Line of Business: Finance Suite

Mastering Lease Accounting & Audit in the Digital Age for IFRS 16 and ASC 842

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Note: This guide was created as a myCPE webinar. If you are interested in earning 1 CPE (Continuing Professional Education) credit, we invite you to watch the webinar on the myCPE platform. Be sure to participate in the polls and complete the final quiz to qualify for 1 CPE credit.

Lease accounting and auditing have seen substantial changes in the digital age, particularly with the adoption of new lease accounting standards such as IFRS 16 and ASC 842. These standards have placed a greater emphasis on accounting compliance, reporting accuracy, and transparency in lease-related financial information.

During this webinar, we will explore the key aspects of lease accounting and audit in the digital age, focusing on the challenges faced by companies in meeting requirements of IFRS 16 and ASC 842. We will delve into the best practices and winning strategies that can help companies effectively manage their leases, streamline month-end closing processes, and navigate the complexities of lease audit.

1. Road to Lease Accounting Compliance and Effect on Reporting

1.1 Regulatory changes for lease accounting

Prior to IFRS 16 and ASC 842, leases could be kept outside the balance sheet under IAS 17 and ASC 840. Although disclosure in the notes was still required, capitalization of leases was not mandatory. However, under IFRS 16 and ASC 842, lease capitalization became a requirement. Lease classification has also changed. ASC 842 retains the concept of operating leases but replaces capital leases with finance leases. On the other hand, IFRS 16 solely recognizes finance leases, leading to differences in the reporting of these lease types.

The transition to IFRS 16 and ASC 842 accounting compliance standards has had a profound impact on accounting operations, processes, reporting, training, change management, and technologies. Organizations are now faced with the challenge of determining how to capitalize leases, manage accounting and schedules, and reconcile accounts between sub-ledgers and the main ledger.

To ensure compliance, additional training is crucial. It is not only important for personnel to understand the requirements of the standards but also to comprehend how to perform lease accounting operations effectively. Moreover, the adoption of the new accounting compliance standards has also necessitated technology updates. Organizations have had to enhance their lease accounting and audit processes through automation.

Throughout this webinar, we will delve into the role of automation and technology as key factors in developing a successful lease accounting strategy. We will also elaborate on another significant change resulting from the new accounting standards, the introduction of more detailed reporting requirements and heightened demands for technical accounting assessment. Compliance with IFRS 16 and ASC 842 standards requires meticulous attention to detail and a comprehensive understanding of the technical nuances involved.

1.2 Role of lease accounting standards IFRS 16 and ASC 842 beyond compliance

Let’s delve into what it means to become compliant from a business perspective and explore the synergies between operations, financial planning, and compliance.

1.2.1 Balance sheet implications

Under IFRS 16 and ASC 842, all lease contracts come into the balance sheet. This has far-reaching implications for financial statements, ratios, and covenants that go beyond mere compliance and reporting.

As an example, let’s examine lease versus buy options or resource management alignment. With new lease accounting standards, you need to have different geo accounts and different specific types within your lease assets and liabilities. All these nuances influence your decision matrix for lease versus buy and you need to re-envision it to stay not only compliant, but also efficient.

Similarly, FP&A (financial planning and analysis) plays a significant role in operational decisions that contribute to compliance. From a forecasting perspective, it extends beyond simple payment and expense predictions, encompassing the evaluation of balance sheet implications, financial interest, and debt covenants mentioned earlier.

1.2.2 Compliance’s role

Once the journey to compliance is complete, it becomes crucial to reassess and reanalyze the meaning of compliance from a business perspective. Accounting, reporting, operations, and financial decisions all have an impact on compliance. It is essential for organizations to establish new synergies between these functions. As an example, when entering into a lease contract from either a lessee or lessor perspective, there are two different methods for reporting the same assets. So, accountants need to grasp the nuances and implications related to compliance.

1.2.3 Scalable and sustainable leasing solution

Transitioning to new lease accounting standards requires companies to focus on strategies that prioritize operational excellence and scalability.

Operational excellence: By harmonizing the strategy with technology and adopting digital solutions, you can unlock valuable insights and opportunities. Having all the data centralized, adding automated calculations and mass operations will greatly reduce the risk of manual errors and save time.

