Commentary: New Software Helps Companies Adjust to Changing FASB Rules

Big changes are on the way for companies that are significant holders of real estate. It’s hard to say exactly when the much talked about and anticipated FASB lease accounting changes will go into effect, but companies with real estate holdings in particular need to be prepared for the significant impact these new rules will have on lease commitments.

Change is never easy, but the transition doesn’t have to be traumatic. On the contrary, required adherence to these new FASB rules, which are being put in place to enforce transparency and full disclosure, actually has a silver lining. It presents the opportunity for companies to update software and technology, which may be outdated anyway, in order to manage their real estate holdings and move to a faster, broader, more accommodating and flexible system.

Under the new proposed law, lease commitments must be on the balance sheet from day one, which is why older technology will no longer do the job. But, before we address effective ways for companies to achieve leasing compliance, it is important to first understand why the laws of lease accounting are changing.

Current lease accounting guidelines were adopted 30 years ago and are outdated by today’s business standards. The biggest difference between the old and new rules pertains to off-balance sheet accounting. The proposed new rules will bring all assets currently under lease onto the balance sheet and take into account international real estate portfolios, too. The new rules will also include a single worldwide leasing standard, which is important as real estate companies continue to go global.

For most companies, and especially those with large, international real estate portfolios, the sheer thought of overhauling the leasing structure of all their properties is overwhelming. But, thankfully, the implementation of advanced lease administration technology can successfully support a company through this process.

It will be difficult, if not impossible, to become compliant with the new lease accounting laws without some level of lease administration software support. When considering which software to implement, be sure the product is Web-based and that it provides a system of record for all of the leased real estate assets.

That includes leases, subleases, purchase agreements, franchise agreements, equipment leases and more. Be sure the software is completely transparent with regard to location information, critical dates and expenses, and that it integrates workflow.

It should have the ability to create pro-forma leases and integrate MS Excel financial models. It should also be able to handle complex reporting and compare multiple lease financials to support decision-making, and standardize all leases in a portfolio to streamline the cumbersome process.

It’s a lot to take into consideration, but there are companies that have been anticipating these changes and updated their technology with the new FASB rules in mind. The right technology should make life easier.

You can audit your current lease administration system and take stock of all of the capabilities you need and would like in an updated product. Then, do the research to locate the technology that will work best with your real estate and lease commitments.

It’s no secret that the new FASB rules promise to radically transform lease accounting and if you are a significant user of real estate, they will radically transform the way you do business, too. But there are lease administration software programs on the market that will make it easier to deal with many of the initial challenges that accompany such a transition.

Jim Duport is the creator and lead developer of Lucernex Technologies Lx LseMod products and the Lucernex financial engine. He created v15, set for release later in the fourth quarter, to support potential FASB changes. Lx LseMod is a corporate lease analysis tool used by companies including GE, MetLife, Robert Half, Cigna, National Semiconductor, United Technologies, Yahoo and Intuit.

Ken Brown designed mass market software in the 1980s and designed SLIM lease administration software. He is executive vice president and CIO of Lucernex and head of Lucernex product development.

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