The Financial Accounting Standards Board has issued a proposed change to accounting standards that promises to ease the implementation of the new lease accounting standard, which takes effect in less than a year.
Titled “targeted improvements” to the new leasing standard, the FASB issued an Accounting Standards Update that makes some critical rollbacks to the pending new accounting that are intended to makes it easier for companies to bring virtually all of their leased assets and liabilities on to corporate balance sheets in 2019.
Most significantly, the proposal seeks to allow entities to apply the transition provisions of the new leasing standard at the adoption date instead of requiring them to apply it to the earliest period presented in financial statements. That means companies would be permitted to apply the new accounting to existing contracts on a go-forward basis rather than restating two years of financial statements as if the accounting had been in place during those prior periods as well.
Companies would make cumulative-effect adjustments to the opening balance of retained earnings in the period of adoption to transition to the new accounting. Investors would be left to perform their own comparative analysis by finding lease data that is currently required in footnote disclosures. The optional transition approach “would change when an entity would be required to initially apply the transition requirements of the new lease standard; it would not change how those requirements apply,” FASB says.
FASB says preparers have reported they are facing unanticipated costs and complexities in transitioning to the new accounting for leases, at least in part due to the implementation of new systems to identify and track lease obligations and capture the necessary data to perform the new calculations.
The proposal also would allow lessors to take a pass on the current requirement to separate lease components from non-lease components and recognize them separately in financial statements, as long as certain conditions are met. FASB even proposes to allow entities to adopt the practical expediant by class of underlying assets. In lieu of separate recognition, FASB would require additional disclosures.
The FASB put two conditions on the relief from separate recognition of lease and non-lease components for lessors. First, the timing and pattern of revenue recognition for the lease and non-lease components must be the same. Second, the combined single lease component must be recognizable as an operating lease.
The proposal is open for comment through Feb. 8.