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A write-down refers to the reduction in the estimated or nominal value of an asset, usually due to a decrease in its market price. This process results in a non-cash accounting expense to reflect the asset’s reduced worth. In other words, a write-down acknowledges that the asset is overvalued on a company’s financial statements.


The phonetics of the keyword “Write-Down” is /ˈraɪt daʊn/.

Key Takeaways

1. Definition: A write-down refers to reducing the book value of an asset because it is overvalued compared to the market value. It’s an accounting term used when a company acknowledges that some of its assets or investments have lost value.

2. Implication: Write-downs can occur for a variety of reasons, such as changes in market value, business instability, or poor initial valuation. They effectively lower a company’s net worth and can significantly impact its financial situation.

3. Impact: While write-downs indicate a loss, they can be a strategic move to smoothen out future earnings. They enhance the accuracy of a company’s financial reporting and deliver investors more realistic view of the assets’ value, increasing the credibility of the company.


A write-down is an accounting term that refers to the reduction in the book value of an asset due to economic or business reasons. It’s fundamentally important in business and finance because it ensures that the asset values reported on a company’s financial statements accurately represent the fair market value (FMV) of the assets. If the market value of an asset drops below its book value, failure to perform write-downs could result in the overstatement of assets, misleading investors and other stakeholders about the company’s financial health. Additionally, performing a write-down also affects the company’s income statement as it’s considered as an expense, which in turn reduces the company’s net income. Being aware of write-downs can help stakeholders to identify business issues earlier and take preventive actions.


A write-down is essentially a reduction in the book value of an asset and is used for reflecting the fair value of an asset. It is primarily used when a company’s management teams and accountants realize an asset they hold is not worth as much as it is recorded on their balance sheet. It serves as a means to align a company’s financial statements to the reality of the asset’s value and ensures that a company’s assets are not overstated. Write-downs often occur when there has been a decline in the market value of assets, impairment due to loss or damage, or when an asset is not generating the expected cash flows.Moreover, write-downs play a vital role in maintaining transparency and accuracy in a company’s financial reporting. They help portray a more precise picture of a company’s financial health and performance. Write-downs can influence a company’s net income, as it often results in an expense that reduces profits, and subsequently, the company’s taxable income. For investors, a write-down can signal that a company is facing economic trouble, which can impact investing decisions.


1. **Toys “R” Us Write-Down**: In 2017, Toys “R” Us filed for bankruptcy after struggling with a heavy debt load and the rapid shift to online shopping. Before its downfall, the company had to write down millions in asset values. This included writing down property, plant, and equipment assets, along with goodwill that had previously been on its balance sheet. Through the write-down, the company acknowledged that its assets were not worth as much as they had previously been recorded.2. **AOL’s Goodwill Write-Down**: In 2002, AOL Time Warner recorded a massive $54 billion goodwill write-down relating to the merger of AOL and Time Warner. The write-down came about as the company acknowledged that the expected profits from the merger would not materialize, therefore, the goodwill that had been recorded on the balance sheet at the time of the merger was significantly overstated.3. **BP Oil Spill Write-Down**: In 2010, BP was forced to write down $32.2 billion after the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This write-down included both the clean-up costs and the potential fines and legal costs. Here, the write-down occurred due to an unexpected event that significantly increased BP’s liabilities.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is a Write-Down?

A Write-Down is a reduction in the book value of an asset when its fair market value has fallen below the book value, and the loss is thus being recognized on the company’s financial statements.

Why is a Write-Down important in a business?

Write-downs can significantly influence a company’s profit figures and it’s important for investors because it indicates a decrease in the value of the company’s assets.

How is a Write-Down different from a Write-Off?

A write-down is a partial reduction in the value of an asset while a write-off is recognizing that the entire value of the asset is worthless and cannot be recovered.

Can a Write-Down be reversed in the future?

Yes. If the market value of the asset increases in the future, a company can reverse the write-down, but only to the point of the asset’s lower cost or market value at the time of the write-down.

Is a Write-Down the same across all types of assets?

No, the process and impact of write-downs can be different depending on the nature and typical lifespan of the assets in question.

What causes a Write-Down to occur?

A write-down usually occurs when a company realizes that they overestimated the value of an asset, or when the asset is damaged, rendering it less valuable.

What is the effect of a Write-Down on the balance sheet?

A write-down triggers a decrease in an entity’s earnings before taxes on the income statement and also reduces the total asset value on the balance sheet.

What are some examples of assets that might experience a Write-Down?

Examples might include machinery becoming obsolete, a decline in stock market values impacting portfolio investments, or a loan becoming doubtful to recover.

How often do companies perform Write-Downs?

The frequency varies. While companies should always monitor the value of their assets, the actual process of writing down an asset’s value typically occurs during a company’s quarterly or annual review of their financial statements.

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