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From time to time, I have clients ask me “What is funded depreciation?” And more importantly, they ask, “How can this technique make my organization more profitable and less stressful?”
Here’s a simple explanation.
Funded depreciation is the setting aside of cash in amounts equal to an organization’s annual depreciation. The purpose: to fund future purchases of capital assets with cash.
Suppose you buy a $10,000 whiz-bang gizmo—a piece of equipment—that you expect to use for ten years, and at the end of the ten years you expect it to have no value. Your annual depreciation is $1,000.
In this example, a $1,000 depreciation expense is recognized annually on your income statement (depreciation decreases net income) even though no cash outlay occurs. The balance sheet includes the cost of the whiz-bang gizmo, but at the end of ten years, the equipment has a $0 book value, being fully depreciated.
The smart manager will annually set aside $1,000 in a safe investment—such as a certificate of deposit or money market account—for the future replacement of the whiz-bang gizmo.
If the company does not annually invest the $1,000, it has a few options at the end of the ten-year period:
Obviously, if you borrow money to replace the equipment, you will have to pay interest—another cash outlay. Suppose the rate is 10%. Now the organization must pay out $1,100 each year. So, if the organization funds the depreciation (invests $1,000 annually), it earns interest. But if the entity chooses not to fund depreciation, it pays interest.
Businesses that fund depreciation are always making money from interest (granted not much these days) rather than paying for it.
Another advantage to funding depreciation: you know you will have the money to purchase the capital asset. You’re not concerned with whether a creditor will lend you the money for the acquisition. You’re financially stronger.
So why doesn’t everyone fund depreciation?
Concerning the last point, if the business had to borrow money to purchase the initial capital asset, then it must make debt service payments (cash outlay 1). If the company also funds depreciation for that same asset (making investments equal to the annual depreciation), another cash flow occurs (cash outlay 2). Nevertheless, if the business can ever get into a position where it pays cash for new equipment, it will be better off. Then only one cash outlay (investment funding) occurs, and the company is making–not paying–interest.
What if the organization cannot–due to cash flow constraints–fund depreciation for all new equipment purchases? Consider doing so for just one or two pieces of equipment–over time, the entity may be able to move into a fully funded position.
So, who should fund depreciation?
Organizations with sufficient cash flow and discipline. It’s the smart thing to do.
Imagine a world with no debt, a world where you don’t have to wonder how you will pay for equipment. Dreaming? Maybe, but funded depreciation is worth your consideration.
See my article Auditing Plant, Property, and Equipment.
Charles Hall is a practicing CPA and Certified Fraud Examiner. For the last thirty years, he has primarily audited governments, nonprofits, and small businesses. He is the author of The Little Book of Local Government Fraud Prevention and Preparation of Financial Statements & Compilation Engagements. He frequently speaks at continuing education events. Charles is the quality control partner for McNair, McLemore, Middlebrooks & Co. where he provides daily audit and accounting assistance to over 65 CPAs. In addition, he consults with other CPA firms, assisting them with auditing and accounting issues.
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