DEFINITION of 'Depletion'

An accrual accounting method that companies use to allocate the cost of extracting natural resources such as timber, minerals and oil from the earth. Depletion is calculated for tax-deduction and bookkeeping purposes. Unlike depreciation and amortization, which mainly describe the deduction of expenses due to the aging of equipment and property, depletion is the actual physical depletion of natural resources by companies.


Entities that meet the IRS definition of having an economic interest in the property are eligible to claim deductions for depletion. For accounting and financial reporting purposes, depletion is meant to assist in accurately identifying the value of the assets on the balance sheet.

There are two types of depletion: percentage depletion and cost depletion. The IRS requires the cost method to be used with timber. It requires the method that yields the highest deduction to be used with mineral property, which it defines as oil and gas wells, mines, and other natural deposits (including geothermal deposits).

Cost depletion is calculated by taking the property's basis, total recoverable units and number of units sold into account. Percentage depletion looks at the property's gross income and taxable income limit.

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