Getting Started with Capital Assets

Learn about capital assets, capitalization, and the types of assets that are capitalized at Columbia University.


What Are Capital Assets?

Capital Assets are moveable and fixed items owned by Columbia University and can be any of the following items:

  • Buildings
  • Building components
  • Building improvements
  • Computing equipment
  • Fixed equipment
  • Land
  • Land improvements
  • Library materials
  • Moveable equipment
  • Rare books and collectibles

Who Is Responsible for Capital Assets?

Controller's Office

Two groups share responsibility for capital equipment management within the Controller’s Office: Capital Asset Accounting (CAA) and Research Policy and Indirect Cost (RPIC). This structure is designed to address both financial and government policies and procedures.

Custodial Departments

Within custodial departments, chairpersons, deans, and directors have general stewardship responsibilities for the maintenance and control of all property and equipment in their custody and control.

Procurement Services

Procurement Services in Columbia Finance maintains responsibility through the following groups:

  • Purchasing
  • Accounts Payable
  • Procurement Cards (P-cards)

Outside Supplier

An independent inventory management firm is contracted by the University to provide management oversight for the identification, tagging, recording, and reporting of capital equipment.

What Can Be Capitalized?

Any moveable capital equipment having a total cost (or donated estimated value) equal to or greater than $5,000 and meets the following criteria must be capitalized:

  • The estimated useful life of the item is equal to or greater than two years.
  • The asset is moveable and is not permanently affixed to a building or structure.
  • The asset is a non-expendable, tangible, personal property.
  • The asset does not lose its identity in use.
  • The property is non-consumable.
  • The property is not intended for sale in the ordinary course of operations, e.g., contract deliverables.

Costs That May Be Capitalized
  • The net invoice price (after discounts or credits) of the equipment, including modifications, attachments, accessories, or auxiliary apparatus necessary to make it usable for its intended purpose.
  • Ancillary charges, such as taxes, duty, freight, installation and protective in transit insurance
  • Capital equipment that is part of a fabrication project is also considered capital equipment—regardless of the dollar amount of the component items—provided that the total aggregate cost is $5,000 or more and the final fabricated asset will have a useful life of at least two years. If a new component extends the useful life or capability of an existing asset, it should be capitalized.

Costs That May Not Be Capitalized
  • Separate warranty costs of maintenance contracts, including items for which periodic invoices are received either monthly or annually such as software, licensing fees, different warranty costs of maintenance contracts, etc.
  • Government-furnished property
  • Rearrangement, transfer, or moving of equipment from one University location to another, including the costs incurred in dismantling, transporting, reassembling and reinstalling such items in a new place
  • Equipment repair costs

The Capitalization of Moveable Capital Equipment policy provides the guidelines for the capitalization of moveable capital equipment.


There are a variety of forms that you can use for managing capital assets, including:

Property and Equipment Manual

For all Columbia University property and equipment policies and information, use the Property and Equipment Manual.


For questions or inquiries about equipment, contact [email protected]