What Is Amortization In Accounting? How It Benefits Startups

Mandi Rogers
5 min read
What Is Amortization In Accounting? How It Benefits Startups

As a startup, managing your cash flow and budgeting can be difficult enough. But your financial situation gets even more complicated when you add loans and assets to the mix. If you want to attract investors, you need to be able to present a complete picture of your business's financial landscape to interested wallets, including amortization.

Amortization can help you lower up-front costs and manage your finances more effectively. It’s also a powerful tool when you use it correctly and should be part of any startup's budgeting process. And when paired with strong financial management, you’re better equipped to forecast your costs accurately and plan for the future.

But for startups with limited experience or financial expertise, understanding how amortization works and how to use it can pose a challenge.

Working with a financial expert can help you better understand your financial position while gaining insights into managing your costs and maximizing your profits. This article will also give you a basic understanding of amortization to set you on the right track. 

What Is Amortization In Accounting, And How Does It Work?

Amortization is spreading out a loan or large expense over time. When used on an asset, it functions like depreciation. This method allows you to distribute your costs evenly across a prolonged period.  Typically, you’ll make regular, equal payments, resulting in the gradual reduction of debt or the gradual expensing of an asset's purchase price over its useful life.

How Is It Used In Business?

Amortization is the perfect tool for managing significant expenses such as loan repayments or asset purchases. By spreading out payments over a period of time, you can avoid making large lump-sum payments, which may strain your resources.

You can also use it to simplify the accounting process and make reporting easier. By spreading out the payments, you can more accurately track their expenses over time and adequately recognize them on your financial statements. This allows for better accuracy and transparency when it comes to managing finances.

Amortization Types

There are two main types – loan and intangible asset amortization. Each is slightly different, but both can help your business manage its finances more efficiently and in a more organized way.

Amortization Of Loans

Loan amortization means dividing a loan into smaller payments. Like most loans, you’ll focus your payments on two areas: the principal balance and the interest payments. As you make each payment, some money goes toward paying the principal balance while another portion covers the interest.

The amount that goes toward the principal balance increases after each payment. As you continue to make payments, the interest portion decreases, and more of the payment will reduce the loan's principal balance.

Examples Of Loan Amortization

Examples include company car loans, mortgages on office or production space, and business loans. To illustrate, let's look at how to amortize a $500,000 mortgage at 5% interest:

The Loan Math 

You will need to determine the total monthly payment (TMP), the outstanding loan balance (OLB), and the interest rate. The formula for calculating this is:

Monthly Principal = TMP - (OLB x Interest Rate / 12)

Amortization Of Intangible Assets

In addition to loans, you may also spread out the cost of your intangible assets.

Definition Of Intangible Assets

Intangible assets are items that do not have a physical form but still hold value. These include intellectual property, copyrights, trademarks, and goodwill.

How Intangible Assets Are Amortized

When it comes to amortizing an intangible asset, your business will spread out the cost of the acquisition over its useful life. This allows you to track how much money you spend on your investments more accurately and recognize the value over time.

Examples Of Assets That Are Commonly Amortized

Common examples of amortized intangible assets include the following:

  • Software development costs
  • Trademarks or copyrights
  • Licenses or patents
  • Research and development costs

Understanding tangible vs intangible assets can help your business decide how to record expenses on your financial statement.

Assets Calculations

You can calculate the amortization of intangible assets similarly to loans. First, you will need to determine the acquisition's recorded cost, residual value, and useful life. Then, simply follow this formula: 

Amortization Expense = (Recorded Cost - Residual Value) / Useful Life

Amortization vs. Depreciation

Amortization and depreciation each involve spreading out the cost of an asset, but there are a few key differences between them. 

Depreciation  refers to the gradual reduction in the value of an asset over its useful life. Depreciation accounts for the wear and tear of an asset, as well as any market value decline due to usage or obsolescence.

