Capital Accounting

Capital asset accounting is the set of financial processes through which we record and report on the purchase, maintenance, and disposal of tangible capital assets.

As a public institution, UBC adheres to the Public Sector Accounting Standards (PSAS) for capital accounting.

In February 2020, in response to a request from the Board of Governors, a working group was established by the Office of the Comptroller to assess current practices associated with UBC’s capital accounting process, capital asset registry, and capital reporting. The UBC Tangible Capital Asset Accounting Principles were developed by the working group in fulfillment of their mandate, and approved by the Board of Governors in September 2020.


The purpose of these principles is to establish the accounting treatment for the purchase, maintenance, and disposal of tangible capital assets at UBC. The guidelines help to clarify the distinction between operating expenditures and capital expenditures, and to achieve consistency of capital accounting across all departments and units of UBC.

These principles apply to all tangible capital assets, including land, buildings, equipment, and software either acquired or developed for internal use.

These principles do not cover intangible assets and unrecognized assets. Intangible assets include copyrights, intellectual property, and patents. The major categories of unrecognized assets include works of art and historical collections, and mineral resources.

The principles apply to departments in all faculties and administrative units across UBC.

The capital accounting process is now contained within Workday.

The Principles

The guidelines included within the UBC Capital Assets Accounting Principles document should be used to distinguish between operating expenditures and capital expenditures, and to achieve capital accounting consistency related to expenditures incurred across UBC.

UBC Capital Assets Accounting Principles

Tangible Capital Assets

Tangible capital assets are defined as those items that meet all of these criteria:

  • Have a useful life expectancy of greater than one year
  • Are held for the purpose of rendering a service rather than for sale or immediate consumption
  • UBC acquires ownership of a tangible asset
  • Have a unit cost exceeding the thresholds listed in Appendix 1 (see table below).
Category Capitalization Threshold Useful Life
Site improvements >=$50,000
  • Infrastructure electric: 30 years
  • Infrastructure gas and hot water: 40 years
  • Infrastructure roads: 50 years
  • Infrastructure sewer: 80 years
  • Infrastructure lots: 15 years
  • Infrastructure steam: 25 years
  • Infrastructure water: 50 years
Buildings >=$50,000
  • Concrete: 50 years
  • Wood frame: 30 years
  • Temporary buildings: expected life of the temporary building
Building renovations >=$50,000 Remaining life of the building
Leasehold improvements >=$50,000 Lesser of the lease term or the remaining lease term
Network and server hardware >=$50,000 7 years
Major software >=$50,000 5 years
Enterprise systems >=$50,000 10 years
Furniture, equipment, and audio and video hardware >=$5,000 8 years
Vehicles >=$5,000 5 years
Library books >=$1,000 10 years
Computer hardware >=$1,000 3 years
Work-In-Progress (WIP) Same as associated asset class No amortization taken until WIP transferred to asset

Betterments — enhancements to the service potential of a tangible capital asset — are also included. For example:

  • An increase in the previously assessed physical output or service capacity
  • A reduction in associated operating costs
  • An extension of the estimated useful life
  • An improvement in the quality of output