Accounting Treatment of Intangible Assets

Accounting Treatment of Intangible Assets

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DRAFT

THIS DRAFT SHOULD NOT BE RELIED UPON FOR ACADEMIC, SCIENTIFIC, LEGAL OR OTHER USES. THIS DRAFT CONSISTS OF UNVETTED, UNVERIFIED STATEMENTS THAT COULD CHANGE AT ANY TIME.

Pace University

ACC692 Summer I

 

By Yigal Rechtman

July 30, 2001


Introduction

What is the problem?

Accounting for intangibles has gained prominence in the past few decades due to changes in the way the business world operates. The technological revolution and in particular, the information age, has brought intangible resources to the fore of the business environment. Businesses C even the most traditional production manufacturers C are moving towards an information age where a competitive edge is increasingly linked to resources other than the fixed and liquid assets as understood by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). Some research has shown that accounting for Intangible Assets (IA) - a general term that will be defined and separated later - will fulfill the accuracy requirement of the accounting functions and reports. Other research has shown that accuracy will have to be traded off with relevance of the accounting functions and reports. Still other research claims that neither accuracy nor relevance are served by accounting for resources that do not meet the current definitions of Assets under GAAP.

Accordingly, there are two questions regarding the accounting for IA:

1.                  Should the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles recognize as financially relevant and accurate events that arise from IA?

2.                  How should GAAP account, process and present these IA related events (if the answer to question number 1 is positive.)

 

Question number one is answered in the positive: the existence of IA in the current business environment is proven in repeated investigations. Further, the economic effects of IA on corporations has shown that not disclosing or accounting for such resources amounts to miscomunications regarding the activity and financial state of a business. The research that was used in this paper has shown that Intangible Resources are increasingly a factor in the business world. Intangible resources, as will be discussed below, is a super-set group of strategic elements that contribute to the success of a business. IA, in turn is a sub-set of the Intangible Resources.

 

The paper intends to explore the current range of thinking relative to IA and how such resources should be valued, recognized and presented in the financial reporting of U.S. companies. The question of how to account for IA poses different challenges, some of them related back to the answer of the first question. As this paper will show, recognizing IA on an entity=s books can be seen as a natural next step, especially for certain knowledge industry type businesses. However, the challenges to the issue of recognition remain: how to determine IA in a meaningful manner? How to report IA and what are the possible ramification of alternative accounting treatments?

 

Scope and Method of Exploring the ProblemScope and Method of Exploring the Problem


The process of finding information about the topics relating to IA, and obtaining an understanding of the issues, involved an introduction by means of participating in a conference on the subject and obtaining complimentary readings of published articles. The Third Annual Conference on Intangible Assets, sponsored by New York University=s Ross Institute produced a documentary of the presentations, which were used in this paper. Additional published material was obtained through the ABI-Inform database, by searching for AIntangible Assets@, AIntangible Accounting@ as well as AAssets Valuation@ and AAppraisal, Intangibles@ for the years 1976-2000[i]. The search was limited to articles available in full form on line (versus articles in which only the abstract is available on line.) This paper refers to twenty articles that were obtained through ABI-Inform and ten articles from presenters at the NYU=s conference.

Two points should be made in terms of the scope of the discussion. First, the discussion includes IA as it is captured and presented for external, possibly audited, users of the entity=s comprehensive financial statements. Unless otherwise stated, financial statements herein are presented with conformity of United States= Generally Accepted Accounting Principle (GAAP). Within the latter confines, estimates such as amortization and useful life of an Intangible Asset (IA), although a valid issue, will be generally out of the scope of this paper. The reason for the limitation is that for cash flow purposes, as well as for balance sheet analysis, such estimates represent regulatory requirements and provide little by way of capturing the essence of the issues surrounding IA. Therefore, the ultimate purpose of this paper is to venture out of the confined safety of U.S. GAAP and investigate what other isms are possible for presentation of a Statement of Financial Position which incorporates intangible assets.

 

The method of this paper consists of discussing the three criteria which are used to assess the alternatives to accounting IA: valuation, recognition and presentation. Each of these criteria is measured on a scale from 0 to 100 (alternatively, from 0.0 to 1.0) to show the extent of the departure of the alternative from the currently accepted method, usually the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Because Goodwill is already an established IA under current accounting rules, it will be discussed first (for each criteria) to show the extent of the existing treatment. Although other IA such as Human Capital or Patents exist, they are often either unaccounted for or simply replaced by a generic AGoodwill@ entry on the books. Although they are all intangible resources[ii], it can be shown that not all are Assets (as defined herein). This paper will also explore the possibility that, perhaps intangible assets such as Human Capital should not be substituted for by the generic AGoodwill@ entry.

 

Definitions

Some unclear, overlapping and unstructured definitions occupy the set of IA issues. in turn, some researchers have used inconsistent definitions of IA, reducing the transparency that accountants and financial experts have to discuss these issues. Although excellent analysis has been published, such research is often not consistent in scope or definition to other frame work and conceptual essays that are contemporarily published. Therefore, aside from giving this Acreature@ a proper name, and calling all its parts using the same taxonomy, coupled here from various sources.

 

The dictionary defines IA as Aan asset that is saleable though not material or physical@[iii] and AIntangible: ...an asset that can not be perceived by the senses... such as Goodwill or dedication@[iv].

