Accounting for Investments: Cost or Equity Method

When companies acquire a minority stake in another company, there are two main accounting methods they can use.

Oct 18, 2015 at 12:27AM

Accounting

The cost and equity methods of accounting are used by companies to account for investments they make in other companies. In general, the cost method is used when the investment doesn't result in a significant amount of control or influence in the company that's being invested in, while the equity method is used in larger, more-influential investments. Here's an overview of the two methods, and an example of when each could be applied.

The cost method
As mentioned, the cost method is used when making a passive, long-term investment that doesn't result in influence over the company. The cost method should be used when the investment results in an ownership stake of less than 20%, but this isn't a set-in-stone rule, as the influence is the more important factor.

Under the cost method, the stock purchased is recorded on a balance sheet as a non-current asset at the historical purchase price, and is not modified unless shares are sold, or additional shares are purchased. Any dividends received are recorded as income, and can be taxed as such.

For example, if your company buys a 5% stake in another company for $1 million, that is how the shares are valued on your balance sheet -- regardless of their current price. If your investment pays $10,000 in quarterly dividends, that amount is added to your company's income.

The equity method
The equity method of accounting should generally be used when an investment results in a 20% to 50% stake in another company, unless it can be clearly shown that the investment doesn't result in a significant amount of influence or control.

Under the equity method, the investment is initially recorded in the same way as the cost method. However, the amount is subsequently adjusted to account for your share of the company's profits and losses. Dividends are not treated as income under this method. Rather, they are considered a return of investment, and reduce the listed value of your shares.

As an example, let's say that your company acquires a 40% stake in another company for $20 million, and that you're given a seat on the board (influence). You would record the purchase at the $20 million purchase price in the same way described under the cost method. However, if the company produces net income of $5 million during the next year, you would take 40% of that amount, or $2 million, which you would add to your listed value, and record as income.

The $15,978 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook
If you're like most Americans, you're a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known "Social Security secrets" could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. In fact, one MarketWatch reporter argues that if more Americans knew about this, the government would have to shell out an extra $10 billion annually. For example: one easy, 17-minute trick could pay you as much as $15,978 more... each year! Once you learn how to take advantage of all these loopholes, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we're all after. Simply click here to discover how you can take advantage of these strategies.

This article is part of The Motley Fool's Knowledge Center, which was created based on the collected wisdom of a fantastic community of investors based in the Foolsaurus. Pop on over there to learn more about our Wiki and how you can be involved in helping the world invest, better! If you see any issues with this page, please email us at knowledgecenter@fool.com. Thanks -- and Fool on!

Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Money to your ears - A great FREE investing resource for you

The best way to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as “binge-worthy finance.”

Feb 1, 2016 at 5:03PM

Whether we're in the midst of earnings season or riding out the market's lulls, you want to know the best strategies for your money.

And you'll want to go beyond the hype of screaming TV personalities, fear-mongering ads, and "analysis" from people who might have your email address ... but no track record of success.

In short, you want a voice of reason you can count on.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich," rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

And one of the easiest, most enjoyable, most valuable ways to get your regular dose of market and money insights is our suite of free podcasts ... what we like to think of as "binge-worthy finance."

Whether you make it part of your daily commute or you save up and listen to a handful of episodes for your 50-mile bike rides or long soaks in a bubble bath (or both!), the podcasts make sense of your money.

And unlike so many who want to make the subjects of personal finance and investing complicated and scary, our podcasts are clear, insightful, and (yes, it's true) fun.

Our free suite of podcasts

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. The show is also heard weekly on dozens of radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers are timeless, so it's worth going back to and listening from the very start; the other three are focused more on today's events, so listen to the most recent first.

All are available for free at www.fool.com/podcasts.

If you're looking for a friendly voice ... with great advice on how to make the most of your money ... from a business with a lengthy track record of success ... in clear, compelling language ... I encourage you to give a listen to our free podcasts.

Head to www.fool.com/podcasts, give them a spin, and you can subscribe there (at iTunes, Stitcher, or our other partners) if you want to receive them regularly.

It's money to your ears.

 


Compare Brokers