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Insights into IFRS 16

IFRS 16 represents the first major overhaul of lease accounting in over 30 years. The new Standard will affect most companies that report under IFRS and are involved in leasing, and will have a substantial impact on the financial statements of lessees of property and high value equipment.

Since accounting for leases under IFRS 16 results in substantially all leases being recognised on a lessee’s balance sheet, the evaluation of whether a contract is (or contains) a lease becomes even more important than it is under IAS 17 and IFRIC 4. In practice, the main impact will be on contracts that are not in the legal form of a lease but involve the use of a specific asset and therefore might contain a lease – such as outsourcing, contract manufacturing, transportation and power supply agreements. Currently, this evaluation is based on IFRIC 4; however, IFRS 16 replaces IFRIC 4 with new guidance that differs in some important respects.

IFRS 16 changes the definition of a lease and provides guidance on how to apply this new definition. As a result, some contracts that do not contain a lease today will meet the definition of a lease under IFRS 16, and vice versa.

Under IFRS 16 a lease is defined as ‘a contract, or part of a contract, that conveys the right to use an asset (the underlying asset) for a period of time in exchange for consideration’.

A contract can be (or contain) a lease only if the underlying asset is ‘identified’. Having the right to control the use of an identified asset means having the right to direct, and obtain all of the economic benefits from, the use of that asset. These rights must be in place for a period of time, which may also be determined by a specified amount of use. Put simply, if the customer controls the use of an identified asset for a period of time, then the contract contains a lease. This will be the case if the customer can make the important decisions about the use of the asset in a similar way it makes decisions about the use of assets it owns outright. In such cases, the customer (ie: the lessee) is required to recognise these rights on its balance sheet as a ‘right-of-use’ asset. In contrast, in a service contract, the supplier controls the use of any assets used to deliver the service and so there is no right-of-use asset to recognise.