 


According to the FASB, an internally generated IA is proposed to be defined[v] as: (1) a past event that has a (2) measurable effect and that presents a (3) future benefit. The FASB Special Report[vi] states that there is not a need for different rules of recognition for internally and externally generated IA. The FASB clarifies that internally generated IA is simply an AAsset@ without a physical presence, nor does have to it be an external acquisition: as long as all three tests are conformed with, any business event or process can produce an IA. The FASB further notes that there is an embedded conflict in this definition because it contains a departure from the Ahistoric cost@ principle. The move to a Aforward looking@ definition is defended by the FASB in making an argument for further disclosure, not a modification for the format and content of the existing presentation rules. In this presentation, for the purpose of defining IA (internally or externally generated) the FASB definition will be applicable.

 

Intellectual Capital (IC): A business entity uses three types of capital: physical, financial and intellectual[vii]. Intellectual capital (IC) is defined as an intangible asset that is not financial or physical and that has been Aformalized, captured and leveraged to produce a higher-valued asset@[viii]. The raw material, captured and formalized in the process of capitalization of IC, is knowledge. Knowledge resides within an individual, a group of individuals or entity-wide. Knowledge that is structured in a formal manner (usually with an information system, computerized or otherwise) is just data. When it is purposeful and useful, data is considered information. Information made use of is knowledge[ix], which can become an IC.

 

In the discussion of IC, several disaggregation of IC exist. For the purpose of this discussion, the following categorization will suffice as Aall inclusive@. This paper does not intend to be exhaustive in its definitions. It can be shown that other examples of IC can be found (and the definition extended) without diluting the effect of the issues at hand. The classification proposed in this paper uses the following examples of IC: Human Capital, Intellectual Capital and Structural Capital.

 

Human Capital (HC) is arguably the most elusive from accounting for in financial or quantitative terms. Some[x] argue that HC is the most active value driver in the business world today. Intellectual Capital (InC) has been at times presented under different names, too: APatents and brand names[xi]@ or Social Capital (the latter is a definition of a hybrid of Human Capital and Organizational Capital.) InC, abstractly is intellectual property that stem from (or relate to) innovation within the entity=s business. Structural Capital (SC) can be better described that defined: SC is any leverage that can be described in terms of the relationships of functions within the organization and the leverage of entities outside the organization. For example, a customer base relationship - qualified or quantified - is a SC that can be portrayed as an external relationship; an Enterprise Resource Plan (ERP) that allows departments within a company to facilitate resource allocation is an instance of SC.

 


Goodwill: Goodwill is arguably the most conforming IA to GAAP: It is the excess of Fair Value (FV) over Book Value in a purchase transaction. Currently, treatment of any of IA has been confined to Goodwill produced on the balance sheet from acquisition under the purchase method. As the only allowed IA capitalization, Goodwill appear in many studies pertaining account for IA.

 

For GAAP purposes, three tests are applied to allow recognition of an event as an Asset: 1. the event is a past-event,

2. it is measurable and

3. it contains probable future benefit.

Goodwill passes the Apast event@, Ameasurable effect@ and Afuture benefit@ tests. The reason Goodwill can be seen as a past event is that it is easy to date the creation of an acquisition under the purchase method where the fair value (FV) of an acquired entity is lower than the adjusted basis (AB) to the acquiring entity.

 

Goodwill arising from a consolidation, merger or takeover transaction has produced inconsistent definitions of the Aother@ classes of IA. For example, at times a well trained workforce is describe plainly as Aunrecognized Goodwill@ due to the disallowed recognition under GAAP (the proper classification for such a workforce is HC). Although this paper is not intended to disprove these notions, definition clarification can aid in seeing the general direction of accounting for IA


 

Evaluating possible answers to the question of Accounting Treatment of Intangible Assets

Treatment by an accounting method is based on Measurement, Recognition and Reporting dimensions. In order to present these dimensions, this paper will attempt to survey the range of possibilities and plot them on three dimensional coordinate axises of possibilities: 0 being the most conservative point and 100 being the most Adaring@ in terms of relevance and accuracy. Thus, the treatment of IA can create a multi-dimensional view of the accounting classification, reporting and even auditing. Imagine a three dimensional cube with an X, Y and Z axises. On the X axis spread are the ideas about recognition of IA. On the Y axis we shall plot the various metrics (measurement) that are proposed for IA. Finally on the Z axis will lie the proposed solutions for the presentation aspects of IA. The difference between recognition and metrics should be explored further: metrics are the models upon which, ultimately, monetary amounts are made available for classification. Recognition, on the other hand, are the issues that mandate the accounting perspective of the monetary (and possibly non-monetary, too) information that can be captured. The matter of presentation touches on the financial statement and the disclosure issues that surround IA.

 

 

Measuring and Valuing Intangible Assets

Goodwill measurement is the only existing allowed GAAP-related event. The measurability of future benefit from Goodwill is based on known measures of financial events, namely the Adjusted Basis (also known as Book Value, or AB) and the Fair Value (FV). In a Goodwill event, the FV is the purchase price. The AB amount is discernable; the FV amount can arguably be changed according to market and strategic conditions. This discussion will assume, however, that FV is a fixed amount, available to accountants and the public. Therefore, Goodwill is an excess between two set amounts, Fair Value (of assets acquired) and Adjusted Basis (paid by acquiring entity). By definition, this is a measurable amount. Realizing Goodwill can be stated this way: the reason an acquiring entity is willing to pay more for the acquired entity more than the estimated assets= FV is because of difference of assumptions in the definitions of FV. Therefore, the FV to the acquiring corporation is different than the FV to the acquired corporation: the former sees future cash flow that is greater than the cash flow seen by fundamental look at the balance sheet of the acquired entity. In a sense, this is a statement about the value of the effect of Agamma@ C the effect of Agrowth@ C in the example given elsewhere in this paper (see Appendix). Thus, the acquiring entity sees a measurable amount of inflow of cash that can justify the excessive cost up front.

