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Transitioning your organization to the new lease accounting method

When the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued Accounting Standards Update 2016-02 (ASC 842) several years ago, the deadlines for private and public businesses seemed to be far into the future. FASB delayed the reporting requirements for private-sector companies because of COVID-19; however, that delay ended as of Dec. 15, 2021.  

All businesses must use financial statements conforming to the new lease accounting standard for any fiscal year beginning after Dec. 15, 2021. If you’re not up to date on the new requirements and how they can impact your business, keep reading to familiarize yourself with ASC 842.  

Lease Accounting Updates 

Historically, organizations were required to divide their leases into operating leases and capital leases. Capital leases (finance leases) needed to be reflected on the organization’s statement of financial position (balance sheet) as capital assets with related lease debt liabilities. Operating leases, on the other hand, were recognized as expenses as lease costs were incurred but not on the statement of financial position. 

Under ASC 842, all organizations must include all lease agreements with lease terms greater than 12 months on the statement of financial position, whether they are finance or operating leases. When reporting, accounting teams must include the following on the balance sheet: 

  • The asset amount for the lease, calculated as of the date of adoption. 
  • An offsetting liability for each obligation. 
  • If the lease has a variable payment or option to renew. 
  • The amount, timing, and uncertainty of cash flow related to any leases. 

How the shift affects remote work policies 

The shift to remote work has changed how many companies conduct business. The new lease accounting standard poses several new questions. If you’re licensing any equipment, such as computers, include these contracts in your lease accounting review.  

Also, keep in mind any leases that may need to be renegotiated or canceled if your business stays remote. Do you need less office equipment or space because half of your workforce is fully remote? Are company vehicles no longer in use as your organization has shifted to remote meetings? Are you subsidizing employees for internet or office space? These are all questions to ask when you begin transitioning your lease accounting methods. 

Other impacts of the new lease accounting methods 

If your business has already transitioned to the new lease accounting method, you may have noticed some financial statistics changes. Financial statements may show an increase in assets or liabilities when leases that previously were recognized off-balance-sheet are moved to the balance sheet. This impact will be greater in businesses with more significant lease activity (by total volume or value of leases).  

Things to remember when transitioning 

The process of transitioning your lease accounting method can take time if your contracts are not centralized. If your organization hasn’t started the transition, it may be helpful to assign a team to compile the necessary information. As you start, keep in mind these tasks to help make a smoother transition.  

  1. Give yourself time to review every contract.  
  2. Locate executed copies of all leases.  
  3. Decide how to store these copies centrally.  
  4. Create a system to review contracts regularly to make sure a change in terms hasn’t occurred whether the lease is required to be reported or not. Be sure to include non-lease components that may need to be separately assessed.  
  5. Update policies and procedures with new lease accounting standards in mind and train employees on these updates.  
  6. Communicate the changes to board members.  
  7. Review covenant requirements on all loans to determine if the new reporting method will cause any violations. If they will, consider talking with your banker.  
  8. Consult with an accounting professional as needed.  

Make time to review the lease accounting standard updates and transition lease agreements over to the new process. Waiting until the balance sheets are created and published will leave your teams rushing, which can lead to mistakes and oversights.  

For help understanding the changes or creating a new reporting system, reach out to our team of experts to set up a consultation.