Mastering Franchise Fee in Accounting and Tax Treatment for CPAs

Everything You Need to Know About Franchise Fees in Accounting

Franchise fees are an inevitable aspect of accounting for franchisors and franchisees. Understanding the ins and outs of franchise fees is essential for maintaining financial health and ensuring a successful business partnership.

In this article, we will learn about franchise fees in accounting, covering everything from what they are and how they are calculated to the different types of fees that may be involved in a franchise agreement.

Whether you are a franchisor looking to set franchise fees or a prospective franchisee trying to understand the financial implications of joining a franchise system, this article will provide you with the knowledge and insights you need to make informed decisions.

Join us as we explore the complexities of franchise fees in accounting and empower you to navigate this important aspect of the franchising world with confidence. 

What is a franchise fee?

A franchise fee is a payment made by an individual to a franchisor in exchange for the rights to operate a business under the franchisor’s brand. This fee essentially grants the franchisee access to the established business model, trademarks, support systems, and ongoing assistance from the franchisor.

Types of Franchise Fees

There are various types of franchise fees, including initial franchise fees, ongoing royalty fees, and renewal fees. Initial franchise fees are typically paid upfront by the franchisee when signing the franchise agreement, while royalty fees are ongoing payments based on a percentage of the franchisee’s gross sales.

Accounting Treatment for Franchise Fees

In the world of accounting, franchise fees are categorised as intangible assets. This classification reflects the nature of the fee, whether it’s a lump sum or part of the franchise’s ongoing costs, which grants the franchisee access to the franchisor’s intangible property, such as brand recognition, business processes, and marketing materials. To account for this expense accurately, the initial franchise fee is amortised over the duration of the franchise agreement. Amortisation essentially spreads the cost of the fee over a set period, typically aligning with the length of the agreement. This method ensures a more balanced representation of the expense on the franchisee’s financial statements, taking into account the depreciation of the franchise’s assets over time.

Accounting for Franchises: Key Concepts

When it comes to accounting for franchises, it is quite important to differentiate between the roles of the franchisee and the franchisor. The franchisee is the individual or entity buying the franchise rights, while the franchisor is the entity granting those rights. Once the franchise agreement is signed, the relationship between these parties becomes official. 

Intangible Assets in Franchise Accounting

Franchise fees are treated like special assets in accounting, called “intangible assets.” This means the fee isn’t something you can touch, like equipment. Instead, it represents the value of using the franchisor’s brand, systems, and training. To reflect this ongoing value, the fee is spread out (amortised) over the life of the franchise agreement. Think of it like paying for a service in installments instead of all at once. This way, the cost shows up on the franchisee’s financial records year after year, illustrating how the franchisee pays these fees over time, impacting the franchise’s profitability.

Amortisation of Franchise Fees

Amortisation of franchise fees involves spreading the initial cost of acquiring the franchise over time. This accounting practice ensures that the expense is recognised gradually, aligning with the revenue generated from operating the franchise business.

Understanding Royalty Fees

Royalty fees are payments made by the franchisee to the franchisor for ongoing support, including the use of trademarks, ongoing training, and marketing assistance. These fees are typically calculated as a percentage of the franchisee’s gross sales.

Calculation and Payment of Royalties

Franchisees are required to calculate their royalty payments based on the agreed-upon percentage outlined in the franchise agreement. These payments are typically made on a regular basis and are directly related to the revenue generated by the franchise business.

Royalty fees paid by the franchisee are recorded as expenses on the income statement and impact the profitability of the franchise business. These fees are considered operational costs and are reflected in the financial statements.

Accounting Entries for Royalty Fees

Accountants must ensure that royalty fees are accurately recorded in the financial records of the franchisee. These entries involve debiting the royalty expense account and crediting the cash or accounts payable account, depending on the payment method.

Initial Franchise Fees: Accounting Implications

Initial franchise fees are paid by the franchisee to the franchisor when purchasing the rights to operate a franchise business. This fee up front is a critical part of the franchise’s initial investment. These fees have specific accounting implications that must be carefully considered to ensure compliance with financial regulations.

Recognising Initial Franchise Fees

Accountants are responsible for recognising the initial franchise fees as intangible assets on the balance sheet. These fees represent the value of the rights granted to the franchisee by the franchisor and are essential for operating the franchise business.

Deductibility of Initial Franchise Fees

Franchisees may be able to deduct a portion of the initial franchise fees as a business expense on their tax returns. These fees, often paid as a lump sum, cover the cost of acquiring the franchise locations. It is essential for franchisees to consult with a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) or tax professional to determine the deductibility of these fees based on current tax laws.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Franchising

While franchising offers various financial benefits, such as access to an established business model, brand recognition, and ongoing support, there are also potential drawbacks that franchisees must consider before entering into a franchise agreement.

