If you have been following the ongoing joint efforts of the FASB and IASB (IFRS) to converge and change lease accounting standards, it has been a long road. Globalization, the financial crises and several bad actors, like Enron, brought the two boards together to change accounting methods for more consistency, transparency and reliability. Two years after the original draft contemplated implementation, both boards are still tweaking the models, with an eye to complete the standards by the middle of 2015. When actual implementation will be required is still up for debate, but it will take most companies 6 to 18 months to get their companies ready for compliance.
So what do you need to know? Basically, most leases should be recognized on the balance sheet of the lessee with an offsetting right of use asset. Both boards have agreed upon the definition of a lease as a contract for the use and control of an asset. There are many details that qualify the lease that are still yet to be determined, but an office lease (other than short term) will make the cut.
The two boards did not agree on a single accounting model. IASB will have one model providing for accelerated expense recognition, whereas FASB will, depending on the lease contract, have both a straight-line and an accelerated model. Companies reporting under bother platforms will have to spend significant amounts of time complying with both standards.
Will these changes change the way companies acquire office space? Will ownership become more of a standard? Realistically, the core strategic direction of a company should still reign over those decisions, but the impact on the balance sheet between leasing and owning will definitely narrow.
Based on how long this dialogue has played out I would not be surprised to see some additional changes, but they are coming to an accountant near you soon!
For more details check out the IASB and IFRS websites or get comments on PWC’s website.