Thursday, July 19, 2012

It's a wrap, finally

On July 17, the IASB & FASB met to make their last decisions before releasing a revised exposure draft (RED) for the new lease accounting standard. The following decisions were reached (according to meeting notes posted at IASPlus):

Lessee accounting

Statement of financial position (balance sheet)

Assets and liabilities for the two types of leases (finance, also called "interest and amortization" or I&A, and straight line expense (SLE)) will be reported separately, either on the SFP itself or in disclosure notes. Assets are to be presented based on the type of underlying asset.

Statement of cash flows

Cash paid for SLE leases will be reported as an operating activity. It was previously decided that cash paid for I&A leases will be reported as a financing activity for the principal portion, and in accordance with applicable IFRS or US GAAP standards for interest (IFRS permits it as either operating or financing, while US GAAP puts it in financing).

Several board members expressed interest in additional disclosure of cash paid for leases that would distinguish I&A, SLE, short-term leases, and variable lease payments. The staffs will review this and potentially provide a future staff paper for board action.


The maturity analysis (future rent commitments by year for at least 5 years, then combined to expiration) will not be separated between I&A and SLE leases. This was justified by the fact that the liability is calculated the same way for both types of leases. The FASB had previously decided that commitments for services and other non-lease components need to be disclosed; the FASB decided that this disclosure will also be a single report for all leases, not separated between I&A and SLE.

Reconciliation of the opening & closing balances on liabilities will be separated between I&A and SLE leases, because the liabilities themselves are being reported separately.

On the asset side, the boards disagreed. The FASB chose not to require a reconciliation at all. The IASB chose to require separate reconciliations for I&A and SLE leases.

The staff recommended a disclosure table for lease expenses, including amortization and interest for I&A leases, variable lease payments, short-term lease payments, SLE, principal & interest on I&A leases, and SLE cash paid. The boards thought this was overload, and decided only to require disclosure of variable lease payments.

Transition: SLE lease asset

The boards previously changed their approach for transitioning existing operating leases to the new regime: in the original exposure draft, they planned to make the asset and liability equal at the date of initial application, but because that would have front-loaded expenses for all leases, they decided to switch to a "modified retrospective" approach which results in an asset value largely similar to what one would have restating from inception (see my discussion of the details here). With SLE leases, however, front-loading isn't an issue, so the boards approved using the original methodology with the asset and liability equal at the date of initial application (though with an option for a fully retrospective application, which is also permitted for I&A leases). If there's a deferred rent liability/asset due to unequal lease payments, that is applied to the asset.

Lessor accounting

The boards decided that when a lease is terminated early and the lessor takes back the asset, the remaining receivable and the residual should be combined and set up as a re-recognized asset. No gain or loss would be reported on the transaction (though impairment might separately be recognized, if the remaining receivable that's being reclassified is less than the fair value of the leased portion of the asset plus any penalty payments made).

Interim disclosure

For both lessees and lessors, the boards decided that generally interim disclosures (that is, disclosures required during interim reporting periods, such as quarterly reports for US companies) should be handled consistently with existing standards (IAS 34, US GAAP Topic 270, and SEC Regulation S-X, Rule 10-01). However, an additional disclosure for lessors to detail components of lease income was approved. The FASB approved the proposal as presented by the staffs; the IASB preferred to permit a single lease income number in some cases. This leaves a rare non-convergent situation to be dealt with in the post-RED redeliberations.

Next steps

This isn't quite the end of the decision-making process. The FASB will be meeting next week to discuss a few FASB-only issues.

With these decisions complete, the staffs will now assemble all the "tentative" decisions into the form of an exposure draft. The draft will then be circulated to the boards to make sure it accurately reflects the decisions reached, then released to the public. The expectation is that it will be released during Q4, probably in November. There will be a 120-day comment period, which thus would be expected to end in March 2013 (though that might get tweaked because it falls in the middle of annual reporting for companies on a calendar year basis). Once that's complete, figure a month or so for the staffs to compile the results of the comments, so probably in May the boards will start their review and redeliberations. One can expect that there is still going to be some controversy over the decisions, so redeliberations will probably take a few months. At the meeting, two members of each board indicated an intention to dissent from the exposure draft, with an additional member of each board considering dissent; concerns included complexity and cost/benefit, exclusion of variable lease payments, insufficient disclosure, maintaining two types of leases when unified accounting was a key objective originally, and inconsistency between lessor accounting and the concurrent revenue recognition project.

If there are no significant changes, it may be possible to get the final standard approved in 2013, but it would seem to me it's not likely to be out until late in 2013. Given that, it seems almost certain that implementation would be required for 2016 (with restatement of prior years going back two years for most U.S. firms). That makes a total of just under 10 years from the time the project was announced in July 2006 to final implementation; the original plan was to have the final standard released in 2009, with implementation in 2011.... In a webinar today (July 19), the staff indicated that they expect that earlier implementation will be permitted, while non-public entities may get additional time for implementation.

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