Scalability: Lease contracts and standards can change, making it crucial to have a system that can handle modifications and reassessments efficiently. Maintaining accurate records and properly accounting for changes in lease terms or conditions, impairment, foreign exchange rates, and purchase options becomes essential in achieving sustainability. Organizations need to have a scalable and sustainable leasing solution – a system that can handle modelling like Discounted CF, Leveraged BO, Merger and Acquisition, CapEX vs. OpEX, and tax planning.

To achieve this, companies require lease administration or lease management software. The lease accounting software market is projected to grow at a cumulative annual growth rate of over 10% from 2023 to 2030, demonstrating the increasing demand for solutions that go beyond compliance. Many companies are already utilizing leasing data for forward-looking perspectives and reaping the benefits, leading to the growth of these powerful solutions.

2. Accounting Compliance and Reporting in Practice

Accounting, compliance, and reporting are crucial aspects of lease management. Let’s see how accounting compliance and reporting work in practice.

2.1 Initial recognition and lease payments

First, let’s highlight the main changes in initial recognition. When a lease is recognized, the lessee needs to account for the lease liability, which is the present value of minimum lease payments. The present value is calculated using either the incremental borrowing rate or the contract rate, extended within the lease term or life cycle. It is essential to consider the lesser of the lease term or the asset’s useful life for the lease’s perspective. From the asset perspective, it involves taking lease liabilities’ present value, subtracting incentives, and adding initial direct costs and prepayments.

This major change brings both elements into the accounting process. Understanding minimum lease payments is vital as it includes fixed lease payments and variable lease expenses, but not other payments required to be made to the lessor.

2.2 Lease modifications and reassessments

Lease accounting must also address modifications and reassessments that can occur during the lease term. Modifications involve amendments such as lease term extensions, lease payment changes, and additional assets. Reassessments, on the other hand, occur when the likelihood of exercising a specific option change. Remeasurements refer to the process of making adjustments to fixed payments and involve changes such as converting contingent payments to fixed rent or modifying probable amounts for a residual guarantee.

Any time modifications, reassessments, or remeasurements occur, you require reevaluating the lease asset or liability with the current incremental borrowing rate or contract rate.

Whenever modifications, reassessments, or remeasurements take place within the lease agreement, it is necessary to reevaluate the lease asset or liability with the current incremental borrowing rate or contract rate. If you have multiple modifications occurring on a month-to-month basis across various leases, it is essential to have a centralized system where you can manage and track the different incremental borrowing rates associated with these modifications. This is crucial because the incremental borrowing rates directly impact the balances of your lease assets or liabilities.

It becomes even more important to address the timing of modifications and their impact on foreign exchange rates. Often, we receive modification or revision information after a month has passed. In such cases, it is necessary to create a catch-up entry or even rollback to properly apply the modification using the spot rate of the foreign exchange prevailing at the time of the modification.

2.3 Lease disclosure reporting

Other vital components are lease disclosure and reporting. The 10-K and 10-Q reports require information on lease maturity analysis, lease liability reports, weighted average discount rates, and weighted average lease terms. While these disclosure reports are relevant for both ASC 842 and IFRS 16, it is important to note that specific reporting requirements and presentation formats may vary between the two standards. A robust reporting system that harmonizes and captures all this data is crucial for analysis, reconciliation, and compliance purposes.

2.4 Complexities of lease accounting standards

Furthermore, the complexities of the accounting standards emphasize the importance of initial measurement and understanding the lease contract. This involves reading through the contracts, abstracting the relevant data, and categorizing different elements for initial and subsequent measurements, such as payments, depreciation accruals, and reclassification of long-term to short-term liabilities.

Event management is critical, especially when dealing with multiple events or modifications that can occur. These events impact lease liabilities differently and require attention to ensure sustainability and scalability.

Impairment perspectives differ between IFRS 16 and ASC 842. IFRS 16 allows impairment and affects only the lease assets, not the lease liabilities. Having a system that is focused and compliant with these various events is crucial, not only for compliance but also for sustainability and quantitative disclosure.

