Accumulated Depreciation on Your Business Balance Sheet

An Example of Accumulated Depreciation and Asset Value

Accumulated Depreciation on a Business Balance Sheet
Accumulated Depreciation on a Business Balance Sheet. Photo: Rae Swan/Getty Images

Most businesses have assets that are used to create a product or service. Over the years, these assets may incur wear and tear, reducing the dollar value of those assets.

Depreciation is the accounting method that captures the reduction in value, and accumulated depreciation is the total amount of the depreciated asset at a specific point in time. These changes can affect the value of your business and your taxes.

Key Takeaways

  • Depreciation is the accounting method that captures the reduction in a fixed asset's value as it incurs wear over time.
  • Accumulated depreciation is the total amount of the depreciated asset at a specific point in time.
  • Long-term assets that can be depreciated include buildings, machinery, equipment, furniture, and vehicles.

How Depreciation Works

The change in the value of business assets is depreciation. This term means two things:

  1. A way to spread the cost of a business asset over its useful life, and
  2. The gradual loss in the value of an asset.

The value of business assets is shown on your business balance sheet, a financial report that shows assets on one side, with liabilities (amounts owed by the business) and the business owner's equity (the difference between assets and liabilities, or the amount the owner owns) on the other side. Like this:

Simple Business Balance Sheet
Assets   Liabilities  
   Total Assets $100,000     Total Liabilities $50,000
    Owner's Equity  
        Total Owner's Equity $50,000
Total Assets $100,000 Total Liabilities and Owner's Equity $100,000

Accumulated Depreciation on Long-Term Assets

Some assets are short-term, used up within a year (like office supplies). Long-term assets are used over several years, so the cost is spread out over those years. Short-term assets are put on your business balance sheet, but they aren't depreciated.

Long-Term Assets

Since long-term assets are typically used over many years, they are depreciated as they reduce in value over their useful life. Examples of long-term assets include:

  • Buildings
  • Machinery
  • Equipment
  • Furniture and fixtures
  • Vehicles

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) calls these capital assets: tangible and generally illiquid (not easily turned into cash) property used by a business to generate profit. The usefulness of capital assets is expected to be greater than one year.

Accumulated Depreciation

Accumulated depreciation is the total decrease in the value of an asset on the balance sheet of a business over time. The cost for each year you own the asset becomes a business expense for that year. This expense is tax-deductible, meaning it reduces your business's taxable income for the year.

Residual Value and Book Value

When discussing depreciation, two more accounting terms are important in determining the value of a long-term asset.

Residual Value

Most capital assets (except land) have a residual value, sometimes called "scrap value" or salvage value. This value is what the asset is worth at the end of its useful life and what it could be sold for when the company has finished with it.

Book Value

The value of the asset on your business balance sheet at any one time is called its book value - the original cost minus accumulated depreciation. Book value may (but not necessarily) be related to the price of the asset if you sell it, depending on whether the asset has residual value.


Depreciation is a tax term. You must calculate depreciation on capital assets every year so that you can include this depreciation cost on your business tax return.

Accumulated depreciation is an accounting term. You take the depreciation for all capital assets for the current year and add to the accumulated depreciation on those assets for previous years to get the current year's accumulated depreciation on your business balance sheet.

Business Assets on a Balance Sheet

In the table below is the balance sheet of a business with its assets listed on the left side. We'll focus on the long-term assets:

Long-Term Assets  
   Land and Buildings  $200,000
   Furniture and Fixtures  $  26,000
   Leasehold Improvements  $  74,000
   Vehicles  $   28,000
    Less: Accumulated Depreciation  $  20,000
Total Assets  $308,000

Land and Buildings are listed first, but land is never depreciated. Since land and buildings are bought together, you must separate the cost of the land and the cost of the building to figure depreciation on the building.

All of the specific items being depreciated in the other categories—furniture and fixtures, leasehold improvements, and vehicles—have their own account, which shows the initial cost of the item and the amount of depreciation taken each year, with the total amount of depreciation shown as accumulated depreciation.

Depreciation Expense and Accumulated Depreciation

Let's say you have a car used in your business that has a value of $25,000. It depreciates over 10 years, so you can take $2,500 in depreciation expense each year. 

This depreciation expense is taken along with other expenses on the business profit and loss report. As the asset ages, accumulated depreciation increases and the book value of the car decreases.

