Impairment and the Balance Sheet

Typically it goes like this, “I googled this accounting term and it says that I am not required to do what you are saying.”  Ugh

Do not put your google search up against my accounting degree and constant hours of study of accounting principles.  Kubae actually saw that on a coffee cup and I thought it was pretty awesome.  Clichéd but awesome.

As I wrote on my other blog today GAAP is an accounting model that is selected by the organization.  If you elected to follow GAAP then, when a situation arises that GAAP covers, you are required to comply.

Or not.  Remember it is a choice.

We have worked with a few businesses recently who needed their financial statements reviewed.  They each have bank loans with covenants that require their financial statements to be prepared in accordance with GAAP.  And have those financial statements reviewed.

In each instance revenues are down year over year.  In each instance the companies have substantial non-cash assets: inventory, property, facilities and equipment, goodwill.  And we have asked each of them if they determined that their assets are impaired in value.

Sorry but this is a necessary question in a review.  GAAP requires that assets be tested for impairment, that is, loss of value.   And since you have a loan covenant requiring GAAP financial statements you have to follow the steps called for by GAAP.

Or you can say you are not going to follow GAAP.

By the way, you should be worried about value impairment in the situation where revenues are dropping and profits are slipping.  It is a sign that perhaps you have surplus inventory, desks that are not being used, expensive plant equipment that is sitting idle, shop space unused.  Why wait until the CPA says something?

That was a rhetorical question.  At this stage businesses have bigger problems than if their assets no longer have value.  Your bank moving you to special assets is chief among them.  You are focused on profitability because you think that is what the bank is concerned with.  And slamming more expenses into your fragile profit and loss statement is the last thing you want to happen.

Testing for impairment doesn’t necessarily lead to a write-off of value.  But if it does, so what?  If you are carrying inventory that you haven’t moved in a year then maybe adjusting its value to what you can get for it is a good move.  Think about it, you are trying to correct for past decisions and return to profitability.  Your inventory, and other assets, were a reflection of those past decisions and not dealing with them will actually hamper your turnaround.

Capitalized leasehold improvements has been a big issue for us on review.  What we find is that the accountant (even us) records the depreciation/amortization over 39 years.  Why?  because it fits with MACRS.  But it isn’t disclosed properly.  And then the problem is compounded by the fact that the company has a 5 year lease with one 5-year extension.

There are three years left on the extension.  Revenues and profits are down and management is looking for smaller, more affordable space.  And the company is sitting on $350,000 net book value of leasehold improvements.  It is painfully obvious isn’t it?

The value is impaired like it or not.  You don’t have a $350,000 asset, you have a huge rock tied to your ankles while you plummet the depth of the ocean.   Ignoring the problem isn’t going to help.  When it is time to move to the new facility the business will have to take a $300,000 write off for the inaccurate reporting of the economic life.  And that is the year your line of credit renews.

We know this isn’t an easy subject but you elected to follow GAAP.  Look at your assets and ask if it is still worth it.  You should do this even if you are vastly profitable since it is highly likely that there are assets or asset classes that you are no longer utilizing.

Or don’t follow GAAP.  The choice is yours.  Just don’t get mad at the CPA because she questions your balance sheet.

Have a great weekend.  If you would like more information about impairment or any other GAAP issue, feel free to contact us through our website.  We look forward to being of service to you.


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