Having this information readily available at your fingertips is vital, as it goes beyond mere compliance. It aligns your entire business, aids reconciliation, and helps close the period gap. Analytical reporting enables you to understand and leverage insights, such as variations in lease spending across different areas.

In summary, navigating the complexities of accounting standards requires understanding lease contracts, managing events and modifications, and having a system that supports compliance and provides actionable insights for sustainable business operations and quantitative disclosures.

3. Key Activities for Successful Accounting Control and Audit

Sustainable accounting and compliance in your portfolio refer to the practices and measures implemented to ensure ongoing adherence to accounting standards and regulatory requirements in a sustainable manner.

When going live with a new system, several activities are typically adopted to ensure sustainable accounting and compliance:

3.1 Data abstraction and data quality control

Data abstraction and quality control are essential components of the leasing process. They serve as the initial step before training and require a comprehensive and streamlined approach. It’s crucial to ensure that lease contracts are not only complete and streamlined but also easily understandable by multiple teams. This involves digitizing and harmonizing clauses, as well as conducting data quality checks. Maintaining data quality is particularly important because contract details such as names and addresses can change over time, especially in the real estate industry. By implementing a sustainable quality check system, you can ensure accurate and up-to-date information.

3.2 Trainings

New trainings are conducted to equip the relevant teams with the knowledge and understanding of the new accounting standards, such as ASC 842 and IFRS 16. These trainings provide a deep dive into the standards, their implications, and any changes in accounting practices required.

3.3 Disclosure approach

Additionally, disclosure plays a crucial role in lease accounting compliance. It is advisable to proactively prepare disclosure reports well in advance, ideally one year ahead of the reporting period. By doing so, you can schedule and have the reports readily available, enabling you to anticipate and address the qualitative and quantitative effects of leases effectively.

3.4 Drafting accounting policy

Drafting your accounting policy with practical application is another crucial aspect. Embedding the accounting policy within a specific application, especially for lease and non-lease transactions, ensures consistent and accurate accounting for various lease types.

For example, if you have a net lease versus a triple net lease, your accounting policy will dictate how to account for these distinct lease arrangements. In the case of a triple net lease, you may need to include additional expenses, such as insurance and maintenance costs, in the calculation of the minimum lease payments. This would be in accordance with your accounting policy. It’s worth noting that different leases may be handled differently based on the specific terms and conditions outlined in your accounting policy.

Embedding a materiality threshold system within your accounting policy further enhances its practical application. This system allows you to determine the significance of certain lease transactions or items, guiding your decision-making on whether to include or exclude them from your lease accounting calculations based on their materiality.

3.5 System implementations

Establishing a company or entity level configuration is indeed a competitive advantage and a recommended practice. This configuration enables the mapping of your sub-ledger or system with the main ERP data sets, providing a comprehensive and integrated view of your financial information.

By having a company or entity level configuration in place, you can effectively manage various transactions and events that occur within your organization. For example, when there are intercompany asset transfers or mergers and acquisitions, you can easily reassess and reassign the relevant cost centers and profit centers. This eliminates the need to start from scratch or search for information points, as the configuration ensures that the necessary data is readily available.

This streamlined approach to configuration greatly facilitates reconciliation processes and expedites the month-end close process. With a well-established configuration, you can ensure accuracy, consistency, and efficiency in financial reporting, reducing the time and effort required for reconciliations and providing real-time insights into the financial health of your organization.

3.6 Accounting processes

Accounting processes encompass various tasks, such as identifying different GL accounts, transition requirements, transition accounts and entries, clearing accounts, and ensuring ongoing processes.

3.7 Operational processes

Operational processes, on an ongoing basis, involve various activities such as data abstraction, list identification, and leveraging cross-functional collaboration within the organization. These processes can be particularly useful when evaluating lease-versus-buy or other structured agreement decisions.

3.8 Controls

To maintain control and accountability, it is essential to establish robust controls. These controls encompass not only workflow identifier and defining privileges, but also ITGC, and audit reports, and audit trails to ensure comprehensive oversight of lease-related activities. This allows for transparency and traceability whenever actions are performed.

Compliance with leasing regulations requires consideration of six critical lease audit considerations and activities:

3.8.1 Inflation and indexation

One crucial consideration is the impact of inflation and indexation on lease contracts. This is particularly relevant in the current global context where inflation and indexation rates are prevalent.

