On January 16, 2014, the Financial Accounting Standards Board issued Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 2014-02, Intangibles—Goodwill and Other (Topic 350): Accounting for Goodwill. This ASU introduces an accounting alternative for private companies that simplifies and reduces the costs associated with the subsequent accounting for goodwill. The effects of a private company electing the accounting alternative as its accounting policy for goodwill include:

  • Amortizing goodwill over a period not to exceed 10 years
  • Choosing to test goodwill for impairment at either the entity level or the reporting unit level instead of having to test goodwill at the reporting unit level
  • Testing goodwill for impairment only when there is a triggering event instead of testing it every year
  • Testing and measuring goodwill for impairment by comparing the fair value of the entity (or reporting unit) to its carrying amount instead of performing a two-step goodwill impairment test that requires hypothetical business combination accounting for purposes of measuring an impairment loss

If the accounting alternative is elected, all aspects of it must be elected. In other words, a private company cannot elect to apply the impairment guidance and not elect to apply the amortization guidance.

While the ASU is not effective until annual periods beginning after December 15, 2014, and interim periods within annual periods beginning after December 15, 2015, early adoption is permitted. As such, private companies may elect the accounting alternative to account for goodwill in their 2013 financial statements as long as those statements have not yet been made available for issuance.