Monday, September 17, 2012

Pushback, and pushed back

Opposition to the Revised Exposure Draft (RED) of the lease accounting standard is starting to build. Asset Finance International is reporting that the FASB's Investors Technical Advisory Committee (ITAC), at a meeting on July 24, unanimously disagreed with the boards' new approach to lease accounting, though the committee split three ways on their preferred methodology (capitalize all leases using the current methodology, use the new SLE (straight line expense) methodology for all leases, or keep current accounting but with more disclosure). "At the meeting FASB chairman Leslie Seidman acknowledged: 'I can hear that none of you think that we got it right.' "

Bill Bosco, a well-known leasing consultant and member of the boards' Leases Working Group advisory group, sent the boards a letter disagreeing with the proposals as well, though for different reasons. He is particularly concerned with the disparate treatment of equipment and real estate leases.

ELFA, the primary trade organization for equipment lessors in the U.S., has also weighed in with an unsolicited comment letter to the boards. They had been broadly in favor of the idea of revising the lease accounting standard, particularly to put leases on the lessee's balance sheet, but now are considering withdrawing support of the proposed standard, primarily because of the standard's presumption that virtually all equipment leases are essentially purchases (and thus merit finance lease accounting).

The boards are meeting this week to discuss sale/leaseback details (in particular, how to coordinate lease accounting with revenue recognition accounting to make them as consistent as possible), as well as handling impairment of SLE leases, whether to allow another systematic basis other than straight line, whether finance vs. SLE classification is subject to revision after commencement, and how to handle classification of a sublease.

The documents posted for this week's meeting indicate that the delivery date for the RED has been pushed back to first quarter 2013. It was previously expected in November.

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