The accounting for an intangible asset is based on its useful life. An intangible asset with a finite useful life is amortised, and an intangible asset with an indefinite useful life is not.
What is the definition of Amortization ?
Amortization is the systematic allocation of the depreciable amount of an intangible asset over its useful life.
IAS 38 para. 97-106 rules the amortization of finite useful lives of intangible assets.
Paragraph 97 of IAS 38 states that the depreciable amount of an intangible asset with a finite useful life shall be allocated on a systematic basis over its useful life. Amortization shall begin when the asset is available for use, ie when it is in the location and condition necessary for it to be capable of operating in the manner intended by management.
Amortization shall cease at the earlier of the date that the asset is classified as held for sale (or included in a disposal group that is classified as held for sale) in accordance with IFRS 5 and the date that the asset is derecognized.
The amortization method used shall reflect the pattern in which the asset’s future economic benefits are expected to be consumed by the entity. If that pattern cannot be determined reliably, the straight-line method shall be used.
The amortization charge for each period shall be recognized in profit or loss unless this or another Standard permits or requires it to be included in the carrying amount of another asset.
According to Para. 98, a variety of amortization methods can be used to allocate the depreciable amount of an asset on a systematic basis over its useful life. These methods include the straight-line method, the diminishing balance method and the unit of production method. The method used is selected on the basis of the expected pattern of consumption of the expected future economic benefits embodied in the asset and is applied consistently from period to period, unless there is a change in the expected pattern of consumption of those future economic benefits.
Further, para. 99 of IAS 38 states that amortization is usually recognized in profit or loss. However, sometimes the future economic benefits embodied in an asset are absorbed in producing other assets. In this case, the amortization charge constitutes part of the cost of the other asset and is included in its carrying amount. For example, the amortization of intangible assets used in a production process is included in the carrying amount of inventories.
While para. 104 requires an entity to review the amortization period and method at least at each financial year-end.
If the expected useful life of the asset is different from previous estimates, the amortization period shall be changed accordingly. If there has been a change in the expected pattern of consumption of the future economic benefits embodied in the asset, the amortization method shall be changed to reflect the changed pattern. Such changes shall be accounted for as changes in accounting estimates in accordance with IAS 8.
During the life of an intangible asset, it may become apparent that the estimate of its useful life is inappropriate. For example, the recognition of an impairment loss may indicate that the amortization period needs to be changed.
Over time, the pattern of future economic benefits expected to flow to an entity from an intangible asset may change. For example, it may become apparent that a diminishing balance method or amortization is appropriate rather than a straight-line method. Another example is if use of the rights represented by a license is deferred pending action on other components of the business plan. In this case, economic benefits that flow from the asset may not be received until later periods (Hrd).
Source : IFRS as issued at 1 January 2010