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What Is a Tangible Asset? Comparison to Non-Tangible Assets


A tangible asset is a physical item of value owned by an individual or a company, such as real estate, equipment, or inventory. In contrast, non-tangible assets, also known as intangible assets, are assets without a physical presence, such as intellectual property, patents, or goodwill. Tangible assets can be more easily valued and liquidated, whereas non-tangible assets offer long-term competitive advantages and are often harder to quantify.


In the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), the phonetics of the keyword would be:wʌt ɪz ə tænʤəbl ˈæsɛt? kəmˈpærɪsn tu nɒn-tænʤəbl ˈæsɛtsBreaking it down:”What” – /wʌt/”Is” – /ɪz/”a” – /ə/”Tangible” – /tænʤəbl/”Asset” – /ˈæsɛt/”Comparison” – /kəmˈpærɪsn/”to” – /tu/”Non-Tangible” – /nɒn-tænʤəbl/”Assets” – /ˈæsɛts/

Key Takeaways

  1. Tangible Assets: These are assets with a physical form and hold intrinsic value, such as property, vehicles, and equipment. They can be touched, seen, and measured.
  2. Non-Tangible Assets: Also known as intangible assets, these have no physical existence but hold value based on their potential benefits, such as intellectual property, patents, copyrights, and goodwill.
  3. Comparison: Tangible assets can be easily valued and used as collateral for loans, whereas non-tangible assets are harder to value and cannot be directly pledged as collateral. However, both types of assets contribute to a company’s overall worth and sustainability.


Understanding the distinction between tangible and non-tangible assets is important in the realms of business and finance because it plays a crucial role in assessing a company’s overall value, financial health, and investment potential. Tangible assets, such as machinery, buildings, and inventory, represent physical items that have a quantifiable value and can be sold or used to generate revenue. Non-tangible assets, on the other hand, such as patents, trademarks, and brand reputation, represent non-physical items that also hold value, but are more difficult to quantify accurately. By acknowledging these differences, investors and stakeholders are better equipped to accurately evaluate a company’s resources, its capability to generate profits, produce goods and services, and navigate through diverse economic climates or industry changes. Additionally, comprehending these two asset types can aid in more efficient tax planning, financial reporting, and business strategy formulation.


A tangible asset serves as a valuable physical resource for a business, enabling it to operate smoothly, generate revenue, and build equity over time. Essentially, these assets are pivotal in the company’s ability to maintain and grow their business. Comprising physical items such as real estate, machinery, vehicles, and inventory, tangible assets can often be sold or leveraged as collateral for loans, thereby providing businesses with opportunities for expansion and investment. Moreover, these assets are essential when determining the overall financial health of a company, as they appear on balance sheets and contribute to a company’s net worth calculation. In comparison, intangible assets are non-physical resources that also hold significant value, playing a vital role in the competitive edge and future success of a business. Examples of intangible assets include intellectual property, copyrights, trademarks, brand recognition, and goodwill. Although these assets may not possess an inherent physical presence, their impact can still be substantial, often greatly influencing the reputation and market position of a company. While evaluating intangible assets can prove challenging due to their abstract nature, they remain crucial for assessing a company’s potential longevity and its ability to sustain profitability in an ever-evolving market landscape.


A tangible asset is a physical item or property that holds value and can be seen, touched, or quantified. These assets can be used to produce goods and services, and their value can be easily determined in monetary terms. In contrast, non-tangible (or intangible) assets do not have a physical presence and are harder to quantify. Here are three real-world examples of tangible assets: 1. Real estate properties: Buildings, land, and other real estate properties are considered tangible assets. These properties can be bought, sold, rented, or developed, and their value can be appraised and easily measured in monetary terms. Example: A company owning a warehouse for storing and distributing products has a tangible asset in the form of that warehouse. 2. Machinery and equipment: Industrial machinery, office equipment, and vehicles are all examples of tangible assets. These assets are used to conduct business or manufacture products and can be easily valuated based on their market prices. Example: A manufacturing business owns production machines and equipment that are used to manufacture goods. These machines and equipment are tangible assets. 3. Inventory: Products that are ready or in the process of being sold, including raw materials, work-in-progress, and finished goods, are considered tangible assets. These items can be easily counted and measured, and their value can be determined based on their market prices. Example: A retail store holds various clothes, accessories, and other merchandise in its inventory. These items are tangible assets that the store sells to generate revenue. On the other hand, non-tangible assets (intangible assets) are resources that do not have a physical presence. These assets are valuable to a business but can’t be touched or seen. Examples of non-tangible assets include: 1. Brand recognition: The public’s awareness and perception of a company’s brand or products. 2. Intellectual property: Patents, copyrights, trademarks, and trade secrets that protect a company’s inventions and creations. 3. Goodwill: The reputation and relationships a company has with its customers, suppliers, and employees, which can contribute to its overall value.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a tangible asset?
A tangible asset refers to any physical asset owned by a company or individual that has a measurable financial value. These assets can include properties, buildings, vehicles, equipment, machinery, and inventory. Tangible assets can be utilized to generate revenue and can be traded, sold, or used as collateral.
How do tangible assets differ from non-tangible assets?
Non-tangible assets, also known as intangible assets, are assets that cannot be physically touched or measured. Examples of non-tangible assets include intellectual property rights, brand reputation, patents, copyrights, trademarks, and goodwill. While tangible assets have physical value, non-tangible assets add value to a company through their legal or competitive nature.
How do companies use tangible assets in their financial statements?
Tangible assets are commonly found on a company’s balance sheet as a part of the total assets. Companies use tangible assets to calculate financial ratios such as return on assets (ROA) and the debt-to-assets ratio. These ratios assist in determining a company’s overall financial health and creditworthiness.
What is depreciation and how does it affect tangible assets?
Depreciation is an accounting method used to allocate the cost of a tangible asset over its useful life. As tangible assets are used or age, they lose value over time, which is captured through depreciation. This expense is recorded on a company’s income statement and reduces the asset’s carrying value on the balance sheet. It’s essential to note that some tangible assets, like land, do not depreciate.
Can non-tangible assets be depreciated?
Non-tangible assets can experience a similar process known as amortization. Amortization is the systematic allocation of the cost of a non-tangible asset over its useful life or legal duration. Like depreciation, this expense is recorded on the income statement and reduces the asset’s carrying value on the balance sheet.
How are tangible and non-tangible assets valued?
Tangible assets can be valued using their historical cost, replacement cost, or market value. Non-tangible assets can be challenging to value due to a lack of physical presence or measurable characteristics. They are often valued using methods such as replacement cost, the income approach, or measuring their contribution to a company’s overall value.
Why is it important to distinguish between tangible and non-tangible assets in finance and business?
Distinguishing between tangible and non-tangible assets is essential for various reasons, including accurate financial reporting, valuation purposes, and understanding a company’s strategic strengths and weaknesses. Managing and leveraging both types of assets helps companies optimize their resources and achieve success in a competitive market.

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