Depreciation refers to the gradual decrease in the value of an asset over time due to wear and tear, obsolescence, or age. It is an accounting method used to allocate the cost of a tangible asset over its useful life. Depreciation is commonly applied to assets such as buildings, machinery, vehicles, and equipment, enabling businesses to spread the cost of these assets over several years.

Importance of understanding depreciation

Financial reporting

Depreciation is crucial for accurate financial reporting. It ensures that the cost of an asset is matched with the revenue it generates, providing a realistic picture of a company’s financial performance.

Tax deductions

In Australia, businesses can claim depreciation as a tax deduction, reducing their taxable income. This can result in significant tax savings and improve cash flow.

Asset management

Depreciation helps businesses manage their assets effectively by highlighting the declining value of assets over time. This information is essential for planning asset replacements, maintenance, and capital investments.

Key concepts of depreciation

Useful life

The useful life of an asset is the period over which it is expected to be used by a business. It is an estimate based on the asset’s type, usage, and industry standards. The useful life determines the duration over which the asset’s cost will be depreciated.

Residual value

Residual value, also known as salvage value, is the estimated amount an asset will be worth at the end of its useful life. This value is subtracted from the asset’s cost to determine the depreciable amount.

Depreciable amount

The depreciable amount is the cost of an asset minus its residual value. This is the total value that will be allocated as depreciation expense over the asset’s useful life.

Depreciation expense

Depreciation expense is the portion of the depreciable amount allocated to each accounting period. This expense is recorded on the income statement and reduces the asset’s carrying amount on the balance sheet.

Methods of depreciation

Straight-line depreciation

Straight-line depreciation is the simplest and most commonly used method. It allocates an equal amount of depreciation expense to each accounting period over the asset’s useful life.


Depreciation Expense=Cost of Asset−Residual ValueUseful LifeDepreciation Expense=Useful LifeCost of Asset−Residual Value​


If a machine costs $10,000, has a residual value of $2,000, and a useful life of 8 years, the annual depreciation expense would be:


Diminishing value (declining balance) depreciation

Diminishing value depreciation allocates a higher depreciation expense in the early years of an asset’s life and gradually decreases over time. This method reflects the higher usage and obsolescence of assets in their initial years.


Depreciation Expense = Carrying Amount × Depreciation Rate


If a vehicle costs $20,000 and the depreciation rate is 20%, the first year’s depreciation expense would be:


The carrying amount for the next year would be $16,000, and so on.

Units of production depreciation

Units of production depreciation allocates depreciation expense based on the asset’s usage, output, or activity level. This method is suitable for assets whose value decreases with usage rather than time.


Depreciation Expense=(Cost of Asset−Residual Value) x Units ProducedTotal Estimated Units


If a machine costs $15,000, has a residual value of $3,000, and is expected to produce 12,000 units over its useful life, the depreciation expense for producing 2,000 units would be:

15,000−3,000 / 12,000 × 2,000=$2,000

Pros and cons of different methods


  • Straight-line depreciation: Simple to calculate and evenly spreads the cost over the asset’s life.
  • Diminishing value depreciation: Reflects higher initial usage and provides larger tax deductions in the early years.
  • Units of production depreciation: Matches depreciation expense with actual asset usage, providing more accurate cost allocation.


  • Straight-line depreciation: Does not account for higher initial usage and obsolescence.
  • Diminishing value depreciation: More complex to calculate and may not be suitable for all assets.
  • Units of production depreciation: Requires accurate tracking of asset usage, which can be challenging for some businesses.


Consider a company that purchases a delivery truck for $50,000 with an estimated useful life of 5 years and a residual value of $10,000. Using the straight-line depreciation method, the annual depreciation expense would be:

50,000 − 10,0005 = $8,000

Each year, the company records an $8,000 depreciation expense, reducing the truck’s carrying amount on the balance sheet and providing a realistic view of its declining value.


Depreciation is a vital accounting concept that helps businesses allocate the cost of tangible assets over their useful lives. By understanding and applying different depreciation methods, businesses can achieve accurate financial reporting, manage their assets effectively, and take advantage of tax deductions. For more information on depreciation and its applications in Australia, visit the Australian Taxation Office.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this page is for general informational and educational purposes only and is never intended as financial advice. While we strive to ensure that the content is accurate and up-to-date, it may not reflect the most current legal or financial developments. Always consult with a qualified financial advisor or professional before making any financial decisions. Use the information at your own risk.


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