Inflation rates can vary across different countries and asset types, as well as specific expenses. As a result, understanding the inflation rate per type of leased asset, per country, and per expense is essential. This includes identifying the base rate and potentially considering non-US components that may have different inflation rates. Capturing and comprehending these rates is vital from an audit perspective, especially given the divergences between IFRS 16 and ASC 842 in their respective methods.

Furthermore, it is crucial to be able to capture and report the same information in a compliant manner with both accounting standards. This involves presenting the information accurately in accounting schedules and disclosure reports, ensuring compliance with the requirements of IFRS 16 and ASC 842.

3.8.2 Discount rates or foreign exchange

The second consideration is the flexibility of discount increments, alarm rates, and foreign exchange (Forex) application. It is essential to have a system that can accommodate a flexible Incremental Borrowing Rate (IBR) or contract rate, as these rates are specific to the moment of modification or reassessment.

Factors influencing the IBR or contract rate include asset class, lease term, country, and other variables that your organization establishes. The system should be able to mimic the treatment of fixed assets, allowing for the necessary flexibility in rate application. Similarly, Forex application varies depending on the specific events, such as asset scope reduction or payment extensions. Different rates, including spot rates and weighted average rates, need to be considered. Having the capability to embed and manage these rates is vital for accurate and comprehensive lease accounting.

3.8.3 Short-term and low value leases

Short-term and low-value leases are still kept off the balance sheet, resembling the treatment under the previous standards, such as IAS 17 and ASC 840. Understanding the timing of specific events that may impact these leases is crucial. For example, if you initially had a short-term lease that lasted less than one year but was later extended to two, three, or even four years, it would now need to be recorded on the balance sheet. Having a designated place to track and manage these leases becomes essential.

In response to a business or operational decision, it becomes necessary to quickly adjust the accounting and reporting based on the updated lease status. This agility is crucial from an audit perspective, as the extended lease would now be reflected on the balance sheet, requiring accurate information for audit purposes.

3.8.4 Lease event management

Whenever an event occurs, its impact extends beyond the current fiscal period, affecting subsequent lease payments and obligations. This time-sensitive aspect is crucial from an audit perspective, as it requires accurate tracking and management of lease events.

3.8.5 Materiality thresholds

Materiality thresholds play a vital role in determining which expenses are significant for accounting policy purposes. Not all expenses may significantly impact your Right-of-Use (ROU) asset, lease liability, or overall compliance with IFRS 16. Therefore, incorporating and embedding a materiality threshold becomes a key requirement.

3.8.6 Evergreen leases

Evergreen leases refer to multi-month leases that continue indefinitely after the initial lease term has expired. Evergreen leases require proper management for compliance reporting. It is quite common for these Evergreen leases to fall within the scope of IFRS 16 or ASC 842. Therefore, it is crucial to have a system or capability in place to accurately capture all the ongoing lease payments associated with these leases. This ensures that the appropriate financial information is recorded and reported, ultimately bringing the leases back onto the balance sheet.

4. Month-End Close and Audit Considerations

Now we are going to focus on harmonizing month-end close and audit considerations. The key objective is to supplement your current lease clause checklist, streamline the process to ensure completion within a shorter timeframe, ideally within two or three days. The checklist goes beyond the typical accounting schedule checks, including pausing payments, accruals, and depreciation, as well as importing data into the main ledger. It also encompasses reviewing your applications, GL accounts, and fixed assets, depending on your organization specific needs.

Moving beyond the checklist, the goal is to develop a winning strategy that reduces the duration of the month-end close period while improving the audit process.

4.1 Centralization of records

The first step is centralizing records, which allows for quick review, digital reliance, and easier auditing of quantitative derivatives from amendments. By consolidating different types of files into a single digital and PDF location, you gain faster access to contract information. Centralizing records also facilitates harmonization of subsegments or entities within one ledger.

Configuring your different ERP systems at the company level or country level is another crucial aspect. Each company or country may have unique vendors, requirements, currency exchange rates, cost objects, and asset classes. These configurations are necessary for your 10-K and 10-Q filings, as they provide data for various accounting standards, journal entries, and asset master records. It is the first and most important step to reduce the month-end closing duration and streamline reconciliation of data sources.