 


Current research indicates that IA and, in general, non-financial events are measurable. The main conflict is deciding on which model to rely on, and moreover, which model to use as a standard measurement. The problem with measuring IA is that such measurements are too specific to an industry and perhaps to a particular entity. Research yields plenty of data showing how measurements can be conjured up to measure certain non-financial, intangible events. For example, measurements models exist to quantify information[xii], or the value of business alliances[xiii], et cetera. These models show that values of quantity, rate of growth and other statistics can be obtained at a feasible cost[xiv]: Aexisting techniques and expanded use of nonfinancial metrics seem to offer a more cost effective solution.@ However, the FASB Special Report states that making such proprietary measurements useful for general purpose accounting and financial reporting is not likely. The problem with value models or future-inflow metrics is that they are estimates. Like depreciation schedules, valuation methods are based on assumptions. Because they often include not just one or two variables but numerous independent variables, the number of assumptions grow at least in linear proportion to the number of variables. For example, a Human Resource valuation model by Skandia, an insurance and financial corporation (Sweden) has been criticized for having up to 140 variables[xv]. Unlike depreciation, which requires disclosure of one or two assumptions, disclosure of such complex models, even if they include only 5 to 10 variables, can be quite unfriendly to the user. Furthermore, a multi-variable model is generally susceptible to greater risk of contradicting of any of the assumptions, leading to invalidating the results of the entire model.

 

Generally, measuring IA is a departure from historical cost[1]. GAAP requires that the cost, or past event principle, guide any valuation. This requirement is in keeping with GAAP=s frame work of conservatism. When an IA is appraised in value it becomes a forward-looking measurement which is not compatible with other elements of GAAP. Future Value is the opposite of the principle of reliability in GAAP driven financial reporting: the accuracy of past events reported is the crucial element of its reliability[xvi]. However, value projection can be manipulated to create certain effects. For example, a projection can be made by Management (and included in a financial report) about the future effect of a certain Internet domain name that is owned by a company, such as Amoney.com@. The projection is unique enough that it cannot be verified by other sources. In order to have measurability of IA, a compromise between the forward looking and historic cost principles is sought.

Seemingly, past-based and future based measuring can not be consistent. It may be possible however to reconcile the projective nature of valuating IA and the required verification by historic cost in GAAP by creating an appraisal mechanism. Arguably, appraisals can be done by means of three approaches[xvii]: cost, comparable market or income.


Approaches used in Appraisals: Approaches used in Appraisals The cost approach estimates the value of an asset at an arm=s length transaction; this approach is inapplicable to IA; for example, HC is not measurable or even possible to conceive as an Aarm=s length@ transaction. Goodwill, also by definition, can not be an Aarm=s length@ transaction because an excess is paid by a purchaser above the FV of an acquired target. Similarly, SC can not be assessed this way because of its unique, untransferable characteristic. The market approach states that appraisals of similar purchased (or sold) goods or services can be a basis for estimating the value of the transferred property. Although a model for HC or InC can be built based on the market appraisals approach, SC can not be fit into a model that includes transferring assets in an exchange. IA of that nature loses its value in such a transfer. The income approach is most fitting to the accounting use in terms of IA. Present Value analysis is available and established within GAAP as a model. Its application in an IA valuation depends on the class of IA. Goodwill, for example, is inherently suited to the income approach valuation: the excess over FV represents the purchaser=s belief in enhanced cash in flow over a known (fixed) length of time, such that this inflow will surpass not only the declared FV but also the (higher) purchase price. However, SC has little known useful life, as does in part InC. For example, a distributed warehousing corporate structure, or a Just In Time production process can not have a reasonable income based appraised value because their useful life is not known, nor can it be averaged in the same way that for example, investment in employee training (HC) can be. However, HC is not completely compatible with the income approach, either: employee satisfaction and loyalty (both IAs) are similar in concept to the element of Agoing concern@ because once HC=s useful life is in doubt, the going concern of the entity is generally in doubt, too.

 

Users of financial statements are often wary of appraisals as they represent - at best - a range of possibilities. Consequently, an approximation of value diffuses the utility of fundamental analysis of the financial statement in question. At worse, appraisals represent a biased, subjective and diverted view point of the management. Even in an honest attempt to value an IA, a range must by provided or alternatively, a tradeoff measure of >confidence level= accompanies any so-called >fixed= dollar amount. In any way, an Appraisal[xviii] does not produce a consistent monetary measure. On the Y axis all appraisals are at the high (read: unsubstantiated, Adaring@) end, at Y=90.

 


A AReal Options@ valuation model describes a series of future inflow of cash (or other benefits or desirable effects, such as employee morale) in a recursive manner: the first event (event number 1) in the series is an evaluation of the chance that a successful beneficial event will come to pass in the second event (event number 2). For events that are not the first event, AReal Options@ model defines the event number N+1 as Aif event N has been successful to obtain a desired result, evaluation of the possibility of event N+1 to occur is computed, along with the possible benefit of N+1. If event N has a result that is undesirable, the entire process ends.@ So, instead of seeing the model of future cash flow (or desirable result events), a Real Options model does not have a >useful life= but attempts to predict when the series of events will end and what the accumulated result will be. The Real Options model, however weak (in terms of assumptions or addition to understanding of >useful life=), does solves another conflict in measurement of IA: the conflict between consistency of an entity-specific measurement and the fair-value approach. The key for consistency is that no assumptions are made a-priory to using the model: each step has its own unique scenario and set of assumptions that can be extended and extrapolated by an external user or for internal use[xix]. Because it is a projective model where future benefits are based on some assumptions, it can not be much more conservative than any value model conjured up by managers (or auditors). Consequently, AReal Option=s@ place on the Y axis is 85.

