Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on April 18, 2023

Depletion: Definition

Depletion is the process by which natural resources lose their benefits as the resources are removed. It follows the same process used in the units of production method of depreciation.

Depletion: Explanation

The cost of natural resources extracted by a firm from a property is known as depletion. It is based on the same concepts as depreciation.

The usefulness of resources to a firm is generally directly proportional to the amount extracted (or otherwise removed).

Therefore, the output-oriented units of production approach is widely used to allocate the cost to the materials and the time periods in which they are used.

While the numerator (units produced in the period) is usually reliably measurable, the denominator (units available from the property) is often impossible to measure precisely. However, the approach is better than others and is virtually always used.

The salvage value of the property tends to be more significant for natural resource-producing property and should be included in computing the lifetime depletion to be recorded.

As with amortization, the usual procedure results in recording the credit half of the depletion entry directly in the asset account, despite the potential usefulness of showing the proportionate amounts of cost consumed and left to be consumed.

Cost depletion (which is required under GAAP) should not be confused with percentage depletion deductions allowed by the income tax laws.

Under these provisions, a producer is allowed to deduct an arbitrary fixed percentage of gross income as a depletion expense without regard to the historical cost of the property.

A side issue related to depletion concerns the amortization and depreciation of costs incurred to prepare the property for production.

These expenditures may relate to legal, environmental, and laboratory studies, as well as tangible property such as buildings and processing equipment.

In situations where the consumption of the usefulness of these assets parallels the production of the resource, they may be amortized and depreciated using the units of production approach.

In other cases, they should be amortized and depreciated based on a pattern that reflects the consumption of their usefulness.

Depletion FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.