Eliminating Operating Leases: The Effect on Reported Leverage

22 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2012

See all articles by Philip J. Young

Philip J. Young

University of Tennessee at Martin

Mary Wicker

Oklahoma State University - Department of Finance

Date Written: August 4, 2011


The International Accounting Standards Board and the Financial Accounting Standards Board are working together to require that the present value of future lease payments for most leases currently classified as operating leases be recorded on lessees’ balance sheets as both an asset and a liability. By requiring that future lease payments be capitalized and reported on the balance sheet, the rule is expected to result in a significant increase in reported leverage for companies with large operating lease obligations. We analyze the 2009 annual reports for companies comprising the S&P 500 Index and find that revising accounting standards to eliminate the use of operating leases will significantly impact the total debt ratios of many companies in the S&P 500, especially members of the wholesale/retail industry. The magnitude of the change in many of these companies’ debt ratios likely would have a significant impact on the perceived risk exposure of suppliers of capital. Depending on the extent that these obligations have not been properly reflected by financial analysts, the requirement to capitalize future obligations under operating leases may result in increased borrowing costs and a decrease in the market value of these companies.

Keywords: operating leases, financial leverage, off balance sheet financing, lease accounting

JEL Classification: G31, G32, G38

Suggested Citation

Young, Philip J. and Wicker, Mary, Eliminating Operating Leases: The Effect on Reported Leverage (August 4, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1993302 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1993302

Philip J. Young (Contact Author)

University of Tennessee at Martin ( email )

216 Business Administration Bldg.
Martin, TN 38238
United States
731-881-7228 (Phone)
731-881-7256 (Fax)

Mary Wicker

Oklahoma State University - Department of Finance ( email )

Spears School of Business
Stillwater, OK 74078-4011
United States

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