FASB eases transition to credit losses standard

By Ken Tysiac

FASB issued new accounting rules Wednesday that are designed to ease the transition to the board’s new credit losses standard by providing an option to measure certain types of assets at fair value.

The credit losses standard was issued in 2016 in an attempt to provide investors with more forward-looking information on credit losses. The standard introduced an expected credit losses method for measuring credit losses on financial assets measured at amortized cost, replacing the previous incurred-loss method.

The standard also modified the accounting for available-for-sale debt securities, which must be individually assessed for credit losses when fair value is less than the amortized cost basis.

Some stakeholders noted that financial statement preparers who elect the fair value option on newly originated or purchased financial assets that have historically been measured at amortized cost would be required to maintain dual measurement methods — using both fair value and amortized cost.

This transition challenge is addressed in the standard issued Wednesday: Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2019-05, Financial Instruments — Credit Losses (Topic 326): Targeted Transition Relief. Under the new standard, preparers are permitted to irrevocably elect the fair value option, on an instrument-by-instrument basis, for eligible financial assets measured at amortized cost basis upon adoption of the credit losses standard.

FASB’s news release states that permitting the option increases the comparability of financial statement information provided by institutions that otherwise would have reported similar financial instruments using different methodologies. The standard’s intent is to provide more useful information to investors and other users.

For institutions that have not yet adopted the credit losses standard, the new ASU will take effect when they implement the credit losses standard. For institutions that have already adopted the standard, the new ASU is effective for fiscal years beginning after Dec. 15, 2019, including interim periods within those fiscal years. Early adoption is permitted in any interim period after the issuance of the ASU as long as an institution has adopted the credit losses standard.

Ken Tysiac (Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com) is the JofA’s editorial director.

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