FASB Simplifies Adoption of New Leases Standard for Certain Land Easements

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has issued Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2018-01, Leases (Topic 842): Land Easement Practical Expedient for Transition to Topic 842, which clarifies the application of the new leases guidance to land easements and eases adoption efforts for some land easements.

ASU 2018-01 is expected to reduce the cost of adopting the new leases standard for certain land easements. It is also an attempt to help ensure that companies can make a successful transition to the standard without compromising the quality of information provided to investors about these transactions.

Land easements (also commonly referred to as rights of way) represent the right to use, access, or cross another entity’s land for a specified purpose.  Land easements are used by utility and telecommunications companies, for example, when they need to take a small strip of land, or easement, to bury wires. Not all companies have historically accounted for them as leases.

Stakeholders pointed out that the requirement to evaluate all old and existing land easements, sometimes numbering in the tens of thousands, to determine if they meet the definition of a lease under the new standard could be very costly. They also noted there would be limited benefit to applying this requirement, as many of their land easements would not meet the definition of a lease, or even if they met that definition, many of their easements are prepaid and, therefore, already are recognized on the balance sheet.

The land easements ASU addresses this by:

  • Providing an optional transition practical expedient that, if elected, would not require an organization to reconsider their accounting for existing land easements that are not currently accounted for under the old leases standard; and
  • Clarifying that new or modified land easements should be evaluated under the new leases standard, once an entity has adopted the new standard.

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