Revenue Recognition Standard, ASC 606

The FASB and IASB issued their converged standard on revenue recognition in May 2014. The standard provides a comprehensive, industry-neutral revenue recognition model intended to increase financial statement comparability across companies and industries and significantly reduce the complexity inherent in today's revenue recognition guidance.

Key developments in accounting for revenue recognition

  • The standard will apply to a company's contracts with customers, except for contracts that are within the scope of other standards (e.g., leases, insurance, financial instruments). Elements of contracts or arrangements that are in the scope of other standards (e.g., leases) will be separated and accounted for under those standards.
  • The unit of account for revenue recognition under the new standard is a performance obligation (a good or service). A contract may contain one or more performance obligations. Although defined differently, the closest analogy in today's vernacular to a performance obligation would be a "deliverable" under the multiple-element arrangement revenue guidance.
  • Performance obligations will be accounted for separately if they are distinct. A good or service is distinct if the customer can benefit from the good or service either on its own or together with other resources that are readily available to the customer, and the good or service is distinct in the context of the contract. Otherwise performance obligations will be combined with other promised goods or services until the entity identifies a bundle of goods or services that is distinct.
  • The transaction price is allocated to all the separate performance obligations in an arrangement. It reflects the amount of consideration to which an entity expects to be entitled in exchange for transferring goods or services, which may include an estimate of variable consideration to the extent that it is probable of not being subject to significant reversals in the future based on the entity’s experience with similar arrangements. The transaction price will also reflect the impact of the time value of money if there is a significant financing component present in an arrangement. The transaction price excludes amounts collected on behalf of third parties, such as some sales taxes.
  • Revenue will be recognized when an entity satisfies each performance obligation by transferring control of the promised goods or services to the customer. Goods or services can transfer at a point in time or over time depending on the nature of the arrangement. Specific criteria are provided for when a performance obligation is satisfied over time.
  • The incremental costs of obtaining a contract are capitalized if the costs are expected to be recovered. Costs incurred to fulfill a contract are capitalized if they are not covered by other relevant guidance, relate directly to a contract, will be used to satisfy future performance obligations, and are expected to be recovered.
  • As amended, the FASB's standard is effective for public entities for the first interim period within annual reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2017 (nonpublic companies have an additional year). The FASB’s standard will allow early adoption, but no earlier than the original effective date for public entities (reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2016). The IASB’s standard, as amended, is effective for the first interim period within annual reporting periods beginning on or after January 1, 2017, with early adoption permitted.
  • In 2016, the FASB and IASB issued several amendments and clarifications to the new revenue standard, primarily as a result of issues raised by stakeholders and discussed by the Transition Resource Group. Amendments were made to the guidance related to the principal versus agent assessment, identifying performance obligations, accounting for licenses of intellectual property, and other matters (such as the definition of completed contracts at transition and the addition of new practical expedients).
  • An entity can apply the new revenue standard retrospectively, including using certain practical expedients. Alternatively, an entity can choose to recognize the cumulative effect of applying the new standard to existing contracts in the opening balance of retained earnings on the effective date, with proper disclosures.
  • During the FASB’s Financial Accounting Standards Advisory Council meeting, an SEC staff member indicated that the SEC will not object if companies that retrospectively adopt the revenue standard only recast the same years as presented in their primary financial statements in the five year selected financial data table (i.e., a company will not need to recast the two earliest years). However, companies that choose this option should provide transparent disclosure regarding the basis of presentation and lack of comparability.

Why it's important

  • Existing revenue recognition guidance lacks consistency across industries and between US GAAP and IFRS, and fails to address certain types of arrangements. This new standard is aimed at reducing or eliminating those inconsistencies, thus improving comparability, and eliminating gaps in guidance.
  • The new standard will significantly affect the current revenue recognition practices of many companies, particularly those that follow industry-specific guidance under US GAAP. We expect the Aerospace & Defense, Automotive, Communications, Engineering & Construction, Entertainment & Media, Pharmaceuticals & Life Sciences, and Technology industries to be impacted the most.
  • Depending on an entity's existing business model and revenue recognition practices, the new standard could have a significant impact on the amount and timing of revenue recognition, which in turn could impact key performance measures and debt covenant ratios, and ultimately could affect contract negotiations, business activities, and budgets.
  • All entities will likely have to consider changes to information technology systems, processes, and internal controls as a result of the new decision points and increased disclosure requirements, among other aspects of the model.

Which systems can you support you, today?

  • Zuora. With the recent acquisition of Leeyo by Zuora, this is the leading combination of software packages that will provide a seamless Lead-to-Revenue experience.
  • Salesforce. With the recent acquisition of Steelbrick, Salesforce is one step closer to being able to provide this feature set, although Salesforce Billing is not quite ready for prime time today (for complex revenue recognition), an integration with RevPro makes this extensible platform attractive.
  • Intacct. While this application does provide some support, it is one of the least flexible options and not well suited for the subscription economy. It's functions are more tailored to the traditional ERP.
  • NetSuite. NetSuite is one of our favorite ERP systems. As a pioneer in the all-in-one SaaS ERP space, they have re-architected their Revenue Recognition module to meet the needs of the common recurring software/contract business model. However, it fair to say that this is not their strongest offering as they are, similar to Intacct, a traditional ERP system that works better with non-SaaS businesses.


  1. Zuora, 7 things to think about for ASC 606 (if you're a subscription company),
  2. AICPA, Financial Reporting Brief: Roadmap to Understanding the new Revenue Recognition Standards,