What is Accounting Valuation?

Accounting valuation is the process of valuing a company's assets and liabilities, in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), for financial-reporting purposes.

Key Takeaways

  • Accounting valuation asses a company's assets versus its liabilities for financial-reporting purposes.
  • Accounting valuation is important because the value of assets on a company's financial statements needs to be reliable as it provides the kind of information that is just as important as the valuation itself.
  • Accounting valuation for fixed assets is typically marked as its historical price, while marketable securities like stocks and bonds are assessed at current market prices.

Understanding Accounting Valuation

Several accounting-valuation methods are used while preparing financial statements in order to value assets. Many valuation methods are stipulated by accounting rules, such as the need to use an accepted options model to value the options that a company grants to employees. Other assets are valued simply by the price paid, such as real estate. Typically, fixed assets are valued at the historical price while marketable securities are valued at the current market price.

Accounting valuation critical to financial analysis in order to generate accurate and reliable financial statements. Analysis of this valuation is just as important as the valuation itself. Some assets, such as real estate, which is carried at cost less depreciation, can be carried on the balance sheet at values far from their true value. Securities the firm owns for its own investment portfolio versus trading will have their own rules for valuation as well, as will bonds held for investment or trading. The updated quarterly or yearly accounting valuation information is made available in the form of financial statements and can be found in the investor relations area of most publicly trading firms' websites.

Actuarial Valuation vs. Accounting Valuation

An actuarial valuation is a type of appraisal of a pension fund's assets versus liabilities, using investment, economic and demographic assumptions for the model to determine the funded status of a pension plan. In many ways actuarial value is the equivalent of accounting value in the context of pension fund accounting. The assumptions used in actuarial valuation are based on a mix of statistical studies and experienced judgment. Since assumptions are often derived from long-term data, unusual short-term conditions or unanticipated trends can occasionally cause deviations from forecasts.

Actuarial value is also used to refer to the percentage of total average costs for covered benefits that will be paid by a health insurance plan. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the U.S. health reform enacted March 23, 2010, health plans available on the Health Insurance Marketplace are divided into four “metallic” tier levels – Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum – based on the actuarial values.