Amortization (tax law)



tax law Tax law or revenue law is an area of legal study in which public or sanctioned authorities, such as federal, state and municipal governments (as in the case of the US) use a body of rules and procedures (laws) to assess and collect taxes in a ...
, amortization refers to the cost recovery system for
intangible property Intangible property, also known as incorporeal property, is something that a Natural person, person or corporation can have Ownership, ownership of and can transfer ownership to another person or corporation, but has no Tangibility, physical subs ...
. Although the theory behind cost recovery deductions of amortization is to deduct from
basis Basis may refer to: Finance and accounting * Adjusted basis, the net cost of an asset after adjusting for various tax-related items *Basis point, 0.01%, often used in the context of interest rates * Basis trading, a trading strategy consisting ...
in a systematic manner over an asset's estimated useful economic life so as to reflect its consumption, expiration, obsolescence or other decline in value as a result of use or the passage of time, many times a perfect match of income and deductions does not occur for policy reasons.


A corresponding concept for
tangible asset In financial accounting, an asset is any resource owned or controlled by a business or an economic entity. It is anything (tangible or intangible) that can be used to produce positive economic value. Assets represent value of ownership that can ...
s is
depreciation In accountancy, depreciation is a term that refers to two aspects of the same concept: first, the actual decrease of fair value of an asset, such as the decrease in value of factory equipment each year as it is used and wear, and second, the a ...
. Methodologies for allocating amortization to each tax period are generally the same as for depreciation. However, many
intangible asset An intangible asset is an asset that lacks physical substance. Examples are patents, copyright, franchises, goodwill, trademarks, and trade names, as well as software. This is in contrast to physical assets (machinery, buildings, etc.) and finan ...
s such as goodwill or certain brands may be deemed to have an indefinite useful life, or “self-created” and are therefore not subject to amortization.

In the United States of America

United States Congress The United States Congress is the legislature of the federal government of the United States. It is bicameral, composed of a lower body, the House of Representatives, and an upper body, the Senate. It meets in the U.S. Capitol in Washing ...
gives taxpayers larger deductions in the early years of an asset’s useful life.

Intangible property

Intangible property which is subject to amortization is described in 26
U.S.C. In the law of the United States, the Code of Laws of the United States of America (variously abbreviated to Code of Laws of the United States, United States Code, U.S. Code, U.S.C., or USC) is the official compilation and codification of the ...
§§ 197(c)(1) and 197(d) and must be property held either for use in a trade, business, or for the production of income. Before 1993, the United States Tax Code did not contain provisions for cost recovery of intangible assets; rather, the intangible assets were depreciated under the current provisions for depreciation of tangible assets, 26 U.S.C. §§ 167 and 168. However, the problem before 1993 was that many intangible assets did not meet the burdensome requirements of §§ 167 and 168 because intangible assets can not necessarily be subject to “wear and tear”. This led to taxpayers having the incentive to ignore any basis in the intangible asset until it was sold. Under §197 most acquired intangible assets are to be amortized ratably over a fifteen-year period. This is not the best treatment of an intangible whose actual life is much shorter than fifteen years. Furthermore, if an intangible is not eligible for amortization under § 197, the taxpayer can depreciate the asset if there is a showing of the assets useful life.

Startup expenditure

Startup expenditures are defined as investigatory expenses incurred prior to commencing a trade or business activity which would have been deducted had they been paid or incurred when the taxpayer was already engaged in the trade or business activity. Unlike other sections in the tax code which do not allow current deductions for most startup expenses, section 195 allows a taxpayer to amortize start-up expenditures over a 180-month period.26 U.S.C. § 195. The policy behind this provision is to encourage taxpayers to explore new business ventures.

See also

Writing down allowance Capital allowances is the practice of allowing tax payers to get tax relief on capital expenditure by allowing it to be deducted against their annual taxable income. Generally, expenditure qualifying for capital allowances will be incurred on speci ...




* Samuel A. Donaldson. ''Federal Income Taxation of Individuals: Cases Problems, and Materials''. 2nd ed. 2007. Tax law