Difference between current and non-current assets


Learning objective:
What is the Difference between current and non-current assets?

Assets are resources owned by a business which are capable of converting into or producing monetary value. It is essential for every business to keep track of the value of its assets as against the value of its liabilities, to know where its finances stand. Assets are important to business as they are not only a source of future revenue generation but can also be liquidated to meet debts of the business.

This article looks at meaning of and differences between two different types of assets based on their liquidity – current assets and non-current assets.

Definitions and meanings

Current assets:

Current assets are those assets which are likely to be utilized in business activities resulting in their liquidation i.e.: conversion into money, in a short period of time of under one financial year.

Current assets are important to a business as they are utilized to fund its working capital requirements. Every business requires money to meet day to day obligations that arise through its business operations. As current assets can be liquidated in a short period of time, they are crucial to management for tiding over its short-term funding requirements.

Examples of current assets include:

  • Cash and bank balance
  • Cash equivalents – investments which mature in under 3 months
  • Accounts receivables – debtors which have a credit period of less than a year
  • Stock – inventory which is expected to be sold or consumed within a year

What assets qualify as current assets depends on the business type as well. For example – Stock of grains for a grocery store can be expected to be sold within a year and would thus qualify as a current asset. On the other hand, a heavy machinery company may not expect to sell all its stock within a year and may thus not classify all its stock as current assets.

Non-current assets:

Non-current assets are assets which cannot be liquidated i.e.: converted into money within a year. These assets generally have an enduring benefit for the business as they are capable of generating future revenue for the business.

Examples of non-current assets include:

  • Tangible and intangible fixed assets – these fixed assets are utilized in revenue generating activities of the business. For example, plant and machinery used for manufacturing products, patents in favor of a business’s products etc.
  • Investments – investments which are not short term in nature – they generate interest income as revenue. For example, long term investment in bonds of other economic entities, multiple year fixed deposits, locked in mutual fund investments etc.

Differences between current and non-current assets:

The differences between current assets and non-current assets have been detailed below:

1. Meaning

Current assets are those which are likely to be utilized in business activities resulting in their liquidation in a short period of time of less than one financial year.

Non-current assets are assets which cannot be liquidated i.e.: converted into money within a year.

2. Holding time

Current assets are held in the balance sheet for a period up to one financial year.

Non-current assets are held for periods exceeding one financial year.

3. Ease of liquidity

Current assets are relatively easier to liquidate.

Non-current assets are tougher to liquidate.

4. Part of working capital

Current assets are an important component of working capital of a business.

Non-current assets do not form part of working capital of a business.

5. Importance

Current assets are important for meeting day to day requirements of funds for a business.

Non-current assets are important sources of revenue generation for a business.

6. Valuation

Current assets are generally valued at market value i.e.: the value that can be received on liquidation in the current market.

Non-current assets are generally valued at their cost less any accumulated depreciation/amortization/impairment.

7. Tax consequences

Sale of current assets is revenue in nature and results in tax on business profits for an entity.

Sale of non-current assets is capital in nature and results in tax on capital gains/losses.

8. Examples

Current assets include cash and its equivalents, stock and account receivables.

Non-current assets include tangible and intangible assets and long term investments.

Current assets versus non-current assets – tabular comparison

A tabular comparison of current and non-current assets is given below:

Current assets vs Non-current assets
Meaning
Assets which can be liquidated within one financial year Assets which cannot be liquidated within one financial year
Holding time
Up to a year More than a year
Ease of liquidity
Relatively easier Tougher
Part of working capital
Yes No
Importance
Funding day to day operations of a business Generating future revenue for a business
Valuation
Generally at market value Generally at cost less accumulated depreciation
Tax consequence
Sale results in tax on business profits Sale results in tax on capital gain/loss
Examples
Cash and cash equivalents, stock, accounts receivable, prepaid expenses Tangible and intangible assets, long term investments

Conclusion:

Classification of assets into current and non-current assets is important for the management as well as for the investors to understand the true financial condition of a business. This information is of crucial importance for all stakeholders to take balanced and well informed economic decision.

It is the responsibility of the accountant to appropriately classify assets with reference to their nature and terms attached to them. It is further the responsibility of auditors to vet the classification of accountants to ensure an accurate classification and presentation of company’s assets.

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