How to calculate amortization expense?

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Amortization expense refers to the gradual reduction of an intangible asset’s value over time. It is a crucial concept in accounting, as it allows businesses to allocate the cost of an asset over its useful life. By understanding how to calculate amortization expense, businesses can accurately report their financial statements and track the depreciation of intangible assets. In this article, we will dive deeper into the topic and explore the methods used to calculate amortization expense.

Understanding Amortization Expense

Amortization expense is typically associated with intangible assets such as patents, copyrights, trademarks, and goodwill. These assets do not have a physical form but hold significant value for a business. Unlike tangible assets, which are depreciated, intangible assets are amortized.

Amortization Method: The most common method used to calculate amortization expense is the straight-line method. Under this method, the cost of the intangible asset is divided equally over its useful life. The formula to calculate the annual amortization expense is:

Annual Amortization Expense = (Cost of Intangible Asset – Residual Value) / Useful Life

The cost of the intangible asset refers to the initial purchase price or acquisition cost. The residual value is the estimated value of the asset at the end of its useful life. The useful life represents the estimated duration for which the asset will provide value to the business.

Example Calculation

Let’s consider an example to illustrate the calculation of amortization expense. ABC Corporation has acquired a patent for $100,000. The estimated useful life of the patent is 10 years, and the residual value is estimated to be $10,000.

Using the formula mentioned earlier, we can calculate the annual amortization expense:

Annual Amortization Expense = ($100,000 – $10,000) / 10
Annual Amortization Expense = $9,000

Therefore, ABC Corporation would record an annual amortization expense of $9,000 for the patent.

Other Considerations

It’s important to note that some intangible assets may have a finite useful life, while others may have an indefinite useful life. Intangible assets with a finite useful life are amortized, while those with an indefinite useful life are not. Instead, assets with an indefinite useful life are subject to impairment testing.

Additionally, it’s essential to review and reassess the useful life and residual value of an intangible asset regularly. If there are any changes in these estimates, the amortization expense should be adjusted accordingly.


Calculating amortization expense is crucial for businesses to accurately account for the depreciation of intangible assets. By using the straight-line method and considering the initial cost, residual value, and useful life, businesses can determine the annual amortization expense. It is important to regularly review and reassess these estimates to ensure accurate financial reporting.


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