A Learning Guide for Business Owners: New Lease Accounting Standards Explained


The landscape of financial compliance is ever-evolving, and for business owners, staying updated with the latest changes in accounting standards is crucial. The recent overhaul in lease accounting standards, primarily through the introduction of ASC 842 in the United States, aims to increase transparency in the financial statements of companies that lease assets. This guide is designed to help business owners understand these new lease accounting standards, ensuring that they can navigate these changes effectively and maintain compliance.

Understanding the New Lease Accounting Standards

The new lease accounting standards require businesses to recognize nearly all leases on their balance sheets, a significant shift from the previous standards which allowed many leases to be accounted for as operating leases and thus not appear on the balance sheet. This change aims to provide a clearer picture of a company’s financial commitments.

The Objectives of ASC 842

The ASC 842 lease accounting standard seeks to:

  • Improve transparency and comparability among organizations by ensuring that leases are more prominently reported on the balance sheet.
  • Provide financial statement users with more detailed information about leasing transactions.
  • Simplify the implementation and application of lease accounting.

Key Changes and Their Impact

One of the primary changes under the new standards is how leases are classified and recognized on the balance sheet. Previously, operating leases did not appear on the balance sheet; now, they must be recorded as liabilities, along with a corresponding “right of use” asset. This change affects not only the balance sheet but also the income statement and cash flow reporting.

Effects on Financial Statements

  • Balance Sheet: Increases in assets and liabilities due to the capitalization of lease obligations.
  • Income Statement: Potential changes in lease expense timing and classification, impacting EBITDA.
  • Cash Flow: Changes in operating cash flow and financing cash flow classifications.

Compliance Steps for Business Owners

To comply with the new standards, business owners will need to take several proactive steps. These include:

  1. Review Existing Leases: Audit all current leasing agreements to determine their classification under the new standards.
  2. Implement Lease Accounting Software: Consider investing in or upgrading existing lease accounting software to ensure it can handle the complexities of the new standards.
  3. Train Your Team: Ensure that your accounting team is well-versed in the new standards. Provide training sessions or workshops to bring everyone up to speed.
  4. Seek Professional Advice: Engage with financial advisors or accountants who specialize in lease accounting to get tailored advice for your specific situation.
  5. Update Financial Policies and Procedures: Revise your company’s financial policies and procedures to align with the new reporting requirements.

These steps are crucial for maintaining compliance and making the transition as smooth as possible.

Strategic Implications for Business Owners

The shift in lease accounting standards can have strategic implications for business decision-making. The increased visibility of lease obligations may affect decisions related to capital expenditure, leasing versus buying, and debt covenants.

Decision-Making Considerations

  • Lease vs. Buy: The new standards may tilt the cost-benefit analysis towards buying rather than leasing, especially for long-term assets.
  • Negotiating Leases: With leases being more visible, businesses might negotiate more favorable terms or opt for shorter lease terms.
  • Impact on Ratios: Important financial ratios used by lenders and investors might be affected, potentially impacting a company’s ability to secure financing.

Future Trends and Ongoing Monitoring

As business owners adapt to the new lease accounting standards, it’s important to consider not only the immediate compliance requirements but also the future landscape of financial reporting and lease management. Ongoing monitoring and adaptation will be essential as further amendments and interpretations of the standards are likely to emerge.

Keeping Up with Regulatory Changes

  • Stay Informed: Regularly update your knowledge through accounting bulletins, professional seminars, and consultations with experts.
  • Regulatory Updates: Keep an eye on updates from financial regulatory bodies like the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) in the U.S. or the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) internationally, which may issue additional guidance or amendments to the standards.

Leveraging Technology for Compliance

  • Invest in Robust Accounting Systems: Utilize advanced accounting software that can adapt to changes in standards and simplify the complexity of lease accounting.
  • Automation of Lease Management: Consider tools that automate the tracking and reporting of lease data to reduce errors and administrative burden.

Long-Term Strategic Planning

  • Review Financial Strategies Regularly: Evaluate how changes in lease accounting impact your broader financial strategies including debt management, investment planning, and business growth strategies.
  • Assess Lease Portfolio Management: Develop strategies to optimize your lease portfolio in response to the changing economic and regulatory landscape.


The new lease accounting standards represent a significant shift in how businesses account for lease agreements. By understanding these changes, reviewing and adjusting current leases, and preparing through education and updated systems, business owners can ensure they meet compliance requirements and continue to make informed financial decisions. Adapting to these changes is not just about compliance; it’s about taking advantage of the opportunity to reassess financial strategies and enhance the financial health of your business.