What are Capital Goods?

What Constitutes a Capital Good?

If a firm is unable to make use of its capital goods within a year of manufacturing, it cannot include them in the business expense deduction category for the year they purchased them. Rather, these goods need to be depreciated throughout their life. Also, firms can claim a portion of tax deductions for the years these goods are put to use. Firms use many accounting methods like depreciation, depletion, amortization, etc. in order to ascertain the depreciated or amortized amounts of these goods.

Notable Happenings

The United States has been a technological innovator in creating capital goods, from the cotton gin to drones. Since 2000, Silicon Valley has become the U.S. innovation center. 

America’s success as a provider of capital goods has created a comparative advantage for the country, which has helped it to remain the world’s largest economy, with China becoming a close second and predicted to overtake the U.S. in this regard in years to come.

The history of manufacturing contains many examples of how new capital goods also create economic advantages. These inventions drove the creations of new industries, allowing businesses and economies to grow around the world.

  • In 1789, Samuel Slater improved textile manufacturing, and Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin four years later. These achievements made the United States a leader in clothing manufacturing.
  • The invention of Morse Code and the telegraph in 1849, followed by Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone in 1877, made communication faster.
  • Thomas Edison invented a safe incandescent lamp in 1879 allowing people to work longer and making urban living easier.
  • Steamboats led to steam locomotives, which paved the way for coast-to-coast commerce, growth, and travel.
  • In 1902, air conditioning began to allow more people to settle in hot areas and made it easier to work through the summer.
  • In 1903, the Wright Brothers invented the airplane, leading to faster travel.
  • In 1913, Ford’s assembly line allowed mass production of affordable cars. That increased demand for expanded travel and led to the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, increasing shipping and creating a higher suburban standard of living.
  • In 1926, Robert Goddard invented the liquid propulsion rocket, which gave the United States an advantage in defense.


Capital Goods vs. Consumer Goods

Consumer goods are the finished products that consumers buy as a result of the production process. Although consumer goods have different classifications, examples of consumer goods include milk, appliances, and clothes.

Conversely, capital goods are not usually sold to consumers but instead are used to produce other goods, which might be sold to consumers. However, there are capital goods that can also be consumer goods, such as airplanes, which are used by airlines but also by consumers.

Examples of capital goods

Every company needs capital goods to manufacture products that are later sold to customers. You can notice a lot of examples of this in your everyday life, especially if you own a big or small business.

Let’s take the service sector, for example. Every hairdresser should have specific equipment and tools to serve clients. All-purpose shears, curling irons, razors, blow dryers are just several goods a salon has. When a client comes, a hairdresser should be ready to meet their wants with the help of proper equipment.

Let’s imagine that you are giving a thought to opening a dairy farm. To get milk, cheese, cream, and butter through milk processing, you need to buy specific equipment and tools. Milk tanks that keep dairy products fresh, cream separators that make low-fat milk and cream, and butter churns to produce butter is the equipment necessary for your farm.

To conclude, a business can’t exist without capital goods since they’re vital for the manufacturing process of final goods. Machinery, property, tools, equipment are all capital goods used in the manufacturing process of products or services.

The Balance Sheet

Capital goods are reported on a company’s balance sheet as assets. Assets, as you probably know, help bring income into a company. Capital goods are typically reported as long-term assets because they generally bring income into a business after a year or more. This makes sense because most capital assets are expensive, and it will take some time to recover their costs before they start making you money.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review. Capital goods are one of the three basic factors of production in business. They are purchased and used to help your company produce consumer goods or provide services. They are reported as assets on a company’s balance sheet and often can be depreciated over time. Examples of capital goods include buildings, machines, equipment, furniture and fixtures.