Since hotels daily encounter a multitude of issues that involve Operating Expense (OpEx) and Capital Expenditures (CapEx), it should not be a surprise that these two categories are occasionally an area of misunderstanding. Even so, most items found in a hotel can clearly be applied to one of the two above categories. However, for those times of confusion, the following tips may assist you in successfully resolving this issue.
It should first be mentioned that the philosophies regulating OpEx and CapEx will vary within each company due to the different approaches of upper management and corporate accounting staff. Even at times, specific circumstances will affect how policies are applied to Operating Expense or Capital Expense items.
- Monetary threshold – If the item or project will be â€śdepreciatedâ€ť in the companyâ€™s accounting process, in most applications it will be considered â€śCapitalâ€ť. To better define this, most companies will establish a â€śminimum dollar amountâ€ť in which individual items or projects must exceed to be recognized as â€śCapitalâ€ť (ie: Items or projectsÂ of $2,000 or more can be capitalized. If less, they are â€śexpensedâ€ť at the hotel level, as operating costs).
- Lifecycle threshold â€“ The item of concern will need to meet or exceed the companyâ€™s guideline for useful life. Most companies will consider anything with a useful life of less than 3 years to be Operating Expense. CapEx items usually face 3, 5, 7 or 10 year lifecycles. Computers, PMS, guest room furnishings will fall into the short to mid lifecycles; while major pieces of mechanical equipment should experience lifecycles ranging from 10 to 20 years.
- Items combined – A group of similar expenditures may qualify as â€śCapitalâ€ť where those same items listed separately would not. An example of this would be reupholstering the seats of 45 restaurant chairs. This is generally considered â€śExpenseâ€ť, as it simply repairs a small portion of the chair and does not set it up for a new depreciation schedule. However, some accountants will accept the re-upholstery as â€śCapitalâ€ť if the restaurant is under-going a major renovation (replacing carpet, light fixtures, waitress equipment, wall coverings, etc.,) and the existing chairs were to remain but be reupholstered. In this case, the entire restaurant renovation is considered capital, even if some portion â€śby itselfâ€ť would generally have been considered â€śrepair expenseâ€ť. Along with newly purchased capital items; this major renovation project might also include as CapEx such items as painting, refinishing millwork, repairing doors, etc. The philosophy of the above example is that the work combined as a renovation will give the asset an extended â€ślifeâ€ť and warrants a new depreciation schedule. Without the major renovation, the chair simply gets a repair of worn components. It is often contended that the new upholstered seat by itself can give the chair an extended life. However, without its “surroundings” receiving an improvement, it’s life cycle is not substantially extended .
- Established guidelines â€“ Based on the items discussed above, each organization should have â€śofficialâ€ť guidelines that clearly define Operating Expenses versus CapEx. This is the groundwork that allows all team members to work toward the same objective. These company policies should be effectively communicated to each associate involved in the process. Well written guidelines by themselves will answer a high percentage of CapEx questions and leave only a small percentage of â€śgrey areaâ€ť issues. These doubts can then be addressed by upper management on an individual basis.Â You should alsoÂ know that a publication titled “GAAP” (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) is useful for more indepthÂ reference and guidance on this and many other hospitality accounting questions.
Question:Â WhatÂ criteria have you used to identify CapEx from OpEx?Â Post your comments by clicking here.