How Do You Depreciate A Fit-Out?

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When opening a new office, you can take advantage of a wide variety of tax breaks. Did you know that business owners can write off the cost of goods like new desks and filing cabinets? All construction work, machinery, and other startup-related trades and capital expenditures fall under this category.

Depreciation claims help business owners write off the cost of office improvements as their assets lose value over time. They are also seeking reimbursement for the cost of delivery, set-up, and any inevitable wear and tear. How? Learn everything you need to know.

How Do You Depreciate A Fit-Out?

Depreciation of a fit-out, also known as leasehold improvements, involves allocating the cost of the fit-out over its useful life. It is important to note that the specific rules and regulations regarding depreciation may vary based on your jurisdiction and accounting standards. However, I can provide you with a general understanding of how fit-out depreciation is typically handled. Here are the steps involved:

1. Determine The Cost

To determine the cost of a fit-out, you need to consider all the expenses directly related to the construction, renovation, and improvements made to the leased space. Here are some common cost components to consider:

  • Construction and renovation costs: This includes expenses for structural modifications, such as walls, partitions, ceilings, flooring, electrical wiring, plumbing, and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems.
  • Fixtures and fittings: Include the cost of any installed fixtures and fittings, such as lighting fixtures, built-in cabinets, shelves, countertops, display units, signage, and any specialized equipment or machinery.
  • Design and architectural fees: If you hire architects, interior designers, or other professionals to design and plan the fit-out, their fees should be included in the total cost.
  • Permits and licenses: Expenses associated with obtaining necessary permits, licenses, and approvals from local authorities, such as building permits, fire safety permits, or zoning compliance fees.
  • Project management costs: If you hire a project manager or construction supervisor to oversee the fit-out process, their fees should be included.
  • Material and labour costs: The cost of materials used in the fit-out, such as paint, flooring materials, fixtures, and equipment, as well as the cost of labour involved in the construction and installation.
  • Other direct costs: Any additional costs directly related to the fit-out, such as demolition costs, disposal fees for debris, or temporary storage costs during construction.

Make sure to gather all relevant invoices, receipts, and documentation to accurately determine the total cost of the fit-out. It’s also advisable to consult with a professional, such as an accountant or project manager, who can help ensure that all costs are appropriately accounted for and included in the total cost calculation.

2. Estimate The Useful Life

Estimating the useful life of a fit-out involves determining the expected period over which the fit-out will provide economic benefits. The useful life can vary depending on several factors, including industry standards, lease terms, technological advancements, and the nature of the improvements.

While it’s best to consult with professionals familiar with your specific industry and circumstances, here are some general considerations for estimating the useful life of a fit-out:

  • Lease terms: Consider the length of the lease agreement for the space where the fit-out is installed. If the fit-out is specifically designed to meet the needs of the tenant and aligns with the lease term, the useful life can be aligned with the lease duration.
  • Wear and tear: Evaluate the durability and expected wear and tear of the fit-out components. Certain materials or fixtures may have longer life spans compared to others. For example, flooring materials like tiles or hardwood might have a longer useful life than carpets.
  • Technological obsolescence: Consider the potential for technological advancements that could make the fit-out outdated or less functional. In industries where technology rapidly evolves, the useful life of certain fit-out components may be shorter.
  • Maintenance and refurbishment: Evaluate the frequency and extent of maintenance and refurbishment required to keep the fit-out in good condition. If regular upgrades or repairs are necessary, it may indicate a shorter useful life.
  • Industry standards: Research industry norms and guidelines for the expected useful life of fit-out components. Industry associations or professional organizations may provide resources or recommendations specific to your field.
  • Historical data: Analyze historical data from similar fit-outs within your organization or industry. If you have past experiences with similar fit-outs, you can consider their useful life to estimate the longevity of the current fit-out.

It’s important to note that estimating a useful life is not an exact science, and it may require some judgment and consideration of various factors. Additionally, accounting standards and regulations in your jurisdiction may provide specific guidance on determining useful life for depreciation purposes.

Therefore, it’s advisable to consult with an accountant or financial professional who can provide more specific guidance based on your circumstances.

3. Choose A Depreciation Method

When choosing a depreciation method for a fit-out, you typically have two common options: the straight-line method and the accelerated depreciation method. Let’s explore each method to help you make an informed decision:

Straight-Line Method: 

The straight-line method is the simplest and most commonly used depreciation method. It allocates an equal amount of depreciation expense over the useful life of the fit-out. The formula to calculate annual depreciation under the straight-line method is:
Annual Depreciation Expense = (Cost of Fit-out – Residual Value) / Useful Life

  • Cost of Fit-out: The total cost of the fit-out.
  • Residual Value: The estimated value of the fit-out at the end of its useful life. Generally, the residual value is assumed to be zero unless there is an expectation of salvage value or resale value.
  • Useful Life: The estimated useful life of the fit-out.

For example, if the fit-out cost is $50,000, the residual value is $0, and the useful life is estimated to be 10 years, the annual depreciation expense would be $5,000 ($50,000 / 10).
The straight-line method provides a consistent and predictable depreciation expense each year, making it suitable when the fit-out’s value is expected to diminish evenly over its useful life.

Accelerated Depreciation Method: 

The accelerated depreciation method allows for larger depreciation expenses in the early years and smaller expenses in the later years. It reflects the assumption that the fit-out’s value diminishes more rapidly in the initial period. Accelerated methods include the declining balance method and the sum-of-the-years’-digits method.