 

Proprietary Value Models: Although research abounds with successful examples of special valuation model, the test of consistency is a challenge to these models:

(1) consistency of measurement over time (because not enough materials have been collected under any particular model) ;

(2) consistency between business units (because the measurements are proprietary and a valuation model that fits an insurance corporation=s will be likely mot fit for a flower-delivery corporation or even an academic institution). And

(3) consistency with GAAP: although these measurements are all non-GAAP compliant, by definition of this discussion, they do not rely on GAAP in their assumption.

These models often use non-financial reporting assumptions that puts them closer to cost accounting than to financial accounting. For example, banks and lending institutions use proprietary value models to assess credit worthiness of certain IA-laden companies[xx], although these valuations are typically limited to IA such as patents or copyrights because they have leverage in marketable or contractual terms[xxi]. Simply indicating to the user C external or internal C that certain valuation is Aestimated@ or Abased on a model@ without specifying the assumptions, can lead rendering the valuation an act of providing useless or mis-stated financial value. An abstract standard setting is required to fulfill the task of measuring IA.

 

Attribution of Income: IA can be attributed and recognized by measuring normalized operating income and subtracting the portion of income attributable to other classes of assets. This is a generalized value model that is based on fewer assumptions. It, too, can be located at Y=100.

 

Discussion of examining the range of measurements available for Intangible Assets:


On the axis of measurement (Y in this paper), some possible points can be plotted: first, measuring cost is the GAAP derived method (Y=0). For example, historic cost of training, benefits and other outlays of resources can be aggregated to measuring the intangible value of Human Capital, as an asset. Of course, whether such measurement can be recognized or reported must be construed on the respective X and Z axis, as presented elsewhere herein. The historic cost measurement will be on the 0 point of the Y axis (Measurement). In contrast, at the maximum point on the Y axis (Y=100), we plot the concept that allows any proprietary value model. Whether it is acceptable as consistent (read: GAAP compliant) or not, value models are available for managers and users of financial information on any IA-based event. Data mining and computer-oriented accounting information system make creating such models a relatively easy task, albeit a proprietary tool for the reporting entity or industry. Appraisals were often hailed as the magic bullet for such metric setting and some might set that to be the magic AY=50@ on the Y axis. But, as shown earlier in this presentation, appraisals are simply value models that have been warranted or certified and are founded on their own (multiple) assumptions. Because applying the right mix of different appraisals methods, human judgement and experience causes variation in the consistency of this valuation[xxii], appraisals can not be a consistent or reliable method of measuring IA. Thus, appraising an IA receives a mark of 90 on the Y axis. As alternative of future benefit inflow models, a Areal-options@ model is also available to some small relief of the issues. Real Options, too is set at Y=90.

 

 

Recognition of Intangible Assets Recognition of Intangible Assets

There exists a notion that recognizing IA is a threat to proper disclosure of current period expenditures: capitalization of certain outlays can be seen as a scheme for expense deferral, designed to enhance the perceived value to creditors (shareholders et al). Proper classification, processing and reporting structures designed to deter such improper reporting can be effective. Overall, requiring additional disclosure can only enhance the utility of the financial report to its users. On the other hand, it is easy to prove logically (see Appendix) that IA should be recognized, assuming that it can be properly and consistently measured. The argument for capitalization essentially shows that if one assumes that

(1) A company must have a growth factor (Agamma@) in its assets in order to survive;

(2) Outlays of assets (cash) in period N reduces Equity in period N;

(3) If Agamma@ is present then recognizing outlays as expenses in period N understates Equity in period N;

Therefore, the recognition of expenses is inaccurate, and the capitalization of these outlays is required.

 

In this paper, the X axis will become the range of possible recognition treatments of IA. In general, several points of view are identifiable on this axis. Currently, GAAP does not allow for recognition of IA (except Goodwill from purchase transaction) either because of the control test[xxiii] or because of the measurability test (measurability pertains to the Y axis in this model). An opposing view is presented states in essence that IA are either any excess of market value over book value, or that earned income, before depreciation, amortization, and taxes (or some other similar representation of operating income) can be Aallocated@[xxiv] to the different asset classes: fixed, financial and intangible. Finally, using a completely projectionist method future cash flow as the value of an IA (perhaps in conjunction to subtracting the adjusted-basis and adding the disposal value) might allow non-GAAP recognition of an such an IA.

 


GAAP Recognition: Currently GAAP contains no recognition of IA, other than Goodwill as provided by GAAP. As discussed in the measurement section, above, Goodwill is recognized only under certain purchases where certain tests of the excess of FV over AB are present, giving rise to Goodwill. However, Goodwill is often realized and recognized when another class of IA should be created, instead. Goodwill is realized and recognized due to an excess of a purchase consideration over FV (GAAP). This excess, however can be disaggregated or classified more finely than simply calling it Goodwill: Take for example a hypothetical acquisition of a Value Added Network (VAN) provider by an Internet Service Provider (ISP). The former provides the communication tools, the phone lines and the data traffic from customer=s homes to the Internet. The latter, the Internet Service Provider, can benefit from this acquisition by avoiding renting the VAN=s and instead capitalizing on the acquisition=s future cash in flows. Moreover, the ISP can direct its customer base to use VAN as a preferred channel, creating certain loyalties, flexibility (for the customers) and other added value benefits. Assuming - under GAAP - that the ISP paid the VAN=s shareholders more than the FV of their stock, an entry for Goodwill is required. However, this entry is a misnomer: the Goodwill is not really for the excess value but for the additional structure capital (SC) of the acquiring entity. Mostly, the VAN=s organizational structure can benefit from this excess (only in secondary order is the future cash inflows of the acquired VAN to the ISP.) Because Goodwill is the only GAAP compliant IA combined with its possible vagueness or generality, it receives a position of 0 on the X axis.

