Goodwill Impairment Accounting

Reducing the value of goodwill down to its fair market value.

What is Goodwill Impairment?

Goodwill is created in business accounting when an acquiring entity purchases another entity for more than the fair market value of its assets. Per accounting standards, goodwill should be carried as an asset and evaluated yearly for any possible goodwill impairment charge.  Private companies may be required to expense a portion of the goodwill, periodically, on a straight-line basis, over a ten-year period, reducing the recorded value of the asset.

Companies should assess whether or not an adjustment for impairment to goodwill is needed within the first half of each fiscal year. This impairment test may have a substantial financial impact on the income statement, as it will be charged directly as an expense or written off until the asset of goodwill is completely removed from the balance sheet.

In accordance with both GAAP in the United States and IFRS in the European Union and elsewhere, goodwill is not amortized. In order to accurately report its value from year to year, companies do the impairment test. Impairment losses are, functionally, like accumulated depreciation.


Goodwill Impairment Accounting - Balance Sheet


How to test if Impairment of Goodwill is required

Companies need to perform impairment tests annually or whenever a triggering event causes the fair market value of a goodwill asset to drop below the carrying value. Some triggering events that may result in impairment are adverse changes in the general condition of the economy, increased competitive environment, legal implications, changes in key personnel, declining cash flows, and a situation where current assets show a pattern of declining market value.

There are two methods commonly used to test for impairment to goodwill:

  1. Income approach – discounting estimated future cash flows to a single current value
  2. Market approach – examining the assets and liabilities of companies in the same industry


What amount should be recorded as an Impairment Loss?

Business assets should be properly measured at their fair market value before testing for impairment. If goodwill has been assessed and identified as being impaired, the full impairment balance must be immediately written off as a loss. An impairment is recognized as a loss on the income statement and as a reduction in the goodwill account. The amount that should be recorded as a loss is the difference between the current fair market value of the asset and its carrying value or amount (i.e., the amount equal to the asset’s recorded cost). The maximum impairment loss cannot exceed the carrying amount – in other words, the value of the asset cannot be reduced below zero or recorded as a negative number.


Example of a Goodwill Impairment

Here is an example of goodwill impairment and its impact on the balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement.

Company BB acquires the assets of company CC for $15M, valuing its assets at $10M, and recognizing goodwill of $5M on its balance sheet. After a year, company BB tests its assets for impairment and finds out that company CC’s revenue has been declining significantly. As a result, the current value of company CC’s assets has decreased from $10M to $7M, having an impairment to the assets of $3M. This makes the value of the asset of goodwill drop down from $5M to $2M.

#1 Impact on Balance Sheet

Goodwill reduces from $5M to $2M.

#2 Impact on Income Statement

An impairment charge of $3M is recorded, reducing net earnings by $3M.

#3 Impact on Cash Flow Statement

The impairment charge is a non-cash expense and added back into cash from operations.  The only change to cash flow would be if there was a tax impact, but that would generally not be the case, as impairments are generally not tax-deductible.


Additional resources

Thank you for reading this guide to goodwill impairment and the associated impacts on a company’s financial statements.  To keep learning and advancing your career as a financial analyst, check out these relevant CFI resources:

  • Financial analyst guide
  • Analyzing financial statements
  • Financial modeling guide
  • Career map

Free Accounting Courses

Learn accounting fundamentals and how to read financial statements with CFI’s free online accounting classes.
These courses will give the confidence you need to perform world-class financial analyst work. Start now!


Building confidence in your accounting skills is easy with CFI courses! Enroll now for FREE to start advancing your career!