Fixed Assets: An Epic Story


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Simultaneous to the completion of this fixed asset review, the seventh and final volume of Stephen King's "The Dark Tower" book series became available in bookstores for purchase. This amazing accomplishment by the prolific horror author took over 30 years to complete, and tells the tale of a band of "gunslingers" on a journey towards an elusive Dark Tower, supposedly the nexus of all universes. These gunslingers need to reach this tower before the world descends into complete chaos and disarray. This epic journey takes place in several "whens," both past and future. During this time, many characters were added, deleted, or "edited," changing into something different over the course of the journey. Manually keeping track of the specific attributes of each character (date of birth, age, life) and the never-ending plot changes over the 30-year span between the first and seventh volume of this series was quite a daunting task.

Equally daunting is maintaining fixed asset and depreciation information over a significant time period. Like the characters in the books, assets have placed-in-service dates and life expectancies, and exist in multiple books and time periods, past, future, and present. Regardless of business type, size, or industry, the addition, ongoing maintenance and depreciation, and ultimate disposition of each asset must comply with federal and state tax regulations. Assets classification must comply with useful life, averaging convention, and depreciation methods. Future years' depreciation expense must be projected for reporting purposes.

Tracking all this information manually should not even be considered an option; fixed asset accounting complexity underlies the necessity for implementing an automated solution capable of tracking all of this information.

Partner Insights

Fixed Asset software automates the complex and ever-changing calculations associated with managing personal and real property. These products simultaneously compute and maintain asset depreciation for different books and methods. They also calculate depreciation for short tax years, bonus depreciation, Section 179 depreciation, gain or loss on asset disposition, and ITC basis adjustments. In addition to book and tax methods, the applications automatically calculate depreciation for purposes of the alternative minimum tax, adjusted current earnings (ACE), and earnings and profits (E&P). From cradle to grave, these programs specialize in tracking every change to an asset throughout its useful life.

Future features will focus more on the "where" of fixed assets, simplifying their initial data capture and periodic inventory counts via bar coding and wireless devices. Browser interfaces will become more plentiful. Downloads and updates will become more "intelligent," lessening the need for user maintenance and intervention.

As the fixed asset products continue to evolve and mature, distinguishing differences in capabilities becomes increasingly difficult. All the products reviewed in this article meet the basic needs of intuitive set-up, multiple depreciation books and methods, robust management reporting, and import/export capability. They all track property type, service date, acquired value, depreciation method, estimated life, business use percentage, Section 179 bonus, salvage value, ITC amount, current and prior-year depreciation, and net book value. Several offer user-defined fields, books, and depreciation methods. A few offer custom report and query capability, and one product offers a browser interface option.

Begin your evaluation of fixed asset software by first defining and prioritizing your fixed asset requirements. Then compare and contrast how each product fits within these requirements, to narrow your choices to two or three products. Next, take each for a test drive, either via the Internet or a demo copy. Test various scenarios for compliance with your requirements. Discuss with your peers and other users until you reach a level of comfort that the preferred product is right for you.

Maintaining fixed assets requires a level of calculation and intricacy unlike any other application in use by your firm. Tracking these requirements manually or by spreadsheet is error-prone and counterproductive. Choose any of the products below; they will successfully guide you on your multi-year journey navigating the nuances and complexities of fixed asset accounting.


FAS Asset Accounting remains one of the easiest and most comprehensive fixed asset solutions available. Several special rapid data-entry features expedite the creation and maintenance of asset information. Reporting is clear and concise, providing both tax and financial information.

The system contains many customization features for creating a personalized interface. Several keyboard shortcuts expedite navigation through the many asset screens. Smart lists allow you to create valid data entry choices for the assets' many general information fields.

The main window of this highly intuitive interface features two ways to view assets-the Group View or the Detail View. The Group View displays all assets in the chosen group.

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The Detail View expands on this to display six pages (tabs) of information about each specific asset. These tabs include Main, Disposal, Transfer, History, Image, and Notes.

Asset templates allow you to apply standard general and book asset information to either a new or an existing asset. You can create groups of assets based on any asset attribute specified in the general information fields. These groups categorize assets for specific purposes, such as running reports, calculating depreciation, and performing projections. Search-and-replace capability allows for quick updates and edits.

Customization options are extensive. Both existing fields and user-defined fields can be modified to suit your needs. You can also store images and associate them with an asset. These can include photographs, drawings, invoices, purchase orders, or warranty information. Notes provide additional space for capturing special information about the asset.

New assets are entered via ASCII import, individual asset entry, asset templates, and replicating assets. General asset fields are extensive and contain such information as asset number, class, location, acquisition date, vendor, serial number, department, and replacement value.

The seven depreciation books include Tax, Internal, State, AMT, ACE, and two user-defined books. The Detail View conveniently displays all seven books side by side across one screen. Special asset tasks include disposals, transfers, inactivating, and deleting assets.

Extensive depreciation options allow you to calculate and update current depreciation, project future depreciation, or recalculate depreciation for an earlier period. Custom depreciation methods provide options for non-standard depreciation conventions.

FAS Asset Accounting contains 28 standard reports for managing assets and tracking depreciation. Among these are depreciation expense, asset basis, depreciation summary, disposals and transfers, net book value, annual activity, and FASB 109 projections. You can specify filters for asset inclusion or exclusion, specify sorting and subtotals, and batch reports for single-command printing.

FAS Asset Accounting provides a comprehensive solution, with enough capability and flexibility to meet both current and future needs. Choose this package if customization is important to your firm, as its options will allow you to personalize this product for any fixed asset scenario.


BNA Fixed Assets is a comprehensive asset recording and reporting solution that greatly simplifies fixed asset administration for any size company. The interface offers many timeline options for viewing a company's assets and books over any desired period.

With the use of wizards, the application greatly reduces the time needed to create a new company file, add and dispose of assets, and edit book, asset, and company data. The Add Asset Wizard, for example, allows you to create a single asset or several assets in one session. You can quickly edit entries at a summary or detail level. The Import Utility allows import of data from many different sources. Asset types are templates that allow you to quickly add assets or build book data.

The Company Set-up screen contains general company name and address information and the company calendar, which specifies taxable years and accounting periods. The Asset List allows the addition, editing, duplication, deletion, and disposal of assets. You can also import, split, partially dispose, transfer, and export assets. Once all assets have been entered, you can select a pre-defined query to display only specific assets. You can change the default values for the asset fields and add additional information for new assets. You can also choose which fields you want displayed on the Asset List, change the order in which the fields appear, and view details, enter additional information, or change existing book information for any asset.

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