In U.S. GAAP, if a lease arrangement meets any one of four criteria, the transaction is reported as a capital lease. Companies often design transactions to either avoid or meet these criteria based on the desired method of accounting. Do IFRS requirements utilize the same set of criteria to determine whether a capital lease or an operating lease has been created?
A lease contact may well be classified differently under IFRS than under U.S. GAAP. This is an example of where U.S. GAAP has rules and IFRS has principles. Under U.S. GAAP, guidance is very specific based on the four rigid criteria established by FASB. However, under IFRS, the guidance focuses on the substance of the transaction and there are no quantitative breakpoints or bright lines to apply. For example, there is no definitive rule such as the “75 percent of the asset’s life” criterion found in U.S. GAAP. IFRS simply asks the question: have substantially all the risks and rewards of ownership been transferred? Therefore, this difference could be significant to those organizations that have designed their leases to fit into a certain category under U.S. GAAP. More of these contacts will probably be accounted for as capital leases (which are referred to as finance leases in IFRS). This issue could be resolved in the near term, as FASB and IASB are conducting a joint project to modify their respective standards by 2011.
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