In an update on the work of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountant’s 16 separate industry-focused task forces that are working through industry-specific questions on how to apply the new revenue recognition principles, the AICPA says it has identified more than 150 issues that merit attention. Only a dozen of the issues have been referred to the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s Transition Resource Group, which is helping work through implementation questions and is determining what questions should referred to FASB for clarifying standard setting. Beyond the dozen, arising from a number of different industry task forces, a few more issues have been reported to FASB for suggested technical correction.
Nearly 90 of the issues identified by the 16 task forces have been submitted to an umbrella AICPA working group on revenue recognition, and nearly 50 have been submitted to AICPA’s Financial Reporting Executive Committee for their respective attention and views. In addition to those issues that have been referred to other groups, the task forces have issued nearly 30 separate papers for public comment, looking for some cohesive interpretations to assure consistent application of the new rules. Many of those papers are open for public comment through Sept. 1.
The aerospace and defense group, for example, has published 9 separate papers for public exposure, most recently to look for consensus around accounting for offset obligations and the impact of contract termination rights and penalties on the terms of contracts. Those papers are open for comment through Sept. 1. The airline task force is offering views on financing on advance mile purchases, estimating stand-alone selling price, accounting for contract costs such as commissions and selling costs, and accounting for passenger taxes and related fees.
Other recent issues of greatest concern to public companies might include recommended views by the engineering and construction task force on issues such as identifying the unit of account in a contract, a variety of issues around variable consideration and estimations, and measures of contract progress that would be important to determining when to recognize revenue. The software task force also issued views on determining whether components of post-contract customer support are distinct performance obligations.
The AICPA is developing an accounting guide on revenue recognition that is meant to help companies work through implementation issues. The AICPA developed the task forces because existing guidance on revenue recognition is driven by industry-specific rules, so companies in a given industry are likely to face similar questions about how to adopt the new guidance that is meant to achieve consistent accounting outcomes regardless of industry.
Staff members at the Securities and Exchange Commission have aired concern over whether the AICPA’s industry task forces might lead to industry-specific interpretations of the new rules that will make application different in different sectors.
The new accounting standard, adopted by FASB in 2014, will take effect in 2018 after a one-year postponement of the effective date to give companies more time to prepare for implementation. Accounting leaders have said in recent weeks they are concerned companies are not moving steadily enough through implementation planning to assure a smooth transition to the new rules.