4.2 Reconciliation of data sources

The reconciliation of data sources involves cross validating the sub-ledger with the main ledger through a methodological approach in three subcategories: payments and lease expenses, reporting balances, and cut-off considerations.

To facilitate reporting, a consolidated transaction report can be generated, capturing crucial information such as straight-line amortization, finance lease amortization, lease indexation, currency applications, compounding repayments, incentives, and more. This comprehensive report ensures that payments and expenses are accurately recorded in the general ledger, accounts payable, and accounts receivable modules.

Furthermore, a sub-ledger that can quickly calculate and deliver quantitative disclosure reports, like maturity analysis reports and discounted cash flows, is crucial for compliance with new lease accounting standards IFRS 16 and ASC 842. Quantitative disclosure reports not only satisfy reporting requirements but also provide valuable insights for analytical and quality assessments across different teams.

Integration with ERP systems and the creation of multiple instances for different asset classes or lease liabilities are crucial. Accessing specific information through APIs or database connectors allows reporting teams to generate quantitative reports and effectively manage fixed assets, whether leased or owned.

Month-end cutoff procedures are vital for reconciling GL balances and vendor invoices. A robust translation methodology for foreign exchange transactions and effective date tracking are important considerations. The ability to post amendments and modifications with specific effective dates helps ensure accurate recording even after the month-end cutoff.

Return buyouts and evergreening present additional challenges, as information about these events may become available after the fact. A sub-ledger that allows backtracking and effective transaction recording is essential for compliance and accurate reporting.

Establishing cutoff procedures and utilizing automated test management with built-in RPA can enhance efficiency. RPA can assist with repetitive actions during month-end processes, streamlining tasks and reducing manual effort.

4.3 Cut-Off records and Forex and IBR compliance

The third critical point is the establishment of cutoff records for Forex and IBR compliance, to consider the implications of Forex and IBR, particularly for catch-ups and rollbacks. To optimize this process and mitigate reconciliation constraints, several quantitative and qualitative aspects should be implemented.

Firstly, company-level master data configuration is crucial. Aligning the main and self-ledgers identically, especially in cases of transfers or contract changes, simplifies the process by ensuring consistent master data.

Seamless integration is the second aspect to focus on. It involves scheduling postings and establishing unique effective translations. This includes translation, posting, and effective dates, which may be separate components. Flexibility is key to replicate the business environment in the sub-ledger, which mirrors the main ERP system. Enabling catch-up adjustments and remeasurements, and accurately reporting them, requires precise timing and agile processes.

Finally, embedding all of these considerations into your ITGC (Information Technology General Controls) is essential. Establishing an organization’s control environment with front-end and back-end audit trails, along with defining workflows, ensures a robust control framework. Freezing specific companies or entities helps prevent upstreaming of unnecessary information, contributing to a more streamlined and controlled process.

4.4 Sustainability and scalability

In order to establish and maintain scalability and sustainability, it is advisable to utilize a one-stop-shop solution that encompasses all necessary components. Let’s use an example to illustrate this concept. Imagine an operations team, such as fleet management or real estate management, that holds a lease contract. This particular contract contains vital information that is essential for compliance.

To achieve scalability and sustainability, it is crucial to harmonize different teams and establish a mechanism that allows the operations team to input and modify lease contract information directly into the compliance reporting system. In this scenario, the accountant’s role shifts from being passive (waiting for information) to proactive (receiving information). This proactive approach streamlines the process and contributes to reducing the time required for month-end closing activities.

4.5 10K and 10Q reporting

If we consider the example of the operations team, such as fleet management or corporate real estate, being the driving force behind the lease information input, the role of the accountant becomes receiving and utilizing the data in an automated manner for the purpose of generating comprehensive financial statements. These statements require careful attention and are an essential component of the reporting process.

5. Winning Strategies to Streamline Accounting Operations in Digital Age

Let’s delve into the lease accounting best practices and the key activities to adopt. Our goal is not just compliance with IFRS 16 and ASC 842, but also to streamline accounting operations, shorten the month-end closing process, and enhance the audit process. By implementing these best practices, we can achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in lease accounting.

