How to Replace Excel as Your Lease Accounting Solution

by | Oct 15, 2023

For many accountants, when they hear “ASC 842”, “GASB 87”, or “lease accounting,” they become anxious thinking back to a very stressful deadline-driven project with significant balance sheet implications. This might be because they implemented the new lease accounting standards using Excel. It made sense at the time – their organization already used Excel for many other processes and they are a wizard at creating calculations. To get through the initial implementation, all that was needed was to develop a multi-tabbed Excel workbook with present value calculations. This approach would meet the requirements to get through the first-year audit, right?

However, while Excel is great for a lot of things, many organizations quickly discovered it is not sufficient for ongoing compliance with ASC 842. It lacks internal controls, relies heavily on specific users’ knowledge of complicated formulas, and ultimately is difficult to maintain when anything changes within your lease portfolio. Additionally, it most often leads to increased risk assessments and audit costs due to the manual nature of the lease accounting calculations, as discussed here.

Vendor evaluation

Instead of purchasing the first lease accounting software you find, take the time to research which software is the best fit for your organization’s needs and budget.

Determine the primary users of the software based on your internal processes around leases and brainstorm with them regarding specific features and functionality your new lease accounting software should have. LeaseQuery recommends categorizing features into “Must Have” and “Nice to Have” to easily identify vendors who can meet your minimum requirements versus those who can not.

Other than functionality and price, considerations like available support and customer satisfaction should impact your decision. Before purchasing software, speak with your peers and auditors to understand their experiences and recommendations. Check out how the vendor stacks up against its competitors in online reviews, especially on sites like G2 or Capterra that are specific for software. Set up demos of the products you think best fit your needs and ask lots of questions.

Use our full software comparison guide to make an informed decision when selecting and evaluating lease accounting software vendors.

Data consolidation and migration

If you are working with multiple files or various sheets within a workbook, consolidate your data into one clear spreadsheet with a consistent format. The software you select may have an option to import your existing lease data into the tool. Whether this route makes sense for you will depend heavily on the state of your data, as well as how large your lease population is or if it could be easily manually input into software.

Inquire with your vendor of choice about the fields they require for input, and verify you have those fields within your existing data. Take this opportunity to review your existing spreadsheets and clean up any incorrect or missing data from your lease population. Consider whether or not you need to migrate any expired or terminated leases for comparative financial reporting and include or exclude those leases as necessary. Close out any open items and make any reconciling adjustments. Once you have consolidated your lease information, compare this lease listing to your prior disclosure reports, to ensure you have a complete population.

In addition to the raw lease data, save clean copies of all your lease agreements, as well as any prior work done in Excel, including disclosure reports, amortization schedules, account balances, calculations, or ad hoc reporting for a final reconciliation.

Along with your consolidated lease listing, you should  provide your vendor with information specific to your organization for implementation, including:

  • Primary user information
  • GL accounts and related dimensions (i.e. subsidiaries, divisions, business units, departments, etc.) as well as any
  • Internal policy elections.

As you are updating your internal lease accounting processes to include software, reevaluate your internal lease accounting policies and controls to see what might need to be updated.

Once you have your lease portfolio consolidated, either you or your provider will migrate the data to your new lease accounting software, depending on the options the vendor provides.

Testing and reconciliation

After your lease data is migrated to the new software, review and reconcile the outputs. Ensure that the lease portfolio in the software is consistent with the consolidated lease listing compiled from Excel. Additionally, we recommend reviewing a few samples of lease amortization schedules and comparing them to the Excel amortization schedules to understand the differences and become comfortable with the new software’s calculations.

Run the disclosure reports and account balances from the new software and compare those to your prior disclosure reports and internal general ledger balances to check everything reconciles. Regardless of the software you select, there will likely be some variances based on potential differences in calculation methods. As such, prepare any necessary one-time adjusting entries to tie your existing internal balances to the lease accounting software balances.

Arrange training for all users of the software to confirm they are up to speed on the new functionality, as well as any changes to internal processes and procedures around the ongoing accounting for the lease population.

Summary

It’s never too late to switch from Excel to a lease accounting software. While it requires some effort on the front end, if Excel isn’t working for you, replacing it with a lease accounting software solution can mitigate ongoing issues and make your team more efficient. Schedule a free demo with LeaseQuery today to see the various features your organization has been missing out on.

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ASC 842 Lease Accounting Guide