Operational Assets

Question: The impairment of operational assets is an important reporting issue for many companies because acquired property does not always achieve anticipated levels of profitability. Buildings can be

constructed and machinery purchased that simply fail to be as productive as company officials had hoped. According to U.S. GAAP, an asset of this type is viewed as impaired when the total of all future cash flows generated by the asset are expected to be less than its current book value. At that point, the owner cannot even recover the book value of the asset through continued usage. Consequently, the amount reported for the operational asset is reduced to fair value and a loss recognized. Does IFRS handle this type of problem in the same way?

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The need to record impairment losses is the same under IFRS but the measurement process is different. The international standards require companies to identify an asset’s fair value by calculating the present value of the future cash flows2 or its net realizable value (anticipated sales price less costs required to sell) if that figure is higher. The asset’s value is said to be impaired if this fair value (rather than total cash flows) is below book value. If so, a loss is reported for the reduction from book value to fair value. Also, under IFRS, companies return previously impaired assets to original book value if fair value subsequently increases. In contrast, U.S. GAAP does not allow a write up in value once impairment has been recorded.