Impact of Depreciation on Financial Management

In this article we will discuss about the impact of depreciation on financial management.

Depreciation is the measure of wearing out, consumption or other loss of value of a fixed asset. It may arise from use of asset, affluxion of time, obsolescence through technology and market changes etc.

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The cost of a product should consist of not only normal expenses like direct material, direct labour, factory cost etc., which involve in cash outgo but also noncash costs like depreciation which does not involve in cash outgo. Depreciation is the allocation of the depreciable amount of an asset over its estimated useful life. It is provided to match the use of asset, its deterioration and obsolescence with the income it generates.

Objectives of Depreciation Policy:

Depreciation policy aims at maximization of value of an entity.

The management should be careful in adopting the appropriate depreciation policy considering the following factors:

(a) The original investment of the asset should be fully recovered into the product cost over the economic life of the asset.

(b) Depreciation acts as a tax shield, since these charges against income do not affect the net inflow of funds and hence, proper planning in depreciation charges is necessary to reduce the tax burden on the organization.

(c) Failure to recognize depreciation causes overstatement of income with an attendant possible distribution of capital through dividends. The adoption of sound depreciation will prevent the ‘impairment of capital through dividends based upon overstated earnings.

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(d) The method adopted to recover depreciation should be able to generate sufficient funds for replacement of the machinery at the end of its economic life.

(e) The depreciation charged should be absorbed into product cost on equitable basis.

(f) By providing adequate depreciation, the financial position of the company is correctly shown in the balance’ sheet.

(g) Depreciation should be a process of allocation of cost and it should not be a process of constantly valuing or revaluing fixed assets according to what they are currently ‘worth’.

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(h) The ideal matching of expired cost against the related revenue and proper measurement of depreciable asset at each accounting date will ensure the uniform rate of return and the depreciation is equitably spread over the useful life of fixed asset.

(i) The cost of fixed asset is a long-term prepaid expense which by some equitable method must be proportionately charged over its useful life, as an expense to be matched against revenue during each period.

Depreciation and Inflation:

Depreciation should be provided irrespective of the increase in value of asset due to inflation. It is not appropriate to admit charging depreciation of a fixed asset on the grounds that its market value is greater than its net book value. If account is taken of such increased value by writing-up the net book value of a fixed asset, then, an increased charge for depreciation will become necessary.

During times of inflationary tendency, the historical costs do not provide a correct picture of financial statements and funds provided may not be sufficient for replacement of assets. In such cases, the depreciation should be provided to recover the replacement cost of fixed assets instead of, based on historical costs.

Depreciation and Capital Budgeting:

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The depreciation will have little impact on capital investment decisions, since capital expenditure incurred on fixed assets is considered as sunk cost and it will have least impact on cash-flow in later years. The depreciation provision is matched against project revenues and to that extent the tax liability will change and cash-flow will also be affected.

The capital investment decision is also influenced by the salvage value or scrap value at the end of economic life of the project/asset. The depreciation provision indirectly generates cash inflow by reducing the current taxable income. The net cash inflow of a project is ascertained by adding depreciation to the earnings after tax.

Depreciation as a Source of Fund:

Whether to consider depreciation as a source of fund is a debated issue. Some view that depreciation does not result into any cash outlay and the portion of profits adjusted for depreciation can be used by the management to finance their working capital requirements, and hence depreciation is considered as source of funds.

To counter the above, some argue that funds are generated by operating profits and not by making provision for depreciation and it is considered as a special amount set aside out of the revenue generated by the firm.

They further argue that depreciation is not available to the firm in a fund form for improving its financial position and liquidity, therefore depreciation cannot be considered as a source of fund. Deprecia­tion is neither a source nor a use of funds. The use of funds obviously began when the fixed asset was purchased. It would be double counting to regard each year’s depreciation as a further use of funds.

The relevant figure for profit from operation profit before charging depreciation. It has become common to add back depreciation to profit and to call the result by the name of cash flow. The quantum of operational funds flow cannot be influenced by the method of depreciation charged.

Any variation in the quantum of depreciation can influence the quantum of profit, but the depreciation and quantum of profit put together will not change. Thus, the amount collected towards depreciation and profit is available with the company in the form of liquid funds known as ‘operational funds flow’.

Depreciation and Tax Liability:

Depreciation is said to serve as a tax shield, since these charges against income do not affect the net inflow of funds. The higher the depreciation charged, the lower the net profit and the tax liability.

Since funds not paid out in taxes, remain with the firm. Depreciation serves to shield the firm’s cash inflow from the reach of tax authorities. The present value of income tax savings is greater if an accelerated method of depreciation is adopted as compared with the straight-line method.

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