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Life sciences finance leaders share ASC 842 adoption insights

The transition may take longer than anticipated


Updated from original article published November 30, 2018

A panel of life sciences finance leaders from the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device sectors gathered to discuss Topic 842, “Leases” of the Accounting Standards Codification (ASC), which includes the new lease accounting guidance, at the annual CBI Finance & Accounting for Bioscience Companies Conference. Panelists talked about the complexities and fundamental changes to lease accounting under the new guidance.

 Of note for life sciences businesses, the following technical accounting challenges emerged from the discussion:

  • Proper evaluation—How does an entity determine whether a contract is a lease or contains a lease (i.e., an embedded lease)? This could include, for example, arrangements where a medical device company recovers the cost of a specific device placed at a customer location through the sale of consumables or where a pharmaceutical entity has a contract manufacturing arrangement that identifies specific assets at a supplier location. Careful consideration of the facts and circumstances of each arrangement will be required to arrive at the appropriate accounting conclusion in these and other situations.
  • Identification of components—It is important to correctly identify the separate lease and nonlease components and interactions between ASC 842 and ASC 606, “Revenue from Contracts with Customers,” the new revenue recognition guidance.
  • Classification—Lease classification considerations are also crucial due to an additional criterion added related to specialized assets with no alternative use to the lessor.
  • Build-to-suit lease arrangements—There is new guidance related to build-to-suit lease arrangements, which may change existing practice for highly specialized buildings, such as lab space, where the lessee is actively involved in the design and specifications of the building. It is important to that the new build-to-suit lease guidance impacts lessors, in addition to lessees.
  • Technology considerations—Appropriate technology and software may be needed to address ASC 842 adoption. This may be particularly important for entities that have a large volume of complex leases.

Panelists agreed that one of the biggest challenges in adopting ASC 842 is operationalizing changes across the enterprise. In companies with multiple locations, as well as those that conduct business internationally, a comprehensive and consistent transition approach is key.

In addition, implementation could take many months depending on the complexity of your company’s lease portfolio. According to one of the panelists, an executive from a public life sciences firm, adoption transition took longer than anticipated; this is a cautionary tale for other businesses. The advice: Companies must start planning now. ASC 842 became effective for public business entities and certain not-for-profit entities and employee benefit plans for fiscal years beginning after December 31, 2018, i.e., for calendar year companies, the standard was effective beginning January 1, 2019. The effective date for private companies was recently deferred, making it effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2020, i.e., beginning January 1, 2021 for calendar year companies

For further insights, check out the following:

Syneos Health adopts ASC 842 with help from RSM


Syneos Health adopts ASC 842 with help from RSM

By offering additional technical knowledge of lease accounting, RSM worked with Syneos Health on its ASC 842 implementation.


Successfully selecting a lease accounting technology solution

While ASC 842 will affect leasing activities, technology solutions can help ease the burden that the new standard brings.


Lease accounting: 5 critical factors for successful implementation

Given the complexities of ASC 842, consider these critical factors for successful implementation of the standard.

Lease Accounting Resource Center


Lease Accounting Resource Center

This resource center provides information about the FASB 842 lease accounting standard, guidance and implementation ideas.


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John Lanza  LinkedIn
National Life Sciences Practice Leader