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US GAAP versus IFRS - Intangible assets - EY - United States


Intangible assets

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Both US GAAP (ASC 805, Business Combinations, and ASC 350, Intangibles — Goodwill and Other) and IFRS (IFRS 3(R), Business Combinations, and IAS 38, Intangible Assets) define intangible assets as nonmonetary assets without physical substance. The recognition criteria for both accounting models require that there be probable future economic benefits and costs that can be reliably measured, although some costs are never capitalized as intangible assets (e.g., start-up costs).

Goodwill is recognized only in a business combination in accordance with ASC 805 and IFRS 3(R). With the exception of development costs (addressed below), internally developed intangibles are not recognized as assets under either ASC 350 or IAS 38. Internal costs related to the research phase of research and development are expensed as incurred under both accounting models.

Amortization of intangible assets over their estimated useful lives is required under both US GAAP and IFRS, with one US GAAP exception in ASC 985-20, Software — Costs of Software to be Sold, Leased or Marketed, related to the amortization of computer software sold to others.

In both sets of standards, if there is no foreseeable limit to the period over which an intangible asset is expected to generate net cash inflows to the entity, the useful life is considered to be indefinite and the asset is not amortized. Goodwill is never amortized.

Significant differences

Development costsDevelopment costs are expensed as incurred unless addressed by guidance in another ASC Topic. Development costs related to computer software developed for external use are capitalized once technological feasibility is established in accordance with specific criteria (ASC 985-20). In the case of software developed for internal use, only those costs incurred during the application development stage (as defined in ASC 350-40, Intangibles — Goodwill and Other — Internal-Use Software) may be capitalized.Development costs are capitalized when technical and economic feasibility of a project can be demonstrated in accordance with specific criteria, including: demonstrating technical feasibility, intent to complete the asset, and ability to sell the asset in the future. Although application of these principles may be largely consistent with ASC 985-20 and ASC 350-40, there is no separate guidance addressing computer software development costs.
Advertising costsAdvertising and promotional costs are either expensed as incurred or expensed when the advertising takes place for the first time (policy choice). Direct response advertising may be capitalized if the specific criteria in ASC 340-20, Other Assets and Deferred Costs — Capitalized Advertising Costs, are met.Advertising and promotional costs are expensed as incurred. A prepayment may be recognized as an asset only when payment for the goods or services is made in advance of the entity having access to the goods or receiving the services.
RevaluationRevaluation is not permitted.Revaluation to fair value of intangible assets other than goodwill is a permitted accounting policy election for a class of intangible assets. Because revaluation requires reference to an active market for the specific type of intangible, this is relatively uncommon in practice.


No further convergence is planned at this time.

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