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Get ready: FASB is dumping some big items on your to-do list

The Financial Accounting Standards Board has a bunch of resolutions that affect many companies. The board is offloading some of their weightier projects that have taken up a lot of time (several years!) on their docket.

Fortunately, they are giving financial statement preparers a lot of time to come to terms with the changes ahead, providing a couple of years to implement new standards for lease accounting and the classification and measurement of financial instruments.

The most highly anticipated one—the new leasing standard—will result in some companies looking more leveraged on their balance sheets, starting with their 2019 financial reports (privately held companies get an extra year). Companies that lease any property and equipment for one year or more will be impacted. This will be a really big deal.

In the works for a decade (the SEC called for a revamped standard in 2005), the new leasing rule created a rift during the ongoing convergence effort between FASB and the International Accounting Standards Board, leading the two boards to come out with two different standards. Call it a divergence if you will.

The IASB recently released their final standards and the FASB’s is expected this quarter. Companies will appear to be burdened by more debt than they do now, as disclosing leases only in footnotes will no longer be acceptable under GAAP. Studies estimate that the changes will raise the reported liabilities of U.S. public companies by $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion.

It is expected that the new rule will take more effort to put in place than the new revenue recognition standard (and that’s saying something). Consider that every lease must be reviewed with assumptions updated each reporting period. Under the new guidance, lessees will be required to present right-of-use assets and lease liabilities on the balance sheet.

FASB has passed down a couple of other big agenda items when it released its rules concerning financial instruments last month. Although not in the works as long as the pending changes to lease accounting, this project was also divisive for FASB and IASB. For FASB’s part, the board will require companies to follow new rules on classifying and measuring financial instruments in 2018 and financial instrument impairment in 2019.

FASB’s standard for how to classify and measure financial instruments will be relevant to most companies, in particular those that have equity method investments that are not currently measured at fair value. Current fair value measurements and disclosures can be confusing to investors, and the new rules are intended to simplify things. Companies can adopt parts of the standard early if they wish.

As for the new revenue recognition standard, the Joint Transition Resource Group had its last scheduled meeting in Q4 2015 and will reconvene if new issues arise around implementation of the new rule. The FASB is expected to finalize proposed amendments to the standard this quarter. So the rules are settling, and there is no more reason to delay your implementation efforts. You are already in the first fiscal year that will be effected by the new standard when you implement in 2018.

FASB’s agenda will appear a bit thinner by the second quarter of 2016, while yours has grown. Let the fun of implementation begin!

Diana Gilbert has been a member of the RoseRyan dream team since 2008 with almost 30 years of professional experience. Frequently tapped for her insights by Compliance Week, Diana excels at technical accounting, revenue recognition, SOX/internal controls, business systems and process improvements.

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