life. It calculates the depreciation rate per unit of production and multiplies it by the number of units produced each year.
  • Formula: (Cost - Salvage Value) / Estimated Total Units of Production = Depreciation Rate per Unit
  • Example: A truck costs $20,000 with a salvage value of $5,000 and is estimated to last for 100,000 miles. If the truck travels 20,000 miles in a year, the depreciation expense would be ($20,000 - $5,000) / 100,000 * 20,000 = $3,000.

4. Sum-of-the-Years-Digits Method:

  • This method assigns a larger depreciation expense to the early years of the asset's life. It calculates a fraction based on the remaining useful life each year and applies it to the original cost less salvage value.
  • Formula: Fraction = Remaining Useful Life / Sum of Years' Digits (e.g., for 5 years, sum = 15) * Annual Depreciation Expense = Fraction * (Cost - Salvage Value)
  • Example: For the same machine as before, in the first year, the fraction would be 5/15, resulting in a depreciation expense of 5/15 * ($10,000 - $2,000) = $3,333.33.

Choosing the Right Method:

The choice of depreciation method depends on several factors:

  • Nature of the asset: Some assets, like buildings, depreciate more linearly, while others, like machinery, experience faster decline in the early years.
  • Industry practices: Certain industries might have preferred or standard depreciation methods for specific asset types.
  • Tax implications: Different methods may have varying tax consequences, impacting a company's tax liability.


  • Depreciation is an accounting estimate, and the chosen method reflects a company's judgment about the asset's useful life and value decline.
  • Consistency in applying the chosen method is crucial for financial statement comparability and avoiding distortions.
  • Consulting with tax and accounting professionals can help choose the most appropriate depreciation method for your specific situation.

I hope this explanation provides a comprehensive overview of common depreciation calculation techniques for long-term assets. Feel free to ask any further questions you may have about specific methods, their advantages and disadvantages, or the applicability in particular contexts. I'm here to help you navigate the complexities of depreciation and its impact on your financial accounting practices.