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SEC's Chief Accountant Relaxes Some Corporate Reporting Rules

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A month after the SEC announced that companies could delay earnings filings by 45 days, its chief accountant, Sagar Teotia, said the agency would allow companies to “make significant judgments and estimates” about many accounting issues so long as they disclose those decisions.

Those issues include but are not limited to fair value and impairment considerations, leases, debt modification, hedge, revenue recognition, income taxes, going concern, subsequent events and the adoption of new industry standings.

The Office of the Chief Accountant also said two sections of the recent Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act would not violate generally accepted accounting principles.

Section 4013 allows financial institutions to suspend GAAP standards for loan modifications related to the pandemic for debt that would otherwise be categorized as troubled debt restructurings. Institutions do not have to categorize such a loan as a troubled debt restructuring.

The suspension applies to the period from March 1 through Dec. 31 or until 60 days after national emergency declared by President Donald Trump is lifted, whichever is sooner. 

During that time, companies should maintain a record of the volume of the loans involved, and federal bank agencies can collect data on these loans.

“The staff would not object to the conclusion that this is in accordance with GAAP for the periods for which such elections are available,” Teotia wrote in his statement. 

Section 4014 provides financial institutions temporary relief from an update to the Financial Accounting Standards Board standard for measuring expected credit losses on financial instruments. It is in force from March 27, when the CARES Act was enacted, through December 31, or when the national emergency declaration is lifted.

The chief accountant also noted that his office is “available to help companies, auditors and others with complex accounting, financial reporting, independence and auditing issues” during the current “unprecedented national challenge.” He encouraged companies with questions related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to contact his office.

— Check out SEC Won’t Extend Reg BI, Form CRS Compliance Date on ThinkAdvisor.