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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas
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GASB Issues Standard on Intangible Assets

August 22, 2007

The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) has issued Statement No. 51, Accounting and Financial Reporting for Intangible Assets. The statement provides guidance regarding how to identify, account for, and report intangible assets. The new standard characterizes an intangible asset as an asset that lacks physical substance, is nonfinancial in nature, and has an initial useful life extending beyond a single reporting period.

Examples of intangible assets include easements, computer software, water rights, timber rights, patents, and trademarks. Assets scoped out of the standard are those acquired or created primarily for the purpose of obtaining income, assets resulting from capital lease transactions reported by lessees, and goodwill created through the combination of a governmental organization with another entity.

All intangible assets subject to the provisions of the new standard should be classified as capital assets. Therefore, all authoritative literature that addresses the accounting and reporting for capital assets is applicable.  In addition, Statement 51 specifically addresses recognition, amortization, and impairment for intangible assets and includes expanded guidance for internally generated intangible assets such as computer software.

Public institutions are required to implement Statement 51 for periods beginning after June 15, 2009 -- fiscal year 2010 for most colleges and universities.

Staff Resource: Sue Menditto, director, accounting policy