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Demystifying Operating Lease Accounting: A Guide for Procurement Professionals

oboloo Articles

Demystifying Operating Lease Accounting: A Guide for Procurement Professionals

Demystifying Operating Lease Accounting: A Guide for Procurement Professionals

Are you a procurement professional looking to understand more about operating lease accounting? You’re not alone! Operating leases can be confusing, but they offer many benefits that make them an attractive option for businesses. In this guide, we’ll demystify the world of operating lease accounting and provide you with all the information you need to make informed decisions for your business. From understanding the difference between an operating lease and a capital lease to best practices for accounting treatment, we’ve got you covered. So let’s dive in and explore the world of operating leases together!

What is an operating lease?

An operating lease is a type of leasing agreement that allows businesses to rent assets for a specific period without taking ownership. In other words, it’s like renting an asset rather than buying it outright. Operating leases are commonly used for high-value assets such as real estate, aircraft, and heavy equipment.

Unlike with a capital lease, the business doesn’t have the option to purchase the asset at the end of the lease term. Instead, they return it to the lessor or negotiate another rental agreement.

Operating leases offer several benefits for businesses. They allow companies to use high-cost assets without having to pay upfront costs or take on long-term debt obligations. This can be particularly advantageous for smaller businesses that may not have access to large amounts of capital.

Additionally, operating leases provide more flexibility than owning an asset outright since they can be terminated early if circumstances change or new technology emerges.

However, there are also challenges associated with operating leases in terms of accounting treatment and compliance with regulatory requirements. These challenges often require careful consideration and management by procurement professionals when evaluating potential agreements.

How is an operating lease different from a capital lease?

When it comes to leasing equipment or property, two common types of leases are operating leases and capital leases. Although both options provide access to assets without the initial purchase price, there are key differences between them.

An operating lease is essentially a rental agreement in which the lessee pays for the use of an asset over a short period, typically less than its useful life. In contrast, a capital lease is more like financing through debt where ownership transfers from the lessor to the lessee at the end of the lease term.

The accounting treatment for these leases also differs significantly. Under an operating lease, expenses are recognized evenly throughout each payment period as rent expenses on income statements. However, under a capital lease arrangement, interest and depreciation expenses must be recorded separately on financial statements.

One important factor that sets these two types apart is how much control they give to procurement professionals over their leased assets. An operating lease provides flexibility while allowing companies to keep up-to-date with technological advances by upgrading equipment regularly; whereas with a capital lease arrangement puts responsibility for maintenance costs and repairs squarely on the shoulders of procurement professionals.

Understanding these distinctions can help organizations make informed decisions about choosing either option based on their specific needs and objectives.

The benefits of operating leases for procurement professionals

Procurement professionals play a crucial role in managing the company’s finances and assets. One of the significant benefits of operating leases is that it allows procurement professionals to acquire assets without depleting their capital budget. An operating lease enables companies to use an asset for a specific period, usually three to five years, while making regular payments.

Operating leases provide several other benefits besides preserving capital budgets. They also offer flexibility as they allow procurement teams to upgrade or replace equipment frequently easily. Additionally, leasing companies handle maintenance and repair costs during the lease term, freeing up resources for other projects.

Another advantage of operating leases is that they eliminate residual value risks associated with ownership when dealing with rapidly depreciating assets such as technology equipment. By leasing instead of owning these types of assets, procurement teams can avoid losses related to obsolescence or depreciation and reduce financial risk.

Moreover, operating leases are beneficial from an accounting perspective since they only affect a company’s income statement rather than its balance sheet. This distinction makes it easier for procurement professionals to manage cash flows by keeping debt off-balance sheets.

Operating leases provide numerous advantages for procurement professionals looking to gain access to new equipment while conserving their capital expenditures budget. The flexibility offered through leasing terms often gives organizations better adaptability over time compared with traditional financing options like buying new gear outright upfront – especially when you factor in all those added support services included under most plans today!

The challenges of operating lease accounting

Operating lease accounting can pose several challenges for procurement professionals. One of the primary difficulties is determining the right classification of leases as operating or capital leases. This requires a thorough understanding of leasing standards and guidelines, which can be complex and technical.

Another challenge lies in accurately estimating the lease term and calculating the present value of future lease payments. This involves making assumptions about various factors such as renewal options, termination clauses, residual values, and discount rates. Any errors or discrepancies in these calculations can have significant implications on financial statements.

Additionally, tracking lease payments and ensuring timely recognition of expenses can be challenging without an effective system in place. Procurement professionals need to have robust processes for monitoring lease agreements, recording transactions accurately, reconciling accounts regularly, and complying with regulations.

Moreover, changes in leasing standards such as ASC 842 add further complexity to operating lease accounting by requiring lessees to recognize almost all leased assets on their balance sheets along with corresponding liabilities.

Procurement professionals should stay up-to-date with evolving accounting requirements related to operating leases to mitigate risks associated with inaccuracies in financial reporting.

Best practices for operating lease accounting

When it comes to operating lease accounting, there are some best practices that procurement professionals should keep in mind. First and foremost, it’s important to maintain accurate records of all leases and their terms. This includes the lease start and end dates, payment amounts, renewal options, and any other relevant details.

Procurement professionals should also ensure that they have a thorough understanding of the accounting standards related to operating leases. This includes knowledge of IFRS 16 and ASC 842, which both require lessees to recognize leased assets on their balance sheets.

Another best practice is to use software or tools specifically designed for managing lease agreements. These can help streamline processes like tracking payments and renewals while ensuring accuracy in financial reporting.

It’s also crucial to regularly review lease agreements to ensure compliance with accounting standards as well as identify any potential cost-saving opportunities such as negotiating better rates or consolidating multiple leases into one agreement.

Effective communication with stakeholders including finance teams, suppliers and auditors is essential in ensuring transparency around leasing arrangements. By implementing these best practices for operating lease accounting treatment procurement professionals can minimize risk whilst maximizing efficiency within their organization.


Operating leases can be a valuable tool for procurement professionals to manage their company’s assets while keeping costs low. However, it is essential to understand the differences between an operating lease and a capital lease and the challenges that come with managing these types of leases. By following best practices in operating lease accounting treatment, such as maintaining accurate records and staying up-to-date with regulatory changes, procurement professionals can make informed decisions about leasing agreements that benefit their organizations in both the short- and long-term.

Additionally, working with experienced finance professionals or outsourcing lease management tasks can help reduce administrative burdens while ensuring compliance with accounting standards. By demystifying operating lease accounting through education and preparation, procurement professionals can effectively leverage this financing option to support business growth objectives.

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