Upcoming changes to accounting standards will devastate companies balance sheets - GDP to decrease by ~3%

11/16/2013 - 00:00

ONE of the world’s biggest accountants, PwC, breathlessly bills it as perhaps “the biggest-ever accounting change”. Businesses that lease property and equipment may soon have to start treating the leases as liabilities on their balance-sheets. All sorts of outfits that make heavy use of leasing—from retailers to airlines and, indeed, professional-services firms such as accountants—may end up looking far more indebted than their books currently show. Opponents of the reform predict dire consequences, for the companies and for the economy.

When a business borrows money to buy a machine, the loan or bond payments are recorded on its books as a liability, and the machine as an asset. If, instead, it leases that machine, it also gains possession of an asset in return for a stream of outgoing payments; but current rules usually let the firm keep both the asset and the liability off its balance-sheet. It has to add only a brief footnote containing scant details of its overall lease obligations.