The core principle in IAS 36 is that an asset must not be carried in the financial statements at more than the highest amount to be recovered through its use or sale. If the carrying amount exceeds the recoverable amount, the asset is described as impaired. The entity must reduce the carrying amount of the asset to its recoverable amount, and recognise an impairment loss. IAS 36 also applies to groups of assets that do not generate cash flows individually (known as cash-generating units).
IAS 36 applies to all assets except those for which other Standards address impairment. The exceptions include inventories, deferred tax assets, assets arising from employee benefits, financial assets within the scope of IFRS 9, investment property measured at fair value, biological assets within the scope of IAS 41, some assets arising from insurance contracts, and non-current assets held for sale.
The recoverable amount of the following assets in the scope of IAS 36 must be assessed each year: intangible assets with indefinite useful lives; intangible assets not yet available for use; and goodwill acquired in a business combination. The recoverable amount of other assets is assessed only when there is an indication that the asset may be impaired. Recoverable amount is the higher of (a) fair value less costs to sell and (b) value in use.
Fair value less costs to sell is the arm’s length sale price between knowledgeable willing parties less costs of disposal.
The value in use of an asset is the expected future cash flows that the asset in its current condition will produce, discounted to present value using an appropriate discount rate. Sometimes, the value in use of an individual asset cannot be determined. In that case, recoverable amount is determined for the smallest group of assets that generates independent cash flows (cash-generating unit). Whether goodwill is impaired is assessed by considering the recoverable amount of the cash-generating unit(s) to which it is allocated.
An impairment loss is recognised immediately in profit or loss (or in comprehensive income if it is a revaluation decrease under IAS 16 or IAS 38). The carrying amount of the asset (or cash-generating unit) is reduced. In a cash-generating unit, goodwill is reduced first; then other assets are reduced pro rata. The depreciation (amortisation) charge is adjusted in future periods to allocate the asset’s revised carrying amount over its remaining useful life.
An impairment loss for goodwill is never reversed. For other assets, when the circumstances that caused the impairment loss are favourably resolved, the impairment loss is reversed immediately in profit or loss (or in comprehensive income if the asset is revalued under IAS 16 or IAS 38). On reversal, the asset’s carrying amount is increased, but not above the amount that it would have been without the prior impairment loss. Depreciation (amortisation) is adjusted in future periods.
In April 2001 the International Accounting Standards Board (Board) adopted IAS 36 Impairment of Assets, which had originally been issued by the International Accounting Standards Committee in June 1998. That standard consolidated all the requirements on how to assess for recoverability of an asset. These requirements were contained in IAS 16 Property, Plant and Equipment, IAS 22 Business Combinations, IAS 28 Accounting for Associates and IAS 31 Financial Reporting of Interests in Joint Ventures.
The Board revised IAS 36 in March 2004 as part of the first phase of its business combinations project. In January 2008 the Board amended IAS 36 again as part of the second phase of its business combinations project.
In May 2013 IAS 36 was amended by Recoverable Amount Disclosures for Non-Financial Assets (Amendments to IAS 36). The amendments required the disclosure of information about the recoverable amount of impaired assets, if that amount is based on fair value less costs of disposal and the disclosure of additional information about that fair value measurement.
Other Standards have made minor consequential amendments to IAS 36. They include IFRS 10 Consolidated Financial Statements (issued May 2011), IFRS 11 Joint Arrangements (issued May 2011), IFRS 13 Fair Value Measurement (issued May 2011), IFRS 9 Financial Instruments (Hedge Accounting and amendments to IFRS 9, IFRS 7 and IAS 39) (issued November 2013), IFRS 15 Revenue from Contracts with Customers (issued May 2014), Agriculture: Bearer Plants (Amendments to IAS 16 and IAS 41) (issued June 2014), IFRS 9 Financial Instruments (issued July 2014), IFRS 17 Insurance Contracts (issued May 2017), Amendments to References to the Conceptual Framework in IFRS Standards (issued March 2018) and Amendments to IFRS 17 (issued June 2020).