The Financial Accounting Standards Board has been busy the past few weeks pushing out some narrowly focused changes to accounting standards that address earnings per share, fair value measurement, intangible assets, and compensation, not to mention additional proposals involving liabilities associated with gift cards, hedging for energy concerns, and benefit plans.
In terms of final Accounting Standards Updates, FASB issued ASU 2015-06 to clarify how to address the effects of historical earnings per share when a master limited partnership, which is a type of publicly traded partnership typically in the energy sector, is subject to a dropdown transaction, or a distribution of assets particular to these types of entities. FASB’s new guidance specifies that any earnings or losses associated with a transferred business before the date of a dropdown should be allocated entirely to the general partner.
In ASU 2015-07, FASB seeks to end diversity in practice in how certain investments measured at net asset value with redemption dates into the future are categorized in the fair value hierarchy. As a practical expedient, the new standard simply removes the requirement under fair value measurement rules for such investments to be categorized. It also revises the disclosure requirements to focus only on those investments where the entity has elected to measure the fair value using the practical expedient.
In another update to accounting standards, ASU 2015-05, FASB amended accounting standards as part of its simplification initiative to make it easier for companies to account for fees paid in a cloud computing arrangement. The amendments provide guidance to customers about whether a cloud computing arrangement includes a software license, which suggests it should be accounted for consistent with the acquisition of a software license.
Finally, FASB approved ASU No. 2015-04 to provide a practical simplification around the measurement of the value of assets in a defined benefit plan. The rule addresses the conundrum some companies would face if their fiscal year end did not align neatly with a month-end statement on plan asset values. The rule allows companies to use the month-end values that most closely correlate with their fiscal year end, sparing them extra valuation steps to adjust plan asset values to match the fiscal year-end date.
In terms of proposals, FASB issued one proposal targeted at simplifying the accounting for certain prepaid stored-value cards by allowing companies to recognize that sometimes folks just never get around to redeeming those gift cards. Current accounting rules make it difficult for companies to derecognize the liability that arises from the sale of gift cards that ultimately are never redeemed. The proposal provides a solution by specifying how certain prepaid cards can be derecognized when companies determine redemption will not happen.
Through another proposal, FASB seeks to resolve different views on how rules for derivatives apply to certain types of contracts around the purchase or sale electricity. The amendment would specify when the use of a certain type of electricity pricing by an independent system operation constitutes net settlement of a contract, thereby clarifying whether hedging would apply.
In a third recent FASB proposal, the board offers three separate amendments that would apply to certain reporting entities based on how they classify investments in certain pension and other benefit plans. The proposal deals with fully-benefit responsive investment contracts, plan investment disclosures, and another practical expedient related to the measurement date for assets similar to the rule FASB just finalized.