by: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey, SEC Institute
We have all heard about the major projects the FASB has completed in recent years. Together with their implementation dates for public companies and allowed transition methods they are:
Revenue recognition: January 1, 2018. (F/Y’s beginning after December 15, 2017)
Early adoption is allowed to the original effective date, F/Y’s beginning after 12/15/16). Either a retrospective or modified retrospective with a cumulative effect adjustment transition may be used.
Leases: January 1, 2019. (F/Y’s beginning after December 15, 2018)
Early adoption is allowed. A retrospective transition must be used. The retrospective approach includes several practical accommodations.
Financial Instrument Impairment: January 1, 2020 (F/Y’s beginning after December 15, 2019)
Early adoption to years beginning after December 15, 2018 is allowed. The transition method is essentially a “modified retrospective approach with a cumulative effect adjustment” with adjustments for certain types of financial instruments.
The revenue recognition and lease changes have been widely discussed, but the financial instruments impairment change has not been as “hot” a topic. It could be problematic for some companies as it will apply to all financial instruments, including accounts receivable. Many companies could face significant challenges gathering the information to move from the current incurred loss model to the new expected loss model.
While the impact of each new standard will vary from company to company, every company needs to think about how to manage these three transitions. Will it be best for your company to adopt all three at once, or will it be best to adopt them sequentially? Or perhaps mix and match a bit?
There are several considerations in these implementation date decisions. How they will affect investor relations is a major issue. The time and other resources required, systems issues and ICFR impact are among the other inputs to this decision. Each company has to evaluate these considerations based on their own circumstances.
Given the potential magnitude of these changes and their widespread discussion in the reporting environment, disclosures about these changes have become more and more important to users. With the recent SEC Staff Announcement at the September EITF meeting about SAB 74 (SAB Codification Topic 11-M) disclosures, disclosing where you are in this process has become almost required. The more or less simple “standard” disclosures about “we have not selected a transition method” and “we do not yet know the impact” may not be enough. Qualitative information about where you are in the process may be a required disclosure.
There are strong incentives to move diligently on these transitions and to tell investors where you are in the process. And, anyway, who really wants to look unprepared?
Three years of sequential fun or big change? Spread it out or rip off the Band-Aid? Slow burn or big bang? We all get to decide what will be best for our company and our investors, the key issue is to make this decision on a timely basis!
As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!