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Goodwill Impairment


Goodwill impairment is a charge that a company records on its income statement when it determines that the goodwill of a particular subsidiary or business unit has become impaired, that is, its market value is less than the value listed on the balance sheet. It occurs when a company pays more than fair value for a subsidiary or an identifiable intangible asset and later finds that the asset or units’ profitability or prospects are not as expected. This charge reduces the goodwill asset category and thus decreases net income.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Goodwill Impairment” is: Goodwill : /’gʊd,wɪl/Impairment : /ɪm’peɪr.mənt/

Key Takeaways

  1. The Concept: Goodwill Impairment is an accounting charge that companies record when goodwill’s carrying value on financial statements exceeds its fair value. Goodwill is an intangible asset that arises when a company acquires another company for a price higher than the fair value of identifiable tangible and intangible assets.
  2. Detecting Impairment: According to the standards set by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), companies must annually test for goodwill impairment. In case an event or change in circumstances suggests that the value may be below its carrying amount, additional testing is required. The impairment amount equals the difference between the carrying amount and the fair value.
  3. Impact of Goodwill Impairment: A goodwill impairment has a direct impact on the company’s financials by reducing the net income in the income statement, and it reduces the company’s net assets on the balance sheet. However, as it is a non-cash expense, it does not affect the cash flow from operating activities.


Goodwill Impairment is a crucial term in business/finance as it pertains to an adjustment made when the book value of goodwill of a company exceeds its fair market value. This is a significant concern in financial assessments as it signals a decrease in the value of intangible assets, which can negatively impact a company’s balance sheet. It often results from poor business decisions, such as overpaying for acquisitions, economic downturns or internal changes prompting a company to reassess its values. An increased goodwill impairment charge can indicate underlying operational or financial issues within the company, potentially warning investors of a company’s reduced worth, hence its importance in financial analysis, valuation, and decision-making.


Goodwill Impairment is an accounting concept that embodies a protective measure and a realistic appraisal of acquired assets. It serves to ensure that companies do not carry intangible assets, such as goodwill, at an overstated value on their balance sheets. When a company acquires another firm at a premium value, the excess value is recorded as goodwill. Over time, this premium value may diminish, or become ‘impaired’ , if the acquired firm does not perform as projected or expected or experiences a decline in its market value. This impairment is a recognition that the goodwill associated with the acquisition has deteriorated or lost value.Goodwill Impairment has a unique importance as it allows for a more accurate assessment of a company’s net worth. Companies perform regular goodwill impairment tests to monitor and assess the realizable value of their acquisitions. If the fair market value of an acquired entity is less than its carrying value, an impairment has occurred. This means the company will need to write off the difference as an impairment loss in its financial statements. By doing this, companies readjust reported profit, which reflects a more realistic economic picture. Overall, goodwill impairment ensures that the financial statements’ credibility is maintained by putting checks on overvalued assets.


Goodwill impairment refers to a decrease in the value of the goodwill of a company, which is an intangible asset that could include factors like reputation, brand value, customer relationships and similar variables that contribute to a company’s value over and above its tangible assets. Here are three real-world examples of goodwill impairment:1. **AOL – Time Warner**: One of the most classic examples of goodwill impairment is the merger of AOL and Time Warner in 2000, which was one of the largest mergers of all time. Due to various factors like cultural differences, poor execution and the burst of the dot-com bubble, the expected synergies weren’t realized. As a result, Time Warner had to announce a goodwill impairment of nearly $99 billion in 2002, which remains one of the largest write-offs in the corporate history. 2. **British Telecommunications (BT) Group**: In 2017, BT announced a goodwill impairment charge of $8.8 billion due to an accounting scandal in its Italian branch. The unexpected write-off resulted from years of “improper sales, purchasing, factoring and leasing transactions,” forcing the company to reassess the value of the goodwill it had listed on its balance sheet.3. **HSBC’s French Operations**: In 2020, HSBC decided to sell its retail banking operations in France to My Money Group. The bank recognized a goodwill impairment of approximately $1.3 billion as a result of this due to the sustainably low interest rate environment in Europe, and the proposed sale of their French retail banking operations. This led to a significant reduction in the carrying value of their European commercial banking business.In each of these cases, factors such as economic downturns, frauds, strategic missteps, and changes in management’s future expectations led to a decrease in the value of the goodwill that the company had previously recognized, leading to substantial financial losses.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Goodwill Impairment?

Goodwill Impairment refers to a charge that companies record when Goodwill’s carrying value on financial statements exceeds its fair value. In accounting, Goodwill is considered an intangible asset and occurs when a company acquires another company at a premium value.

When does Goodwill Impairment occur?

Goodwill Impairment occurs when the fair market value of a company’s goodwill asset is less than its carrying cost or book value on the company’s balance sheet. This usually happens if the company paid more than fair value during a merger or acquisition.

What is the importance of testing for Goodwill Impairment?

Testing for Goodwill Impairment is critical because it allows companies to assess the value of the intangible assets and ensure they are not overstate on the balance sheet. It is an indicator of financial health and helps companies to avoid financial misrepresentation.

How often should a company test for Goodwill Impairment?

According to accounting standards, a company should test for Goodwill Impairment at least annually. However, if certain events or changes in circumstances indicate that the asset might be impaired, the testing should be done more frequently.

What is the process of calculating Goodwill Impairment?

The process of calculating Goodwill Impairment involves two steps. The first step is to identify potential impairment by comparing the fair value of a reporting unit with its carrying amount. The second step is to measure the amount of impairment loss by comparing the implied fair value of goodwill with the carrying amount of Goodwill.

How does Goodwill Impairment affect a company’s financial statements?

An impairment loss reduces a company’s Goodwill account in the assets section, consequently decreasing the total assets and the company’s equity. This, in return, can significantly impact earnings and overall financial performance portrayed in financial statements.

Is Goodwill Impairment tax-deductible?

Generally, Goodwill Impairment is not tax-deductible. This is because goodwill is an intangible asset and therefore is not recognized by tax laws in many jurisdictions. It is always recommended to consult with a tax professional to fully understand the implications in a specific case.

Related Finance Terms

  • Amortization
  • Intangible Assets
  • Impairment Tests
  • Financial Reporting
  • Asset Valuation

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