The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) is expected to finalize new lease accounting standards (“Standards”) within the coming months which will have very real consequences for owners and lessees alike. Under current accounting standards, a lease is classified as a “Capital Lease” or an “Operating Lease.” A capital lease is treated similarly to a loan; the asset is treated as being owned by the lessee and must be recorded as an asset on the lessee’s balance sheet. By contrast, an operating lease gives the lessee a right to use the owner’s asset without the requirement of including the lease on its balance sheet. The lessee never owns the asset and must return it to the owner after the lease ends. Most office building, retail, or other standard commercial leases are operating leases under the current standards.

The new Standards will, among other things, eliminate the above classification and instead classify most capital leases –including existing capital leases –as a “Type A Lease”, which will be accounted for in substantially the same manner as capital leases are accounted for under existing generally accepted accounting principals (GAAP), and most operating leases – including existing operating leases –as a “Type B Lease”, which will be accounted for in a manner similar to operating leases under existing GAAP, except that lessees will now be required to include lease obligations on their balance sheets increasing assets and liabilities. Shorter term leases, leases of 12 months or less, must also be included on balance sheet if, considering all relevant economic factors, the lessee is “reasonably certain” to exercise an option to extend the lease beyond 12 months. Continue Reading FASB Lease Accounting Changes