Many organizations lease assets such as real estate, airplanes, trucks, ships and construction and manufacturing equipment. Because of the prevalence of leasing, it's important for users of financial statements to have a complete and understandable picture of an organization’s leasing activities. For this reason, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) have issued guidance and a proposal to change the accounting treatment for lease obligations. This isn’t new. FASB/IASB have been working on this revision since 2005. For those who like to get the details, see this FASB update from last month. (These changes are supposed to be effective in 2016, but given the magnitude of the impact, it could well be 2017 or 2018.)
As a risk manager, you may say, “Yes, this is interesting, but what does that have to do with me?” The answer could be "A lot!" depending on the structure of your property and casualty insurance program and your surety bond program. For example, when the forward obligations for leases have to appear on the liability side, the accounting rule change will make a pretty significant change in your company's balance sheet. Generally speaking, it will give the appearance that your organization has a lot more debt than was previously disclosed. This will likely have immediate impact in two areas: casualty collateral and surety collateral.