Write Down

Write Down Meaning

Write down refers to the reduction in the book value of assets when its carrying value (purchase price – accumulated depreciation) exceeds fair value and the impaired asset and its reduced value are reflected into the balance sheet. In addition, the impaired amount is shown as a separate item in the income statement as an impairment charge or an impairment loss.

How does Write Down Work?

Generally, when an asset is purchased, it is shown at an acquisition cost on the balance sheet, and each year, depreciation is subtracted from that value. An asset is tested to know whether the fair value exceeds or is less than the carrying value. This impairment test is done by considering the future identifiable cash flowsCash FlowsCash Flow is the amount of cash or cash equivalent generated & consumed by a Company over a given period. It proves to be a prerequisite for analyzing the business’s strength, profitability, & scope for betterment. read more from that asset. If the carrying value of that asset exceeds undiscounted cash flows from that asset, then the asset is impaired, and value is written down to fair value.

The amount by which carrying value exceeded fair value is shown as impairment charges in the income statement, which also affects balance sheet through reserves and surplusReserves And SurplusReserves and Surplus is the amount kept aside from the profits that are to be used either for the business or for the shareholders to pay out dividends. Reserves and surplus is reflected under shareholders funds in the balance sheet.read more.

Cash flow is not affected by this treatment until the asset is sold, after which gain or loss is recognized in cash flow from investing activitiesCash Flow From Investing ActivitiesCash flow from investing activities refer to the money acquired or spent on the purchase or disposal of the fixed assets (both tangible and intangible) for the business purpose. For instance, the purchase of land and joint venture investment is cash outflow, while equipment sale is a cash inflow.read more. The impairment charge is added back in the cash flow from operating activities as it’s a non cash expenseNon Cash ExpenseNon-cash expenses are those expenses recorded in the firm's income statement for the period under consideration; such costs are not paid or dealt with in cash by the firm. It involves expenses such as depreciation.read more, thereby nullifying its effect on cash flow.

Write Down

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Types of Asset and their Impairment Test

Various assets, tangible or intangible with definite lives or intangibles with indefinite lives, are tested for impairment when a significant event occurs.

#1 – Tangible Assets

Tangible assetsTangible AssetsAny physical assets owned by a firm that can be quantified with reasonable ease and are used to carry out its business activities are defined as tangible assets. For example, a company's land, as well as any structures erected on it, furniture, machinery, and equipment.read more that are likely to be impaired include property plant & equipment, inventory, and accounts receivableAccounts ReceivableAccounts receivables refer to the amount due on the customers for the credit sales of the products or services made by the company to them. It appears as a current asset in the corporate balance sheet.read more. PP&E may be impaired due to fall in value because of the introduction of new machinery/equipment, or it is damaged beyond repair. In case of inventory, several businesses which deal in perishable goods need to write down their inventory value with time. The technology company like Apple has to write down the value of older models with the introduction of new ones.

#2 – Intangible Assets

Intangible assetsIntangible AssetsIntangible Assets are the identifiable assets which do not have a physical existence, i.e., you can't touch them, like goodwill, patents, copyrights, & franchise etc. They are considered as long-term or long-living assets as the Company utilizes them for over a year. read more are assets that lack physical substance like a trademark, copyright, patent, goodwill, etc. Impairment may occur due to a significant decrease in market price or adverse change in legal and economic factorsEconomic FactorsEconomic factors are external, environmental factors that influence business performance, such as interest rates, inflation, unemployment, and economic growth, among others.read more. For intangible assets with indefinite lives, the impairment test is done at least annually.

#3 – Fixed Asset held for Sale

An asset is reclassified as an asset held for sale when it is no longer to be used, and the company’s goal is to sell it. Like if a machine ceases to be used and the company intends to sell it, then the machine is reclassified from property plant & equipment to asset held for sale. Assets previously held for use are tested for impairment when reclassification occurs, and if the carrying amount exceeds fair value less cost to sell, then an impairment charge is made.

A real-life example of write-downs is the 2008 subprime crisis. That time many of the real assetsReal AssetsReal Assets are tangible assets that have an inherent value due to their physical attributes. These assets include metals, commodities, land, and factory, building, and infrastructure assets. read more on the books of the investment banks fell below the carrying value. The fall was such that many assets fell around 80% in value, due to the nonpayment of mortgage loans and fall in demand for assets. As a result, the equity valueEquity ValueEquity Value, also known as market capitalization, is the sum-total of the values the shareholders have made available for the business and can be calculated by multiplying the market value per share by the total number of shares outstanding.read more of many investment banks went negative, and some became bankrupt.

Similarly, write up is another accounting treatment where reversal of impairment is made. After an asset is impaired, the asset’s fair value may increase. Like if a property is in dispute, it will sell for less. But if the dispute is resolved, its value would rise and may gain more than impairment loss.

Effect on Financial Statements

Write down, affects both the income statementIncome StatementThe income statement is one of the company's financial reports that summarizes all of the company's revenues and expenses over time in order to determine the company's profit or loss and measure its business activity over time based on user requirements.read more and balance sheet. An impairment charge is shown as a separate line item in the income statement. The reduced net profit due to impairment charge from income statement goes to reserve and surplus under shareholder’s equity, which affects the balance sheet. On the assets side, an asset is reduced by the same amount as impairment charge, thus making assets equal to liabilities and equity.

The reduced asset value will lead to less depreciation, which will lead to a rise in net profit for future periods.

Write down vs. Write offs

Write down recognizes the fall in the value of an asset when the market value falls below book value. In contrast, writing off means completely removing an asset from the books due to no recoverable amountRecoverable AmountThe recoverable amount of an asset is the present value of the expected cash flows that will result from the asset's sale or use, and is determined as the greater of two amounts: the asset's fair value as reduced by related selling costs, and the asset's value in use.read more from that particular asset. Like if an investment is made in bonds of a company and that company goes bankrupt, the return on investment becomes highly unlikely. Therefore it’s written off from the balance sheet of the company.


Write down enables the investors to see the real value of the assets rather than book value and help make them informed decisions. But it is also often used as a manipulating tool by the companies to lower their earningsEarningsEarnings are usually defined as the net income of the company obtained after reducing the cost of sales, operating expenses, interest, and taxes from all the sales revenue for a specific time period. In the case of an individual, it comprises wages or salaries or other payments.read more for a tax benefit or future benefits.

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