Recognizing only Marketable IA: This method allows for some latitude in recognizing certain IA, for example, patents, copyrights, and contractual leverage (with employees, suppliers or customers). Using this method excludes most internally generated IA because their effect is not legally binding. Recognizing IA based on their enforcability and to some degree, marketability gets placed at X=50.

Recognizing All Events: Some knowledge based essays argue that all events in a business entity is one of IA. As such, all otherwise not measured events can be considered intangible and once measured, recognized on the entity=s books. Because it is the most relaxed method, recognizing all non-financial events in an index or model of fair value[xxv] obtains X=100.

 

Recapitulate: Valuation & Recognition

Valuation and Recognition of IA has yielded a two dimensional plain on which different methods are available. At the most conservative level, GAAP driven, is the point (X=0,Y=0) which asserts that measuring asset must be according to the past-event principle (historic cost) and that with the exception of Goodwill, no internally or externally generated IA are accounted for. Departing from this basis, on the valuation scale (the Y axis) are proposed method of measuring the value of IA (Afuture cash flow@, Aappraisal@ or Areal-option@ models) make an interesting combination. For example, assume the point (X=0,Y=100) on the X,Y plain is proposed and accepted. This means that a only historic cost (X=0) is realized and yet, that future cash flow (Y=100) is used for measuring the value of these asset. Thus, any hybrid of such a nature (cell D in the Table I) of conventional measurement and unconventional recognition poses the challenge to the third axis in this paper: presentation of IA.


 

 

 

 

Recognition: X=0 

 

X=50

 

X=100

 

Valuation

Y=0

 

 

(A)

IA not recognized[2]

Historic Cost

 

 

(B)

Select IA recognized, based on market, contractual.

Historic Cost

 

(C)

All events recognized, if not classified elsewhere they are IA events

Historic Cost

 

Y=85

 

(D)

IA not recognized

Real option valuation model

 

(E)

Select IA recognized, based on market, contractual.

Real option valuation model

 

(F)

All events recognized, if not classified elsewhere they are IA events

Real option valuation model

 

Y=90

 

(G)

IA not recognized

Appraisal (cost, market, income approaches)

 

(H)

Select IA recognized, based on market, contractual.

Appraisal (cost, market, income approaches)

 

(I)

All events recognized, if not classified elsewhere they are IA events

Appraisal (cost, market, income approaches)

 

Y=100

 

(J)

IA not recognized

Proprietary Value Model

 

(K)

Select IA recognized, based on market, contractual.

Proprietary Value Model

 

(L)

All events recognized, if not classified elsewhere they are IA events

Proprietary Value Model

Table I: Intersection of measurement and recognition approaches for IA[3]


 

 

Presentation of Intangible Assets

The issue of possible presentation of IA as part of a financial statement must be addressed by the Reporting utilization that such a report contains. Not specifically within the scope of GAAP=s IA (other than Goodwill) are vaguely disclosed in the financial statement. As research shows, some Securities and Exchange Commission regulated corporations disclose Goodwill in aggregated format, while others disclose the underlying detail. Moreover, the other Adisclosure@ of IA, specifically to the external user, is done by the Management Discussion and Analysis (MD&A) that accompanies most financial statements of publicly held entities. However, MD&A is a really only another form of appraisal, and not unbiased at that, in relation to IA valuation. In reference to accounting for IA, MD&A is inapplicable as interpretation of the value, structure and other forms of unclassified (and unaudited) material statement can become vague in its message to external users. It is important to note that the internal users of a financial statement are slightly better equipped to properly ascertain the message in the financial report; internal accounting practices, cost management and non-financial reporting facilities can aid an internal user to better gauge the weight and context of an IA reference within the financial statement, be it a Goodwill or otherwise disclosed IA. The current GAAP disclosure practice (but not requirement) is at the lower end of the Z axis (Z=0). Under GAAP, a balance sheet of a corporation that might have intangible resources at its disposal might be presented in the following way (example 1):


 

Balance Sheet, GAAP Driven

 

Assets $1000

 

Liabilities (100)

 

Equity (900)

Example 1: GAAP Driven Balance Sheet

 

Complete inclusion of any intangible resource available to a company is in contrast to the current GAAP treatment. A complete inclusion of non-required disclosure of IA is at the farthest end of the Z axis the concept of full integration of IA in the financial reporting (Z=100) . Of course, this in itself is a valid notion because full disclosure of IA represents expressing mostly relevant information to the user of the financial report.[4] Relevance however, has a trade off with accuracy. The relevance of including any and all IA in a financial statement might hinder on its accuracy; the example below makes this point.

 

Full integration of IA in a financial report can lead to a balance sheet of the following format (example 2):


 

 

With Considering IA, Complete Inclusion

 

Assets $1500

(capture events related to both tangible and intangible resources)

 

Liabilities (100)

 

Equity (1500)

Example 2: Complete Inclusion driven Balance Sheet

A possible over-statement of Assets by $500 exists under a complete inclusion method, which is most permissive in relation to GAAP. This type of presentation contains all resource-based events pertaining to the business at hand. It includes both financial and non-financial events pertaining to the entity. Some of this superset=s contents are IA that are externally or internally generated. For example, employee loyalty or positive media coverage are non financial events that affect its financial position.

