Depreciation: What is It and How is It Calculated

Understand the meaning, definition, and calculation of depreciation: a comprehensive guide

What is Depreciation?

Depreciation is a fundamental concept in the field of economics and finance. It refers to the decrease in the value of an asset over time due to factors such as wear and tear, obsolescence, or economic aging. In simpler terms, depreciation is the measure of how much of an asset’s value has been used up.

While depreciation can apply to any asset, it is most commonly associated with physical assets like machinery, vehicles, and buildings. However, it can also apply to intangible assets such as patents, copyrights, and software.

Why is Depreciation Important?

Depreciation plays a crucial role in accounting and financial management. It helps businesses determine the true cost of owning and using an asset, which in turn influences pricing, budgeting, and financial planning decisions.

Depreciation is also a non-cash expense that reduces a company’s taxable income, thereby lowering its tax liability. This is because the cost of acquiring an asset is not fully deducted in the year of purchase but is spread out over the asset’s useful life.

How is Depreciation Calculated?

There are several methods to calculate depreciation, but the most common ones are the straight-line method and the declining balance method.

Straight-Line Method

The straight-line method is the simplest and most commonly used method. It assumes that the asset will lose an equal amount of value each year over its useful life. The formula for straight-line depreciation is:

Annual Depreciation = (Cost of Asset – Salvage Value) / Useful Life of Asset

Declining Balance Method

The declining balance method, on the other hand, assumes that an asset will lose a higher percentage of its value in the early years of its life. This method is often used for assets that quickly become obsolete, like computers and other technology. The formula for declining balance depreciation is:

Depreciation Expense = Book Value at Beginning of Year * Depreciation Rate

Depreciation in Practice

In practice, the choice of depreciation method can significantly impact a company’s financial statements. For instance, using the declining balance method can result in higher depreciation expenses in the early years, which can lower a company’s taxable income and tax liability.

However, it’s important to note that depreciation is just an estimate. The actual value of an asset at the end of its life may be higher or lower than its calculated salvage value. Therefore, companies must regularly review and adjust their depreciation methods and estimates to ensure they accurately reflect the asset’s value and usage.


Understanding depreciation is essential for anyone involved in business, finance, or investing. It provides a more accurate picture of an asset’s cost, helps in making informed financial decisions, and can even lead to tax savings. By understanding how depreciation works and how it is calculated, you can better assess a company’s financial health and make more informed investment decisions.


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