Year-End Planning – Number Four – Recently Issued Accounting Standards and a Few Example Comments

In recent weeks we have been posting about areas to deal with in advance of year-end. So far we have addressed:

Issues in the Statement of Cash Flows

Evaluating and Auditing ICFR

The New Item 16 Form 10-K Summary

 

The spirit and rationale behind these posts is that it is always a good idea to proactively anticipate problems that may arise and act to keep issues from becoming problems.

As we continue this series our next post is about SAB 74 (Topic 11-M in the SAB Codification), the requirement for disclosures about recently issued accounting standards.

 

With the major changes coming from the new revenue recognition standard, the new lease standard, and for financial companies the new financial instrument impairment standard, these disclosures become increasingly important. Users need to be forewarned about the expected impact of these new standards. This is essentially a known trend disclosure in your MD&A.

 

Here is an excerpt from Topic 11-M. You can read the entire SAB here.

 

Interpretive Response: The staff believes that the registrant should evaluate each new accounting standard to determine the appropriate disclosure and recognizes that the level of information available to the registrant will differ with respect to various standards and from one registrant to another. The objectives of the disclosure should be to (1) notify the reader of the disclosure documents that a standard has been issued which the registrant will be required to adopt in the future and (2) assist the reader in assessing the significance of the impact that the standard will have on the financial statements of the registrant when adopted. The staff understands that the registrant will only be able to disclose information that is known.

 

The following disclosures should generally be considered by the registrant:

 

A brief description of the new standard, the date that adoption is required and the date that the registrant plans to adopt, if earlier.

 

A discussion of the methods of adoption allowed by the standard and the method expected to be utilized by the registrant, if determined.

 

A discussion of the impact that adoption of the standard is expected to have on the financial statements of the registrant, unless not known or reasonably estimable. In that case, a statement to that effect may be made.

 

Disclosure of the potential impact of other significant matters that the registrant believes might result from the adoption of the standard (such as technical violations of debt covenant agreements, planned or intended changes in business practices, etc.) is encouraged.

 

 

As a company gets closer to the adoption date for a new standard these disclosures should evolve. And although “[t]he staff understands that the registrant will only be able to disclose information that is known”, the other side of this disclosure is that when you know something, you should disclose it!

 

One last heads up – when you file your 10-K for the year before adoption, in other words you will adopt the day after that year-end, the staff will likely expect robust disclosure, including quantification of the impact of adoption.

 

When a company has decided which method it will use to adopt, it should disclose that information!

 

As a company researches and builds an understanding of how much a new standard will affect the financial statements, this impact should be disclosed.

 

Frequently we are concerned that there is uncertainty in this process, and that is never comfortable to discuss in an SEC report. Here are two excerpts that are examples of this disclosure from a June 30, 2016 Form 10-K. They deal with this uncertainty (emphasis added):

 

Leases

 

In February 2016, the FASB issued a new standard related to leases to increase transparency and comparability among organizations by requiring the recognition of lease assets and lease liabilities on the balance sheet. Most prominent among the amendments is the recognition of assets and liabilities by lessees for those leases classified as operating leases under previous U.S. GAAP. Under the new standard, disclosures are required to meet the objective of enabling users of financial statements to assess the amount, timing, and uncertainty of cash flows arising from leases. We will be required to recognize and measure leases at the beginning of the earliest period presented using a modified retrospective approach.

 

The new standard will be effective for us beginning July 1, 2019, with early adoption permitted. We currently anticipate early adoption of the new standard effective July 1, 2017 in conjunction with our adoption of the new revenue standard. Our ability to early adopt is dependent on system readiness, including software procured from third-party providers, and the completion of our analysis of information necessary to restate prior period financial statements.

 

We anticipate this standard will have a material impact on our consolidated financial statements. While we are continuing to assess all potential impacts of the standard, we currently believe the most significant impact relates to our accounting for office, retail, and datacenter operating leases.

 

Revenue from Contracts with Customers

 

In May 2014, the FASB issued a new standard related to revenue recognition. Under the new standard, revenue is recognized when a customer obtains control of promised goods or services and is recognized in an amount that reflects the consideration which the entity expects to receive in exchange for those goods or services. In addition, the standard requires disclosure of the nature, amount, timing, and uncertainty of revenue and cash flows arising from contracts with customers. The FASB has recently issued several amendments to the standard, including clarification on accounting for licenses of intellectual property and identifying performance obligations.

 

The guidance permits two methods of adoption: retrospectively to each prior reporting period presented (full retrospective method), or retrospectively with the cumulative effect of initially applying the guidance recognized at the date of initial application (the cumulative catch-up transition method). We currently anticipate adopting the standard using the full retrospective method to restate each prior reporting period presented.

 

The new standard will be effective for us beginning July 1, 2018, and adoption as of the original effective date of July 1, 2017 is permitted. We currently anticipate early adoption of the new standard effective July 1, 2017. Our ability to early adopt using the full retrospective method is dependent on system readiness, including software procured from third-party providers, and the completion of our analysis of information necessary to restate prior period financial statements.

 

We anticipate this standard will have a material impact on our consolidated financial statements. While we are continuing to assess all potential impacts of the standard, we currently believe the most significant impact relates to our accounting for software license revenue. We expect revenue related to hardware, cloud offerings, and professional services to remain substantially unchanged. Specifically, under the new standard we expect to recognize (Product A) revenue predominantly at the time of billing rather than ratably over the life of the related device. We also expect to recognize license revenue at the time of billing rather than over the subscription period from certain multi-year commercial software subscriptions that include both software licenses and Software Assurance. Due to the complexity of certain of our commercial license subscription contracts, the actual revenue recognition treatment required under the standard will be dependent on contract-specific terms, and may vary in some instances from recognition at the time of billing.

 

We currently believe that the net change in (Product A) revenue from period to period is indicative of the net change in revenue we expect from the adoption of the new standard.

 

Lastly, as we always like to do, here are two example comments to reinforce the issues in this disclosure:

 

Please revise your disclosures to fully comply with Question 2 of SAB Topic 11:M for each standard listed. Specifically, if early adoption is permitted, you should state the date that you plan to adopt the standard. You should also discuss the impact that adoption of each standard is expected to have on your financial statements or, if applicable, make a statement to the effect that you are still assessing the impact that adoption of each standard will have on your financial statements and the impact is not known or reasonably estimable at this time.

 

Please revise to include a discussion of the potential effects that recently issued accounting standards will have on your financial statements when adopted in a future period. Refer to SAB Topic 11.M. For example, please revise to disclose the potential effect of ASU No. 2014-09, Revenue from Contracts with Customers.

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