Cell phone companies offer new phones to entice clients to renew their contracts. Retailers slash their prices to draw consumers to purchase. Car dealerships hand out freebies and discounts. In the world of consumption, who would refuse attractive incentives?
Landlords also entice prospective tenants with alluring offers, especially when the real estate market is in a slump. One of the popular incentives is a commercial tenant improvement allowance (TI allowance or TIA for short). But what exactly is it and how is tenant improvement allowance accounting handled? Here are the basics:
What is a tenant improvement allowance?
A TI allowance is money provided by the landlord to a tenant to help fund any improvements to space. Fast tenant improvement allowances can also be used to pay for costs associated with moving to the rented property.
What qualifies as a tenant improvement?
Normally, a landlord allows the TI to be used on hard and soft costs of a renovation project.
Hard costs pertain to improvements that can be left behind after the tenant leaves the property. Such improvements are beneficial to the landlord.
On the other hand, soft costs barely provide any direct benefits to the landlord but, are required components of the renovation like construction management fees.
Below are some examples of hard costs:
What is typically not covered by a Tenant Improvement Allowance?
Most landlords do not allow the TI allowance to be used for miscellaneous expenses incurred to cater to the specific needs of the client or improvements that do not provide any value to the landlord. Improvements that can be removed once the tenant leaves are not covered by the TI allowance either. However, in some cases, landlords would be willing to contribute a small share of the TI allowance for some expenses to secure a rental contract.
Below are some examples of costs normally not covered by a TI allowance:
- Data cabling
- Electronic equipment
- Moving expenses
How were tenant improvement allowances accounted for under ASC 840?
Under ASC 840, tenant improvement allowances (TIAs) were treated as lease incentives. Lease incentives are payments made by a lessor to a lessee to induce the lessee to enter into a lease. Under ASC 840, lease incentives were recognized as reductions to rent expenses by the lessee on a straight-line basis over the term of the lease.
The lease incentive obligation liability was then amortized over the term of the lease, with a corresponding reduction to rent expense.
It is important to note that TIAs should not be netted against leasehold improvements. Leasehold improvements are improvements made by a lessee to leased property, and they are accounted for as fixed assets. TIAs are simply payments made by a lessor to a lessee, and they are accounted for separately.
How to account for tenant improvement allowances under ASC 842
Under ASC 842, tenant improvement allowances (TIAs) are still classified as incentives, but they are no longer reported as a lease incentive obligation liability to be amortized over the life of the lease. Instead, they are reflected in the initial measurement of the right-of-use asset (ROU asset) and sometimes the lease liability at the inception of the lease, depending on when the allowance is received.
When initially adopting ASC 842, any unamortized lease incentive obligation liabilities are eliminated and reclassified to the new ROU asset’s opening balance. After initial implementation of the new standard, TIAs will continue to be recognized in the ROU asset and potentially lease liabilities.
ASC 842 describes lease incentives as “paid” or “payable” depending on the timing of their receipt. This article uses the same terminology and describes how to account for both types.
How much is the typical tenant improvement allowance?
Prospective tenants should provide a detailed and accurate cost projection of the planned renovation. Otherwise, they would be seeing a TI allowance of $10 to $20 for every square foot, amounts that would barely cover the costs of plumbing, electricity, or carpeting. The excess amount needed for the renovations not covered by the TI allowance would be paid for by the tenant.
It is the landlord who will decide how much he or she is willing to spend on the TI allowance. The amount the landlord spends depends on the real estate market conditions, the value of the tenant and the value-added of the proposed commercial lease build out clause.
Is a tenant improvement allowance a loan?
The typical TI allowance is not a loan that has to be paid back by the tenant. However, there is an amortized TI allowance, which is a combination of a TI and a loan provided by the landlord.
The tenant improvement allowance amortization is a provision in the contract that has to be negotiated between the tenant and the landlord.
An amortized TI provides for additional funds needed to complete the renovations. It allows the tenant to borrow money with interest from the landlord. The loan is like a bank loan where tenants have to pay the amortization over the term of the lease.
How is tenant improvement allowances accounting done?
Tenant improvement allowance accounting depends on who initially funds the improvement and oversees the renovation work. Different scenarios impact the accounting for TI allowance:
owns the improvements
owns the improvements
The journal entries depend on which of the above scenarios are chosen.
Landlord owns the improvements
When the landlord pays for the renovation and tenants supervise the work or when the landlord pays and oversees the improvement, then it is the landlord who owns the improvements.
In this scenario, the landlord is required to record the improvements as a fixed asset and then depreciate the value of the improvements over a specified period.
