Cloud based software
Historically, companies acquiring IT and other infrastructure have only faced one decision – buy or lease? From a financial perspective, the choice was simple: lease, because it didn’t require up-front capital and potentially allowed assets to be kept off balance sheet under the old accounting rules. A buy decision meant an up-front investment of capital and a depreciating asset on the balance sheet.
However, with the evolution of technology, a new choice has emerged – cloud services, which can be obtained without buying or leasing. Instead of expensive data centres and IT software licenses, users can choose to simply have a provider host all of their infrastructure and services. No upfront investment is required, just a simple monthly series of payments that can be scaled up, scaled back or cancelled as needed. But what does all of this mean for income statements – and your company’s balance sheet?
Cloud accounting – a different business model
Historically, any company purchasing its IT infrastructure would capitalise the costs and amortise them over time. Under the new leases standard, a company using a lease or hire purchase arrangement to access IT infrastructure would end up with a similar capitalised asset and amortisation charge over time. However, the cloud alternative represents a fundamentally different business model, one where, unlike the legacy purchase model, a user of cloud services does not ever own the underlying assets.
While this isn’t yet another article about the leases standard, it’s useful to step through some of the sensitivities in financial metrics under the leasing standard. While cloud services are likely to result in a differing accounting treatment, the all too familiar concerns in lease accounting are still relevant.