Tuesday, October 25, 2011

This month's boards meeting

On Oct. 19, the FASB & IASB again met to discuss the new lease accounting standard. In a marathon session (scheduled for 5 hours), they reached a number of decisions in several areas. (Note: in the discussion below, and elsewhere in discussions about this standard, "effective date" is the date companies must start reporting under the new standard, while "date of initial application" is the date, normally two years earlier for U.S. companies, as of which leases must be treated as capital once the new standard takes effect, due to the requirement to restate years shown as comparables in the annual report.)

Lessee transition
  • All existing capital leases will be carried over with no changes required. Previously, they had planned to require restatement of capital leases with variable payments or renewal options that would be treated differently under the new standard. They decided the benefit wasn't worth the cost, because in most cases the differences would be small (particularly given recent decisions to reduce recognition of variable payments and options).
  • The incremental borrowing rate to use for operating leases to be capitalized will be a single company-wide rate, not based on the individual characteristics of each transitioning lease.
  • Operating leases can be recalculated using either a "full" or a "modified" retrospective methodology. The same methodology must be chosen for all leases. Full means going back to lease inception and calculating the lease as capital. Modified is different from what was in the original Exposure Draft; I described it last month. They have clarified that the difference between asset and liability generated by this method is to be booked to retained earnings (no P&L impact).
  • The simplifications ("reliefs") mentioned last month were all confirmed: leases that terminate before the effective date of the new standard won't have to be restated, even if they start after the date of initial application; initial direct costs are excluded during the same period; and preparers may use hindsight to set up the leases.
Lessor transition
  • Capital leases other than leveraged leases can be carried over with no adjustments.
  • Leveraged lease accounting is eliminated. Such leases will have to be restated.
  • Current operating leases will have a receivable and residual set up using the present value of the rents and expected residual value at date of initial application, the interest rate being the rate charged in the lease as of lease inception; the underlying asset is derecognized. Lessors also have the option of full retrospective application.
Lessor receivables held for sale
  • A proposal to report receivables held for sale at fair value was rejected. While this would superficially be consistent with IFRS 9 and the FASB's Accounting for Financial Instruments project, it was felt that it added complexity, was inconsistent with the rest of the leasing standard, offered opportunities for structuring, and would add more variability in profit and loss. Instead, any gain or loss would be recognized when a sale of the receivable is completed.
Variable payments for lessors
  • If the rate a lessor charges a lessee assumes "reasonably assured" variable lease payments will be made, the residual asset (which by default contains the value of those payments, since the value is not in the receivable) will be adjusted by recognizing an adjustment to the residual. The adjustment is the variable lease payment divided by the fair value of the underlying asset, times its carrying amount.
Lessor receivable and residual
  • Investment property is excluded from the lease standard scope. This keeps those properties under IAS 40 for companies using IFRS. The FASB is working on a project to create the same standard for the U.S. (which presumably will be complete by the time the lease standard takes effect).
  • Profit on the residual will not be recognized until the asset is sold or re-leased.
  • The residual is initially booked at the present value of the residual. The value is accreted, with interest income recognized for the accretion, using the same interest rate as for the receivable.

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