Lease Term and Useful Life of Leasehold Improvements

The Committee received a request about cancellable or renewable leases and Lease Term and Useful Life of Leasehold Improvements.

The cancellable lease described in the request is one that does not specify a particular contractual term but continues indefinitely until either party to the contract gives notice to terminate. The contract includes a notice period of, for example, less than 12 months and the contract does not oblige either party to make a payment on termination. The renewable lease described in the request is one that specifies an initial period, and renews indefinitely at the end of the initial period unless terminated by either of the parties to the contract.

The request asked two questions:

  1. how to determine the lease term of a cancellable lease or a renewable lease. Specifically, the request asked whether, when applying paragraph B34 of IFRS 16 and assessing ‘no more than an insignificant penalty’, an entity considers the broader economics of the contract, and not only contractual termination payments. Such considerations might include, for example, the cost of abandoning or dismantling leasehold improvements.
  2. whether the useful life of any related non-removable leasehold improvements is limited to the lease term determined applying IFRS 16. Non-removable leasehold improvements are, for example, fixtures and fittings acquired by the lessee and constructed on the underlying asset that is the subject of the cancellable or renewable lease. The lessee will use and benefit from the leasehold improvements only for as long as it uses the underlying asset.

Lease Term and Useful Life of Leasehold Improvements

Lease term

Paragraph 18 of IFRS 16 requires an entity to determine the lease term as the non-cancellable period of a lease, together with both (a) periods covered by an option to extend the lease if the lessee is reasonably certain to exercise that option; and (b) periods covered by an option to terminate the lease if the lessee is reasonably certain not to exercise that option.

In determining the lease term and assessing the length of the non-cancellable period of a lease, paragraph B34 of IFRS 16 requires an entity to determine the period for which the contract is enforceable. Paragraph B34 specifies that ‘a lease is no longer enforceable when the lessee and the lessor each has the right to terminate the lease without permission from the other party with no more than an insignificant penalty’.

Paragraph BC156 sets out the Board’s view that ‘the lease term should reflect an entity’s reasonable expectation of the period during which the underlying asset will be used because that approach provides the most useful information’. Paragraph BC129 explains that, in the Board’s view, an entity is unlikely to add a clause to a lease contract that does not have economic substance.

The Committee observed that, in applying paragraph B34 and determining the enforceable period of the lease described in the request, an entity considers:

  1. the broader economics of the contract, and not only contractual termination payments. For example, if either party has an economic incentive not to terminate the lease such that it would incur a penalty on termination that is more than insignificant, the contract is enforceable beyond the date on which the contract can be terminated; and
  2. whether each of the parties has the right to terminate the lease without permission from the other party with no more than an insignificant penalty. Applying paragraph B34, a lease is no longer enforceable only when both parties have such a right.Consequently, if only one party has the right to terminate the lease without permission from the other party with no more than an insignificant penalty, the contract is enforceable beyond the date on which the contract can be terminated by that party.

If an entity concludes that the contract is enforceable beyond the notice period of a cancellable lease (or the initial period of a renewable lease), it then applies paragraphs 19 and B37-B40 of IFRS 16 to assess whether the lessee is reasonably certain not to exercise the option to terminate the lease.

Useful life of non-removable leasehold improvements

Paragraph 50 of IAS 16 requires an item of property, plant and equipment (asset) to be depreciated over its useful life.

IAS 16 defines the useful life of an asset as (emphasis added) ‘the period over which an asset is expected to be available for use by an entity; or the number of production or similar units expected to be obtained from the asset by an entity’.

Paragraphs 56 and 57 of IAS 16 provide further requirements on the useful life of an asset. In particular, paragraph 56(d) specifies that in determining the useful life of an asset, an entity considers any legal or similar limits on the use of the asset, such as the expiry dates of related leases. Paragraph 57 specifies that the useful life of an asset (a) is defined in terms of the asset’s expected utility to the entity, and (b) may be shorter than its economic life.

An entity applies paragraphs 56-57 of IAS 16 in determining the useful life of non-removable leasehold improvements. If the lease term of the related lease is shorter than the economic life of those leasehold improvements, the entity considers whether it expects to use the leasehold improvements beyond that lease term. If the entity does not expect to use the leasehold improvements beyond the lease term of the related lease then, applying paragraph 57 of IAS 16, it concludes that the useful life of the non-removable leasehold improvements is the same as the lease term. The Committee observed that, applying paragraphs 56-57 of IAS 16, an entity might often reach this conclusion for leasehold improvements that the entity will use and benefit from only for as long as it uses the underlying asset in the lease.