The Importance of Purchase Price Allocation Across Asset Classes

As a business owner, you are likely familiar with the concept of purchase price allocation when acquiring or selling a business. However, allocating the total sale price properly across the various asset classes of the business is critical, not just for accounting purposes, but for minimizing your tax liability as well. In this article, we will explore the key considerations around purchase price allocation across the different asset classes like fixed assets, intangible assets, and goodwill. With the right approach, you can optimize the tax implications of your next business transaction. We will also examine the differences between asset sales and stock sales and how purchase price allocation applies in each case. Understanding these concepts now will put you in a better position when negotiating and structuring your next deal.

What Is Purchase Price Allocation?

The purchase price allocation (PPA) process assigns values to the individual assets that make up an acquired business. When a company is acquired, the total purchase price paid is allocated across the tangible and intangible assets obtained. This process is necessary to properly record the assets on the buyer’s financial statements and to determine the tax consequences of the transaction.

Tangible assets, like equipment, inventory, and real estate, are typically valued at their fair market value. Intangible assets, such as intellectual property, customer relationships, and goodwill, can be more difficult to value but are an increasingly large portion of many transactions.

2. How PPA Impacts Tax Reporting

The values assigned to assets during the PPA process are used to determine the tax basis for those assets. The allocation to tangible assets results in a step-up in tax basis, allowing for larger depreciation and amortization deductions. The allocation to intangible assets results in amortization deductions over the useful life of the assets.

Any residual amount paid for the business that is not allocated to specific tangible or intangible assets is assigned to goodwill. Goodwill is not amortized for tax purposes, but the tax basis in goodwill can be used to offset capital gains when the business is sold in the future. Because of the significant tax implications, the PPA process should be undertaken carefully, and supportable valuations should be obtained for intangible assets when possible.

Overall, properly allocating the purchase price of an acquired business across all obtained assets is essential for recording the transaction accurately on financial statements and maximizing tax benefits post-acquisition. With professional guidance, buyers can navigate the complex PPA process to optimize their tax position following a strategic acquisition.

Why Purchase Price Allocation Matters for Tax Purposes

Allocating the purchase price of a business among assets is necessary for determining the tax consequences of the sale for both buyers and sellers.

Tax Basis and Depreciation

The allocation of the purchase price determines the tax basis of the assets for the buyer, which in turn determines depreciation deductions and gain or loss upon future sale of the assets. Generally, the buyer will want to allocate as much of the purchase price as possible to assets eligible for accelerated depreciation, like equipment. The seller, on the other hand, typically prefers an allocation focused on assets that generate capital gain, like goodwill.

Capital Gain and Ordinary Income

For the seller, the allocation among asset classes is important because different types of assets generate different tax treatment upon sale. Allocating to capital assets like goodwill or property generates lower-taxed capital gain, while allocating to inventory or accounts receivable generates ordinary income. The seller will aim to maximize allocation to capital gain-generating assets.

Negotiating the Allocation

Buyers and sellers often negotiate the allocation to satisfy both parties’ tax objectives. Compromise is frequently required. The allocation must have “economic substance,” meaning it must be consistent with the actual value and use of the assets. It cannot be made solely for tax purposes. Both parties must report the allocation consistently for tax purposes, even if it is not ideal for one side or the other.

In summary, determining how to allocate the purchase price of a business among asset classes is a key part of any acquisition because of the significant impact it has on the tax liability of both buyers and sellers. Negotiating an allocation that satisfies both parties requires compromise and a focus on economic substance. With careful planning, an allocation can achieve tax efficiency for the deal overall.

What is the Purpose of IRS Form 8594?

The IRS Form 8594, Asset Acquisition Statement, is used to allocate the total purchase price of a business across the individual assets acquired.

Reporting Requirements

When a business is sold, the buyer and seller must report the allocation of the purchase price among the assets acquired on Form 8594. This form must be filed with the tax returns of both the buyer and seller for the year of the sale. The allocated purchase price establishes the tax basis for the assets, which will determine the amount of depreciation and gain or loss when the assets are disposed of in the future.

