OUR THOUGHTS ON:

IASB and FASB Publish Proposals to Improve the Financial Reporting of Leases

Audit

By Donald Applegarth

On August 17, 2010, the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and the US Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) published for public comment joint proposals to improve the financial reporting of lease contracts. The proposals are one of the main projects included in the boards’ Memorandum of Understanding. The exposure draft released by the FASB was issued as a proposed Accounting Standards Update (ASU) to the Codification.

The accounting under existing requirements depends on the classification of a lease. Classification as an operating lease results in the lessee not recording any assets or liabilities in the statement of financial position (balance sheet) under either International Financial Reporting Standards or US standards (generally accepted accounting principles). This results in many investors having to adjust the financial statements (using disclosures and other available information) to estimate the effects of lessees’ operating leases for the purpose of investment analysis.

The proposals would result in a consistent approach to lease accounting for both lessees and lessors—a ‘right-of-use’ approach. Among other changes, this approach would result in the liability for payments arising under the lease contract and the right to use the underlying asset being included in the lessee’s statement of financial position, thus providing more complete and useful information to investors and other users of financial statements.

The boards developed the proposals after considering responses to their discussion paper, Leases: Preliminary Views, published in March 2009. The proposals are set out in the exposure draft Leases, which is open for comment until 15 December 2010 and can be accessed via the ‘Comment on a Proposal’ section of www.ifrs.org or on www.fasb.org. During the exposure draft’s comment period the boards will undertake further outreach activities, including public round-table meetings, to ensure that the views of all interested parties are taken into consideration before the new standard is completed.

Commenting on the exposure draft, Sir David Tweedie, chairman of the IASB, said:
The leasing industry plays an important role in many economies by helping companies manage cash flow and working capital. However, much of the estimated annual $640 billion of lease commitments fails to appear on the balance sheet of lessees, thereby giving a false impression of companies’ liabilities and gearing.

Our proposals would result in better and more complete financial reporting information about lease contracts being available to investors and others.

Bob Herz, chairman of the FASB, said:
This proposal continues the progress both boards are making to improve and converge our standards in significant areas of accounting. The proposal is intended to improve the transparency of lease accounting and also decrease its current complexity. I encourage all constituents that engage in leasing transactions to provide us with your views on this important proposal.

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