 

A possible reconciliation between the requirements to present certain financial statement elements (such as fixed assets, financial assets, current and non current liabilities, shareholders= capital et cetera) can be obtained in a tiered financial report. The concept behind a tiered financial report is that the core of any financial report must be GAAP driven. Its benefit to any user must continue in order to provide consistent, accurate and standardized language of communication of a financial position. Within this core, GAAP reporting is one where the balance sheet presents the assets and the claims against them. This fundament is in turn included in a larger set which can include not only cost-related assets but value driven assets, i.e. IA. Conceptually, IA that provide a growth factor (recall: gamma > 1) is meaningful to the financial position of the reporting entity. For example, suppose an internally generated IA such as organizational structure or shared knowledge exist (assuming it can be valued and recognized). Under GAAP IA are not attributed to growth of several periods (by definition, growth is the increase of the value of an asset between successive periods). However, for the users of the financial statement, the information about such growth is important in making educated decision about the going concern and prospects of the entity. Thus, the compromise format of financially reportable events includes a degree of IA-related events that can affect a reasonable user=s decision-making process. This type of reporting mechanism is about mid-way between GAAP and Non-GAAP reporting format, at Z=50. An example of a tiered balance sheet follows (example 3):

 

Without Considering IA

 

With Considering IA, Tiered Format

 

N/A

 

Intangible Asset $300

(Note: Recognize IA events based on historical cost)

 

Assets $1000

 

Assets 1000

 

Liabilities (100)

 

Liabilities (100)

 

Equity (900)

 

Equity (900)

 

N/A

 

Equity Attributed to Intangible Asset

(300)

Example 3: APadded@ Balance Sheet

In essence, this type of Apadding@ of a balance sheet is derived from the set concept introduced above. The Acore@ statement, consisting only of Asset, Liabilities and Equity, remains intact. An extended set of financial events allow further disclosure of the financial effect of IA (in this example, by using the most aggressive GAAP-departure valuation method).

 

Recapitulate: Recognition and DisclosureRecapitulate Recognition and Disclosure

Just as Valuation and Recognition can be plotted on a two dimensional plain, so can the axis of Recognition and Disclosure. Overall, the X,Y and Z axis allow us to examine the problem at hand on a three-dimensional basis. The intersection point of the Recognition alternatives in relation to the Disclosure alternatives follows:

 

 

 

Recognition

X=0

 

 

X=50

 

 

X=100

 

Disclosure

Z=0

 

 

(M)

IA not recognized

No GAAP required Disclosure, only discretionary MD&A

 

 

(N)

Select IA recognized, based on market, contractual.

No GAAP required Disclosure, only discretionary MD&A.

 

(O)

All events recognized, if not classified elsewhere they are IA events

No GAAP required Disclosure, only discretionary MD&A

 

Z=50

 

(P)

IA not recognized

Tired (APadded@) Financial Report

 

(Q)

Select IA recognized, based on market, contractual.

Tired (APadded@) Financial Report.

 

(R)

All events recognized, if not classified elsewhere they are IA events

Tired (APadded@) Financial Report

 

Z=100

 

(S)

IA not recognized

Full financial incorporation of IA - undefined

 

(T)

Select IA recognized, based on market, contractual.

Full financial incorporation of IA.

 

(U)

All events recognized, if not classified elsewhere they are IA events

Full financial incorporation of IA

Table II: Intersection of measurement and reporting approaches for IA. Cells M-U describe the X,Z plain (the letter are assigned sequentially).


 

To complement tables I and II, the intersection of valuation alternatives and disclosure methods available are included in Table III:

 

 

 

Disclosure

Z=0

 

 

Z=50

 

 

Z=100

 

Valuation

Y=0

 

 

(V)

No GAAP required Disclosure, only discretionary MD&A

Historic Cost

 

(W).

Tired (APadded@) Financial Report. discretionary MD&A.

Historic Cost

 

(A1)

Full financial incorporation of IA

Historic Cost

 

Y=85

 

(A2)

No GAAP required Disclosure, only discretionary MD&A

Real option valuation model

 

(A3)

Tired (APadded@) Financial Report.

Real option valuation model

 

(A4)

Full financial incorporation of IA

Real option valuation model

 

Y=90

 

(A5)

No GAAP required Disclosure, only discretionary MD&A

Appraisal (cost, market, income approaches)

 

(A6)

Tired (APadded@) Financial Report.

Appraisal (cost, market, income approaches)

 

(A7)

Full financial incorporation of IA

Appraisal (cost, market, income approaches)

 

Y=100

 

(A8)

No GAAP required Disclosure, only discretionary MD&A

Proprietary Value Model

 

(A9)

Tired (APadded@) Financial Report.

Proprietary Value Model

 

(B1)

Full financial incorporation of IA

Proprietary Value Model

Table III: Intersection of measurement and disclosure approaches for IA.


 

DiscussionDiscussion

The problem of Intangible Assets revisited

Conceptually, the accounting for IA is at the heart of the framework that links the Balance Sheet and the Income Statement: at its core the balance sheet is a statement of resources while the income statement is a an expression of the utilization of these resources (tangible or otherwise available to the entity). Coupled, the traditional balance sheet and income statement includes only tangible resources. However, the traditional Income Statement includes activities that stem from using all available resources. In the asymmetry lies the reason for inclusion of IA resources on the Balance Sheet. For example, outflows for compensation is often the single largest expense of a corporation. Yet, employee knowledge, or other types of Human Capital are rarely disclosed. Further, any activities that are profitable, i.e. where the growth factor (Agamma@) is greater than 1, are attributed only the tangible resources.

