Accounting for Financial Instruments
WHAT ARE FINANCIAL INSTRUMENTS?
- Imposes on one entity a contractual obligation either:
- To deliver cash or another financial instrument to a second entity
- To exchange other financial instruments on potentially unfavorable terms with the second entity.
- Conveys to that second entity a contractual right either:
- To receive cash or another financial instrument from the first entity
- To exchange other financial instruments on potentially favorable terms with the first entity.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ACCOUNTING FOR FINANCIAL INSTRUMENTS PROJECT
Since 2005, the FASB and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) have been working together to improve and simplify reporting for financial instruments. The main objective, then and now, has been to provide financial statement users with a more timely and representative depiction of a company, institution, or nonpublic not-for-profit organization’s involvement in financial instruments, while reducing the complexity in accounting for those instruments.
Over time, the FASB and the IASB took different approaches to various aspects of the accounting for financial instruments. In 2009, the IASB issued IFRS 9, Financial Instruments, which provides guidance on classification and measurement of financial assets. Meanwhile, in May 2010, the FASB issued its proposed Accounting Standards Update, Accounting for Financial Instruments and Revisions to the Accounting for Derivative Instruments and Hedging Activities. The feedback received on that Exposure Draft caused the FASB to rethink its original proposals on these issues, and to approach the project in three separate phases:
RECOGNITION & MEASUREMENT
On January 5, 2016 the FASB issued an Accounting Standards Update (ASU) intended to improve the recognition and measurement of financial instruments. The ASU affects public and private companies, not-for-profit organizations, and employee benefit plans that hold financial assets or owe financial liabilities.
The new standard is intended to provide users of financial statements with more useful information on the recognition, measurement, presentation, and disclosure of financial instruments,” stated FASB Chairman Russell G. Golden. “It improves the accounting model to better meet the requirements of today’s complex economic environment.
The new guidance makes targeted improvements to existing GAAP by:
- Requiring equity investments (except those accounted for under the equity method of accounting, or those that result in consolidation of the investee) to be measured at fair value with changes in fair value recognized in net income
- Requiring public business entities to use the exit price notion when measuring the fair value of financial instruments for disclosure purposes
- Requiring separate presentation of financial assets and financial liabilities by measurement category and form of financial asset (that is, securities or loans and receivables) on the balance sheet or the accompanying notes to the financial statements
- Eliminating the requirement to disclose the fair value of financial instruments measured at amortized cost for organizations that are not public business entities
- Eliminating the requirement for public business entities to disclose the method(s) and significant assumptions used to estimate the fair value that is required to be disclosed for financial instruments measured at amortized cost on the balance sheet, and
- Requiring a reporting organization to present separately in other comprehensive income the portion of the total change in the fair value of a liability resulting from a change in the instrument-specific credit risk (also referred to as “own credit”) when the organization has elected to measure the liability at fair value in accordance with the fair value option for financial instruments.
More information on the ASU can be found within a high-level FASB in Focus overview.
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HEDGE ACCOUNTINGMany companies use derivative instruments to hedge their exposure to certain risks. Today, hedge accounting is an elective approach that minimizes the accounting volatility created when derivatives, which are otherwise accounted for at fair value through net income, are used to hedge revenue or expenses that are not yet reported (e.g., forecasted sales or purchases) or to hedge assets or liabilities that are not measured at fair value through net income (e.g., inventory or debt). Qualifying criteria must be met in order to apply hedge accounting.
The FASB’s project on hedging addresses issues related to hedge accounting for non-financial risks and financial risks. The objective of this project is to make targeted improvements to the hedge accounting model based on the feedback received from preparers, auditors, users and other stakeholders.
On June 7, 2017, the FASB voted to issue a final Accounting Standards Update (ASU) that aligns hedge accounting more closely with a company’s risk management activities . In developing the standard, the FASB considered 60 comment letters received on its September 2016 Exposure Draft. The FASB also engaged in extensive stakeholder outreach, including numerous discussions with investors and other financial statement users; two public roundtables, which included preparers, auditors, regulators, and other stakeholders; and meetings with the Private Company Council to discuss private company hedge documentation issues.
The upcoming standard refines and expands hedge accounting for both financial (e.g., interest rate) and commodity risks. It also reduces the administrative burden of applying hedge accounting. The economic results will be presented in a more transparent way, both on the face of the financial statements and in the footnotes, for investors and analysts.
The new standard will take effect for fiscal years, and interim periods within those fiscal years, beginning after December 15, 2018, for public companies and for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2019 (and interim periods for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2020), for private companies. Early adoption will be permitted in any interim period or fiscal year before the effective date of the standard.
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