Depreciation and Vital Spark

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New Economy Transport (A)

p. 182The New Economy Transport Company (NETCO) was formed in 1955 to carry cargo and passengers between ports in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. By 2008 its fleet had grown to four vessels, including a small dry-cargo vessel, the Vital Spark.

The Vital Spark is 25 years old and badly in need of an overhaul. Peter Handy, the finance director, has just been presented with a proposal that would require the following expenditures:

Mr. Handy believes that all these outlays could be depreciated for tax purposes in the seven-year MACRS class.

NETCO's chief engineer, McPhail, estimates the postoverhaul operating costs as follows:

These costs generally increase with inflation, which is forecasted at 2.5% a year.

The Vital Spark is carried on NETCO's books at a net depreciated value of only $100,000, but could probably be sold “as is,” along with an extensive inventory of spare parts, for $200,000. The book value of the spare parts inventory is $40,000. Sale of the Vital Spark would generate an immediate tax liability on the difference between sale price and book value.

The chief engineer also suggests installation of a brand-new engine and control system, which would cost an extra $600,000.15 This additional equipment would not substantially improve the Vital Spark's performance, but would result in the following reduced annual fuel, labor, and maintenance costs:

Overhaul of the Vital Spark would take it out of service for several months. The overhauled vessel would resume commercial service next year. Based on past experience, Mr. Handy believes that it would generate revenues of about $1.4 million next year, increasing with inflation thereafter.

But the Vital Spark cannot continue forever. Even if overhauled, its useful life is probably no more than 10 years, 12 years at the most. Its salvage value when finally taken out of service will be trivial.

p. 183 NETCO is a conservatively...
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