New goodwill amortization option for private company GAAP-basis financial statements

  • February 27, 2016
  • Marianne Lilly, CPA, CGMA, CFE

If your company has GAAP-basis financial statement with goodwill, there is a new goodwill amortization option which is effective for annual periods beginning after December 15, 2014, and interim periods beginning after December 15, 2015.

Private company GAAP allows the company the option of amortizing goodwill over 10 years, unless a shorter period of time is more indicative of the expected useful life.

Amortization should be calculated on a straight-line basis.

Goodwill existing at the time the entity elects this accounting alternative should be amortized prospectively over 10 years, unless a shorter life is considered more appropriate

Private companies electing this accounting alternative should amortize all future acquisitions of goodwill over 10 years, unless a shorter life is considered more appropriate. 

If a private company elects this amortization option, impairment testing of goodwill is required but only when a triggering event occurs, which is different from the existing requirement to perform an annual test for impairment. Also, there are financial statement disclosure requirements under this option which must be addressed.

Please note (for any accounting change):  A Company  may change an accounting principle if (a) it is required by new authoritative literature or (b) the entity can justify the change as preferable. A company may adopt this new alternative at any point until the effective date without justification as it is a new alternative offered in the Codification; however, after the effective date, an entity would need to justify the alternative as preferable in order to adopt it.  This means if your company wants to elect to amortize Goodwill it should be done for annual 2015 financial statement.