|Accounting Principles and Practices
Adoption of New Accounting Standards
Reclassification of Certain Tax Effects from Accumulated Other Comprehensive Income
In February 2018, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (“FASB”) issued new accounting guidance related to reclassification of certain tax effects from accumulated other comprehensive income. The guidance allowed a reclassification from accumulated comprehensive income to retained earnings for stranded tax effects resulting from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The guidance was effective for the Company in the first quarter of 2019. For the three and nine months ended September 30, 2019, there was no impact on the net income of the Company as Aon did not elect to reclassify stranded tax effects on the Condensed Consolidated Statement of Financial Position. It is the Company’s policy to release income tax effects from accumulated other comprehensive loss using the portfolio approach.
Targeted Improvements to Accounting for Hedging Activities
In August 2017, the FASB issued new accounting guidance on targeted improvements to accounting for hedging activities. The new guidance amended its hedge accounting model to enable entities to better portray their risk management activities in the financial statements. The guidance eliminated the requirement to separately measure and report hedge ineffectiveness and required the effect of a hedging instrument to be presented in the same income statement line as the hedged item. The new guidance was effective for Aon in the first quarter of 2019 and the Company adopted it on a modified retrospective basis with no cumulative effect adjustment to accumulated other comprehensive income or corresponding adjustment to Retained earnings. Changes to the Condensed Consolidated Statement of Income and financial statement disclosures were applied prospectively. Under the new guidance, gains or losses on certain derivative hedging instruments are recognized in Revenue, as opposed to Other income (expense) under the previous guidance. For the three and nine months ended September 30, 2019, the adoption of this guidance had no impact on the net income and an insignificant impact on the operating income of the Company.
In February 2016, the FASB issued a new accounting standard on leases, which requires lessees to recognize assets and liabilities for most leases. Under the new standard, a lessee is required to recognize in the Consolidated Statements of Financial Position, liabilities to make future lease payments and right-of-use (“ROU”) assets representing its right to use the underlying assets for the lease term. The recognition, measurement, timing, and presentation of expenses and cash flows arising from a lease by a lessee have not significantly changed from previous U.S. GAAP.
The Company adopted the new standard as of January 1, 2019, using the modified retrospective approach for all leases existing at, or entered into after, the period of adoption. Under this approach, prior periods were not restated. Rather, lease balances and other disclosures for prior periods were provided in the notes to the financial statements as previously reported, and the cumulative effect of initially applying the guidance was recognized in the Condensed Consolidated Statement of Financial Position as of September 30, 2019.
The modified retrospective approach includes several optional practical expedients available that entities may elect to apply upon transition. These practical expedients relate to the identification and classification of leases that commenced before the effective date, initial direct costs for leases that commenced before the effective date, and the ability to use hindsight in evaluating lessee options to extend or terminate a lease or to purchase the underlying asset. The Company elected the package of practical expedients permitted under the transition guidance within the new standard, which allows a lessee to carryforward their population of existing leases, the classification of each lease, as well as the treatment of initial direct costs as of the period of adoption. In addition, the Company elected the practical expedient related to lease and non-lease components, as an accounting policy election for all asset classes, which allows a lessee to not separate non-lease from lease components and instead account for consideration paid in a contract as a single lease component. Lastly, the Company did not elect the practical expedient related to hindsight analysis which allows a lessee to use hindsight in determining the lease term and in assessing impairment of the entity’s ROU assets.
The Company has made a policy election to not recognize ROU assets and lease liabilities that arise from leases with an initial term of twelve months or less on the Condensed Consolidated Statements of Financial Position. However, the Company will recognize these lease payments in the Condensed Consolidated Statements of Income on a straight-line basis over the lease term and variable lease payments in the period in which the obligation is incurred. The Company has chosen to apply this accounting policy across all classes of underlying assets. Additionally, upon adoption, the Company utilized a discount rate to determine the present value of the lease payments based on information available as of January 1, 2019.