For example, if the improvement costs a total of $10,000, the landlord will use this figure and divide it throughout the lease. The figure from this division would be subtracted from the rental income annually.
The length of time depends on the classification of the rental property: residential or non-residential. Generally, residential property is depreciated for 27.5 years and a non-residential property is depreciated over 39 years. However, costs that are not covered by the TI allowance such as fixtures, furniture, and equipment are depreciated over 7 years.
The landlords will be depreciating the cost of the improvements over the lease period. If there is a new tenant who doesn’t require any improvements to the property, then the landlord can simply carry on with the depreciation schedule until the value of the improvements has been exhausted.
If the property was damaged or destroyed, then the landlord has to write off the remaining undepreciated balance of the asset that will appear as a loss in the income statement.
Tenant owns the improvements
If the tenants provided the funds for the majority of improvements, then it is the tenant who owns the improvements. In this scenario, the tenant will record the TI allowance received as an incentive. The amount spent on improvement will be amortized over the period of the rental term.
In cases when the amortization period is longer than the rental period, then the tenant is required to write off the remaining amount.
In this scenario, tenants have to declare the deductions from rent as income. For the landlord, the rent will be treated as a cash payment but the cost of the improvements will be depreciated.
Tenant improvement allowances paid at or before commencement of the lease
TIAs can be paid at or before the commencement of the lease.
TIA paid at or before commencement of the lease
Transition to ASC 842
TIA received at lease commencement
Reduces the ROU asset’s opening balance
Any unamortized balance of a TIA is debited and reclassed to the ROU asset’s opening balance
Debit to cash and adjust the initial ROU asset recognized
Under ASC 842, TIAs are accounted for as a direct adjustment to the right-of-use (ROU) asset’s opening balance. The ROU asset is the asset that a lessee obtains by entering into a lease. It is calculated as the present value of the lease payments.
When a TIA is paid at or before the commencement of the lease, it reduces the ROU asset’s opening balance. This is because the lessee is essentially receiving a payment from the landlord that reduces the amount of money that they will have to pay over the life of the lease.
In the month/period of transition to ASC 842, any unamortized balance of a TIA is debited to remove the lease incentive liability from the balance sheet and reclassed to the ROU asset’s opening balance with a credit. This journal entry ensures that the ROU asset is accurately reflected on the balance sheet after the transition to ASC 842.
After the transition, TIAs received at lease commencement are recognized as a debit to cash and adjust the initial ROU asset recognized. The remaining line items to record a new lease are a credit to the lease liability and a debit to the ROU asset, adjusted to equal the initial liability balance less the TIA received.
Tenant improvement allowances payable after the commencement of the lease
When TIAs are paid after the commencement of the lease, they are factored into both the lease liability and right-of-use (ROU) asset measurement. The lease liability is calculated as the present value of all future payments, including those received for the allowance. The ROU asset is the asset that a lessee obtains by entering into a lease. It is calculated as the present value of the lease payments.
The payments for improvements will be reflected in the periods they are expected to be received during the lease term and netted with the rent payments for that period. This means that the lease liability will be lower due to factoring in the expected cash receipts, and subsequently, the ROU asset balance will also be lower.
Tenant improvement allowances neither paid nor payable at the commencement of the lease
ASC 842 does not provide specific guidance on how to account for tenant improvement allowances (TIAs) that are neither paid nor payable at the commencement of the lease. This can make it difficult for lessees to determine how to properly record these allowances in their financial statements.
Here are two approaches to accounting for TIAs that are not paid or payable at the commencement of the lease:
- Maximum reimbursement approach: This approach assumes that the lessee is reasonably certain to incur the maximum amount of reimbursable costs under the lease. The maximum amount of the TIA is then treated as an incentive payable, which is recognized through a reduction of the lease liability and right-of-use (ROU) asset.
- Actual reimbursement approach: This approach waits until the reimbursable costs have actually been incurred before reducing the ROU asset and lease liability. The reduction of the ROU asset is then recognized prospectively over the remainder of the lease term.
The best approach to accounting for TIAs that are not paid or payable at the commencement of the lease will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of the lease. However, the maximum reimbursement approach is generally considered to be the most conservative and straightforward approach.
Tenant improvement allowance accounting made easier
The TI allowance is a concession with outstanding benefits both for the landlords and tenants. It helps landlords in securing lease contracts while allowing tenants to improve the space.
However, tenant improvement allowance accounting isn’t always easy, since who pays and oversees the improvements affects how the allowance should be accounted for. Fortunately, there is reliable lease accounting and lease administration software like Visual Lease that can help.