A depletion expense is the allocation of the cost of natural resources to periods in which they are consumed. Natural resources, also known as wasting assets, include things like oil, natural gas, coal, timber, and mineral deposits. Depletion is similar to depreciation, which is used for tangible assets, and amortization, which is used for intangible assets. However, depletion is specifically designed for the extraction of natural resources.
Companies use two methods to calculate depletion expenses: the cost depletion method and the percentage depletion method.
- Cost Depletion Method: The company estimates the total quantity of the resource, calculates the cost per unit of the resource, and then multiplies the cost per unit by the number of units sold in a particular period.
- Percentage Depletion Method: The company deducts a certain percentage of the revenue received from selling the resource. This method is typically used for mineral or oil and gas properties and may result in larger tax deductions than the cost depletion method, but it’s subject to specific regulatory rules.
Depletion expense reduces a company’s earnings before taxes and, therefore, its tax liability. It also reduces the carrying value of the asset on the balance sheet. Depletion expense is typically recorded as part of cost of goods sold or as part of operating expenses in the income statement, depending on the nature of the resource and how it’s used in the business.
Example of Depletion Expense
Let’s consider an example of a company involved in timber harvesting.
Suppose XYZ Lumber Co. purchases a tract of forest land for $5 million. After an assessment by a forestry consultant, it is determined that there are 1 million mature trees ready for harvest.
The depletion rate per tree would be calculated as the total cost divided by the total quantity of the resource. In this case, it would be $5 million / 1 million trees = $5 per tree.
In the first year, XYZ Lumber Co. harvests and sells 100,000 trees. The depletion expense for the first year would be calculated as the number of units sold multiplied by the cost per unit, or 100,000 trees * $5/tree = $500,000.
This $500,000 is the depletion expense for the first year, and it would be reported as an expense on the company’s income statement. This expense reduces the company’s taxable income for the year, accurately reflecting the cost of the trees that were harvested and sold.
On the balance sheet, the forest land asset would be reduced by the depletion expense, reflecting the decrease in the number of trees (the asset’s value) due to the harvesting activity. So, the forest land asset value would be reduced from $5 million to $4.5 million ($5 million – $500,000).
This process would continue each year based on the number of trees harvested, ensuring that the cost of the consumed resource is accurately reflected over time.