The introduction of ASC 842 by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) has brought significant changes to how businesses account for leases. This new standard, which supersedes the previous ASC 840, aims to increase transparency and comparability among organizations by requiring the recognition of lease assets and liabilities on the balance sheet. This article explores the ASC 842 accounting change, its implications, and how businesses are adapting their lease structures in response.

What is ASC 842?

ASC 842, also known as Topic 842, is the new lease accounting standard introduced by the FASB. Its primary objective is to improve financial reporting by providing a more accurate representation of a company’s leasing activities. Under ASC 842, companies are required to recognize both operating and finance leases on their balance sheets, which was not mandatory under the previous ASC 840 standard. This change aims to provide greater transparency into the financial obligations of companies, allowing investors and stakeholders to make more informed decisions.

Key Changes Introduced by ASC 842

Balance Sheet Recognition

One of the most significant changes under ASC842 is the requirement for lessees to recognize right-of-use (ROU) assets and lease liabilities for all leases with terms longer than 12 months. This means that nearly all leases will now be recorded on the balance sheet, providing a clearer picture of a company’s financial commitments.

Lease Classification

While ASC 840 classified leases as either operating or capital leases, ASC 842 introduces operating and finance lease classifications for lessees. Both types of leases must be recognized on the balance sheet, but the expense recognition pattern differs between the two.

Enhanced Disclosures

ASC 842 requires enhanced qualitative and quantitative disclosures about leasing transactions. These disclosures include information about the nature of leases, significant judgments made in applying the standard, and the amounts recognized in the financial statements. The goal is to provide users of financial statements with a comprehensive understanding of a company’s leasing activities.

Table: Key Differences Between ASC 840 and ASC 842

AspectASC 840ASC 842
Lease ClassificationOperating, CapitalOperating, Finance
Balance Sheet ImpactCapital leases onlyBoth operating and finance leases
Right-of-Use AssetNot required for operating leasesRequired for all leases over 12 months
Lease LiabilityNot required for operating leasesRequired for all leases over 12 months
DisclosuresLimitedEnhanced, more detailed

This table outlines the key differences between the old ASC 840 and the new ASC 842 standards, highlighting the more comprehensive approach of ASC 842.

Implications for Businesses

The shift to ASC 842 has far-reaching implications for businesses, impacting financial reporting, lease management, and strategic decision-making.

Financial Reporting

The most immediate impact of ASC 842 is on financial reporting. By bringing nearly all leases onto the balance sheet, companies will see an increase in both assets and liabilities. This change can affect key financial metrics, such as leverage ratios, which in turn can influence borrowing capacity and compliance with debt covenants. Businesses need to carefully assess the impact on their financial statements and communicate these changes to stakeholders.

Lease Management

ASC 842 necessitates a more rigorous approach to lease management. Companies must implement robust processes and systems to track and account for leases accurately. This includes capturing all relevant lease data, maintaining updated records, and ensuring compliance with the new standard. Many organizations are turning to specialized lease accounting software to streamline these processes and maintain accuracy.

Strategic Decision-Making

The increased visibility of lease obligations under ASC 842 can influence strategic decision-making. Companies may re-evaluate their lease versus buy decisions, considering the impact on the balance sheet and financial ratios. Additionally, businesses might explore alternative financing options or renegotiate existing lease terms to optimize their lease portfolios.

Adapting to the New Standard

Adapting to ASC 842 requires a comprehensive approach that encompasses people, processes, and technology.

Educating Stakeholders

It is crucial to educate all relevant stakeholders, including finance teams, executives, and board members, about the changes introduced by ASC 842 and their implications. Training sessions, workshops, and regular updates can help ensure everyone is aligned and prepared for the transition.

Implementing Technology Solutions

Leveraging technology can significantly ease the transition to ASC 842. Lease accounting software can automate data collection, ensure compliance, and generate accurate financial reports. These tools can also provide valuable insights into lease portfolios, helping businesses make informed decisions.

Reviewing and Updating Lease Portfolios

Businesses should conduct a thorough review of their lease portfolios, identifying all leases and assessing their impact under the new standard. This review process may uncover opportunities to renegotiate terms, consolidate leases, or explore alternative financing options.


The ASC 842 accounting change represents a significant shift in how businesses account for leases, bringing increased transparency and accountability to financial reporting. By recognizing lease assets and liabilities on the balance sheet, companies can provide a more accurate picture of their financial obligations. While the transition to ASC 842 presents challenges, it also offers opportunities for improved lease management and strategic decision-making. By educating stakeholders, implementing technology solutions, and reviewing lease portfolios, businesses can successfully navigate the transition and leverage the benefits of the new standard.