Software Capitalization Guide

Accounting for software development costs under U.S. GAAP

Software to be sold

Software that is developed or purchased that will be sold, leased, or marketed separately or as part of another product

Technological feasibility

All costs of developing software prior to establishing its technological feasibility are research and development costs and are expensed as incurred.

Production costs and post-production costs

Costs to produce software that are incurred after technological feasibility has been established are
capitalized, including coding and testing costs.

Internal-use software

Internally developed or acquired software used solely to meet an entity’s internal needs without a substantive plan to market the software externally

Preliminary project stage

Assessment of needs, evaluation of alternatives and planning. Activities undertaken in this stage are similar to R&D and should be expensed.

Software development stage

The preliminary project stage is completed, and management authorizes and commits to funding a computer software project. Entities should capitalize costs that directly relate to the development of the software.

Post-implementation operation stage

Software as a service

The software is used to provide a service rather than being sold, leased, or marketed

SaaS provider or vendor

The costs to develop the software used in the SaaS contract are accounted for as internal-use software.

SaaS consumer or customer

If the customer does not have the right to take possession of the software, it must account for the contract as a service contract rather than a contract to purchase or license software.

Other software-related costs

Software-related costs that may require capitalization

Website development costs

Costs of developing a website as well as graphics and content development, and operating the website, are capitalized or expensed based on the purpose of the activity and the stage of development.

Business process reengineering

Costs of the reengineering process itself are generally expensed as incurred, regardless of whether they are provided by a third party or internally.

Research and development software

If purchased software has a future alternative use beyond the original R&D project, it can be capitalized based on the project phase, otherwise expensed as research and development.

Disclaimer and further accounting guidance

This guide is for general information purposes and does not constitute professional advice. No representation or warranty (express or implied) is given as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this guide.

Summary of FASB Accounting Standards Codification guidance for software development costs:

  • ASC 350-40, Intangibles – Goodwill and Other: Internal-Use Software
  • ASC 985-20, Software: Costs of Software to Be Sold, Leased, or Marketed
  • ASC 730, Research and Development
  • ASC 720-45, Other Expenses: Business and Technology Reengineering
  • ASC 350-50, Website Development Costs

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