What Is an Asset Register and Why Is Accuracy Important

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There is a famous saying in the asset management world, “if you can count all your assets, you always show a profit” – yet a staggering 81% of small and medium businesses (SMBs) do not have an accurate view of their assets let alone access to an asset register.

Most businesses rely on pen and paper or spreadsheets to manage their inventory and assets. Even in cases where businesses have an effective Asset Management Software solution, there is a tendency to export asset data into spreadsheets. As a result, the level of inventory write-off has dramatically increased.

Whilst large businesses have teams of accountants and auditors who help them to leverage the value of their physical assets, small businesses tend to have a “do-it-yourself” attitude. Especially when it comes to managing assets which quite often can have an impact on cash flow, debt, and financing avenues. Small businesses quite often do not appreciate that their assets help them to produce income, yet they do not keep an accurate record of all their assets. In this guide, we’ll cover:

What Is an Asset Register?

In its simplest form, an asset register is a detailed list compiled of all your business assets. It includes details on all assets such as location, condition, and owner. The purpose of an asset register is to enable businesses to know the status, procurement date, location, price, depreciation, and the current value of each asset.

Although building and maintain a complete asset register on a day-to-day basis may seem like a lot of admin work, it can have an overall positive impact on your bottom line. So much so, that an accurate register can increase business revenue and cash flow by 5 – 18%

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As well as improving a business’s bottom line, other benefits of an accurate asset register include:

  • Providing complete transparency of all asset data
  • Ensuring all assets remain compliant with regulatory standards
  • Providing an accurate audit trail
  • Helping to track and identify assets
  • Preventing assets from being lost or stolen with accurate location data
  • Allowing you to calculate depreciation
  • Estimating maintenance and repair costs

What Should Be Included?

What goes into an asset register is typically governed by your capitalisation policy. For example, if you decide to record all assets that have a purchase value of £2,000, then your asset register will contain only assets that had a minimum purchase value of £2,000. I.e, a computer worth £1,200 would not feature in your register.

Capitalisation policies differ for each organization; some businesses have it as low as £250 and others can have a starting point of £5,000. Your capitalisation policy regulates the minimum value of assets you want to track.

No matter what type of register you require, each will require specific asset data such as:

  • What is the asset
  • The exact location of each asset
  • Procurement details including purchase date and price
  • Estimated life expectancy
  • Depreciation value
  • Insurance and compliance details
  • Maintenance history including repairs and downtime

Keep in mind that, although error-prone and not ideal for scaling, spreadsheets can be useful where small businesses have less than 100 assets that are collectively worth less than £100,000.

What Are the Different Types of Asset Registers?

The type of asset registers that a company builds can depend entirely on the size of its operations. Not only can registers be in the form of paper, spreadsheets, or specialised asset register software, they can also be specific to the type of asset.

Small businesses tend to have just one asset register that consists of the data of all assets. Typically, when you have only one register, it is called an asset register. But, depending on a business’ capitalisation policy, this can also include fixed assets that are movable too. For example, if a register includes all assets worth more than £2,000, then company vehicles may also be counted for in a fixed asset register.

What assets are included in a fixed asset register

Whereas larger companies, depending on the industry, are likely to have up to three different types of asset registers that include their IT and digital assets. In this instance, the asset data that is stored will vary depending on the register.

  1. Data Found in an Asset Register

    • Description of an asset
    • Purchase date
    • Purchase price
    • Location of assets
    • Owner of assets
    • User of assets
    • Barcode or Serial Number of assets
    • Insurance coverage
    • The current value of assets
    • Depreciation method used
    • The warranty information from the manufacturer
    • Maintenance information
    • The remaining life of an asset
    • Estimated Resale Value (Salvage Value) of the asset
  2. Data Found in an IT Asset Register

    • Type of Asset – Hardware or Software Asset
    • Location of the Asset – On-premise, Private, Public, or Hybrid Cloud
    • Operating System
    • License Renewal Date
    • License Start Date
    • User
    • Cyber Insurance Coverage
    • Depreciation Method Used
  3. Data Found in a Digital Asset Register

    • Description of the asset
    • Location of the asset
    • Asset Owned or Copyrighted
    • Asset User
    • Depreciation Method Used
    • Digital Insurance Cover
    • Asset Format
    • Preservation Risk
    • Type of Digital Asset
    • Estimated Value of Digital Asset

How to Keep an Asset Register Consistently Accurate

When you are creating your asset register, it’s recommended that you take an export of all your assets as recorded in your accounting or asset management software.

The next step is to carry out a physical audit of all your assets. Physical audits can be easier if you have tagged your assets with barcodes or RFID tags.

After the audit, you can compare the list of assets from your accounting or asset management system with the physically audited assets. Inevitably, you are likely to find a difference between the audited assets and your list of assets. Missing assets are technically termed as ghost assets, which are typically written-off.

Also Read: How to Eliminate Ghost Assets With Asset Management »

Once you have created your master fixed asset register, keeping it updated and accurate can be challenging. Particularly if your assets are constantly moving across multiple locations. Most companies will tag their assets with tracking labels so that they can track movement in real-time.

If your assets are Capex-heavy, then we recommend you perform a physical audit of your assets at least twice every year to accurately record all your assets.

What Are the Challenges of an Accurate Register?

By now, you’ll hopefully agree that maintaining an accurate asset register is critical to understanding the exact value and status of assets at any given time.

Quite often companies rely on spreadsheets to manage their asset register. Whilst spreadsheets can be easy to use, they are not designed to maintain the accuracy of an asset register. Most information related to your assets is dynamic. Such as location, user, depreciation value, warranty information, and maintenance history. Therefore, it is very difficult to maintain the accuracy of a spreadsheet when you are managing dynamic information. As well as, in most cases, multiple teams entering different information.

Also Read: Spreadsheets or Fixed Asset Management Software? »

It is for this reason that a reliable Asset Management Software is highly beneficial to maintain the accuracy of your asset register. Most modern asset register software is cloud-based, which means multiple teams from multiple locations can edit data at the same time.

Moving forward with internet-based tracking, enabling equipment to transmit its location and status, maintaining an accurate register is likely to require fewer manual inputs. For example, a compressor would update its location and transmit that information to a software database. This means that there are no manual tasks required to update equipment data.

The Importance of an Asset Audit and Depreciation Methods

Whilst maintaining an accurate asset register digitally is vital, it can be complemented with physical audits that increase a register’s effectiveness.

Physical audits provide vital “What you see is what you get” information, which can be difficult to capture digitally. For example, Environmental wear and tear is almost impossible to fully describe without a physical audit.

Another benefit of a physical audit is that it provides significant confidence in the accuracy of your asset register. As a result, you are better equipped to handle external audits and compliance-related situations.

The depreciation method is another factor that needs to be recorded to better manage your fixed asset management strategies. Quite often tax authorities dictate the type of depreciation method to be applied to your assets. The four most popular depreciation methods are:

  1. Straight-Line
  2. Double Declining Balance
  3. Units of Production
  4. Sum of Years digits

It is important to note that your depreciation method is likely to vary by the type of asset. For example, for most intangible assets, straight-line depreciation is not applicable.