Beginning January 1, 2019, operating ROU assets and operating lease liabilities are recognized based on the present value of lease payments over the lease term at the commencement date. Operating leases in effect prior to January 1, 2019 were recognized at the present value of the remaining payments on the remaining lease term as of January 1, 2019. Upon adoption, the Company recognized ROU assets and lease liabilities of $1.1 billion and $1.3 billion, respectively. The standard had an insignificant impact on the Condensed Consolidated Statements of Income and no impact on the Condensed Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows. Refer to Note 20 “Lease Commitments” for further information including significant assumptions and judgments made.
As a result of applying the modified retrospective approach to adopt the new leasing standard, the following adjustments were made to the Condensed Consolidated Statement of Financial Position as of January 1, 2019 (in millions):
Operating lease right-of-use assets
Other non-current assets
Other current liabilities
Non-current operating lease liabilities
Other non-current liabilities
Accounting Standards Issued But Not Yet Adopted
Cloud Computing Arrangements
In August 2018, the FASB issued new accounting guidance on implementation costs incurred in a cloud computing arrangement that is a service contract. The new guidance aligns capitalization requirements for certain implementation costs incurred in cloud computing arrangements with existing requirements for capitalizing implementation costs for internal-use software. These costs will be deferred over the term of the hosting arrangement, including any optional renewal periods the entity is reasonably certain to exercise. An entity may apply the new guidance on either a prospective or retrospective basis. The new guidance is effective for Aon in the first quarter of 2020 with early adoption permitted. The Company does not expect there to be a significant impact on the Financial Statements and will adopt the new accounting guidance in the first quarter of 2020 on a prospective basis for all implementation costs incurred after the date of initial adoption.
Changes to the Disclosure Requirements for Defined Benefit Plans
In August 2018, the FASB issued new accounting guidance related to the disclosure requirements for employers that sponsor defined benefit pension and other postretirement benefit plans. The guidance requires sponsors of these plans to provide additional disclosures, including weighted average interest rates used in the entity’s cash balance pension plans and a narrative description of reasons for any significant gains or losses impacting the benefit obligation for the period, and eliminates certain previous disclosure requirements. The new guidance is effective for Aon in the first quarter of 2021 with early adoption permitted and will be applied retrospectively. The Company is currently evaluating the impact that the guidance will have on the Financial Statements and the period of adoption.
Simplifying the Test for Goodwill Impairment
In January 2017, the FASB issued new accounting guidance on simplifying the test for goodwill impairment. Currently the standard requires an entity to perform a two-step test to determine the amount, if any, of goodwill impairment. In Step 1, an entity compares the fair value of a reporting unit with its carrying amount, including goodwill. If the carrying amount of the reporting unit exceeds its fair value, the entity performs Step 2 and compares the implied fair value of goodwill with the carrying amount of that goodwill for that reporting unit. An impairment charge equal to the amount by which the carrying amount of goodwill for the reporting unit exceeds the implied fair value of that goodwill is recorded, limited to the amount of goodwill allocated to that reporting unit. The new guidance removes Step 2. An entity will apply a one-step quantitative test and record the amount of goodwill impairment as the excess of a reporting unit’s carrying amount over its fair value, not to exceed the total amount of goodwill allocated to the reporting unit. The new guidance does not amend the optional qualitative assessment of goodwill impairment. An entity will apply the new guidance on a prospective basis. The new guidance is effective for Aon in the first quarter of 2020 and early adoption is permitted. The Company does not expect there to be a significant impact on the Financial Statements and will adopt the new guidance in the first quarter of 2020.
In June 2016, the FASB issued a new accounting standard on the measurement of credit losses on financial instruments. The new standard replaces the current incurred loss impairment methodology with a methodology that reflects expected credit losses and requires consideration of a broader range of reasonable and supportable information to inform credit loss estimates. An entity will apply the new standard through a cumulative-effect adjustment to retained earnings as of the beginning of the first reporting period in which the standard is effective. The new standard is effective for Aon in the first quarter of 2020 with early adoption permitted. The Company does not expect there to be a significant impact on the Financial Statements and will adopt the new accounting standard in the first quarter of 2020.