What expenses can you capitalise in your business?

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What expenses can you capitalise in your business?
Only assets or asset improvements can be capitalised. (Mike Morley/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Business expenses are divided into two categories, each of which is accounted for differently. Current expenses are those that keep a business running on a day-to-day basis. Examples of current expenses are the payment of VAT, the purchase of office supplies or payroll expenses. Current expenses are paid in the accounting period in which they are incurred. Capitalised expenses, however, relate to the purchase of capital assets or expenses related to the improvement of these assets. Capitalised expenses are not accounted for in the period in which they were purchased. These items are placed on the balance sheet as an asset and depreciated (also called amortised) down in value on a monthly or yearly basis via a clearly defined depreciation method. The depreciation expense is recorded on the income statement.

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Property, plant and equipment (PP&E)

Purchases of property, plant and equipment should be capitalised on a company's financial statements. PPE is a very broad name for items that a company buys that will be classified as an asset and will provide benefit for more than one accounting period. Examples of PP&E include land, buildings and production machinery.

Major repairs to equipment

Major repairs to production equipment should be capitalised. The repair to the asset will extend the useful life of the piece of equipment, which is an allowable reason to capitalise an expense. Companies should be careful, however, to not capitalise the maintenance cost of a piece of equipment. Maintenance costs are related to the mundane processes that keep the machine in running order, such as lubrication and preventive maintenance.

Land and building improvements

Improvements to a piece of land or a building are expenses that should be capitalised, as the improvements will cause the value of the asset to be increased and may lengthen the time that the asset can be used. Examples of land improvements include the installation of utilities, drainage systems and lighting systems. Building improvements, such as major office renovations, should also be capitalised. Small maintenance projects should not be capitalised, however, but should rather be expensed as a period cost.

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