 

Classes of Intangible Assets

IA can be divided to two classes: resources that are within the control of the organization and resources that are only partially within the control of the organization. To maintain a mathematic model, we can introduce OC, Organizational Control, such that:

For IA such as Customer Base and Customer Relations Index, Vendors= Credit and Trust, Internal Production or Service Procedures, OC = 1.0, i.e. there is complete control over the resource, which is an intangible asset;

For IA such as Human Skill Level , Employee Satisfaction and public Relation Index (APublic Image@), OC < 1.0.

 

The following is an imaginary - yet possible - comparison of two companies that might have different levels of Organizational Control over their IA, classified according to their business type. Table IV is an illustration of OC levels:

 

 

 

ATobacco and food conglomerate@

 

ANortheastern Ice-cream Manufacturer@

 

Organization Control Level = 1.0

 

 

 

 

 

Customer Base

 

1.0

 

1.0

 

Vendor=s Credit

 

1.0

 

1.0

 

Internal Production Procedures

 

1.0

 

1.0

 

Organization Control Level < 1.0

 

 

 

 

 

Human Skill

 

0.9

 

0.7

 

Employee Satisfaction

 

0.8

 

0.8

 

Public Image

 

0.5

 

0.9

 


Table IV: The (determined) values of Organizational Control (OC) over Resources

 

We assume these values derive from internal yet consistent studies and valuation, we can see that for the first three (classified as IA over which the entity has complete control) the OC value remain 1.0. This simply indicates an existence of an IA (completely within the company=s control).

 

The second group of so called Aassets@ (or generally: resources) are not completely within the control of their respective entity. We can say, perhaps, that the ice cream factory workers need less training than the tobacco production plant workers but that they are equally satisfied. Further it is clear that the tobacco conglomerate has less leverage in their public image (OC = 0.5) than the ice-cream maker (OC=0.9). The important point about all these resources is that the entities are not controlling the value drivers. Therefore, for example, their public images is different and it can not be enlisted as an Aasset@ because it is outside the scope of their respective control.[5]

The three sets of resource group can be summarized as follows: The most inner core of assets that are GAAP driven: Tangible Assets that are at the core of the Income Statement and Balance Sheet pair. These assets produce tangible activities such as cash (inflow) or products (output). The intermediate outer tier consists of resources that are fully under the control of the entity, thus they can be classified as Assets, albeit intangible: they too produce activity such as competitive edge (HC) and customer loyalty (SC). In contrast to HC and SC, the outmost tier class of resources are intangible resources that are not fully under the control of the entity thus fail the control test of the definition of an Asset.

 

In a sense, the inner set of Balance Sheet and Income Statement represent the fundamental analysis that an external or internal user of these statement might be interested in. Under this framework, fundamental ratios and projections are available in the most traditional sense. Extrapolating from that tier, the resources described as Atrue@ Intangible Assets, i.e. that they are measurable resources that occurred in the past and are within the entity=s full control, describe the effect of growth and going concern. Growth is indicative of innovation or competitive edge, while going concern is more general and encompasses other factors. In this vein it has been shown that IA are a source of both growth and continuity: IA are key to strategic planning and success[xxvi]. Resources such as reputation, employee know-how, and organizational culture were also linked to success factors of companies[xxvii].

 


Finally, the outer tier of partially controlled resources can be described C if so wished by the reporting entity C as additional disclosure of interest to the user of a financial report. The outer tier is only marginally useful because of the lack of full control the reporting entity might have over factors such as public image.

 

It will be interesting to see if the two outer tiers of resources will play out in future disclosure: the FASB is now encouraging companies to discloses elements of intangible assets in their financial reports. However, from a review of the two tiers it seems that disclosing resources in the intermediate tier can add to the reporting utilization of the entity=s financial report, perhaps if it is presented in a two tier Balance Sheet (Apadded@, described earlier). Resources that are not within the complete control of the entity (the outer tier=s elements) will most likely not be disclosed.

 

Assuming a valid and consistent index can be obtained  (by an external review, for example), there can be usefulness to disclosing elements of intangible resources which are Atrue@ IA such as index of customer base, customer loyalty and vendors= credit which reflect on a positive Agoing concern@. In contrast, disclosure of elements such as employee retention, public image and human skill index, can provide external users a marginal utility regarding the activity and prospects of the entity.


Conclusion

Measurement of IA is the area where the disparity is widest (on the Y axis in this discussion=s three dimensions model). The alternatives to historic cost are valuations based on proprietary models or based on certified models. Both alternatives are insufficient because they require judgement which lead to substantial variation. Historic cost is most consistent but inapplicable because it can not measure certain IA such as customer base or affiliations and alliances. Therefore, an allocation approach is suitable: computing the ratio of growth in equity to fixed, financial and intangible asset allows measurement of IA at least as a class of resources on the balance sheet statement[xxviii]. Further discussion and research is required in order to properly weigh the specific intangible assets within this class, and thus compute the financial value attributed to it.

 

 

Generally, the emergence of IA and in general, intangible resources, is unavoidable. The accounting profession should treat this type of financial event within its GAAP guidelines and not attempt to preclude it from recognition. Plainly, accounting for IA by including it in the financial statement (specifically, as part of the Balance Sheet) is not helpful to the external user. Such recognition will simply inflate the value of corporations and will cause comparisons to be more difficult and the financial statement viewed more skeptically. However, by methodically presenting IA in a tiered manner, users of the financial statement can view the traditional fundamental (current) GAAP elements as well as supplementary elements. In a sense, allowing companies to literally Apad@ their balance sheet with separate IA and IC (Equity due to IA) will put to a Avote@ of the external and internal users the concept of systematic disclosure. To wit, instead of a honorable mention in the MD&A section or a buried treasure in the footnotes to the financial statement, disclosing IA on the face of the balance sheet, without reducing its existing utility, might be a solution to the emerging need to report IA as a financial event.

