As a business owner, you know that your company's assets are the lifeblood that keeps things running smoothly. From the delivery truck that brings your products to customers to the computers your employees use every day, these assets allow you to operate and generate revenue.  

But with so many assets to keep track of, how can you ensure nothing falls through the cracks? The answer lies in maintaining a comprehensive fixed asset register. So, let's dive deep and find out what is the Fixed Asset Register.

Accountant What is the Fixed Asset Register

What is the Fixed Asset Register?

A fixed asset register is a detailed listing of all the fixed assets owned by a business. Fixed assets are value items a company owns and uses to produce its income. They are not expected to be consumed or converted into cash within a year. Typical examples of fixed assets include:

  • Land and buildings
  • Machinery and equipment
  • Vehicles
  • Furniture and fixtures
  • Computer hardware and software

The fixed asset register acts as a centralized record of all these important assets. For each asset, the register will include key details such as:

  • Description of the asset
  • Unique identifying number or code
  • Purchase date and price
  • Estimated useful life
  • Depreciation method
  • Location of the asset
  • Maintenance schedules and records

The fixed asset register organizes and updates this information to provide a clear picture of a company's assets at any given time. It is crucial not only for financial record-keeping and reporting but also for making informed decisions about asset management and planning for future investments.

The Importance of Fixed Asset Registers in Australia:

Compliance with ATO requirements

In Australia, businesses must legally maintain records of their fixed assets for tax purposes. These records include details like the purchase date, cost, description, and annual depreciation. Failing to keep proper records can result in issues with the ATO and potential penalties. A well-maintained fixed asset register makes it much easier to stay compliant.

Accurate financial reporting

Most companies make a significant investment in fixed assets. By carefully tracking these assets in a register, businesses can ensure the accuracy of their financial statements, balance sheets, and tax returns. The detailed records also provide valuable information for budgeting and forecasting future capital expenditures.

Theft deterrence and insurance

Asset theft is an unfortunate reality for many Australian businesses. Maintaining a fixed asset register helps deter theft by clearly documenting what assets a business owns. If a theft does occur, having detailed records makes it easier to provide information to the authorities and insurance companies.

Beyond the legal requirements, there are many other compelling reasons for Australian businesses to use fixed asset registers:

Accurate Financial Reporting

Fixed assets represent a significant investment for most companies. By keeping close tabs on these assets through a register, businesses can ensure the accuracy of their financial statements, balance sheet, and tax returns. Detailed fixed asset records also provide valuable information for budgeting and forecasting.

Theft Deterrence

The 2022 Australia & New Zealand Retail Crime Study found that customer theft was the largest category of crime-related loss for retailers at 53%, followed by employee theft at 24%. The average cost of an external theft incident was $415.

Maintaining a fixed asset register helps deter theft by clearly tracking a business's assets and location. If a theft does occur, having detailed records makes it easier to provide information to the authorities and insurance companies.

Efficient Maintenance and Replacement Planning

Many fixed assets, such as machinery and vehicles, require regular maintenance to remain in good working order. By including maintenance schedules in the fixed asset register, businesses can stay on top of these important tasks and avoid costly breakdowns. The register can also help plan and budget for the eventual replacement of assets nearing the end of their useful life.

Simplified Audits and Due Diligence

Whether it's an internal audit, external audit, or due diligence related to securing financing or a business sale, having a clear record of assets is essential. A fixed asset register streamlines these processes by providing a complete and organized record of a company's assets. This can save significant time and effort when auditors or potential buyers/investors come knocking.

Getting Started with a Fixed Asset Register:

The first step in setting up a fixed asset register is selecting the right software solution. There are two main options:

  • Integrated accounting software: Many popular accounting packages like Xero and MYOB have built-in fixed asset register functionality. The key advantage is seamless integration with your overall financial management system. Asset data flows automatically to the appropriate accounts and reports, saving time and reducing errors from manual data entry.
  • Standalone fixed asset software: Many dedicated fixed asset management solutions are also on the market. These often have more advanced features than the built-in registers in accounting software. Standalone systems may be a better choice for businesses with large or complex asset portfolios.