Implications of Allocation

How the purchase price is allocated is an important tax consideration for both the buyer and seller. For the buyer, a higher allocation to tangible assets like equipment or real estate means higher depreciation deductions and lower taxable income in the years following the acquisition. For the seller, a higher allocation to goodwill or going concern value means capital gain treatment and lower taxes on the sale proceeds. The allocation is subject to negotiation between the parties, but must have a reasonable basis given the fair market values of the assets.

Penalties for Inaccurate Reporting

Both the buyer and seller must report the allocation consistently on their tax returns, as determined by the purchase agreement. Failure to do so can result in penalties for filing an inaccurate return. The IRS scrutinizes purchase price allocations to ensure they reflect the economic realities of the transaction. If the IRS determines the allocation does not reflect the fair market values of the assets, they may reallocate the price and assess additional taxes and penalties.

In summary, IRS Form 8594 serves to provide transparency into how the total purchase price of a business sale is allocated to the assets acquired. Reporting the allocation accurately and consistently is important to avoid potential penalties and ensure proper tax treatment for both the buyer and seller.

Stock vs. Asset Purchases

When acquiring a business, the purchaser must determine whether to structure the transaction as an asset purchase or a stock purchase. In an asset purchase, the buyer purchases only selected assets of the business, such as equipment, real estate, and inventory. In a stock purchase, the buyer purchases the ownership interests (stock) of the business entity itself.

Tax Implications

A key consideration in determining deal structure is tax liability. In an asset purchase, the allocation of the total purchase price among the acquired assets determines the purchaser’s tax basis in each asset. The tax basis of assets then impacts the amount of depreciation the purchaser can claim and the gain or loss realized upon sale of the assets. In a stock purchase, the total purchase price establishes the purchaser’s tax basis in the stock. The existing tax bases of the business’s underlying assets remain unchanged. However, in a stock purchase, the purchaser assumes all potential tax liabilities of the business entity.

Operational Considerations

Operationally, an asset purchase transaction is often more cumbersome as it may require transferring title to each individual asset, whereas a stock purchase involves transferring ownership of the entity as a whole. However, in an asset purchase, the purchaser can be selective in acquiring only certain assets and liabilities of the business. The purchaser can avoid assuming unwanted liabilities of the business that would transfer automatically in a stock purchase.

In summary, the deal structure decision involves weighing tax implications versus operational considerations. For tax purposes, an asset purchase typically provides more flexibility and control. Operationally, a stock purchase is often more straightforward to execute. Purchasers must analyze their priorities and business objectives when determining the optimal structure for an acquisition.

The Main Asset Classes in Purchase Price Allocation

The Main Asset Classes in Purchase Price Allocation

Cash and Bank Deposits (Class I)

Cash on hand and funds in business bank accounts are allocated to Class I assets. The total value of these liquid assets is assigned to Class I.

Securities (Class II)

Publicly traded investments like stocks, bonds, certificates of deposits, and actively traded personal property are designated as Class II assets. The aggregate market value of these securities is allocated to this class.

Accounts Receivable (Class III)

Amounts owed to the business by customers and clients in the ordinary course of business are allocated to Class III. The net realizable value, defined as the amount expected to be collected, is assigned to this class.

Inventory (Class IV)

Raw materials, work in progress, and finished goods intended for sale are designated as Class IV assets. Inventory is typically valued at the lower of cost or net realizable value. This represents the amount the inventory can be sold for, less any costs to sell.

Property, Plant and Equipment (Class V)

Tangible assets used in the business like machinery, equipment, furniture, fixtures, and vehicles are allocated to Class V. These long-lived assets are valued at their fair market value, which is the price that would be received to sell an asset in an orderly transaction between market participants.

Intangible Assets (Class VI)

Intangible assets lacking physical substance, such as intellectual property, customer lists, brand names, and non-compete agreements are designated as Class VI assets. These assets are valued based on the present value of the future economic benefits they are expected to generate.

Goodwill (Class VII)

Goodwill represents the value of intangible assets like brand name, customer loyalty, and reputation are designated as Class VII asset. It is calculated as the excess of the purchase price over the fair market value of net identifiable tangible and intangible assets. Goodwill is considered an indefinite-lived intangible asset and is not amortized but tested for impairment at least annually.

The allocation of purchase price among these asset classes significantly impacts the buyer’s tax liability and financial statements following an acquisition. Careful consideration should be given to valuing each asset to optimize tax efficiency and accurately reflect the economics of the transaction. In many cases, the assistance of valuation professionals is required to support the purchase price allocation.

