BACK TO RESOURCES

What Is a Fixed Asset? Types and Examples

What are a company’s most valuable long-term assets? They’re not just buildings and patents. Almost all businesses have fixed assets that allow them to operate and serve customers. Without these assets, business comes to a halt. That’s why tracking fixed assets is so important for organizations of all sizes.

In this article, we’ll explain what fixed assets are and why they’re so important. Then we’ll dive into how organizations can effectively track and manage their assets and some of the most common mistakes to avoid. 

Main Takeaways From This Article:

  • Fixed assets are crucial physical items like machinery, vehicles, and office equipment that sustain business operations.
  • These assets have distinct characteristics, including longevity, significant investment, and being subject to depreciation, making them vital for long-term financial planning.
  • Effective tracking of fixed assets can lead to improved maintenance, cost savings, and better budgeting decisions.
  • Organizations must adhere to proper fixed asset accounting practices, which include calculating depreciation and ensuring compliance with financial reporting standards.
  • Utilizing tools like RedBeam's asset-tracking software can significantly streamline the management and monitoring of fixed assets, enhancing overall asset strategy and efficiency.

What Is a Fixed Asset?

A fixed asset is a long-term piece of property that a company owns and uses in its operations to generate income. Unlike short-term assets, such as inventory, fixed assets are not intended for sale but are used to support the business's operations over several years. Examples of fixed assets include machinery, vehicles, office equipment, furniture, and buildings. These assets play a crucial role in the day-to-day functioning and overall productivity of an organization.

Why Are Fixed Assets Important?

Fixed assets are critical to staying open and profitable; they provide the basic infrastructure or foundation on which organizations build their businesses. They play several key roles that underscore their importance:

Contribution to Revenue Generation and Operational Efficiency

Fixed assets, such as machinery, equipment, and buildings, directly contribute to a company’s ability to generate revenue. They enable the production of goods or the delivery of services, making daily operations more efficient. For example, well-maintained machinery can enhance production speed and quality, while a well-equipped office can improve employee productivity.

Impact on the Overall Valuation of the Company

The value of fixed assets significantly impacts the overall valuation of a company. These assets are recorded on the balance sheet and contribute to the company’s net worth. Investors and stakeholders often look at the value and condition of fixed assets to assess the company’s financial health and potential for future growth.

Strategic Importance in Long-Term Business Planning

Fixed assets are integral to long-term business planning. They represent significant capital investments that are expected to support business operations for many years. Strategic decisions about acquiring, maintaining, and upgrading fixed assets are crucial for ensuring sustained business growth and competitiveness. Planning for future asset needs and managing current assets effectively can help a business remain agile and prepared for future opportunities and challenges.

Characteristics of Fixed Assets

Fixed assets are an essential part of any business, and understanding their characteristics helps in managing them effectively. 

Let's explore some key characteristics that define fixed assets:

1. Tangible

Fixed assets have a physical presence and can be readily identified through touch and sight. They're the nuts and bolts of your business – the equipment you operate, the buildings you work in, and the furniture you use.

2. Longevity

Fixed assets are workhorses of the business world, lasting for years. They're used for an extended period, typically exceeding a year (e.g., factory equipment used for a decade).

3. Capital Expenditure

When you buy a fixed asset, it's an investment. The cost is capitalized, recorded on the balance sheet, and spread out as an expense over time.

4. Subject to Depreciation

Fixed assets experience wear and tear. Depreciation reflects this decline in value as they age (e.g., a delivery truck loses value over several years) and allows businesses to spread the cost of the asset over its usable life, accurately reflecting its declining value on the company's financial statements.

5. Illiquid

Fixed assets aren't like inventory that you can readily sell to customers. They are illiquid, meaning they cannot be easily converted into cash without potentially incurring a significant loss. Unlike cash or short-term investments, fixed assets are not intended for quick resale in the normal course of business.

6. Significant Investment

Fixed assets are often expensive purchases. They represent a substantial investment critical for your business operations and profitability.

Fixed Assets vs. Current Assets

It's important to distinguish fixed assets from current assets. 

Current assets are short-term holdings like cash, inventory, or accounts receivable that are expected to be converted to cash within a year. 

In contrast, fixed assets are long-term investments used in the production process and are not intended for immediate resale. 

Think of current assets as the fuel that keeps your business running day-to-day, while fixed assets are the durable machinery that helps you produce that fuel.