Year Initial Cost Depreciation Accumulated Depreciation Book Value
2019 $25,000     $2,000
2020   $2,500 $2,500 $22,500
2021   $2,500 $5,000 $20,000
2022   $2,500 $7,500 $12,500

Accumulated Depreciation on a Balance Sheet

The total value of all the assets of a company is listed on the balance sheet rather than showing the value of each individual asset. In other words, the value of the car is in total asset value.  

However, here's the tricky part. The car doesn't really decrease in value—until it's sold. So the asset shows up in two different accounts: (1) the asset's depreciated cost and (2) accumulated depreciation.

The total of the two is the original value (cost) of the asset. The difference between the two is the book value of that asset.

Example of Accumulated Depreciation on a Balance Sheet

Below is the balance sheet of a company on December 31:

  • Cost of Equipment $239,000
  • Less Accumulated Depreciation $100,000
  • Book Value of Equipment $139,000

Accumulated Depreciation and Your Business Taxes 

You won't see "Accumulated Depreciation" on a business tax form, but depreciation itself is included, as noted above, as an expense on the business profit and loss report. The good news is that depreciation is a "non-cash" expense. You can count it as an expense to reduce the income tax your business must pay, but you didn't have to spend any money to get this deduction.

IRS Form Schedule C

What shows up on your business tax form is the amount of depreciation expense that was taken for the year, including all types of depreciation on all business property.

For example, on an IRS Schedule C form for a sole proprietor business, Line 13 under Expenses says, "Depreciation and Section 179 deductions..." and that's where you'll see the total of all depreciation taken during the year.

IRS Form 4562

You must complete IRS Form 4562 Depreciation and Amortization for property in some circumstances:

  • If you are taking a Section 179 deduction for the current year or a Section 179 carryover deduction from a prior year
  • If you placed the property in service (bought and started using it) during the current year
  • If you are claiming depreciation expense on a vehicle or on listed property, regardless of when it was placed in service.

Business vs. Personal Use

If you use an asset, like a car, for both business and personal travel, you can't depreciate the entire value of the car, but only the percentage of use that's for business.

For example, if you use your car 60% of the time for business and 40% for personal, you can only depreciate 60%.

You can also accelerate depreciation legally, getting more of a tax benefit in the first year you own the property and put it into service (begin using it).

The extra amounts of depreciation include bonus depreciation and Section 179 deductions. These amounts change each year, so check with your tax preparer.

Accumulated Depreciation and the Sale of a Business Asset

When you sell an asset, the book value of the asset and the accumulated depreciation for that asset are both removed from the balance sheet. Since the original cost of the asset is still shown on the balance sheet, it's easy to see what profit or loss has been recognized from the sale of that asset.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do you include accumulated depreciation on the balance sheet?

Yes. Accumulated depreciation represents the total depreciation of a company's fixed assets at a specific point in time. Also, fixed assets are recorded on the balance sheet, and since accumulated depreciation affects a fixed asset's value, it, too, is recorded on the balance sheet.

How can depreciation affect your taxes?

Depreciation is expensed on the income statement for the current period as a non-cash item, meaning it's an accounting entry to reflect the current accounting period's value of the wear and tear of the asset.

Depreciation helps companies reduce their income taxes because the amount of depreciation can be deducted from income, reducing your total taxable income.

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  2. Dauderis, Henry and Annand, David. “Introduction to Financial Accounting. Version 2019-Revision A." 4.2 Classified Balance Sheet. Pp. 154-157. 

  3. Legal Information Institute. "Capital Assets."

  4. OpenStax. "Principles of Accounting. Volume 1 Financial Accounting," (Download PDF) Page 219.

  5. Cambridge Dictionary. "Residual Value."

  6. OpenStax. "Principles of Accounting. Volume 1 Financial Accounting," (Download PDF) Page 220.

  7. IRS. "Depreciation Frequently Asked Questions," Page 2.

  8. OpenStax. "Principles of Accounting. Volume 1 Financial Accounting," (Download PDF) Page 235.

  9. IRS. "Depreciation Frequently Asked Questions," Page 6.

  10. IRS. "Depreciation Frequently Asked Questions," Page 2.

  11. OpenStax. "Principles of Accounting. Volume 1 Financial Accounting," (Download PDF) Page 725.

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