How to Allocate Purchase Price Across Different Assets

Once the total purchase price of a business has been determined, it is necessary to allocate this amount across the various asset classes acquired in the transaction.

Tangible and Intangible Assets

The largest portions of the purchase price are usually allocated to tangible assets, such as equipment, inventory, and real estate, as well as intangible assets like goodwill, customer relationships, and intellectual property. The specific allocations will depend on the particular business and industry involved. For example, for a retail company, a significant portion may be allocated to inventory, while for a technology company, the major allocations may be to intellectual property and goodwill.

Fixed Assets

Fixed assets refer to long-term, physical assets such as real estate, buildings, and equipment. The value allocated to fixed assets is typically based on their fair market value as determined by independent professional appraisals. The allocated amount becomes the tax basis for depreciation deductions over the useful life of the assets.

Other Asset Classes

Other asset classes that may be relevant include accounts receivable, prepaid expenses, deposits, and cash. The amounts allocated to these assets are generally based on their book values as recorded on the financial statements of the business at the time of sale. Proper allocation of the total purchase price across the appropriate asset classes is crucial for determining tax obligations and maximizing tax benefits from the transaction. Both buyers and sellers should work closely with their tax and accounting advisors to ensure an optimal allocation of the purchase price.

Key Takeaways on Purchase Price Allocation and Asset Classes

Value Each Asset Class Individually

When allocating the purchase price of a business, each asset class must be valued separately. The total sale price is then distributed across the asset classes based on their relative fair market values. The asset classes typically include tangible assets like inventory, equipment, and real estate as well as intangible assets such as intellectual property, customer relationships, and goodwill.

Choose an Appropriate Valuation Methodology

The valuation methodology selected depends on the nature of the asset. For tangible assets, methods like replacement cost or market comparison are often used. Intangible assets require more complex methods, such as the income approach or cost approach. The valuation methodology must be well-documented to substantiate the allocation.

Consider the Tax Implications

The purchase price allocation has significant tax consequences for both the buyer and seller. Assets are depreciated or amortized over time for tax purposes, so their classification and valuation impacts the deductibility of expenses. The allocation also determines whether the sale is taxed as an asset sale or stock sale for the seller, which can impact the tax rate. Consulting tax professionals is advised.

Allocate Residual Amount to Goodwill

Any amount of the total purchase price remaining after allocating values to the identifiable assets is allocated to goodwill. Goodwill represents intangible assets like reputation, brand, and competitive position. While goodwill is not depreciable for tax purposes, it must be valued to determine the appropriate allocation of the purchase price.

In summary, a well-executed purchase price allocation requires valuing each asset class individually based on fair market value and the appropriate valuation methodology. The tax implications of the allocation must also be considered. Any residual amount of the purchase price after allocating to identifiable assets is allocated to goodwill. Following these key takeaways helps ensure an allocation that will withstand scrutiny.


In closing, as you can see, purchase price allocation is an important process when acquiring or selling a business. Properly allocating the total sale price across the various asset classes is necessary for accurate tax and financial reporting. Work closely with your tax and valuation advisors to ensure you understand the methods for allocating purchase price and correctly account for the transaction. Thoughtful purchase price allocation provides a solid foundation as you integrate the acquisition into your existing business or embark on new ventures after a sale. With sound purchase price allocation, you can move forward confidently knowing your financial reporting reflects the true substance of the deal.

How can Eton help?

At Eton Venture Services, we pride ourselves on delivering professional, comprehensive valuation and financial advisory services tailored to your unique needs. Don’t settle for generic software models or inexperienced teams when it comes to critical financial valuations for your business. Trust Eton’s expert team to provide thorough, data-driven assessments that empower you to make well-informed decisions and optimize your intangible asset valuations. Join the industry leaders who have already benefited from Eton’s exceptional client service and advisory expertise. Get in touch with Eton Venture Services today.

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President & CEO

Chris co-founded Eton Venture Services in 2010 to provide mission-critical valuations to venture-based companies. He works closely with each client’s leadership team, board of directors, internal / external counsel, and independent auditor to develop detailed financial models and create accurate, audit-proof valuations.

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