The Financial Accounting Standards Board has finalized a number of improvements to its new guidance on lease accounting, which public companies are working to adopt in 2019.
FASB published Accounting Standards Update No. 2018-10 to make several improvements to the Accounting Standards Codification Topic 842 on Leases. Separately, the board also published ASU No. 2018-09 to make a number of other improvements to the codification that are not specific to lease accounting.
Calendar-year public companies are implementing the new lease accounting standard to bring virtually all leased assets and liabilities onto corporate balance sheets as of Jan. 1, 2019. The board has been taking questions from preparers regarding how to apply the standard and has identified a number of improvements that could be made to the guidance to clarify how companies should proceed.
ASU 2018-10 addresses 16 separate issues around which the board has heard questions either through entities reaching out directly or the board reaching out to organizations. FASB says the new guidance addresses “narrow aspects” of the standard.
The issues include, for example, a correction to a cross reference regarding residual value guarantees, a clarification regarding rates implicit in lease contracts, and a consolidation of the requirements about lease classification reassessments. The guidance also addresses lessor reassessments of lease terms and purchase options, variable lease payments that depend on an index or a rate, investment tax credits, lease terms and purchase options, transition guidance for amounts previously recognized in business combinations, and certain transition adjustments, among others.
The new ASU does not address the optional transition method that FASB is developing separately, which will allow entities to adopt the new standard on a prospective basis. Under that anticipated guidance, entities will not be required to apply the new accounting to prior periods for the sake of historic presentation, allowing historic periods to be presented under historic accounting standards. That means investors will have to search the footnote disclosures for historic lease information, which is where it currently resides under long-standing accounting rules. FASB earlier approved a transition expedient with respect to land easements.
The lease codification improvements, in fact, are not significantly different from the nature of the changes FASB is making via its recent codification improvement for the rest of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. The board called them out in a separate update to accounting standards “to increase stakeholders’ awareness of the amendments and to expedite the improvements,” FASB said.
The broader codification improvements update addresses narrow aspects of reporting comprehensive income in the income statement, modifications and extinguishments of debt, distinguishing liabilities from equity, stock compensation and income taxes, business combinations and taxes, hedging, and fair-value measurements, among others.