In this era of rapidly changing technology, research and development (R&D) expenditures represent one of the most important factors in the future success of many companies. Organizations that spend too little on R&D risk being left behind by the competition. Conversely, companies that spend too much may waste money or not be able to make efficient use of the results.
In the United States, all R&D expenditures are expensed as incurred. However, expensing all R&D costs is not an approach used in much of the world. Firms using IFRS must capitalize development costs as an intangible asset when they can demonstrate (1) the technical feasibility of completing the project, (2) the intention to complete the project, (3) the ability to use or sell the intangible asset, (4) how the intangible asset will generate future benefits, (5) the availability of adequate resources to complete the asset, and (6) the ability to measure development costs associated with the intangible asset.
Should any portion of R&D costs be capitalized? Is expensing all R&D expenditures the best method of reporting these costs? Is the U.S. approach better than the international standard? Which approach provides the best representation of the company’s activities?