When the customer pays substantially before or substantially after the goods or services are provided, the transaction may contain a significant financing component. A significant financing component can benefit the selling entity if the customer finances the transaction by paying in advance. In contrast, the customer can benefit if the selling entity finances the customer by delivering the good or service before payment occurs. Under either circumstance, the selling entity is required to include the effect of the financing component in the transaction price by considering the time value of money. This requirement ensures that selling entities recognize revenue at an amount that reflects the cash payment the customer would have made at the time the goods or services were transferred (cash selling price).
The purpose of this article is to describe how to identify and account for significant financing components, then to analyze the key issues related to this topic in Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) 606.
Identifying a Significant Financing Component
Selling entities determine the significance of a financing component at an individual contract level rather than a portfolio level. All relevant facts and circumstances should be considered in the assessment of whether a significant financing component exists, including the following factors (ASC 606-10-32-16):
If the gap between payment and delivery is expected to be less than one year, there is no requirement to adjust the transaction price for a significant financing component, as a practical expedient (ASC 606-10-32-18). The practical expedient should be applied similarly to all transactions and must be disclosed if used.
Differences Between Consideration and Cash Selling Price for Reasons "Other Than Financing"
A timing difference between when the consideration is paid and the goods or services are transferred to the customer does not always indicate that a significant financing component exists. The revenue standard provides three factors to help determine when a significant financing component does not exist. The figure below lists the three factors and an example of a transaction for each factor (ASC 606-10-32-17).
According to ASC 606-10-32-17(c), a significant financing component does not exist if the difference between consideration and cash selling price occurs for reasons “other than financing.” The phrase “other than financing” is open for broad interpretation and allows for a large measure of judgment.
Example 30 from ASC 606 presents a situation in which a technology product manufacturer enters a contract to provide support and repair coverage for three years in exchange for an upfront payment of $300. The guidance suggests that the entity requires the $300 payment upfront for three purposes: (1) to maximize profit by minimizing the risks of the customer not renewing the service, (2) to limit the customer from using the service (customers tend to use the service more if they are charged on a monthly basis), and (3) to minimize administration costs related to administering the renewals and collecting payments. Situations such as this are quite common in practice, which gives rise to the question, “Should the guidance regarding significant financing components be applied broadly, including in cases such as Example 30 in which there are clearly-identifiable ‘other than financing’ reasons for the difference in timing between cash payment and delivery of service?”
In January 2020, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) released a Revenue Recognition Implementation Q&A document. The document provides guidance for this question.
“TRG members agreed that there is no presumption in the standard that a significant financing component exists or does not exist when there is a difference in timing between when goods and services are transferred and when the promised consideration is paid. An entity will need to apply judgment to determine whether the payment terms are providing financing or are for another reason… However, several members stressed that when entities consider whether the difference in promised consideration and cash selling price is for a reason other than financing, they also must consider whether the difference between those amounts is proportional to the reason for the difference.” (FASB, Question 31)
ASC 606 doesn’t presume that a significant financing component exists or does not exist. Entities will need to apply judgment in their individual situations. However, although the difference between promised consideration and cash selling price may be for legitimate reasons, the difference must be a reasonable amount for these other causes.
Major Considerations Related to Significant Financing Components in ASC 606
Recognizing Interest Expense/Revenue
If a significant financing component exists, the amount of revenue recognized will differ from the amount of cash received from the customer. In transactions where payment is received in advance of the performance obligation, the selling entity will recognize interest expense until performance occurs. Revenue recognized will exceed cash received. When payment is received after performance is completed, the selling entity will recognize less revenue than cash received because a portion of the consideration will be considered interest income.
Interest income or interest expense can only be recognized to the extent that a contract asset or contract liability exists. A contract asset or contract liability may not exist if there is a right of return, among other causes (PwC). Read more about Contract Assets and Contract Liabilities. Any interest income or expense resulting from a significant financing component is recorded separately from revenue earned from contracts with customers (ASC 606-10-32-20).
Determining the Discount Rate
The entity must “use the discount rate that would be reflected in a separate financing transaction between the entity and its customer at contract inception” (ASC 606-10-32-19). This rate should reflect the credit worthiness of the party receiving the financing in the arrangement (the entity or the customer) and any collateral provided. The discount rate is determined at contract inception and should not be reassessed. Even if an explicit interest rate is provided in the agreement, the entity should still evaluate whether this rate reflects prevailing rates for similar transactions.
Interest-Free Financing Offers
Some transactions arrange for the customer to receive interest-free financing. In these cases, the amount of consideration received is equal to the cash selling price. If the implied interest rate is zero (interest-free financing), management should not assume that a significant financing component does not exist, and all factors should be considered. If the cash selling price would have been different absent the financing, a significant financing component may be present.
To illustrate, consider the following transaction. A company sells home fitness equipment for $1,560. A customer can purchase the equipment upfront for $1,560 or enter a contract with the company to pay $65 monthly for a total of 24 months. In both situations, the total cash selling price of the fitness equipment is $1,560. If the customer chooses the 24-month payment plan, does a significant financing component exist or not?
