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COVID-19 accounting for lease modifications

Louise Kelly Louise Kelly

The COVID-19 pandemic is requiring those responsible for the preparation of
financial statements to reconsider whether assumptions and assessments
previously made are still valid and appropriate which in turn is creating
an additional burden on entities all over the world. In particular, IFRS 16
has become an area of focus for entities and the International Accounting
Standards Board (IASB). Lessors are providing lessees with rent concessions.
These can be in the form of rent holidays or rent reductions for an agreed
timeframe (possibly followed by increased rentals in future periods). In some
jurisdictions, governments are making rent concessions a requirement. In others they are merely encouraging them. These concessions will have major impact for some lessees, particularly in the retail and hospitality industries which in many cases have been forced to temporarily close their premises.

IFRS 16 contains specific requirements on accounting for lease modifications. Rent concessions that change the overall consideration for the lease are in the scope of these requirements. Lessees are currently required to assess whether rent concessions are lease modifications and, if they are, apply specific accounting guidance. This can be burdensome, especially for large portfolios of leases with different features and different types of concessions. Entities already have significant pressures upon them as a result of this pandemic and what is set out in IFRS 16 just adds to the burden.

The IASB has therefore proposed a practical expedient to provide relief for lessees from lease modification accounting for rent concessions related to COVID-19. This article explains the current accounting requirements, the proposed practical expedient and how to apply it.