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FASB, IASB Plan Roundtables on Lease Standard

Tammy Whitehouse | July 3, 2013

To get a good pulse on how their lease accounting proposal is being received in various parts of the world, the  Financial Accounting Standards Board and the International Accounting Standards Board will host a series of roundtable meetings around the globe. FASB's early comment letters, however, are not producing ringing endorsements of the proposal.

FASB and IASB said the roundtables will be an important part of their process for gathering feedback on the proposal and proceeding to a final standard. The boards are hoping to hear from preparers, auditors, investors, and anyone else who has a stake in the changes that are proposed, whether they've already submitted a comment letter or not. Roundtables will be held from mid-September to early October at the IASB's office in London and FASB's office in Norwalk, Conn., and in Los Angeles, Singapore, and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

FASB and IASB published in May a proposal to revised lease accounting in both U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and International Financial Reporting Standards in a way that is meant to bring far more lease-related assets and liabilities on to corporate balance sheets. The proposal has already brought criticism that it's too complicated and doesn't reflect the economics of leasing. An early letter signed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and some 30 other organizations says the proposal establishes a complicated recognition and presentation requirement that doesn't reflect the value of a lease contracts. They believe the proposal would adversely affect bank capital, the ability of companies to borrow, the cost of leases, and equipment rental and property valuations.

Marie Hollein, president and CEO of Financial Executives International, points out what the boards have acknowledged -- that there seems to be some consensus that leases should appear on balance sheets but a wide variety of views about how it should be accomplished with no model winning majority favor. FEI says the boards should field test their proposed model to get a better understanding of how it would work in practice and “Given the pervasive impact of this new standard, such work would help the boards achieve a  more thorough understanding of the full costs of implementation and could identify potential changes in the requirements that could significantly lessen the costs while still broadly achieving the goals of the project,” she wrote.

Peter Kennedy, audit director for firm Cover & Rossiter, says the boards have strayed too far into accounting theory to produce a lease accounting model that will be unworkable in practice. “There will always be a tradeoff between accounting purity and the practical cost of gathering the required information,” he wrote. With the exposure draft, “we are reaching for a level of accounting purity that is not practically achievable and the significant cost of compliance will not prove to be worthwhile.”