Assets are property that a business owns, including cash and receivables, inventory, and so on.

Assets are any possessions that have value in an exchange. The more formal definition is the entire property of a person, association, corporation, or estate applicable or subject to the payment of debts. What most people understand as business assets are cash and investments, accounts receivable, inventory, office equipment, plant and equipment, and so on.

Assets can be long-term or short-term, and the distinction between these two categories might be whether they last three years, five years, 10 years, or whatever; normally the accountants decide for each company and what’s important is consistency. The government also has a say in defining assets, because it has to do with tax treatment; when you buy a piece of equipment, if you call that purchase an expense then you can deduct it from taxable income.

If you call it an asset you can’t deduct it, but you can list it on your financial statement among the assets. The tax code controls how businesses decide to categorize spendings into assets or expenses.

Check out How to Read Your Business’s Balance Sheet and The Key Elements of the Financial Plan for more.

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Bplans GlossaryBplans Glossary

At Bplans, it's our goal to make it easy for you to start and run your business. The Bplans glossary of common business terms will help you learn about key small business and entrepreneurship topics.