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Unraveling the Impact of ASC 842 on Key Financial Ratios and Metrics

Implementing ASC 842, the new lease accounting standard issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), has brought significant changes to how organizations account for and report leases on their financial statements. As a result, key financial ratios and metrics have been impacted, including debt-to-equity, EBITDA, and return on assets. Let's unpack the effects of ASC 842 on these crucial financial measures and discuss the implications for businesses. 

Debt-to-Equity Ratio 

The debt-to-equity ratio measures an organization's financial leverage by comparing its total debt to its total equity. Under the previous lease accounting standard, ASC 840, operating leases were not recognized on the balance sheet, which meant that lease obligations remained off-balance-sheet liabilities. However, with the introduction of ASC 842, most leases must now be recognized on the balance sheet as right-of-use (ROU) assets and corresponding lease liabilities. 

As a result, the debt-to-equity ratio is likely to increase for companies with significant operating leases, as their total debt will now include lease liabilities. This higher ratio could impact a company's credit rating, borrowing costs, and compliance with debt covenants. 

EBITDA - Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization 

EBITDA is a widely used profitability metric that focuses on a company's operating performance by excluding the effects of financing, taxes, and non-cash expenses like depreciation and amortization. Under ASC 840, operating lease expenses were recognized as a single rent expense in the income statement. However, with the adoption of ASC 842, operating lease expenses are now split into two components: depreciation of the ROU asset and interest expense on the lease liability. 

As depreciation and interest expenses are excluded from the EBITDA calculation, the new lease accounting standard could lead to a higher EBITDA for companies with substantial operating leases. As a result, this change may make businesses appear more profitable and improve their valuation multiples. 

Return on Assets (ROA) 

Return on assets (ROA) is a financial metric that evaluates a company's efficiency in generating profits from its assets. It is calculated by dividing net income by total assets. The inclusion of ROU assets and lease liabilities on the balance sheet under ASC 842 increases a company's total assets, which could, in turn, decrease the ROA ratio. 

This lower ROA might give the impression that a company is less efficient in utilizing its assets, even though its core operations have stayed the same.  

Consequently, businesses and financial analysts need to consider the effects of the new lease accounting standard when comparing ROA ratios across different periods or against industry benchmarks.

As we wrap it all up, in summary: 

Adopting ASC 842 has undoubtedly affected key financial ratios and metrics, such as debt-to-equity, EBITDA, and return on assets. Understanding these impacts is essential for businesses, investors, and financial analysts to interpret financial statements and make informed decisions accurately.  

Therefore, in the wake of ASC 842, organizations must communicate these changes to their stakeholders and provide additional context for the shifts in their financial ratios and metrics. 

gaapRT's Accounting Advisor tool simplifies the drafting of technical accounting memos for lease accounting in accordance with ASC 842.