Revenue Recognition – How Much Time Will You Really Need?

By: George M. Wilson & Carol A. Stacey, SECI Institute

Much has been written and said about the resources and time that will be required to implement the new revenue recognition standard. All public companies must implement the new standard for fiscal periods beginning after December 15, 2017, roughly 15 months from now. For calendar year-end companies, the first report on Form 10-Q using the new model will be filed in about 18 months. Time is, well, short.

Even the SEC has expressed their concerns about this transition. If you have not seen their comments, check out their expansion of SAB 74 disclosures announced at the September EITF meeting in this post.

Now, we are not writing this post to nag people. Our goal is to help you assess your particular situation with a deeper understanding of the areas you will need to address and the time and resources you will need. Armed with appropriate information you can build a plan and obtain the requisite resources.

Amidst all the commentary there isn’t much detail about the specific challenges in transitioning to the new revenue recognition model. Obviously a single blog post can’t do that either! But what we can do is help you with some starting points that your situation analysis will have to address to determine the resources your company will need. So, here are highlights of three of the more involved areas.

 

  1. As you likely know the new standard is contract based. Step one in the five step revenue recognition model is to identify contracts with customers. This means you need processes and controls to assure all contracts with customers are identified and tracked. And, perhaps more complex, modifications to contracts will need to be tracked and recorded. How much work and time will be required to build the systems to capture and control this information flow?

 

  1. The new standard requires many judgments, including, what are your performance obligations, how you will estimate variable consideration and how you will estimate stand-alone selling price to allocate consideration. How much time will you need to build these processes and the controls surrounding these processes?

 

  1. Even if the timing of your revenue recognition will not change, you will need to make substantially more disclosures including what are your performance obligations, how and when they are satisfied, how you estimate variable consideration and how you estimate stand-alone selling price. Perhaps the most subjective of all the new disclosures is the requirement to disaggregate revenue based on how different revenue streams are affected by “economic factors”. How much time will you need to assess “economic factors” and make these kinds of judgments about disclosures?

 

This process will be different for every company. For a retailer the process will likely need less time than for a custom manufacturer. But all companies will need some time. The time to analyze the new standard, build the policies for how the new standard will apply to your business, do the proper documentation, build processes and establish controls is what this is all about. And while it may not change how or when some companies recognize revenue, it will affect how and when you make disclosures.

This discussion does not even begin to address a raft of other issues companies face such as the decision about which transition method to use or how you will assess when customers “obtain control” of a product or service to determine the time revenue is recognized under the new standard.

So, again, not to nag, we do urge you to begin your planning process and if you have not yet done so, begin to learn how the new standard works and assess how it will apply to your business.

If you would like to let us know where are you in the process, we will share aggregate status reports in future posts.

Here are some example status updates.

Aware of the new standard.

Studying the new standards to learn how it works.

Reviewing how the new standard will apply to your business.

Drafting the policy white paper for the new standard.

Modifying accounting systems and processes for the new standard.

Updating IT systems or acquiring IT systems for the new standard.

Implementing new IT systems.

Currently running parallel between the old and new standard.

 

As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome!

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