A significant portion of key decisions and the implementation process can and should begin well in advance of financial close for the implementation period.
Outsource When Needed
Many organizations already stretch resources thin with normal operations, and a significant change in accounting policies can introduce an unmanageable time commitment. Organizations may consider the cost and benefit of outsourcing the process to alleviate the burden.
Even when outsourcing Topic 842 implementation, organizations should still expect to commit time to attend meetings, make decisions, and provide contracts and support to their consultants.
2. Decide on Practical Expedients, Key Definitions, and Accounting Policy Elections
Organizations need to make many decisions regarding how they adopt and apply Topic 842. The first is whether the new standards will be adopted as of the beginning of either:
- The period of adoption
- The earliest period presented in the comparative financial statements
Practical Expedients and Other Elections
Topic 842 provides several practical expedients and transition relief opportunities organizations will need to evaluate for potential election. Other decisions include:
- How to present right of use (ROU) assets and lease liabilities on the statement of financial position
- How to define and calculate the incremental borrowing rate
- If a de minimis threshold should be applied to scope out immaterial contracts from evaluation similar to a fixed-asset capitalization threshold
Definitions and Interpretations
The new lease standards are more concept-driven than the bright lines under extant lease standards.
With this in mind, organizations should discuss and define how they’ll apply conceptual terminology such as substantially all, major part, or reasonably certain. Existing accounting policies should be updated based on these decisions.
These formal and informal elections should be documented and approved following your organization’s policies and procedures.
3. Identify a Complete Population of Contracts for Evaluation, Including Embedded Leases
This is often one of the most overlooked and time-consuming steps in the process—even for organizations with few or no leases recorded under extant lease standards.
Topic 842 updates the definition of a lease to, “a contract, or part of a contract, that conveys the right to control the use of an identified asset for a period of time in exchange for consideration.”
As the new definition includes the phrase “part of a contract,” organizations must evaluate all contracts for potential “embedded leases.”
How to Identify and List Contracts
Organizations can get started by making a complete list of effective contracts for scoping and evaluation. This step can become complicated for organizations that don’t regularly maintain and update a complete inventory of effective contracts.
In this case, it may be helpful to begin with a listing of disbursements by vendor and evaluating vendors to identify any contracts that may be in place through the following process:
- Determine vendors. Identify all vendors used since implementation date.
- Establish which vendors require evaluation for potential leases. This scope may be determined based on the amount paid to vendors or the nature of vendor. For example, legal firms could be scoped out from evaluation based on minimal risk that contracts with these firms or contains a lease.
- Locate all contracts. For vendors requiring evaluation, identify a complete and accurate population of contracts. Consider looking at invoices to identify if contracts are referenced.
- Identify leases. Review contracts to determine which represent leases or contain embedded leases.
Not-for-profit entities should be aware of instances of donated rent or below-market rent as an indicator of an underlying lease to be considered. This population may be derived from vendor listings above as well as reports from development or facilities departments. These leases should be separately identified; there are special accounting requirements for recognition of donated rent and below-market leases.
This is a critical step that auditors will be interested in when testing the completeness of a lease population.
4. Consider Adopting New Software
One of the most important decisions an organization will face is whether to purchase new software to assist in lease accounting.
Several new software programs and tools have been developed to help organizations with lease evaluation and ongoing accounting. These can generate monthly journal entries, audit schedules, year-end financial statement disclosures, and more.
An organization’s decision to purchase new software may be influenced by its quantity and complexity of leases. While calculation for initial and subsequent accounting for leases can be performed within Microsoft Excel or other simple programs, these may be more susceptible to error and often require more thorough internal controls.
5. Update Internal Controls and Involve the Entire Organization
The impacts of Topic 842 extend beyond the initial implementation procedures and often require an organization update their internal control policies and procedures.