Depreciation is a critical asset management component requiring regular calculation to accurately reflect an asset's value. . You typically use it for tangible assets like equipment and machinery.

On the other hand, as we’ve already discussed, amortization applies to intangible assets. In addition, you will generally record depreciation as an expense on the income statement, whereas for amortization, you will not.

Advantages Of Amortization For Startups

Amortization makes it easier for your startup to manage its cash flow and make long-term investments in things like research and development. It also helps you and investors understand and forecast your cash flow and costs over time to manage your finances better.

You may also be interested in the tax benefits and how it can help lower your liability. Let’s look at those more closely:

Tax Benefits For Startups

Good news! By amortizing an asset, your business can deduct a portion of the cost from its taxes each year that the asset is in service. This can help your business save money on its taxes and reduce the amount it owes yearly. 

Potential Risks Associated With Amortization For Startups

Although amortization can provide your startup with many benefits, you should consider some potential risks. Specifically, you should know your long-term financing and cash flow management limitations before taking on an amortization schedule.

Some additional risks include the following:

  • Over-amortizing assets – If you amortize an asset for too long, you may pay more than the asset's actual value over time.
  • Liquidity risk – If you have limited funds and must pay back the loan in installments over time, you may be short on cash when the payments become due.
  • Limited financial resources – Your startup may not have enough to cover the up-front cost.
  • Complex accounting – It’s complicated, time-consuming, and requires careful record-keeping to allocate all costs accurately.
  • Lack of flexibility – The cost and time it takes to pay can be difficult to adjust if needs change over time.

Overall, while there are some potential risks with amortization for startups, the advantages may outweigh them, depending on your business’s particular needs.

Tips For Creating An Effective Amortization Schedule For Loans

Creating an effective amortization schedule for loans as a startup can help you manage your costs, reduce your taxes, and better forecast your finances.

Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Determine the length – This will affect how much you pay each month. A longer period gives you smaller monthly payments but accrues more interest over the life of the loan.
  • Choose a payment frequency that works for your business – You can pay back your loan monthly, quarterly, or annually, depending on what makes the most sense for your cash flow.
  • Consider using a spreadsheet or financial software to track payments and progress – Keeping accurate records of your payments and the remaining balance on your loan is essential. A spreadsheet or financial software can help you keep track of your loan schedule by providing easy-to-understand visualizations of your payments and progress.

Considerations For Startups When Amortizing Assets

Depending on your startup's needs and resources, some of these considerations may include:

  • The asset's useful life – Determining how long the asset will last or be useful can help you determine the length of your schedule.
  • Leasing vs. buying – Deciding whether it makes more sense to lease or buy an asset can impact the total cost and the tax implications associated with amortizing it.
  • Cash flow management – Carefully managing your cash flow is essential when amortizing an asset, as it can determine the monthly amount you owe.
  • Accounting accuracy – Accurately tracking and accounting for all costs related to amortization can ensure that your balance sheet accurately reflects the organization's finances. With amortization, your balance sheet will reflect the asset's cost over time instead of its total purchase price.

Factors To Consider When Choosing An Amortization Method

When deciding on a method, consider factors such as the type of loan, interest rate, and payment frequency. Additionally, be sure to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

For example, loan amortization with a fixed interest rate may be more predictable than amortizing intangible assets with a variable rate. On the other hand, amortizing intangible assets with a fixed rate may provide more tax benefits than a loan with a variable rate.

Amortization Matters For Financial Health

Understanding amortization and its implications for your startup is essential to your financial health. As your startup grows, so does your need for sound financial planning and decision-making. The amortization of loans and intangible assets makes it easy to spread out your costs or investments over a period of time so you can better manage your cash flow.

By implementing a long-term strategy with amortization, you can optimize your financial health and build a more successful business for the future. 

However, without the financial knowledge you need to amortize your assets and manage your expenses, your startup may not be able to capitalize on the full potential of its investments. With professional guidance, you can gain the confidence and clarity you need to make sound financial decisions.

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