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Capital Leases on a Balance Sheet

Posted by:

Dave Sran, BBA Hons, CPA, CGA

Dave Sran, BBA Hons, CPA, CGA

Tax Question:

What are Capital Leases on a Balance Sheet?


The Capital Leases category appears as a long term liability on a Balance Sheet. A Capital Lease is a contract that allows the lessee to use the asset for a specific period of time. The corresponding asset is listed as a Capital Asset on the Balance Sheet.


A Capital Lease is recorded as a long term liability if the lease is considered a purchased asset for accounting purposes. Operating leases are considered rentals for accounting purposes and are recorded as an operating expense on the Income Statement.

If any one of the following criteria is satisfied, then a lease can be considered capital:

  • Ownership is transferred during or after lease term
  • Lease contains a bargain purchase price option at lower than fair market value
  • Lease covers a major portion of the asset’s economic life (generally over 75%)
  • Discounted value of net minimum lease payments covers substantially all (90% or more) asset’s fair value

The initial cost of the leased equipment is recorded as the present value of all lease payments during the term. The corresponding amount is setup as the liability which is often described as “Obligations under Capital Lease” on the Balance Sheet. The lease payments are then allocated against this amount similar to a loan payment where principal and interest are segregated.

For accounting purposes, we must record capital leased equipment as an asset and record amortization on the equipment. You also receive a deduction for interest paid portion of the lease payments. For tax purposes, you receive a full deduction for the lease payments (including principal portion) made during the fiscal year but the asset is not amortized.

Dave Sran, BBA (Hons), CPA, CGA, Manager

Staff Accountant, Gilmour Knotts Chartered Accountant.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is intended solely to provide general guidance on matters of interest for the personal use of the reader, who accepts full responsibility for its use. While we have made every attempt to ensure the information contained in this article has been obtained from reliable sources and accurately described herein. SW Media Group and Gilmour Group Incorporated is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. Before taking any action that might affect your personal and business finances, you should consult a qualified professional advisor.



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