Capital Lease Accounting: A Comprehensive Example

Capital Lease Accounting

In today’s blog post, we will discuss and explain capital lease accounting. We will utilize a detailed example to illustrate the accounting entries involved, but let us stress that this example covers capital lease accounting under CURRENT accounting rules by the FASB and IASB –Topic 840/FAS 13 and IAS 17 respectively. In a subsequent blog post, we will address “Finance” lease accounting under the NEW Lease Accounting Standards issued by the FASB and IASB—Topic 842 and IFRS 16, respectively (under Topic 842, capital leases will be called finance leases).

As a refresher, a capital lease is one in which a lessee records the leased asset as if it purchased the asset using funding provided by the lessor. As a result, capital lease accounting under current GAAP is actually comprised of two transactions: A purchase of the underlying asset by the lessee AND a loan to the lessee from the lessor to fund the purchase of said asset.

A lessee should record a lease as a capital lease and therefore apply capital lease accounting if ANY of the following criteria are met:

  • First Criterion: Ownership of the underlying asset transfers to the lessee after the lease term; or
  • Second Criterion: There is a “bargain purchase option”, meaning that the lessee has an option to buy the underlying asset after the lease term at a price that’s below-market; or
  • Third Criterion: The lease term is 75% or greater than the useful life of the underlying asset; or
  • Fourth Criterion: The present value of the minimum lease payments is at least 90% of the fair value of the asset.

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This article was contributed by LeaseQuery:  LeaseQuery is lease management software that helps companies manage their leases.  Rather than relying on excel spreadsheets, our clients use LeaseQuery to get alerts for critical dates (renewals, etc), calculate the straight-line amortization of rent and TI allowances per GAAP, provide the required monthly journal entries (for both capital and operating leases) and provide the commitment disclosure reports required in the notes and the MD&A.  Contact here.