When evaluating different software options, look for the following key features:

  • User-friendly interface for data entry and organization: Adding and updating asset records should be intuitive and efficient. If you have existing asset data to transfer, look for bulk import/export capabilities.
  • Automatic depreciation calculations: The software should support all the depreciation methods you use, such as straight-line, diminishing value, or production units. Bonus points for handling more complex scenarios like mid-year acquisitions and disposals.
  • Asset tracking capabilities: Ideally, the system will allow you to track physical locations, custodians, and transfers of assets. Some advanced solutions integrate with barcode or RFID scanning for real-time tracking.
  • Maintenance management: For assets that require regular servicing, look for the ability to schedule and track maintenance tasks. It helps ensure assets remain in good working order and comply with any warranty or regulatory requirements.
  • Reporting and analytics: The register should provide detailed reports on asset values, depreciation, locations, maintenance history, etc. Flexible reporting is essential for management decision-making, accounting and tax compliance.
  • Mobile app: Mobile access lets you view and update asset data on the go. It is especially useful for field staff working with assets off-site.
  • Integration with other business systems: At a minimum, the asset register should integrate with your accounting software. Depending on your needs, integrating with ERP, CRM, or inventory management systems may also be beneficial.

Gathering Asset Data

Once the software has been selected, the next step is to gather complete and accurate data for all your existing fixed assets. It is often the most time-consuming part of the implementation process.

Start by defining the scope of assets to be included based on your capitalization policy. As a general rule, include assets with a useful life greater than one year and a value above a certain threshold, e.g. $1,000. For each asset, you'll need to collect the following key details:

  • Description
  • Unique identifiers like serial number or asset tag
  • Purchase date and price
  • Vendor or supplier
  • Physical location
  • Custodian or responsible person
  • Useful life estimate
  • Depreciation method
  • Maintenance schedule

Purchase invoices, receipts, warranty documents, maintenance records, insurance policies, and physical inspections are sources for this information. Import the data into your fixed asset register software.

Depending on the system, you can bulk import data from a spreadsheet template. Otherwise, manual data entry will be required. Be sure to validate the accuracy and completeness of data during this process.

Ongoing Maintenance

Setting up the initial fixed asset register is only half the battle. Ongoing maintenance is critical to keeping the data accurate and up to date. Assign clear responsibilities for updating the register.

For example, the accounting team may handle financial data like purchase prices and depreciation, while the facilities team manages physical location and maintenance records. Define processes to ensure the register is updated for key events, such as:

  • Asset acquisitions
  • Disposals and write-offs
  • Location transfers
  • Maintenance and repairs
  • Impairments or revaluations

Schedule regular audits to verify the physical existence and condition of assets. This could involve physical inspections, barcode scanning, or other tracking technologies.

Finally, all staff involved in fixed asset management should be trained to understand their responsibilities and how to use the software effectively.

The Bottom Line:

Maintaining a robust fixed asset register is critical for any business, but it's essential in the Australian context, given the strict legal requirements around asset record-keeping.

By setting up and regularly updating a comprehensive register, you'll be well-positioned to make smart decisions about your assets, stay compliant with tax laws, and ultimately drive the growth and success of your business. Don't let poor asset management hold you back - start building your fixed asset register today!

Frequently Asked Questions:

How long do I need to keep my fixed asset register?

The ATO generally requires businesses to keep records of assets for five years after the end of the financial year in which the asset was sold or disposed of. However, it's a good idea to keep asset records for as long as possible in case they are needed for other purposes, such as insurance claims or legal disputes.

Can intangible assets be included in a fixed asset register?

Yes, intangible assets such as patents, trademarks, and copyrights can be included in the fixed asset register if they meet the criteria of having a useful life of more than one year and being used in the production of income.