 

 


References



[1] IA are often labeled knowledge assets. Much has been written about a knowledge economy and some attempted to define all resources as knowledge-based. The device in which this is possible is usually illustrated by an example of an organization that can be described all in terms of knowledge. Such zeal is convincing only to the extent that a counter example is not produced. Knowledge is information produced by data and ideas. Transforming knowledge to a benefit producing resource (Avalue@) converts knowledge to an IA. Thus, in terms of scope of valuation of IA, not all business process are considered IA: only business processes that have not been measured or presented elsewhere can be considered measurable for purposes of this discussion.

[2] In all the instances of Y=0, IA is not recognized except for Goodwill in purchase.

[3] The recent FASB sponsored attempt to account for certain types of IA by rules of annual impairment valuation (read: appraisal valuation method) is position in box AB@ of Table I: using historic cost and a (certified) appraisal of fair value of an IA to trigger both valuation and recognition.

[4] However, Astrange bedfellows@ effect might occur if we simply plot the Z axis against, say the Y axis (measurement): the point (Y=0, Z=100) yields an IA that Ais not recognized (Y=0)@ and Aintegrated in the financial report@ (Z=100). Therefore, at least from a practical point of view, these type of pairing with GAAP (Y=0 and Z=100) can not be used for our analysis: this point in our exploration model is undefined.

[5] It is the public, the society in which they operate for example, that determines which company is the AKind American Corporation@ and which is the AEvil American Corporation.@



[i]. ABI-Inform is available via the Internet from ProQuest Information and Learning Company.

[ii]. AAccuracy of the yield and direct capitalization methods: A twenty-year empirical study of the electric utility industry@; Assessment Journal Chicago; Richard R Simonds; Vol. 6; No. 4; pp. 49-55

[iii]. Internet: available: www.dictiornary.com. Source of this citation: 1997 Princeton University.

[iv]. Internet: available: www.dictionary.com. Citation source: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition.

[v]. FASB presentation, Nakamura in 4th Annual Intangible Assets Conference, Ross Institute, New York University, May 2001.

[vi]. Financial Accounting Standards Board; Special Report : Business and Financial Reporting, Challenges from the New Economy; Wayne S. Upton, Jr; No. 219-A; April 2001 p.x (Executive Summery).

[vii]. Lynn, Bernadette, CMA; Intellectual Capital Key to Value added Success in the Next Millennium; Society of Management Accountants of Canada, CMA Magazine. Available: Internet http://www.cma-canada.org.

[viii]. Lynn, Brenadette.

[ix]. Data is the superset of information which in turn is the super set of knowledge. Purposeful and formal conversion of data to information and information to knowledge, creates Intangible Capital, which can be leveraged.

 

[x]. Berry, John; MIT, Wharton Search for IT Asset Metric; Internetweek; Manhasset; Feb 5, 2001.

[xi]. A...Brand assets and patents are knowledge assets, not just technology@. Companies May Be Unwittingly Ignoring The Bulk of Their Asset Value; Investor Relation Business; New York; Dec. 13, 1999; p. 4.

[xii]. Hal Varian; How Much Information is Produced Worldwide? University of Berkeley; Presented in the 4th Intangibles Conference at New York University, Stern School of Business, Ross Institute of Accounting Research; May 2001.

[xiii]. Christopher Tucci; The Value of Collaborations and Alliances; New York University; Presented in the 4th Intangibles Conference at New York University, Stern School of Business, Ross Institute of Accounting Research; May 2001.

[xiv]. FASB; Special Report; Chapter 2.

[xv]. John Rutledge, You=re a Fool if You Buy into This One; Available: ABIinfrom.

[xvi]. Alfred M. King, Jay M. Henry; Valuing intangible assets through appraisals; Strategic Finance; Vol. 81, No. 5, Montvale; Nov. 1999. pp. 32-37.

[xvii]. Alfred M. King, Jay M. Henry, Strategic Finance, Nov. 1999.

[xviii]. Lawrence C. Rose; Accuracy of Appraisers and Appraisal Methods of Closely Held Companies; Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice (ET&P) Vol. 17, No. 3; Spring 1993; pp. 21.

[xix]. FASB; Special Report; p. 39

[xx]. Alfred M. King, Jay M. Henry, Strategic Finance, Nov. 1999.

[xxi]. Wiley A. Scott, Jr.; Borrowers= Intangibles May be Off-Balance-Sheet Gold; Commercial Lending Review Vol. 9, No. 3; Boston; Summer 1994, pp. 26.

[xxii]. Lawrence C. Rose; Accuracy of Appraisers and Appraisal Methods of Closely Held Companies; Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice (ET&P) Vol. 17, No. 3; Spring 1993; pp. 21.

[xxiii]. FASB; Special Report; Chapter 4.

[xxiv]. Lev, Baruch.

[xxv]. IAS 36 defines Avalue in use@ as Afuture cash flows expected to arise from the continuing use of an asset.

[xxvi]. Joseph A. Patrick et al; Global Leadership Skill and Reputantional Capital: Intangible Resources for Sustainable Competitive Advantage; The Academy of Management Executive Vol.13, No. 1; Feb. 1999; pp. 58-69.

[xxvii]. Michael D. Michalisin et al; In Search of Strategic Assets; International Journal of Organizational Analysis, Vol. 5, No. 4; Oct. 1997; pp. 360-387.

[xxviii]. Lev, Baruch.