  • Declining Balance Method: Under this method, a fixed percentage is applied to the fit-out’s book value each year to calculate the depreciation expense. The depreciation percentage is typically higher in the early years and reduces over time. Different depreciation rates can be used, such as double-declining (200%) or 150% a declining balance.
  • Sum-of-the-years’-digits method: This method also results in larger depreciation expenses in the early years but at a slightly slower pace compared to the declining balance method. The depreciation expense is calculated based on a fraction that sums the digits of the useful life. The fraction used for each year decreases as the fit-out ages.

Accelerated depreciation methods are often used when there is an expectation that the fit-out’s value will decline more rapidly in the initial years or if there are tax advantages associated with accelerated depreciation.

The choice of depreciation method depends on various factors, including industry practices, tax regulations, and the specific circumstances of the fit-out. It’s advisable to consult with an accountant or tax professional who can guide you in selecting the most appropriate depreciation method for your situation, considering both financial reporting requirements and any tax implications.

4. Record Depreciation Expense

To record depreciation expense for a fit-out, you would typically use the following journal entry format:

Straight-Line Method:

  • Debit: Depreciation Expense
  • Credit: Accumulated Depreciation

Accelerated Depreciation Method (E.G., Declining Balance Method):

  • Debit: Depreciation Expense
  • Credit: Accumulated Depreciation

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to record depreciation expenses using these journal entries:

  • Determine the depreciation expense: Calculate the annual depreciation expense based on the chosen depreciation method and the fit-out’s cost and useful life.
  • Identify the accounting period: Determine the specific accounting period for which you want to record the depreciation expense (e.g., monthly, quarterly, or annually).
  • Prepare the journal entry:
    • Debit Depreciation Expense: Increase the Depreciation Expense account by the calculated depreciation expense amount.
    • Credit Accumulated Depreciation: Increase the Accumulated Depreciation account by the same amount.
  • Record the journal entry: Post the journal entry to the general ledger or accounting software.
  • Repeat the process: Repeat the steps in subsequent accounting periods to record depreciation expense until the fit-out’s useful life is fully depreciated.

The Depreciation Expense account reflects the current period’s depreciation expense, while the Accumulated Depreciation account represents the cumulative total of all depreciation expenses recorded over the fit-out’s useful life.

It’s essential to consult with an accountant or financial professional who can guide you through the specific accounting practices and requirements applicable to your organization. They can ensure that your depreciation records are accurate, compliant with accounting standards, and aligned with any applicable tax regulations.

5. Review And Adjust

Periodic review and adjustment of depreciation estimates for a fit-out are important to ensure that the depreciation reflects the actual usage and value of the asset over time. Here are some considerations for reviewing and adjusting fit-out depreciation:

  • Useful life reassessment: Regularly evaluate the fit-out’s condition, functionality, and expected usage to determine if the initially estimated useful life remains accurate. Factors such as wear and tear, changes in technology, or shifts in business needs may necessitate adjustments to the estimated useful life.
  • Market value assessment: Assess the fit-out’s current market value or resale potential to determine if any changes in the residual value need to be incorporated into the depreciation calculation. If the fit-out’s value is significantly different from the initially estimated residual value, adjusting the depreciation expense accordingly would be appropriate.
  • Regulatory and accounting changes: Stay updated on any changes in regulatory requirements or accounting standards that may impact the depreciation methods or useful life assessments. Adjustments may be necessary to ensure compliance and reflect the most current guidelines.
  • Professional guidance: Consult with an accountant or financial professional who has expertise in depreciation and leasehold improvements. They can provide valuable insights and guidance based on their knowledge of your industry and the applicable accounting principles.
  • Documentation: Maintain proper documentation of any changes made to the estimated useful life, residual value, or depreciation method. This documentation is crucial for internal recordkeeping, financial reporting, and potential audits.

Remember that adjustments to depreciation estimates should be made prospectively, going forward, rather than retroactively changing previously recorded depreciation expenses. This ensures the accuracy and consistency of financial statements and complies with accounting principles.

Regularly reviewing and adjusting fit-out depreciation demonstrates sound financial management practices, aligns the asset’s value with its usage, and provides a more accurate representation of the fit-out’s value over time.


Depreciating a fit-out involves allocating the cost of the improvements over its useful life. The process includes determining the cost of the fit-out, estimating its useful life, choosing an appropriate depreciation method, and recording depreciation expenses.

To begin, you need to calculate the total cost incurred for the fit-out, considering expenses such as construction, renovation, fixtures, and fittings directly related to the leased space. Then, estimate the fit-out’s useful life by considering factors like lease terms, wear and tear, technological advancements, and industry standards.

Next, choose a depreciation method. The two common methods are the straight-line method, which evenly allocates depreciation over the useful life, and accelerated depreciation methods, such as declining balance or sum-of-the-years’-digits, which front-load depreciation in the earlier years. The choice depends on the fit-out’s characteristics and applicable tax regulations.

Once the method is selected, record the depreciation expense through journal entries, debiting the Depreciation Expense account and crediting the Accumulated Depreciation account. Regularly review and adjust the depreciation estimates as needed to reflect changes in the fit-out’s condition, market value, regulations, or accounting standards.

Consulting with professionals, such as accountants or financial advisors, can provide valuable guidance in determining the appropriate depreciation method and ensuring compliance with accounting principles and tax regulations.

By accurately depreciating the fit-out, you can allocate its cost over its useful life, reflect its diminishing value in financial statements, and make informed decisions regarding asset management and financial planning.

Read also ato depreciation rates 2022 to widen your perspective.

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