New Standards for Revenue Recognition

Revenue Recognition Principles promulgated in 2014

By Derek A. Smith, Managing Director, Next Stage Solutions, Inc | smith@nextstagesolutions.com

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) and the International Accounting Standards Board (“IASB”) have at long last completed their deliberations on the establishment of revenue recognition principles that are common wherever US GAAP and International Financial Reporting Standards (“IFRS”) are applied. The new standard was issued on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 and will be effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2016 for public companies and December 15, 2017 for private companies. Entities will have the option to apply the standard retrospectively or to adjust opening retained earnings for the cumulative effect of accounting for contracts that are not completed under legacy GAAP at the adoption date.

Implementation of the new standard will mark a big change for many companies in the United States today. It is estimated that there are more than 200 pieces of authoritative literature that create industry-specific rules for revenue recognition including ASC 985-605, Software: Revenue Recognition; ASC 605-35, Revenue Recognition: Construction-Type and Production-Type Contracts; and ASC 932-605 Extractive Activities – Oil and Gas: Revenue Recognition. These will all be replaced by the new standard. In the press release announcing the new standard FASB Chairman Russell Golden stated “It will eliminate a major source of inconsistency in GAAP, which currently consists of numerous disparate, industry-specific pieces of revenue recognition guidance.”

 

Why you want to start sooner rather than later

While the launch date may seem far off, companies and their management teams need to understand that systems and processes are going to need adjustment to satisfy the new guidelines. It is not appropriate to use an Excel spreadsheet to track the reporting obligations. Further, for any company that provides comparative financial statements, the results for the earlier periods will need to be recalibrated if the company applies the standard retrospectively. Public companies have to provide three years of comparative Statements of Activities.

 

What is the new Standard?

The core principle of the new standard is that “an entity shall recognize revenue that depicts the transfer of promised goods or services to customers in an amount that reflects the consideration to which the entity expects to be entitled in exchange for those goods and services”. While there are some exceptions, the standard will apply to most transactions with customers.

The New Standard in 5 Steps

The new standard has five steps an entity must take in determining the recognition of revenue. They are as follows:

1. There must be a contract (either oral or written) with the customer;

2. The contract must spell out the separate performance obligations;

3. The transaction price must be determinable;

4. The transaction price must be allocable to the separate performance obligations in the contract; and

5. Individual performance obligation revenue will be recognized upon satisfaction of the individual performance obligation.

1. Contract with a Customer

A contract must have commercial substance; the parties are committed to perform their respective obligations; each of the parties can identify their rights regarding the goods or services to be transferred; and the entity providing the goods or services can identify the payment
terms for effecting the transfer. The standard addresses contract modifications and add-on obligations.

2. Separate Performance Obligations

The final standard will provide specific guidance on evaluating the goods and services in a contract to identify each separate performance obligation. While the final standard will not define goods or services, it will provide several examples including goods produced for sale, granting a license, and performing contractual acts. A good or service will represent a separate performance obligation if it meets both of the following criteria:

(i) It is capable of being distinct (that is, the customer can benefit from the good or service on its own or with other readily available resources); and

(ii) It is distinct in the context of the contract (that is, it is not highly dependent or highly interrelated with other promised goods or services).

The final standard will include other indicators (or similar indicators) of whether a good or service is distinct in the context of the contract.

3. Transaction Price

The third step in applying the new standard is to determine the transaction price. That is, an entity must determine the amount of consideration to which it expects to be entitled in exchange for the promised goods or services in the contract. The transaction price can be a fixed amount or can vary because of discounts, rebates, refunds, credits, incentives, performance bonuses/penalties, contingencies, price concessions, outcome-based fees, or other similar items. Under this model, an entity would estimate the transaction price by considering the effect of variable consideration, the time value of money (if a significant financing component is deemed to exist), noncash consideration, and consideration payable to the customer. Entities would use a probability-weighted approach to estimate a transaction price that is subject to variability (expected value) or an approach based on the single most likely amount, whichever is more predictive of the amount to which the entity would be entitled.

Note: Contingent consideration would only be included in the transaction price when an entity has a “high level of certainty” that the amount of revenue to be recognized would not be subject to future reversals.

4. Allocating the Transaction Price

Next, the entity must allocate the transaction price to the separate performance obligations. When a contract contains more than one separate performance obligation, an entity would allocate the transaction price to each separate performance obligation on a relative stand-alone selling price basis (with certain limited exceptions). The standard will note that the best evidence of stand-alone selling price is the price at which the good or service is sold separately by the entity. If the good or service is not sold separately, an entity will be required to estimate it by using an approach that maximizes the use of observable inputs. Acceptable estimation methods will include, but are not limited to, expected cost plus a margin, adjusted market assessment, and a residual approach (when the selling price is highly variable or uncertain).

5. Recognition of Revenue

The fifth and final step in the model is to recognize revenue when (or as) each separate performance obligation is satisfied. A performance obligation is deemed satisfied when control of the underlying goods or services (the “assets”) for the particular performance obligation is transferred to the customer. “Control” is defined under the proposed model as “the ability to direct the use of and obtain substantially all of the remaining benefits from the asset” underlying the good or service. In applying the proposed model, an entity will first evaluate whether control of a good or service is transferred over time. A performance obligation is deemed to be satisfied over time (i.e., control of the good or service is transferred over time) when at least one of the following is met:

• The entity’s performance creates or enhances an asset (for example, work in process) that the customer controls as the asset is created or enhanced.

• The customer receives and consumes the benefits of the entity’s performance as the entity performs, and another entity would not need to substantially reperform the work the entity has completed to date.

• The entity’s performance does not create an asset with an alternative use to the entity and the entity has a “right to payment for performance completed to date.”

If any of the criteria are met, an entity would be required to recognize revenue over time as control of the goods or services is transferred to the customer. In such case, an entity would recognize revenue by measuring progress toward satisfying the performance obligation in a manner that best depicts the transfer of goods or services to the customer. The standard will provide specific guidance on measuring progress toward completion, including the use and application of output and input methods.

Note: There is no reference to collectability of the revenue as currently exists in US GAAP. While there has to be a reasonable expectation of collectability the new standard does not impose a threshold such as “reasonably assured”. The standard setters have stated that any provision for bad debts must be prominently disclosed within operating expenses.

Major Changes to Consider

· Affects both Public and Private companies

· Must run parallel accounting systems for at least 2 years( private companies) and 3 years (public companies)

· New standard is Principled based not Rules based

· There is an opportunity for Judgment

Other Considerations

As with any new standard, there are other items to consider in implementing the standard. They include the required disclosures to be included in the financial statements (hint: they are onerous), and for US companies the impact on accounting for income tax obligations. For example, the Internal Revenue Code addresses advance payments for goods and services and income from long-term contracts. Entities will need to evaluate how the new revenue recognition principles reconcile with income for tax purposes.

Next Steps

For further information, please don’t hesitate to contact your Next Stage Solutions partner. It is not too soon to begin addressing the accounting and operational processes required to be modified to be in compliance with the new standard.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s