I recently received a notice that the 2009 Annual Capital Expenditures Survey (ACES) is now available. This is a great data source on investments in building and equipment. But a quick look at what is included and excluded in the definition of “capital” provides an illustration of the problems in accounting for intangible capital. The survey includes 30 categories of structures and 28 categories of equipment. Some of these equipment categories touch upon intangible assets.
According to the instruction, equipment expenditures includes intangible drilling costs associated with expenditures for developmental and exploratory drilling activities (as well as apparently those drill costs themselves). It includes computer software, including prepackaged (off-the-shelf), vendor customized, and (importantly) internally developed. Expenditures for off-the-shelf and vendor software appear to be the purchase and contract prices while payroll is used for internal developed software. Unfortunately, it does not appear that the data is disaggregated by software type.
And here is the real interesting part — it also includes expenditures for artistic works:
Artistic Production (books, plays, paintings, etc.)
Theatrical movie production materials (filming, special effects, writing scripts, etc.)
Television program production materials (both regular programming and made-for-tv movies)
Songwriting and Recording music (exclude music produced for theatrical movies, plays
But then, it explicitly excludes expenditures for goodwill, patents, or copyrights.
And it says nothing about a number of categories of intangible capital used by Corrado, Hulten and Sichel (“Intangible Capital and Economic Growth” and “Measuring Capital and Technology: An Expanded Framework”) such as engineering and architectural designs, R&D, advertising (brand development) and worker training (human capital development).
So clearly there need to be a lot of work done yet on both the conceptual and data collection before we truly have an understanding of what our capital expenditures are in the I-Cubed Economy.