Mid-year disclosures by Fortune 500 filers show roughly half of those companies expect the pending new revenue recognition accounting standard to have an immaterial effect on their financial positions, but nearly 20 percent are still evaluating the situation.
PwC studied July through mid-August disclosures required by the Securities and Exchange Commission under Staff Accounting Bulletin No. 74 regarding pending accounting standards to gauge the overall impact of major new changes that are on the horizon. The analysis shows one-third of companies had not yet produced hard numbers to tell investors what impact of the new accounting standard will produce. Only 2 percent had disclosed they expect the new accounting to produce a material impact on financial statements.
The new revenue recognition standard, published by the Financial Accounting Standards Board in 2014, takes effect for public companies with the start of the 2018 reporting year. That’s a year later than the FASB initially required. The SEC has signaled to companies it is looking for robust SAB 74 disclosures, both quantitative and qualitative, to give investors some advance notice of how the company’s financial statements will change based on the new accounting.
In terms of how they will adopt the new revenue recognition standard, only 11 percent said they are adopting following the full retrospective method, which provides three complete years of data in financial statements as if the standard had been in effect throughout those three years. Nearly 60 percent said they were implementing under the modified retrospective approach, which uses cumulative adjustments and plenty of disclosure to give the historical perspective on prior years. One-third said they had not yet determined their adoption method or did not say what method they planned to use.
In addition to disclosures about revenue recognition, PwC also tabulated disclosures about other major accounting changes coming in 2019 and 2020, such as lease accounting and credit losses, respectively. Nearly 60 percent of companies had not disclosed anything about how the new lease accounting standard will affect their financial statements or said they are still evaluating the situation.
Roughly one in five of the publicly traded Fortune 500 companies said they expect the lease accounting changes to have a material impact. The new lease accounting standard brings on to corporate balance sheets as assets and liabilities virtually all property and equipment that companies acquire through lease arrangements. Under current rules, companies have long disclosed most leases only in footnotes to financial statements while expensing related costs through the income statement.
A similar but slightly smaller number of companies, 17 percent, have made some qualitative disclosures about how they’ll be affected by the new lease accounting, but have not given any hard data to investors. Only 3 percent have said they expect the impact to be immaterial.
As for credit losses, the most distant of the major accounting changes in terms of when it takes effect, 87 percent of companies have made no disclosures or have said they are evaluating how they will be affected. As for the rest, 2 percent said they expect a material effect, 6 percent said they expect an immaterial effect, and 5 percent have made qualitative but not quantitative disclosures.