June 16, 2021
The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) today issued a proposed Accounting Standards Update (ASU) that would improve discount rate guidance for lessees that are not public business entities—including private companies, not-for-profit organizations, and employee benefit plans. It is intended to reduce the expected cost of implementing the lease standard (Topic 842) for those entities while retaining the expected benefits for users of financial statements. Stakeholders are encouraged to review and provide comment on the proposed ASU by July 16, 2021.
Topic 842 currently provides lessees that are not public business entities with a practical expedient that allows them to make an accounting policy election to use a risk-free rate as the discount rate for all leases. The FASB originally provided this practical expedient to relieve those lessees from having to calculate an incremental borrowing rate, which could create unnecessary cost and complexity.
Some private company stakeholders expressed reluctance to use the risk-free rate election for all leases. Those stakeholders noted that in the current economic environment, a risk-free rate (for example, a U.S. Treasury rate) is low compared with their expected average incremental borrowing rates, and that using the risk-free rate election could increase an entity’s lease liabilities and right-of-use assets.
To address these concerns, the amendments in the proposed ASU would allow lessees that are not public business entities to make the risk-free rate election by class of underlying asset, rather than at the entity-wide level. It also would require that, when the rate implicit in the lease is readily determinable for any individual lease, a lessee would use that rate (rather than a risk-free rate or an incremental borrowing rate), regardless of whether it has made the risk-free rate election.