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In accounting, goodwill is an intangible asset recognized when a firm is purchased as a going concern. It reflects the premium that the buyer pays in addition to the net value of its other assets. Goodwill is often understood to represent the firm's intrinsic ability to acquire and retain customer business, where that ability is not otherwise attributable to brand name recognition, contractual arrangements or other specific factors. It is recognized only through an acquisition; it cannot be self-created. It is classified as an intangible asset on the balance sheet, since it can neither be seen nor touched.
Under U.S. GAAP and IFRS, goodwill is never amortized, because it is considered to have an indefinite useful life. (Private companies in the United States may elect to amortize goodwill over a period of ten years or less under an accounting alternative from the Private Company Council of the FASB.) Instead, management is responsible for valuing goodwill every year and to determine if an impairment is required. If the fair market value goes below historical cost (what goodwill was purchased for), an impairment must be recorded to bring it down to its fair market value. However, an increase in the fair market value would not be accounted for in the financial statements.