An entity shall assess whether the useful life of an intangible asset is finite or indefinite and, if finite, the length of, or number of production or similar units constituting, that useful life. An intangible asset shall be regarded by the entity as having an indefinite useful life when, based on an analysis of all of the relevant factors, there is no foreseeable limit to the period over which the asset is expected to generate net cash inflows for the entity.
The accounting for an intangible asset is based on its useful life. An intangible asset with a finite useful life is amortised (see paragraphs 97–106), and an intangible asset with an indefinite useful life is not (see paragraphs 107–110). The Illustrative Examples accompanying this Standard illustrate the determination of useful life for different intangible assets, and the subsequent accounting for those assets based on the useful life determinations.
Many factors are considered in determining the useful life of an intangible asset, including:
(a) the expected usage of the asset by the entity and whether the asset could be managed efficiently by another management team;
(b) typical product life cycles for the asset and public information on estimates of useful lives of similar assets that are used in a similar way;
(c) technical, technological, commercial or other types of obsolescence;
(d) the stability of the industry in which the asset operates and changes in the market demand for the products or services output from the asset;
(e) expected actions by competitors or potential competitors;
(f) the level of maintenance expenditure required to obtain the expected future economic benefits from the asset and the entity’s ability and intention to reach such a level;
(g) the period of control over the asset and legal or similar limits on the use of the asset, such as the expiry dates of related leases; and
(h) whether the useful life of the asset is dependent on the useful life of other assets of the entity.
The term ‘indefinite’ does not mean ‘infinite’. The useful life of an intangible asset reflects only that level of future maintenance expenditure required to maintain the asset at its standard of performance assessed at the time of estimating the asset’s useful life, and the entity’s ability and intention to reach such a level. A conclusion that the useful life of an intangible asset is indefinite should not depend on planned future expenditure in excess of that required to maintain the asset at that standard of performance.
Given the history of rapid changes in technology, computer software and many other intangible assets are susceptible to technological obsolescence. Therefore, it will often be the case that their useful life is short. Expected future reductions in the selling price of an item that was produced using an intangible asset could indicate the expectation of technological or commercial obsolescence of the asset, which, in turn, might reflect a reduction of the future economic benefits embodied in the asset.
The useful life of an intangible asset may be very long or even indefinite. Uncertainty justifies estimating the useful life of an intangible asset on a prudent basis, but it does not justify choosing a life that is unrealistically short.
The useful life of an intangible asset that arises from contractual or other legal rights shall not exceed the period of the contractual or other legal rights, but may be shorter depending on the period over which the entity expects to use the asset. If the contractual or other legal rights are conveyed for a limited term that can be renewed, the useful life of the intangible asset shall include the renewal period(s) only if there is evidence to support renewal by the entity without significant cost. The useful life of a reacquired right recognised as an intangible asset in a business combination is the remaining contractual period of the contract in which the right was granted and shall not include renewal periods.
There may be both economic and legal factors influencing the useful life of an intangible asset. Economic factors determine the period over which future economic benefits will be received by the entity. Legal factors may restrict the period over which the entity controls access to these benefits. The useful life is the shorter of the periods determined by these factors.
Existence of the following factors, among others, indicates that an entity would be able to renew the contractual or other legal rights without significant cost:
(a) there is evidence, possibly based on experience, that the contractual or other legal rights will be renewed. If renewal is contingent upon the consent of a third party, this includes evidence that the third party will give its consent;
(b) there is evidence that any conditions necessary to obtain renewal will be satisfied; and
(c) the cost to the entity of renewal is not significant when compared with the future economic benefits expected to flow to the entity from renewal.
If the cost of renewal is significant when compared with the future economic benefits expected to flow to the entity from renewal, the ‘renewal’ cost represents, in substance, the cost to acquire a new intangible asset at the renewal date.