The Financial Accounting Standards Board is offering yet another accounting proposal meant to help smooth over implementation of the new revenue recognition standard.
This time, however, the board is not proposing to amend the original revenue recognition standard. Instead, the change would apply to an area of the Accounting Standards Codification that was amended to comply with the new revenue standard in order to aid compliance with the rules around the sale of nonfinancial assets.
The revenue recognition standard, issued in 2014 and taking effect beginning in 2018, requires companies to follow the new principles for revenue recognition even when they shed nonfinancial assets that are not a normal business output for the company. If a company is looking, for example, to offload a building, a parcel of property, a piece of equipment, or even some intangible asset, it must follow the new revenue recognition guidance to determine when and in what amounts to recognize the proceeds of such a sale. If it were selling a complete business, then it would follow rules for business combinations.
By mid-2015, questions began to emerge about how companies would apply the guidance on derecognizing nonfinancial assets. In an alert to clients, for example, EY pointed out that the new revenue recognition guidance would apply to a subsidiary or a group of assets that constitute “in substance nonfinancial assets,” but the standard didn’t define the term.
FASB acknowledges that it has heard inconsistent views on what constitutes an “in substance financial asset,” leaving companies uncertain about what types of transactions would be within the scope of the new revenue standard. Current accounting guidance also doesn’t address partial sales of nonfinancial assets, which are common in real estate. Guidance that was specific to real estate used to address the subject, but that went away when the new revenue recognition standard replaced historic industry-specific rules.
That prompted FASB to issue its recent proposal, which says “in substance nonfinancial assets” would include a contract in which substantially all the fair value of the assets promised in a contract are concentrated in nonfinancial assets. It also would include a consolidated subsidiary in which substantially all the fair value of the assets in the subsidiary are nonfinancial assets.
The proposal would also specifiy what is not in substance nonfinancial assets -- namely a group of assets or subsidiary that is a business or nonprofit activitiy, or an investment of a reporting entity regardless of whether the assets underlying the investment would be considered in substance nonfinancial assets.
The idea behind the proposal, says FASB, is to produce consistent accounting for economically similar transactions. The board is accepting comments on the proposal through Aug. 5. The amendments would take effect when the revenue recognition standard goes into play, which is 2018 for public companies.