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Goodwill in accounting: Complete guide
Blog //02-01-2024

Goodwill in accounting: Complete guide

by Nadine Sutton, Principal Product Manager

When it comes to accounting, goodwill is a key concept that has specific ramifications and applicability. Goodwill frequently surfaces during corporate acquisitions, emphasizing its importance in the financial landscape. This comprehensive guide aims to simplify the complexities of goodwill, offering insight into its definition, computation, and significance within the financial realm.

What goodwill in accounting means

Goodwill is an intangible asset that represents the excess value paid above the fair market value for an acquired company. Essentially, Goodwill is the premium that a company is willing to pay for another company's established business presence, customer base, brand reputation, and other intangible assets.

Certain aspects of goodwill include the worth of a company's name, reputation, and patented technology. It even includes a devoted client base, strong customer service, positive staff relations, and reliable customer service. This value explains why one business might pay more for another.

Finding goodwill on a balance sheet 

Goodwill will appear on the balance sheet separate from tangible assets such as a building or equipment, it's generally found under the 'Non-current assets' section. Including a goodwill value implies that it is expected to generate economic benefits for the company over a period extending beyond the next financial year.

Here is a simplified illustration of where goodwill might appear on a balance sheet:


Current Assets

        Cash: £100,000

        Accounts Receivable: £200,000

        Inventory: £150,000

Non-current Assets

        Property, Plant, and Equipment: £500,000

        Intangible Assets: £50,000

        Goodwill: £200,000

Total Assets: £1,200,000

In this example, the goodwill of £200,000 is separately listed under the non-current assets section, denoting its prolonged value to the company.

Do note, however, that goodwill does not undergo depreciation, but is subject to annual impairment tests. This means its value can be adjusted downwards if the fair value of the acquired unit drops below its book value. As such, the goodwill line item is a crucial aspect to consider when evaluating a company's financial health.

Negative and positive Goodwill

Positive goodwill

Positive goodwill is generated when a company, during an acquisition, surpasses the fair market value of the target company's net identifiable assets (that aren’t explicitly reflected in its physical assets or financial statements).

For example: Company A acquires Company B for £2 million, yet the fair market value of Company B's net identifiable assets stands at only £1.5 million, the surplus of £500,000 constitutes positive goodwill. This sum will be documented on Company A's balance sheet as an intangible asset.

Negative goodwill

Conversely, negative goodwill, also referred to as a ’bargain purchase’, comes up when the acquisition's purchase price is lower than the fair market value of its net identifiable assets. This occurrence is less frequent and typically occurs in distressed sales or amid economic downturns, where the target company may be compelled to sell at a price below the value of its net assets.

So, if Company A pays £1 million to purchase Company B, but Company B's net identifiable assets are only worth £1.5 million at fair market value, then the £500,000 shortfall represents negative goodwill. In this case, Company A would record the negative goodwill as a gain on its income statement after conducting a comprehensive reassessment to guarantee proper accounting of all assets and liabilities.

Do all intangible assets fall under goodwill? 

Not all intangible assets are classified as goodwill. Goodwill is a distinct category of intangible asset that denotes the surplus of the acquisition cost of unobtained business over the fair value of its identifiable net assets. It emanates from factors such as brand reputation, customer relationships, and intellectual property.

Conversely, non-goodwill intangibles constitute a more extensive classification of intangible assets. This encompasses intellectual property rights such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. Non-goodwill intangibles also encompass items like software, licences, customer lists, domain names, and contracts.

The key distinction between goodwill and non-goodwill intangibles lies in their origin. Goodwill arises only in the context of a business acquisition when the purchase price exceeds the fair value of identifiable net assets. Non-goodwill intangibles, on the other hand, can be internally generated or acquired separately from a business acquisition.

What is likely to lead to goodwill?

Several factors can lead to the creation of goodwill:

Existing brand and reputation

Goodwill encapsulates unquantifiable elements such as the strength of a company's trademarks and patents, the nature of its business operations, the quality of its products or services, and its operational efficiency.

Trademarks and patents, for instance, can contribute to goodwill because they provide the company with exclusive rights, creating barriers to entry for competitors and potentially leading to higher profits. Further, the nature of the business – whether it has a dominant market position, a unique business model, or operates in a high-growth industry – can also generate goodwill.

These factors, while absent from financial documents, hold potential for future economic benefits, underscoring the importance of accurately recognizing goodwill in the acquirer's balance sheet.

Exceptional management

A company with a competent and experienced management team can perform better than its competitors, attracting more customers and generating higher profits. This kind of managerial efficiency and effectiveness is intangible and not reflected in the physical assets of the company. Hence, when such a company is acquired, the acquirer often pays a premium over the net asset value, contributing to goodwill.

Strong customer relationships

A company with loyal customers who repeatedly purchase its products or services has a high customer retention rate, leading to stable and predictable revenue streams. These strong relationships are intangible assets that an acquirer may be willing to pay a premium for during an acquisition, leading to the creation of goodwill.

