IFRS 15 Series Episode 3: Identifying Performance Obligations
In the introductory episode of this series, we established that IFRS 15 provides the basis for recognition of revenue, how and when revenue should be recognized and disclosures to be made in the financial statements. We discussed the first step of the five steps in revenue recognition in the previous episode.
In this episode, we will discuss the second step – Identifying performance obligations in an identified contract. The performance obligations simply refer to the promises made by an entity to a customer in its contracts with the customer. This promise might be explicitly stated in the contract or might be based on established customary business practices.
Remember that transaction prices are allocated to performance obligations in order to recognize revenue. This is one of the reasons why this step is so important.
A contract includes promises (goods or services) made by an entity to its customers. These promises become performance obligation that is expected of the entity to its customers.
A performance obligation is either:
- A good or service (or a bundle of goods or services) that is distinct or
- A series of distinct goods or services that are substantially the same and that have the same pattern of transfer to the customer.
A GOOD OR SERVICE THAT IS DISTINCT
There are two major considerations in assessing whether a good or service is distinct:
- Whether the customer can benefit from the good or service on its own or with other readily available resources, that is, the good or service is capable of being distinct. In simple terms, a promised good or service can be considered distinct where it is able to provide benefit to the customer on its own, for example, a book sold to a customer – this is distinct and is a performance obligation on its own. Or the customer can use the good or service with other readily available resources, for example, where a customer buys a remote control to use on her television set at home.
- Whether the good or service is separately identifiable from other promises in the contract, that is, the promise to transfer the good or service is distinct within the context of the contract. For example, where X has contracted Y (the seller) to supply a generator and in the same contract, it was stated that Y must carry out the servicing of this generator for the next two years. In this case, the sale of a generator is distinct from servicing the generator and can be seen as two different promises. The servicing of the generator can be separately identified from the sale of the generator. Hence, there are two performance obligations in this contract. Conversely, consider a scenario where a contractor is engaged to build a house, it is embedded in the contract that the contractor has to do the roofing, plumbing, wiring, among other duties. Although there are many obligations within the contract, each of these obligations are not separately identifiable because the main aim is for the contractor to deliver a completed house, hence, these obligations are not distinct within the context of the contract, thus, the combination of all the obligations within the contract will create only one performance obligation - a completed building.
As earlier mentioned, the reason for the above analysis is that transaction prices are allocated to performance obligations and this determines revenue recognized. In the generator example, transaction price will be allocated separately to the generator and separately to the servicing of the generator. However, transaction price will not be allocated separately to the obligations within the house construction contract, because it is only one performance obligation that exists – a completed building.
Let’s use figures to explain.
If the transaction price is 700,000 naira, the company can allocate 500,000 naira to the generator and 200,000 naira to the servicing of the generator for both years based on its transaction price allocation approach. However, if the transaction price for the building is 1,000,000 naira, the company cannot allocate transaction price to each of the obligations (roofing, plumbing, wiring, among others) within the contract. Hence, revenue cannot be recognized based on completion of each of the obligations within the contract since they are not distinct in the context of the contract. The company would rather use either an output or input method of allocating revenue to measure its progress on the construction of the building. You will learn more about this in subsequent episodes.
A SERIES OF DISTINCT GOODS OR SERVICES
There are scenarios where an entity provides an ongoing service to a customer. For example, a cleaning agency that renders cleaning services to a hotel. In this case, the cleaning service done daily is part of a series of distinct services (daily cleaning) that are substantially the same and have the same pattern of transfer to the customer. Where each cleaning service is satisfied over time, and has the same measure of progress, the series must be treated as one performance obligation even though it seems like multiple services rendered.
In conclusion, only when promised goods or services meet the requirements provided by IFRS 15 shall they be considered performance obligations. Any promised goods or services that do not meet this criterion shall either be combined with other goods or services in the contract to form a performance obligation or be totally ignored. An example of the later is when the identified promises do not transfer goods or services to the customer, for instance, administrative tasks of attending to customers.
Below are some probing questions to ask when in doubt:
•Do any of the identified promises not transfer goods or services (e.g., set-up activities or administrative tasks)?
•Is the promised good or service immaterial in the context of the contract?
•Do the goods or services serve as an input to the output for which the customer is contracting?
•Can other entities provide the other obligations?
In the next episode, we will discuss the third step in revenue recognition - Determining the transaction price. Kindly use the comment section to express your opinion on the write-up.
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