Bloomberg Tax
July 17, 2019, 3:12 PMUpdated: July 17, 2019, 8:27 PM

Private Companies Win Reprieve for Lease Accounting Changes (1)

Nicola M. White
Nicola M. White

Privately held companies could get an extra year to track down rental details for backhoes, warehouses, storefronts, and other leased assets as they report them on balance sheets for the first time.

U.S. accounting rulemakers on July 17 voted unanimously to give privately held companies until 2021 to follow new lease accounting rules that public companies started adopting this year.

Their reasoning: the nuts and bolts of the leases standard turned out to be a much bigger undertaking than even large public companies with fleets of staff accountants anticipated. Set back-to-back with major changes to accounting for revenue recognition, which went live for private companies this year, private companies were just tapped out.

FASB’s new rules are a sea change to how companies must report their leased assets and liabilities. While companies for years have included basic information in their footnotes about their lease obligations, they have to now consider new details and put more effort into tracking down contracts that could be scattered across an organization

FASB will have to put out the delay for public comment before finalizing it. It is expected to be well-received by private companies, which have pleaded with FASB for more time for the past year.

Organizations, including the American Institute of CPAs, said private companies needed a delay in part because they haven’t found viable software solutions and in part because the standard itself involves a lot of legwork.

“It’s the operational concerns related to leases, including things like, ‘Where is my old lease agreement? I can’t find that. Wait a minute, was that in the Nebraska office?’” said Dan Noll, senior director of accounting standards at the AICPA.

Some private companies are well on their way to implementing the standard by 2020, however, and could choose to adopt the rules ahead of FASB’s new deadline, said Angela Newell, national assurance partner at BDO USA LLP.

“When you talk about private companies, there is a much broader diversity than what you get when you talk about public companies,” Newell said. “Private companies range from literally a mom-and-pop restaurant to a huge conglomerate that is international in nature.”

The standard, published in 2016, is the result of years of debate about the best way for companies to report the liabilities they assume when they rent a jumbo jet or an office tower.

Unlike when a business finances an airplane or takes out a mortgage to buy real estate, leases don’t get reported on company balance sheets unless they meet a set of criteria that companies can structure to avoid reporting. Investors for decades have said that company leases represent just as much of an obligation as finance or mortgage arrangements.

More time won’t lessen the workload that the rules require, said Matt Waters, director of lease accounting at CoStar Group.

“My biggest fear is that if there is a delay, companies will just put off working on this for another year and kind of be in same position,” Waters said.

(Updates paragraphs 8, 9 to include comments from BDO USA LLP partner.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicola M. White in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jeff Harrington at; Colleen Murphy at