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What is goodwill?

What does goodwill mean in accounting?

Goodwill in accounting and business refers to intangible assets that add to a business’s value, such as reputation, brand value, and customer base. It is typically recognised during business acquisitions to justify a price higher than the market value of the business being acquired.

For example, a bakery’s value is not only based on its physical location and its ovens. It may have a reputation for delicious cookies, a loyal clientele, and maybe even proprietary recipes. These intangible assets are represented by goodwill, and can even be calculated into a specific amount.

How is goodwill calculated?

Goodwill = Consideration Paid – (Fair Value of Assets – Fair Value of Liabilities)

To calculate goodwill, you first need to determine the fair market value of the company’s tangible assets, such as equipment, inventory, and real estate. Next, calculate the company’s total liabilities, including any outstanding debts or obligations. Subtract the total value of the tangible assets and liabilities from the total purchase price (Consideration Paid) of the business to find the goodwill.

Here’s a simpler way to think about it:

  • Company Value = Tangible Assets + Intangible Assets
  • Tangible Assets = Fair Value of Net Assets Recognised
  • Intangible Assets = Goodwill

The importance & risk of goodwill in business

Business don’t typically put a goodwill value on their books themselves. Only when one company acquires another does goodwill become a recorded number. That’s because during an acquisition, the buyer is essentially saying, “This company is worth more than the sum of its parts because of its intangible assets.” For investors, understanding goodwill can offer insights into the factors that may translate into future benefits as the business grows. 

A high goodwill value can indicate a higher risk, as intangible assets are less measurable and can potentially lose value faster than tangible assets. Overvalued goodwill can happen due to overly optimistic assumptions about the acquired company’s future performance or intangible assets.

Economic or industry disruptions can negatively impact the value of intangible assets like brand reputation or customer loyalty. This can lead to goodwill impairment, where the recorded goodwill value needs to be reduced.


Goodwill can be a valuable asset, but it’s essential to be aware of the associated risks. By carefully assessing these risks through proper due diligence, realistic valuation, and effective integration planning, companies can make informed decisions about acquisitions and mitigate the potential negative impacts on goodwill value.

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