Summary of Statement No. 154

Accounting Changes and Error Corrections—a replacement of APB Opinion No. 20 and FASB Statement No. 3

Summary

This Statement replaces APB Opinion No. 20, Accounting Changes, and FASB Statement No. 3, Reporting Accounting Changes in Interim Financial Statements, and changes the requirements for the accounting for and reporting of a change in accounting principle. This Statement applies to all voluntary changes in accounting principle. It also applies to changes required by an accounting pronouncement in the unusual instance that the pronouncement does not include specific transition provisions. When a pronouncement includes specific transition provisions, those provisions should be followed.

Opinion 20 previously required that most voluntary changes in accounting principle be recognized by including in net income of the period of the change the cumulative effect of changing to the new accounting principle. This Statement requires retrospective application to prior periods’ financial statements of changes in accounting principle, unless it is impracticable to determine either the period-specific effects or the cumulative effect of the change. When it is impracticable to determine the period-specific effects of an accounting change on one or more individual prior periods presented, this Statement requires that the new accounting principle be applied to the balances of assets and liabilities as of the beginning of the earliest period for which retrospective application is practicable and that a corresponding adjustment be made to the opening balance of retained earnings (or other appropriate components of equity or net assets in the statement of financial position) for that period rather than being reported in an income statement. When it is impracticable to determine the cumulative effect of applying a change in accounting principle to all prior periods, this Statement requires that the new accounting principle be applied as if it were adopted prospectively from the earliest date practicable.

This Statement defines retrospective application as the application of a different accounting principle to prior accounting periods as if that principle had always been used or as the adjustment of previously issued financial statements to reflect a change in the reporting entity. This Statement also redefines restatement as the revising of previously issued financial statements to reflect the correction of an error.

This Statement requires that retrospective application of a change in accounting principle be limited to the direct effects of the change. Indirect effects of a change in accounting principle, such as a change in nondiscretionary profit-sharing payments resulting from an accounting change, should be recognized in the period of the accounting change.

This Statement also requires that a change in depreciation, amortization, or depletion method for long-lived, nonfinancial assets be accounted for as a change in accounting estimate effected by a change in accounting principle.

This Statement carries forward without change the guidance contained in Opinion 20 for reporting the correction of an error in previously issued financial statements and a change in accounting estimate. This Statement also carries forward the guidance in Opinion 20 requiring justification of a change in accounting principle on the basis of preferability.

Reasons for Issuing This Statement

This Statement is the result of a broader effort by the FASB to improve the comparability of cross-border financial reporting by working with the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) toward development of a single set of high-quality accounting standards. As part of that effort, the FASB and the IASB identified opportunities to improve financial reporting by eliminating certain narrow differences between their existing accounting standards. Reporting of accounting changes was identified as an area in which financial reporting in the United States could be improved by eliminating differences between Opinion 20 and IAS 8, Accounting Policies, Changes in Accounting Estimates and Errors.

How the Changes in This Statement Improve Financial Reporting

Under the provisions of Opinion 20, most accounting changes were recognized by including in net income of the period of the change the cumulative effect of changing to the newly adopted accounting principle. This Statement improves financial reporting because its requirement to report voluntary changes in accounting principles via retrospective application, unless impracticable, enhances the consistency of financial information between periods. That improved consistency enhances the usefulness of the financial information, especially by facilitating analysis and understanding of comparative accounting data.

Also, in instances in which full retrospective application is impracticable, this Statement improves consistency of financial information between periods by requiring that a new accounting principle be applied as of the earliest date practicable.

This Statement requires that a change in depreciation, amortization, or depletion method for long-lived, nonfinancial assets be accounted for as a change in accounting estimate that is effected by a change in accounting principle. The provisions of this Statement better reflect the fact that an entity should change its depreciation, amortization, or depletion method only in recognition of changes in estimated future benefits of an asset, in the pattern of consumption of those benefits, or in the information available to the entity about those benefits.

A change in accounting principle required by the issuance of an accounting pronouncement was not within the scope of Opinion 20. Including all changes in accounting principle within the scope of this Statement establishes, unless impracticable, retrospective application as the transition method for new accounting standards, but only in the unusual instance that the new accounting pronouncement does not include explicit transition provisions.