Types and Examples of Fixed Assets

Fixed assets come in many forms, each playing a crucial role in your day-to-day operations. Here's a closer look at some of the most common types:

Machinery

Machinery includes production equipment, factory machines, and specialized tools used to create your products. Think of industrial ovens, assembly line robots, or printing presses – these are all essential fixed assets that keep your production humming.

Vehicles

Delivery trucks, company cars, forklifts, and other transportation equipment are fixed assets that get your products moving. Whether you're delivering goods to customers or transporting materials within your facility, these vehicles keep your business mobile and efficient. 

Office Equipment

The technology that powers your daily operations falls under office equipment. This includes computers, printers, copiers, servers, and networking equipment. These assets ensure your employees have the tools they need to communicate, collaborate, and keep your business running smoothly.

Buildings and Real Estate

The physical structures that house your operations are fixed assets. This includes factories, warehouses, office buildings, retail storefronts, and any other land or structures your company owns. These assets provide the critical space you need to conduct business and store your inventory.

Furniture and Fixtures

Desks, chairs, filing cabinets, bookshelves, and other furnishings used in your workplace are considered fixed assets. While they may not be directly involved in the production, they create a functional and comfortable environment for your employees to perform their tasks effectively.

Why Should Organizations Track Their Fixed Assets?

How would you know when a key piece of equipment needs maintenance or if you're utilizing your assets effectively? That's the risk you run without proper fixed asset tracking. Here's how a well-organized system empowers you to make smarter decisions and optimize your operations:

Improved Maintenance and Replacement Decisions

With data on asset age, condition, and usage history, you can proactively schedule maintenance to prevent costly breakdowns. You'll also gain insights into when it's time to replace aging equipment, ensuring you have the most efficient and reliable tools at your disposal.

Enhanced Budgeting and Purchasing Decisions

Accurate asset information helps you forecast future asset needs and budget accordingly. Knowing what equipment you already have and its functionality allows you to avoid unnecessary purchases, optimize your resource allocation, and prevent overspending.

Cost Savings and Tax Benefits

Fixed asset tracking isn't just about monitoring your equipment; it's about putting more money back in your pocket. Proper depreciation tracking, a key component of fixed asset management, allows you to maximize tax deductions associated with asset depreciation, resulting in real cost savings for your business.

Loss Prevention and Recovery

Imagine a barcode attached to each piece of equipment, allowing you to track its location and deter potential theft. Fixed asset-tracking systems can also be instrumental in locating misplaced equipment within your facility, saving you time and frustration searching for missing tools or machinery. Ultimately, fixed asset tracking empowers you to minimize financial losses from theft or misplaced equipment and avoid costly disruptions.

Fixed Asset Accounting

Fixed asset accounting ensures your financial statements accurately reflect the value of your long-term assets. A crucial aspect of this is calculating and tracking depreciation.

Calculating and Tracking Asset Depreciation 

Depreciation is one of the most important financial reasons businesses track their physical assets. Depreciation refers to the value that a fixed asset loses over time. The IRS allows you to deduct this lost value when calculating your taxes.

To track and write off depreciation, you must document your assets' worth and keep accurate records of how much their worth reduces over time. Businesses often use depreciation schedules to plan how assets will decrease in value. This is a document that charts the object's value over time. 

Start by selecting one of the two depreciation methods below:

  • Straight-Line Method: Spreads the asset's cost evenly over its useful life.
  • Double-Declining Balance Method: Depreciates the asset faster in the early years of its life.

Next, apply the chosen method by using the asset's initial cost, its expected salvage value, and its useful life. This calculation will help you systematically reduce the asset's value on your balance sheet over time.

Recording and Tracking Fixed Assets

Maintaining accurate and detailed records of all fixed assets is critical for effective asset management. This includes meticulous documentation of purchase dates, costs, upgrades, and depreciation. By keeping comprehensive records, organizations can ensure they are fully aware of their asset statuses and can make informed decisions regarding maintenance, replacements, and budgeting. 

  • Purchase Dates: Knowing when an asset was acquired helps determine warranties and lifecycle.
  • Costs: Tracking costs is essential for budgeting and financial analysis.
  • Upgrades: Documenting upgrades ensures that the asset’s current value is accurately represented.
  • Depreciation: Monitoring depreciation helps in accurate financial reporting and tax deductions.

Accurate fixed asset records not only aid in financial reporting but also enhance operational efficiency and compliance. Learn more about optimizing your asset management with RedBeam.

