Valuation Allowances under ASC 740
July 29, 2022
ASC 740 governs how companies recognize the effects of income taxes on their financial statements under U.S. GAAP. This applies only to taxes based on income – not sales, payroll, or property taxes – per ASC 740-10.
Valuation allowances impact the ASC 740 provision for income tax required by U.S. GAAP. Like most tax provision subjects, correctly handling valuation allowances requires tax and accounting expertise.
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When is a deferred tax asset valuation allowance required?
ASC 740-10-30-18 states that future realization of the tax benefit of an existing deductible temporary difference or carryforward ultimately depends on whether the company has sufficient taxable income of the appropriate character (for example, ordinary income or capital gain) within the carryback/carryforward period available under the tax law.
The following four possible sources of taxable income may be available under the tax law to realize a tax benefit for deductible temporary differences and carryforwards.
- Future reversals of existing temporary differences
- Future taxable income exclusive of reversing temporary differences and carryforwards
- Taxable income in prior carryback year(s) if tax law permits carryback
- Tax planning strategies (see paragraph 740-10-30-19) that would, if necessary, be implemented to, for example:
- Accelerate taxable amounts to utilize expiring carryforwards
- Change the character of taxable or deductible amounts from ordinary income or loss to capital gain or loss
- Switch from tax-exempt to taxable investments
Tax planning strategies
According to ASC 740-10-55-39, a qualifying tax planning strategy is an action that:
- Is prudent and feasible. Management must have the ability to implement the strategy and expect to do so unless the need is eliminated in future years. For example, management would not have to apply the strategy if income earned in a later year uses the entire amount of carryforward from the current year.
- An entity ordinarily might not take but would take to prevent an operating loss or tax credit carryforward from expiring unused. All of the various strategies that are expected to be employed for business or tax purposes other than utilization of carryforwards that would otherwise expire unused are, for purposes of this Subtopic, implicit in management’s estimate of future taxable income and, therefore, are not tax planning strategies as that term is used in this Topic.
- Would result in the realization of deferred tax assets. The effect of qualifying tax planning strategies must be recognized when determining the amount of a valuation allowance.
When evaluating the need for a valuation allowance, tax planning strategies include:
- Elections for tax purposes
- Strategies that shift estimated future taxable income between years, and
- Strategies that shift the estimated pattern and timing of future reversals of temporary differences
A plan that involves the repatriation of earnings from an entity whose earnings meet the indefinite reversal criteria does not constitute a tax planning strategy.
The need to schedule temporary differences
In assessing the need for a valuation allowance, a company that cannot forecast future income may be required to schedule the reversal of temporary differences to determine the amount of deferred tax liabilities (DTLs) expected to offset the DTAs. The company should use a systematic and logical methodology to schedule the reversals. If no other sources of taxable income are available, the company should record a valuation allowance against the residual amount of DTAs that are not offset by DTLs in the scheduling exercise.
The 80% limitation on federal NOL utilization and the Section 163(j) interest deduction limitation, combined with the indefinite carryforward nature of those attributes, impact the way DTAs are scheduled to reverse.
A valuation allowance is recorded solely against DTAs, not DTLs. To the extent that DTLs will reverse and allow the company to utilize all its DTAs, no valuation allowance is recorded. Consequently, it is common for companies that have determined that a valuation allowance is necessary to record a valuation allowance equal to the amount that DTAs exceed DTLs.
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What evidence is used in a valuation allowance analysis?
According to ASC 740-10-30-22, examples (not prerequisites) of positive evidence that might support a conclusion that a valuation allowance is not needed when there is negative evidence include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Existing contracts or firm sales backlog that will produce more than enough taxable income to realize the deferred tax asset based on existing sales prices and cost structures
- An excess of appreciated asset value over the tax basis of the entity’s net assets in an amount sufficient to realize the deferred tax asset
- A strong earnings history exclusive of the loss that created the future deductible amount (tax loss carryforward or deductible temporary difference) coupled with evidence indicating that the loss (for example, an unusual, infrequent, or extraordinary item) is an aberration rather than a continuing condition
Under ASC 740-10-30-21, forming a conclusion that a valuation allowance is not needed is difficult when there is negative evidence such as cumulative losses in recent years. Other examples of negative evidence include, but are not limited to, the following:
- A history of operating loss or tax credit carryforwards expiring unused
- Losses expected in early future years (by a presently profitable entity)
- Unsettled circumstances that, if unfavorably resolved, would adversely affect future operations and profit levels on a continuing basis in future years
- A carryback, carryforward period that is so brief it would limit the realization of tax benefits if a significant deductible temporary difference is expected to reverse in a single year or the entity operates in a traditionally cyclical business
Weight given to positive and negative evidence
ASC 740-10-30-23 states that an entity shall use judgment in considering the relative impact of negative and positive evidence. The weight given to the potential effect of negative and positive evidence shall be commensurate with the extent to which it can be objectively verified. The more negative evidence that exists, the more positive evidence is necessary, and the more difficult it is to support a conclusion that a valuation allowance is not needed for some portion or all of the deferred tax asset. A cumulative loss in recent years is a significant piece of negative evidence that is difficult to overcome.
According to ASC 740-10-30-24, future realization of a tax benefit sometimes will be expected for a portion, but not all of a deferred tax asset and the dividing line between the two portions may be unclear. In those circumstances, application of judgment based on a careful assessment of all available evidence is required to determine the portion of a deferred tax asset for which it is more likely than not that a tax benefit will not be realized.
In practice, companies will often record a valuation allowance in a period in which they report a cumulative pretax loss, adjusted for permanent items, based on the previous 12 quarters of activity. A company in that situation will typically not consider forecasts of future income as positive evidence.
Valuation allowances and share-based compensation
With respect to DTAs associated with share-based awards, the existence of underwater options (i.e., options where the exercise price exceeds fair value) is not negative evidence in considering the need for a valuation allowance. However, if a deferred tax asset associated with underwater options is material, it should be disclosed.
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How are valuation allowances accounted for under ASC 740?
If the determination is made that a valuation allowance is necessary, the existence of DTLs related to indefinite-lived intangibles will result in a situation where the valuation allowance recognized either exceeds the amount of any net DTA or requires the recognition of a valuation allowance for a company in a net DTL position.
Release of valuation allowance
A valuation allowance should be reversed in the period in which the positive evidence outweighs the negative evidence. The reversal of the valuation allowance will be recorded as a deferred income tax benefit.
A company should give significant attention to the appropriate timing of releasing a valuation allowance. Companies should particularly focus on the interim period in which evidence becomes known or knowable with respect to the recognition or reversal of a valuation allowance.
No backward tracing to other comprehensive income
Certain items are recorded in other comprehensive income (OCI) rather than the income statement. These items include currency translation adjustments (CTAs), pension and post-retirement actuarial gains and losses and amortization of prior service costs, and unrealized gains and losses on available for sale (AFS) securities, among other items.
To the extent a valuation allowance is established against an item recorded to the OCI, the valuation allowance will not be recorded to OCI but instead will be recorded to income tax expense.
For interim reporting, if a portion of the valuation allowance recorded or removed relates to current year activity (i.e., earnings, permanent items, and reversals of temporary items), that amount is included in the annual effective tax rate calculation rather than adjusted discretely. Conversely, the amount of valuation allowance that relates to past and future earnings is released as a discrete item.
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