Understanding the New Lease Accounting Standard for Australia
Overview of AASB 16
AASB 16 is a new lease accounting standard published by the Australian Accounting Standards Board (AASB) in February 2016. AASB 16 changes the way that companies account for leases in their financial disclosures, especially their balance sheets and income statements. It replaces an earlier lease accounting standard – AASB 117. The purpose of AASB 16 is to close a major accounting loophole from AASB 117: off-balance sheet operating leases. The new Australian leases standard is heavily based off of IFRS 16, the international leases standard, and only varies on a few negligible details.
Major Changes from AASB 117
The major change AASB 16 makes from AASB 117 is that it removes the operating lease classification for leases, eliminating the ability of corporations to report operating leases in the footnotes of financial statements. The reasoning for the change was that by reporting operating leases in the footnotes, companies were hurting smaller investors that do not have the resources to dig through corporate financial statements. In response, after a decade of work writing and reviewing exposure drafts, the IASB released IFRS 16, and the AASB soon followed with AASB 16. AASB 16 closes the AASB 117 loophole by requiring that all operating leases now be accounted for as finance leases.
AASB 16 Lease Definition
The definition of a lease has changed slightly. Under AASB 16, “A contract, or part of a contract, that conveys a right to use the asset (the underlying asset) for a period of time in exchange for consideration.”
To qualify as right-of-use, the contract must meet 3 criteria:
There must be an identified asset. An asset can only be identified if it is physically distinct or if the lessee receives substantially all of the capacity of the asset. In addition, the lessor cannot have substantive rights to substitute the asset.
The lessee must receive substantially all of the economic benefit. To determine what qualifies as “substantially all,” the parties must define the economic benefits of the asset and then determine the allocation of economic benefits.
Direct the Use of Asset
The lessee must have the right to direct the use of the asset. If how the asset will be used was predetermined, the lessee must have the right to operate the asset or they must have designed the asset in a way that predetermines how it will be used.
Leases that are considered short-term (having a term less than or equal to 12 months in length) or low-value (the underlying asset’s value is less than or equal to $5000) do not need to be reported on the balance sheet.
AASB 16 Impacts to Financial Statements
Impact to the Balance Sheet
With AASB 16, almost all leases will be reported on corporate balance sheets. A new right-of-use (ROU) asset will be presented separately on the balance sheet, as will a separate lease liability. Under the current standard, AASB 117, only certain lease arrangements – called finance leases – were listed on the statement of financial position while operating leases were only reported in the footnotes. Under AASB 16, all leases will now be considered finance leases unless they meet certain exceptions. Key financial metrics such as Return on Assets will be influenced through the addition of these new assets and liabilities to the balance sheet.
Impact to the Income Statement
Companies must report a depreciation charge for leased assets within the operating costs section of the profit and loss statement. An interest expense must be reported for lease liabilities within the finance costs section of the profit and loss statement. Under the old standard, AASB 117, companies reported a straight-line lease expense that was typically the same in each period of the lease. With AASB 16, the expenses for leases will be front-loaded as the amount of interest is reduced over the term of the contract.