5.1 Move away from manual entries and dual maintenance

The first best practice is to move away from manual maintenance and data entry. Instead, it is recommended to have a single sub-ledger that serves as a centralized source of truth. By consolidating all lease-related information into one system, we eliminate the need for duplicate data entry in multiple systems, reducing the risk of errors. This not only improves accuracy but also enhances the return on invested capital (ROIC) by ensuring seamless and consistent data entry. Additionally, having a single source of truth enables organizations to generate reports and analyze data more efficiently, ultimately reducing the reconciliation period.

5.2 Business-level lease information alignment 

Secondly, configure the system at the company level. This ensures sustainability, simplifies maintenance, and streamlines contractual clauses. Moreover, it enhances the audit process by ensuring that any changes or transfers in lease contracts are reflected accurately across different entities. To achieve automation and accurate transition of data points, we should embed everything within the ERP system, leveraging intuitive sub-ledgers. This centralized approach enables automatic recalculation of key metrics when various contract actions occur, such as modifications, scope changes, extensions, and performance indicators. By consolidating all actions and amendments in one place, we not only improve accounting operations but also enhance the audit process while minimizing data entry errors.

5.3 Audit item streamlining and risk mitigation

Next, let’s focus on cross-functional business alignment by utilizing technology to be more agile. Waiting until Monday to perform accounting tasks is no longer necessary when technology can alleviate this burden. By incorporating technology, we can streamline various elements such as implicit rate classification, resource tracking, documentation, and more. This not only benefits the accounting function but also helps other departments within the organization to achieve their goals more efficiently. Additionally, having a complete audit trail is crucial for mitigating risks and facilitating cross-functional workflows. Centralizing decisions, whether they involve capital expenditure (CapEx) or operational expenditure (OpEx), and establishing a unified workflow and dataset that mirrors the control environment is one of the lease accounting best practices. This ensures that the required information is sent to the appropriate approvers based on specific actions, supporting effective collaboration across multiple teams. Access controls and a comprehensive audit trail further strengthen accountability and help maintain compliance.

5.4 Data harmonization and leveraging technology

Lastly, data harmonization is essential in the digital age. It goes beyond functional and financial analysis to embrace data-driven decision-making. Leveraging lease accounting & audit for budgeting, forecasting accuracy, and industry trends allows for customized reports, accurate asset trend analysis, and informed decision-making. By harmonizing data sets and incorporating advanced technologies like machine learning, open-source databases, and APIs, we can achieve cross-functional usability and drive innovation.

In summary, by implementing these lease accounting and audit practices, we can streamline operations, reduce month-end closing time, improve the audit process, and enhance decision-making capabilities through data harmonization and technology integration.

6. Why Nakisa Lease Administration Software?

Nakisa Lease Administration software streamlines and simplifies all lease accounting operations while ensuring the IFRS 16, ASC 842, GASP 87, and other compliance standards. With native bidirectional ERP integration with SAP, Oracle, and other databases, Nakisa ensures data centralizations and integrity. Our solution includes lessor and lessee modules for better compliance and organizational excellence.

Fortune 1000 companies like Walmart, ExxonMobil, Nestle, Danone, 3M, and others rely on Nakisa Lease Administration every day. Our solution can handle hundreds of thousands of leases of different complexity and offers automated lease calculations for better lease accounting and audit.

We have a knowledgeable team of technical experts and offer 24/7 support. But the important thing is that we harmonize all leasing data into one solution accomplishing the goal of multiple different teams in one keystroke.

Let’s have a no-obligation call to discuss how Nakisa can support you in your lease accounting and compliance journey.

About Franco Massaro, CPA

Franco Massaro is a Manager Finance, Solutions Engineering at Nakisa. He holds a BComm in Accounting with distinction from Concordia University and is a proud holder of the CPA designation.

Franco has over 10 years of experience in business, accounting, financial optimization, market analysis, and financial performance evaluation. With a deep passion for financial transformation and extensive experience in accounting across various enterprises, he excels at helping clients enhance accounting operations, achieve financial goals, and drive business success through effective financial management.

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