Calculating goodwill

Calculating goodwill is an essential component of financial planning and predictive analysis, especially when valuing a business. Here's a step-by-step guide for determining goodwill:

Step 1: Ascertain the purchase price

The initial point for calculating goodwill is the total cost paid to acquire the company. This amount should include any prices paid in cash, shares, or other assets.

Step 2: Calculate the fair market value of identifiable assets and liabilities

The fair market value of the identified assets and liabilities of the acquired firm at the time of purchase must then be determined. Both tangible assets like stock, buildings, and machinery, as well as intangible assets like patents, trademarks, and copyrights can be considered identifiable assets. Debts may include loans, accounts payable, and accumulated costs.

Step 3: Subtract the net assets from the purchase price

Subtract the total value of the net assets (identifiable assets minus liabilities) from the purchase price. The formula is:

Goodwill = Purchase Price - (Identifiable Assets - Liabilities)


For example, if Company A acquires Company B for £600,000. The fair market value of Company B's identifiable assets is £500,000, and it has liabilities of £50,000.

Using the formula:

Goodwill = £600,000 - (£500,000 - £50,000) = £150,000

So, in this case, the goodwill from the acquisition of Company B by Company A would be recorded as £150,000.

Goodwill amortisation and impairment

Amortisation and impairment of goodwill are pivotal concepts in financial accounting that relate to the valuation of intangible assets as they evolve over time. Amortisation is the process of gradually writing off an asset's initial cost over its lifespan. However, under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), adopted widely in the UK and globally, goodwill isn't amortised but subjected to yearly impairment tests. This is because goodwill, unlike other intangible assets, is considered to have an indefinite useful life, as it can generate value for the business indefinitely. 

Impairment refers to a permanent decrease in the value of an asset. Under both IFRS and current UK GAAP, goodwill is tested at least annually for impairment. Here's a step-by-step guide to calculate an impairment loss:

  1. Determine the carrying value of the cash-generating unit.
  2. Calculate the recoverable amount of the cash-generating unit.
  3. If the carrying value exceeds the recoverable amount, the difference is the impairment loss.
  4. The impairment loss should first reduce the carrying amount of goodwill allocated to the cash-generating unit, and then the other assets of the unit pro rata on the basis of the carrying amount of each asset.

The role of technology in accounting goodwill 

Financial technology (FinTech) serves as a transformative force in the domain of accounting. It offers sophisticated tools that can simplify and automate the goodwill measurement and accounting process, thereby mitigating the risk of human error and improving overall efficiency.

Cloud technology offers many finance-related benefits. In goodwill accounting it offers automation, record-keeping, and analytical capabilities. It simplifies the complex process of calculating goodwill - the excess of transferred consideration over net identifiable assets acquired, and liabilities assumed. This automation enhances accuracy . It also systematically maintains records of acquisitions, fair values, and adjustments, therefore aiding audits and strategic planning. 

Examples of goodwill

Let's delve into some real-world examples of goodwill that will help to contextualise the concept in a business setting.

1. Google's acquisition of YouTube

In November 2006, Google acquired YouTube for £1.26 billion. At the time, YouTube had minimal physical assets and wasn't profitable, which meant the majority of the purchase price was attributable to goodwill. The goodwill represented the value of YouTube's burgeoning user base, its brand recognition, and the potential for future growth in the online video market.

2. Disney's acquisition of Pixar

In 2006, Disney bought Pixar for approximately £5.66 billion. While Pixar did have valuable physical assets and Intellectual Property (such as its proprietary animation technology), a significant proportion of the purchase price was allocated to goodwill. This goodwill reflected the value of the Pixar brand, its creative talent, and the synergies expected from integrating Pixar’s operations with Disney’s existing businesses.

3. Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn

When Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for £20.04 billion in 2016, it paid far more than the net value of LinkedIn’s tangible and identifiable intangible assets. The excess was recorded as goodwill and represented the value of LinkedIn’s extensive professional network, its data on millions of businesses/professionals worldwide, and the potential for Microsoft to leverage this network to enhance its own services.

How Advanced can empower your business 

Goodwill, an intangible yet vital asset, can be challenging to track and manage. The complexities of calculating and recording goodwill necessitates a sophisticated tool that can simplify these processes while maintaining accuracy. 

Advanced Financials offers robust automation capabilities, transforming the intricate process of accounting calculations into a streamlined procedure. It minimises the likelihood of human error and significantly reduces time/energy input requirements from employees, thereby improving efficiency and precision.

Moreover, it provides an organised system for record-keeping. This feature ensures that all details related to goodwill – acquisitions, fair values, and adjustments – are readily accessible. This systematic approach aids in audits and strategic planning, reinforcing the integrity of your financial data.

Blog Advanced Financials Financial Management
Nadine Sutton

Nadine Sutton


Principal Product Manager

Nadine has over 15 years’ experience working in and with finance teams in the UK, Netherlands and Germany both as an accountant and consultant. Transitioning from accountancy to software implementation and then onto Product Management, she has huge enthusiasm in utilising and developing technology to drive the finance department of the future in her role with OneAdvanced.

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