In finance, the systematic repayment of a debt; in accounting, the systematic writing off of some account over a period of years. An example of the first meaning is a home mortgage, which may be repaid in monthly installments that include interest and a gradual reduction of the principal. Such systematic reduction is safer for the lender, since it is easier for the borrower to repay a series of small amounts than a single lump sum. In the second sense, a firm may gradually reduce the balance-sheet valuation of a depreciable asset such as a building, machine, or mine. The U.S. government has sometimes permitted accelerated amortization of assets, which encourages industrial development by decreasing a company's tax burden in the years immediately after a purchase.
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Amortization is also used in the context of zoning regulations and describes the time in which a property owner has to relocate when the property's use constitutes a preexisting nonconforming use under zoning regulations.