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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Capital Equipment?

Capital equipment is tangible property having an acquistion value of $5,000 or more and a useful life expectancy of more than one year. Group purchases of tangible property that individually have acquisition values of less than $5,000 are not considered capital equipment and will be expensed. Fabricated equipment, which has an aggregate cost of $5,000 or more and a useful life expectancy of at least one year, is considered capital equipment. Repairs, maintenance parts or components, warranty costs, maintenance contracts or annual software licensing fees are not considered capital equipment and will be expensed.

What is the equipment inventory?

The inventory consists of a database of all capital equipment owned by Northwestern University. The university's Property Accountant catalogs and tags all new capital equipment based on transactions from the monthly budget statements. The Property Accountant also physically reinventories all capital equipment once every two years.

Can I order a copy of my inventory list?

Yes, NU faculty and staff can order a copy of their inventory by filling out an Report Order Form. Your inventory list is available by fax, university mail, or by e-mail as an Excel file attachment.

Are there procedures for disposing of capital equipment?

Yes, fill out an Equipment Disposal Form when you sell, transfer or dispose of capital equipment. You should also fill out a form when you remove tagged equipment costing under $5,000, since the original definition of capital equipment before 9/1/95 had a minimum cost of $500.

The information from this form will be used to update the Inventory database. You should obtain, and keep on file, written approval from your dean, chairperson or department administrator to remove capital equipment, however you don't need the approval of the Property Accountant.

Is University property insured?

Yes, Northwestern University insures all of its own equipment. Refer to the NU Insurance home page for information on filing a claim and other related policy matters.

What is the best way to protect equipment from theft?

Facilities Management has arranged with Anchor Pad, Inc. for installation of theft prevention devices at departmental request with a modest cost to the requesting department. For further information about these devices call Facilities Management at (847) 491-5201.

Who can I call with other questions about University equipment?

Call the Property Accountant , at 7-2737 or e-mail her . If she can't answer your questions about university equipment then she will direct you to someone who can.

Who can I contact with questions about other accounting issues?

The Accounting Services Department has a web site with information about University-related accounting questions.

Do-It-Yourself Inventory

Why would I want to start my own department inventory?

The University's main equipment inventory covers all capital equipment with a minimum cost of $5,000 and a useful life of one year or more. The vast majority of computers cost under $5,000 and are not included in NU's inventory. In response to the concerns of departments who want to inventory all of their computers, the University is providing inventory tags, training and an Excel template to track department equipment. The departments will provide their own labor to set-up and maintain their inventories.

How do I set-up an equipment inventory from scratch?

The first step is tagging the existing equipment that you want to inventory on a room by room basis and writing down the description and location of each item that you tag. The description includes the manufacturer, model and serial number as well as the actual description of the item. Fill out the Do-It-Yourself Inventory Order Form to request department inventory tags printed with "Non-Capital Equipment, Northwestern University" on them. The next step is adding this information to an Excel template to track the equipment in your inventory. This template is a pre-formatted Excel spreadsheet with columns labeled for description, location and accounting information for each item that you want in your inventory. A copy of this template can be obtained by filling out the Do-It-Yourself Inventory Order Form.

How do I maintain my equipment inventory once I set it up?

After you tag each new piece of equipment as it's received, update your Excel spreadsheet with the description, location and accounting information of your new purchase. Then, once a year, go through all of your rooms, checking off each item that you find on your Excel printout. Indicate any location transfers on your spreadsheet by updating the room, building or user name fields for the items that have been moved within the University. Remove any equipment from your spreadsheet that has been disposed, sold or transferred to another institution.

Does the University provide hands-on training to help departments set-up their own inventories?

A one-on-one inventory training session can be requested by filling out the Do-It-Yourself Inventory Order Form. The Property Accountant, will call or e-mail you to schedule an appointment after she receives your form. The training session will walk you through the inventory process step-by-step. However, it's still up to you to set-up and maintain your own inventory.