Just as regulators continue to pluck away at ideas on how to reduce disclosure overload in regulatory filings, public companies are roughly tripling their revenue-related disclosures to comply with the new revenue recognition accounting standard.
A Deloitte analysis of first-quarter filings by public companies that have adopted the new revenue standard finds some companies provided “robust and thorough disclosures,” particularly to describe their performance obligations and the significant judgments and estimates involved, while others did not. Calendar-year public companies adopted Accounting Standards Codification Topic 606 on revenue recognition, or ASC 606, as of Jan. 1, 2018. Regulators and accounting experts had warned companies to be ready for the extensive new dislcosures under the standard.
Some companies chose to present the new revenue disclosures in a footnote specifically for that purpose, the analysis finds. “From a big-picture perspective, we observed that in many instances, the revenue disclosures were at least three times as long as the prior-year disclosures,” Deloitte’s report says. Even where companies reported little difference in their pattern of revenue recognition following the new rules, “the new revenue standard’s requirement to provide more comprehensive disclosures is likely to significantly affect an entity’s financial statements.”
Disclosure overload has been a topic of hand-wringing at both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Accounting Standards Board. Both bodies have undertaken measures to reconsider disclosure broadly, with a focus on how to make disclosures more effective. While reducing the volume is not the overly stated objective of either initiative, both have acknowledged it would be a welcome consequence.
Aside from the disclosure aspects of the new standard, Deloitte says most companies appear to be adopting the standard using the modified retrospective approach rather than the full retrospective approach. The full retrospective method involves restating prior years in financial statements as if the company had followed the new accounting in those earlier periods. The modified approach, elected by 85 percent of Deloitte’s sample, relies on adjustments and disclosures to give investors the historic context.
In terms of disaggregating revenue under the new standard, most companies broke their revenue into “two or fewer categories,” Deloitte said, most often breaking revenue out by geography or product line. Most companies also took advantage of the various practical expedients permitted under the standard, especially with respect to explaining “remaining performance obligations,” or obligations companies must meet in future periods.
Deloitte says it expects companies to continue to refine their disclosures as they review what peer companies are reporting, as they take in comments from regulators, like the SEC, and as FASB may issue subsequent guidance to further clarify the standard.