To terminate a lease is to cancel the agreement before the end of the specified lease term. Many lease agreements may include an option for either lessees or lessors to terminate the agreement prior to the end of the original lease term. Lease termination options can include notice requirements, termination penalties, and adjustments to previously established rental terms, among others.

The guidance indicates a company would consider the likelihood of exercising any termination or cancellation clauses at lease commencement, when determining the initial lease term and recording the initial valuation of the lease assets and liabilities. However, subsequent to this determination, there may be circumstances that change the initial determination of whether these options would be exercised, and if so, when.

If the early termination options require prior notice or if a decision to terminate has been agreed upon, this will generally require recalculation of the related lease asset and liability prior to the actual termination date (i.e. the accounting for the termination occurs when the decision is made, versus when the termination event occurs). However, for the purposes of this article the termination and the accounting recognition of the termination occur at the same time.

Full lease termination options broken down by lessee and lessor

The approaches discussed below are applicable for accounting for a full lease termination under ASC 842, IFRS 16, and GASB 87. From the perspective of a lessee, the accounting for the early termination of an operating lease is consistent with that of a finance lease.

Lessee

A full termination will result in the lessee relinquishing the right to use the entire leased asset. This requires the lessee to derecognize the full right-of-use asset and lease liability. Any difference between the balances of the lease asset and liability as of the date of termination will result in a gain or loss recognized on the income statement in the period of termination.

The lessor often stipulates within the agreement that the lessee must pay a penalty upon execution of the termination. If a lease termination penalty is applicable and not previously included in the calculation of lease payments, the lessee will factor such penalty into the gain or loss calculation.

Lessor

From the lessor perspective, a full lease termination also requires lessors to fully derecognize any associated lease assets (i.e. lease receivable) or lease liabilities (i.e. rent receivable, deferred inflow of resources, unamortized initial direct costs, etc.). Any variance between the related assets and liabilities would constitute a gain or loss on the income statement in the period of termination.

In addition to the termination of the leased asset, the arrangement could change such that the usage of the leased asset is reduced. This is accounted for as a partial lease termination. We will address the accounting for a partial termination, and the differences between the treatment within the respective standards, below.

Partial termination options broken down by standard

A partial lease termination occurs when the lessee’s right-of-use asset decreases in utilization (i.e. an organization leases five floors within an office building, then vacates one floor). Most often, lease payment amounts will decrease based on the partial reduction in utility incurred by the lessee. Thus, a partial termination will involve a reduction of the lease liability.We have outlined specific calculations for each standard below:

U.S. GAAP

ASC 842 provides two alternatives to recognize the reduction in the asset. The LeaseQuery system utilizes the approach based on the proportionate adjustment to the lease liability, since a lessee would have this information readily available after calculating the modified liability.

After calculating the modified lease liability, the lessee should adjust the right-of-use asset value by a proportionate amount. For example, if the lease liability decreases by 5% based on the new payment terms, the lessee would calculate a 5% reduction in the right-of-use asset value. Any variance between the adjustment to the asset and the liability should be recorded in current period gain or loss.

IFRS

IFRS 16 requires the calculation of a modified lease liability, and an adjustment to the asset value to reflect the partial termination with any variance recorded to gain or loss in the current period.

GASB

GASB 87 requires lessees to remeasure the lease liability and lease asset based on the adjusted payment terms. The lessee will calculate the adjustment to the lease liability and recognize an adjustment of the same amount to the lease asset, with any difference reflected in gain or loss for the current period. For example, if the lease liability decreases by $100 based on the new payment terms, the lessee must decrease the right-of-use asset value by $100. Lessors reporting under GASB 87 will remeasure the deferred inflow of resources, as well as the lease receivable, in the same manner.

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Full termination due to purchase

A lease can additionally cease if the lessee purchases the underlying asset from the lessor. As of the purchase date, the lessee would follow the guidance within the respective standard to establish a fixed asset on the balance sheet and remove the intangible right-of-use asset.We have identified the accounting requirements related to purchases as follows:

U.S. GAAP

Under ASC 842 a lease that ends due to the lessee purchasing the underlying asset from the lessor does not constitute a lease termination. Instead, the lease is accounted for as a purchase. The lessee records the new fixed asset value as the carrying value of the leased asset plus or minus an adjustment equal to the difference between the purchase price and the lease liability balance at the time of purchase.

IFRS

Under IFRS, the exercise of an unplanned purchase option requires a reassessment of our lease liability and corresponding lease asset. Any variances to the asset and liability balances will be recorded as gain or loss.

GASB

Under GASB 87, as of the purchase date, the lessee would reclassify the intangible right-of-use asset to a fixed asset.

Because there are various options to terminate a lease, it’s important to understand the accounting treatment of an early termination under the respective new standard. While the information above helps outline what you need to know about lease termination options, implementing a lease accounting solution that handles termination scenarios will allow your company to account for these situations effortlessly and accurately.