Compliance and Reporting

The business world runs on rules, and fixed asset accounting is no exception. Regulatory bodies establish guidelines for how companies record and report on their assets.

Accounting standards, like Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), dictate how fixed assets are valued and depreciated. Maintaining accurate records ensures your financial statements comply with these regulations. This avoids potential penalties or delays during audits.

Financial statements paint a picture of your company's health. Without proper fixed asset documentation, the value of your assets could be misrepresented, leading to inaccurate financial reporting. This can mislead investors, creditors, and other stakeholders who rely on your financial health to make informed decisions.

Tips for Managing Your Company's Fixed Assets Effectively

While asset-tracking systems may vary among organizations, here are some universally beneficial tips:

  • Maintain an Accurate Tracking System: An effective asset-tracking system enables managers to accurately assess the value of fixed assets and anticipate depreciation over time.
  • Distinguish Owned from Leased Assets: It's crucial to understand the difference; owned assets are "capitalized," while leased assets are categorized as expenses. Proper classification enhances efficient usage and financial reporting.
  • Segregate Records for Different Asset Types: Maintain separate records for assets leased for company use and those utilized in other capacities, as this affects equity calculations.
  • Monitor Depreciation Accurately: Track depreciation as it occurs and perform regular annual reviews to adjust financial records and reflect asset value accurately.
  • Keep Detailed and Current Records: Ensuring your records are accurate and up-to-date facilitates better decision-making regarding asset management and supports precise cost tracking for taxation purposes.

Common Mistakes When Tracking Fixed Assets

Along with the tips provided, be aware of these frequent errors. Establishing a clear process and adequately training your team can prevent many common issues.

  • Not maintaining distinct records for owned and leased assets.
  • Neglecting to track asset depreciation over time.
  • Omitting key details such as purchase price, accumulated depreciation, current location, present value, and disposal plans can result in inaccurate financial statements.
  • Incorrectly allocating costs to the wrong asset accounts, leading to errors in financial reporting.

Optimize Your Asset Strategy with RedBeam

Managing fixed assets can be complex, but RedBeam simplifies the process. Here’s how RedBeam helps optimize your asset strategy:

  • Streamlined Audits: RedBeam stores all your asset data in a centralized, user-friendly platform, making audits up to 70% faster and ensuring accuracy.
  • Enhanced Asset Visibility: Quickly locate assets, identify their condition, and assign them to the right people with RedBeam, reducing the risk of misplaced or misused assets.
  • Compliance Assurance: RedBeam helps create accurate records of your fixed assets, ensuring compliance with the latest regulations and reducing the risk of fines.
  • Easy-to-Use Interface: RedBeam’s intuitive interface makes asset management simple, from barcoding assets to scanning them into the system, eliminating the need for spreadsheets or manual entry.
  • Scalable Solution: Whether you have one location or many, RedBeam can handle unlimited locations and asset transfers, adapting to your business needs.
  • Detailed Tracking and History: Every change to assets is date-, time-, and user-stamped, providing a detailed history for audit control and ensuring transparency.

With RedBeam, you can enhance your asset management strategy, improve efficiency, and ensure compliance, all while saving time and money.

Stop guessing; start knowing! Take control of your fixed assets today. Try the RedBeam 30-day free trial and see the difference!

FAQs

Are Fixed Assets Considered Tangible or Intangible Assets?

Fixed assets are tangible assets. Unlike intangible assets like brand reputation or intellectual property, fixed assets have a physical presence and can be readily identified through touch and sight. Think buildings, equipment, or machinery – these are all tangible fixed assets contributing to your business operations.

How Do You Classify Fixed Assets?

Fixed assets are typically classified on the company's balance sheet under property, plant, and equipment (PP&E). They can be further categorized based on their specific function, such as machinery, buildings, or furniture.

What Is the Minimum Amount for A Fixed Asset?

There's no universally defined minimum amount for a fixed asset. The key factor is whether the item is expected to last more than one year and has a significant value to warrant inclusion on the company's balance sheet. Generally, companies establish their own capitalization thresholds to determine which assets qualify as fixed assets.

How To Write Off Fixed Assets?

When a fixed asset reaches the end of its useful life or is no longer needed, it's removed from the company's books through a process called depreciation. The accumulated depreciation is subtracted from the original asset cost, resulting in a final book value. The asset may then be disposed of, and any remaining value can be recognized as a gain or loss on the company's income statement.