Even as recently as late October, more than 15 percent of public companies indicated through a PwC survey they had not yet begun implementing the new lease accounting standard that takes effect at the beginning of the new year.
PwC polled 450 finance professionals, nearly three-quarters at public companies, where 3 percent said their companies had not yet begun preparing for the new lease accounting. Another 13 percent said they were assessing the expected impact of the new accounting under Accounting Standards Codification Topic 842, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2019, for public companies.
A clear majority, or 80 percent, said their implementation activities were in progress, and 76 percent said they were more than halfway through their implementations. Only 4 percent indicated adoption activities were complete. ASC 842 requires companies to bring assets and liabilities arising from leasing out of footnote disclosures and into the face of the financial statements, which is expected to gross up balance sheets by trillions of dollars.
The numbers represent some progress over PwC’s second quarter poll, where more than 40 percent of companies indicated they were still assessing the standard or hadn’t yet begun any adoption activities. “Clearly much work remains to be done,” said PwC in its report.
Staff at the Securities and Exchange Division of Corporation Finance are preparing to review and comment on public filings reflecting the new lease accounting, and they’re aware of concerns. “There are not enough early adopters for use to see any trends or takeaways, but it’s definitely on our radar,” said Lindsay McCord, deputy chief accountant at the SEC, at a Financial Executives International conference.
Where companies may be struggling with aspects of the standard, McCord reminded companies to avail themselves of the SEC’s pre-clearance process through the Office of the Chief Accountant, where registrants and their auditors can try to work out reporting problems before issuing their public filings.
Throughout implementation, companies have indicated they are struggling with technology problems. In the PwC survey, 75 percent said they are in the midst of major changes to information systems as a result of the new accounting, with 58 percent implementing a new lease management system and 17 percent modifying or upgrading an existing system. Nearly one-fourth said they will rely on desktop applications such as spreadsheets to achieve compliance.
Among those adopting new systems, almost one-fourth said they didn’t expect systems to be ready in time for the effective date due to functionality problems, data migration issues, or a lack of time or resources to complete the transition. Some also said they expected to still be testing the new system before it would be ready to go live.