With the second quarter rapidly coming to a close for calendar-year public companies, now might be a good time to take a fresh look at how much the company is saying about its plans to adopt new accounting standards. The call for incrementally more information is getting louder.
In its recent quarter-close newsletter to clients, PwC points out that companies can get away with we’re-assessing-the-impact disclosures when an accounting standard’s effective date is well into the future. Staff Accounting Bulletin No. 74 requires companies to explain in their financial statements what effect they expect from accounting standards that have been issued but are not yet effective.
“When the effective date of a new accounting standard is off in the distance, companies often disclose that they are still assessing whether the impact of adopting the new standard will be material,” PwC writes. “However, in some instances, the reasonableness of such a disclosure may come into question.
That might be the case soon with respect to revenue recognition. The Financial Accounting Standards Board issued the huge new package of accounting requirements in mid-2014, then delayed the effective date for calendar-year public companies until 2018.
That means the standard has been out for more than two years now. FASB has issued some amendments to clarify aspects of the standard that were causing confusion as companies prepared for implementation, but the board has emphasized its guidance is not changing any of the key principles of the original standard.
Now past the half-way point from the time the standard was issued in mid-2014 until it becomes effective in 2018, staff at the Securities and Exchange Commission is growing concerned that companies aren’t moving expeditiously enough toward robust adoption.
And it’s not just revenue recognition that’s new. Companies also have new rules on leases, classification and measurement of financial instruments, credit losses to adopt over the next few years, not to mention numerous other accounting changes that are not as extensive but still looming on the horizon.
In springtime speeches, Wesley Bricker, deputy chief accountant at the SEC, has been advising companies to take the accounting changes seriously and start educating investors. “Given the pervasiveness of these changes, now is a good time for companies to focus on investor outreach and education so that investors can sufficiently understand the effect of the new standards on companies’ financial reporting,” he said recently. “Investors should expect the level of disclosures to increase as companies make further progress in their implementation plans for adopting the new standards and, when necessary, engage with company management to understand these disclosures.”
PwC is reminding companies that the SEC is looking for companies to say when they will complete their assessments if they will continue to disclose that their assessments are ongoing. “Given this enhanced scrutiny, companies should challenge themselves each reporting period as to whether it is still reasonable to assert that they are still assessing the potential impact of adoption, and what further information they can provide in the interim,” PwC advises.