In the March 2015 TRG meeting, the group discussed how to approach these transactions. Entities should determine if the list price is the same as the cash selling price of the good or service. In some transactions, if customers offer to pay cash up front rather than utilize the “free” financing, they can pay less than the list price. In these cases, the true cash selling price will be less than the list price. The “free” financing has an implicit interest rate built into the list price and a significant financing component may exist. If the list price, cash selling price, and zero-interest financing price are the same, as shown in the example above, a significant financing component is not likely to exist.
Adjusting for Time Value of Money
In many situations, consideration is received upfront and revenue is recognized over multiple years. If the entity concludes that the appropriate measure of progress is through straight-line revenue recognition, the entity must adjust for the time value of money and recognize revenue. The example below outlines how an entity could do so.
Single Payment Stream for Multiple Performance Obligations
As previously discussed, the standard also provides a practical expedient such that if the gap between payment and delivery is expected to be less than one year, there is no requirement to adjust the transaction price for a significant financing component. Some stakeholders have raised the question of how to apply the practical expedient in which a single payment stream occurs for multiple performance obligations. Consider the following example, which was used in TRG Memo 30.
An entity offers a 24-month contract which includes the delivery of a device at contract inception and related services over 24 months. The entity concludes that the device and services are each distinct. The promised amount of consideration (combined amount for device and services) is $2,400 payable in 24 monthly installments of $100. The transaction price is allocated to the device ($500) and services ($1,900 [$79 per month]). Assume that the entity transfers the device first and recognizes revenue for $500. During each of the 24 months, the entity transfers the services and recognizes revenue for $79. Given that a significant financing component exists, does the practical expedient apply?
View A: Meets the Practical Expedient
The transaction price allocated to the device ($500) will be “paid” in full after 5 months ($100/month for 5 months), which meets the “less than one year” requirement for the practical expedient. After the first five months of installment payments are allocated to the device, the remaining installment payments will be allocated to each month of service. In this sense, the time between delivery of the service and payment from the customer is less than one year. For example, the services performed in January will be paid in June, the services performed in February will be paid in July, etc. Because both the device and services will meet the “less than one year” requirement, the practical expedient applies.
View B: Does Not Meet the Practical Expedient
The entity proportionally allocates the monthly consideration to the device ($21) and services ($79). The services are settled monthly, but the device is not paid off until month 24 ($21 a month for 24 months). Because the device does not meet the “less than one year” requirement, the practical expedient does not apply.
One important thing to note in this case is that “the fact that the practical expedient would not apply does not mean there is necessarily a significant financing component in the contract” (FASB, Question 34). An entity would still need to consider ASC 606-10-32-15 through 32-17.
The FASB has provided some guidance on this question in its Revenue Recognition Implementation Q&As document. The FASB recommends the use of judgment, as seen below:
“In some circumstances, it may not be clear whether cash collected relates to a specific performance obligation in a contract. In other instances, it may be clear that a cash payment is related to a specific performance obligation based on the terms of the contract. The overall view was that judgment will need to be applied to determine whether the practical expedient may be applied based on the facts and circumstances.” (FASB, Question 34)
The contract terms will have to be evaluated to come to a decision on whether the practical expedient applies or not in cases such as these. If the contract specifies how the payments are allocated, those terms can be used to assess whether the practical expedient applies. Otherwise, the entity may have to choose the best allocation of cash based on the facts and circumstances (Croner-I, Section 7.4.2-3).
Applying a Significant Financing Component to a Subset of Performance Obligations in the Contract
The examples included in ASC 606 apply the standard to situations that contain only one performance obligation. In situations containing multiple performance obligations, stakeholders have questioned whether an adjustment for a significant financing component should ever be attributed to one or more, but not all, of the performance obligations in the contract (similar to the guidance on bundled discounts and variable consideration). The transaction price is the amount of consideration an entity expects to receive in exchange for a good or service, not for financing. Under this assumption, the financing component should be excluded in determining the transaction price under Step 3 of ASC 606’s 5-step approach to revenue recognition and instead should be applied to the specific performance obligations to which it relates under Step 4.
The FASB determined that attributing a significant financing component to one or more, but not all, of the performance obligations in a contract may produce an allocation result that reflects what the entity expects to receive from the customer. Attributing the financing component to specific performance obligations will require judgment and may result in diversity of practice, but follows the more principles-based approach of the revenue standard. “Management should consider whether it is appropriate to apply the guidance on allocating a discount… or allocating variable consideration… by analogy” (PwC). The principles related to these subjects may help management make their evaluation.
As noted above, the guidance on significant financing components requires a substantial amount of judgment. The broad language included in the ASC 606 revenue standard permits multiple interpretations, varying by entity, which may lead to considerable diversity in practice.
- ASC 606-10-32-15 to 32-20, 55-244 to 55-246.
- ASU 2014-09: “Revenue from Contracts with Customers.” BC229-BC247.
- Croner-I, “A14 Revenue from Contracts with Customers.” (2019). Section 7.4.2-2 and 7.4.2-2.
- FASB, “Revenue Recognition Implementation Q&As.” (January 2020). Questions 31-37.
- FASB TRG Memo 20: “Significant Financing Components.” 26 January 2015.
- FASB TRG Memo 30: “Significant Financing Components.” 30 March 2015.
- EY, Financial Reporting Developments: “Revenue from contracts with customers.” January 2020. Section 5.5.
- KPMG, Handbook: “Revenue Recognition.” December 2019. Section 5.5.
- PWC, “Revenue from contracts with customers.” March 2020. Section 4.4.