I received a grant to help with my capital asset purchases. My bookkeeper says this is a liability. How does this make sense?

Your bookkeeper is correct. But, before you try to come to grips with the treatment of the capital grant, it will help if you review the depreciation of capital assets, explained in this FAQ.

Donations to a capital campaign (e.g. from individuals and businesses) are treated in the same way as grants (e.g. from foundations and governments).

Your funders and donors have provided money that is intended to benefit your organization over the life of the capital purchases. In the same way that the cost of a capital asset is spread over the years of ownership, the benefits of a capital grant must be spread over the same years, using the same technique.

A typical name for this item is “Deferred Contributions for Capital Assets,” and it appears with other deferred revenues in the liability section of the balance sheet.

You should discuss your organization’s capital policies with your accountant, to make sure they are appropriate to your particular situation.