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Financial Accounting for Local and State School Systems: 2014 Edition
NCES 2015347
April 2015

Appendix E—Criteria for Distinguishing Equipment From Supply Items — Criteria for Distinguishing Supply and Equipment Items

Documentation containing lists of items identified as supplies or equipment can never be comprehensive or exhaustive and quickly become outdated. To resolve the need to differentiate supplies and equipment without exhaustive lists, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has proposed a set of criteria for distinguishing equipment from supply items, listed in priority order. (See exhibit E-1.) At the first "no," the item is declared to be a supply, not equipment.

Equipment Items

An equipment item is any instrument, machine, apparatus, or set of articles that meets all of the following criteria and has an original individual cost of at least $5000 (or no less than the district's capitalization threshold, which may be higher). The Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) has recommended a capitalization threshold of no less than $5,000, but ultimately, the threshold limit is up to the school district or state:

  • It retains its original shape, appearance, and character with use.
  • It does not lose its identity through fabrication or incorporation into a different or more complex unit or substance.
  • It is nonexpendable; that is, if the item is damaged or some of its parts are lost or worn out, it is more feasible to repair the item than to replace it with an entirely new unit.
  • Under normal conditions of use, including reasonable care and maintenance, it can be expected to serve its principal purpose for at least 1 year.

Supply Items

An item should be classified as a supply if it does not meet all the stated equipment criteria.