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Intangibles fall under the general definition of an asset in SAC 4 as: ‘future economic benefit controlled by the entity as a result of past transactions or other past events’.

As per AASB 138, Intangible Assets issued by the Australian Accounting Standards Board,  An intangible asset is defined as an ‘identifiable non-monetary asset without physical substance’. A particular item meets the definition of an intangible asset, that is, identifiably, control over a resource and existence of future economic benefits. (AASB 138)

An asset meets the identifiability criterion in the definition of an intangible asset when it:

(a) is separable, that is, is capable of being separated or divided from the entity and sold, transferred, licensed, rented or exchanged, either individually or together with a related contract, asset or liability; or

(b) Arises from contractual or other legal rights, regardless of whether those rights are transferable or separable from the entity or from other rights and obligations.

An entity controls an asset if the entity has the power to obtain the future economic benefits flowing from the underlying resource and to restrict the access of others to those benefits.

The future economic benefits flowing from an intangible asset may include revenue from the sale of products or services, cost savings, or other benefits resulting from the use of the asset by the entity.

As discussed above, in order to meet the definition of an intangible asset, an asset must be identifiable to distinguish it from goodwill.

Goodwill is not classified as an intangible asset as it is not identifiable.  Acquired goodwill represents a payment by the acquirer in expectation of future economic benefits from assets that are not capable of being separately identified and recognised.  Internally generated goodwill cannot be recognised.  Purchased goodwill is recognised under AASB 3 ‘Business Combinations’. (AASB 3)

Internally generated goodwill shall not be recognised as an asset.

AASB 138, Australian Accounting Standards Board, 2009,  Accessed from http://www.aasb.com.au/admin/file/content105/c9/AASB138_07-04_COMPjun09_07-09.pdf (accessed 30th Oct 2010)

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