Advantages of Franchising

Franchising provides individuals with the opportunity to start a business with a proven track record of success. Franchisees benefit from established systems, training programmes, and brand loyalty, which can lead to quicker returns on their investment.

Potential Drawbacks of Franchising

Franchisees may face challenges such as high initial investment costs, ongoing royalty payments, and limited autonomy in decision-making. These elements are core to the franchise’s fixed costs and financial planning. Additionally, the success of a franchise business may be influenced by external factors beyond the franchisee’s control.

Considerations for Prospective Franchisees

Before starting a franchise, prospective franchisees should carefully evaluate all aspects of the franchise agreement and conduct thorough due diligence, paying close attention to the fee structure and franchise’s fixed costs. Understanding the financial implications, ongoing fees, and support provided by the franchisor are crucial considerations for success in a franchise business.

Why a CPA is Your Secret Weapon in Franchise Ownership

A qualified CPA with expertise in franchise accounting can be a valuable asset for your franchise business. Here’s why:

  • Understanding the Franchise Agreement: Franchise agreements can be complex legal documents with specific accounting requirements, especially once the franchise agreement is signed and the fee up front is paid. A CPA can help you decipher the agreement’s financial terms and ensure you are recording franchise fees and other expenses accurately. This includes guidance on how franchisee pays and accounts for these costs.

  • Tax Planning and Optimisation: Understanding the depreciation of initial franchise fees and other franchise’s fixed costs can be crucial for effective tax planning. CPAs can develop tax-saving strategies specifically tailored to franchise businesses. They can advise you on maximising deductions for franchise fees and other expenses while ensuring compliance with complex tax regulations.

  • Financial Reporting and Analysis: Regular financial reporting is crucial for any business, but especially for franchises with ongoing reporting requirements to the franchisor. A CPA can help you create accurate and timely financial statements that meet both your needs and the franchisor’s requirements.

  • Performance Measurement and Benchmarking: Properly accounting for the franchise’s fixed costs and fees is essential for accurate performance measurement and benchmarking among franchise locations. CPAs can help you track key performance indicators (KPIs) specific to your franchise and compare them to industry benchmarks. This can provide valuable insights into the financial health of your franchise and identify areas where you can improve profitability.


Franchise accounting can seem intricate, but with the right knowledge and support, you can successfully navigate the financial aspects of your franchise business. Understanding franchise fees, amortisation of intangible assets, and the benefits of working with a CPA will empower you to make informed financial decisions and achieve long-term success.

Considering embarking on your entrepreneurial journey through franchising? It’s vital to understand the franchise’s fixed costs and how the initial fee up front can impact your financial planning. Contact The Franchise Accountants today! We can help you understand the financial implications of franchise ownership and ensure your franchise business is set up for success from the very beginning. Our team of experts can guide you through the complexities of franchise accounting, empowering you to focus on what matters most – running a thriving business.


Q: What is a franchise fee in accounting and tax treatment?

A: A franchise fee is the fee paid by a franchisee to a franchisor in exchange for the right to use the franchisor's brand and business model. In accounting terms, the franchise fee is considered an initial fee paid by the franchisee to the franchisor. The accounting for this fee also closely mirrors accounting practices for capital assets, allowing for depreciation.

Q: Are ongoing franchise fees deductible for CPAs?

A: Ongoing franchise fees paid by the franchisee to the franchisor are usually tax deductible for CPAs as a business expense. Furthermore, the franchisee pays these fees as part of the franchise's fixed costs. These fees are considered part of the franchisee's fixed costs for running the business.

Q: How does a CPA account for startup costs when starting a franchise?

A: When a CPA assists a client in starting a franchise, they need to account for the startup costs incurred by the franchisee. These costs include the initial franchisee fee, ongoing franchise fees, and other expenses related to setting up the business.

Q: Is franchise accounting similar to general accounting practices?

A: Yes, franchise accounting is similar to general accounting practices, but with some specific considerations related to franchise systems. CPAs need to understand the unique aspects of franchise accounting when working with franchise businesses.

Q: What is the tax treatment for franchise fees paid by a franchisee?

A: Franchise fees paid by a franchisee are typically considered a business expense and are tax deductible. CPAs can help franchisees understand the tax implications of these fees and how they can be beneficial for tax planning.

Q: How are franchise fees amortised in accounting for tax purposes?

A: Franchise fees paid by a franchisee are usually amortised over the life of the franchise agreement, which is typically less than 15 years. CPAs can help franchisees create an amortisation schedule to track the deductions for tax purposes.

Q: What does the franchise fee cover for a franchisee?

A: The franchise fee paid by a franchisee covers the initial fee to buy a franchise, ongoing franchise fees, marketing fees, and other costs associated with running the franchise business. CPAs can help franchisees understand what is included in the franchise fee and how it impacts their financials.

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