This archival study addresses whether the presence or absence of “bright lines” in a lease accounting standard influences the classification of leases as capital or operating. To the best of our knowledge, our study is the first archival research to address the association between lease classification decisions and the use of U.S. GAAP and IFRS lease accounting standards. We examine firms' lease classification decisions using 2007–2009 data from a matched sample of members of the Fortune Global 500 that report under U.S. GAAP and IFRS. Consistent with experimental work by Agoglia et al. (2011), we find strong evidence that U.S. GAAP firms using a lease standard containing bright-line guidance (i.e., ASC 840) are more likely to classify leases as operating than IFRS firms adhering to a lease accounting standard that lacks the bright lines of the U.S. standard (i.e., IAS 17). Also consistent with Agoglia et al. (2011), we find little evidence of increased dispersion accompanying financial reporting under IFRS. In fact, we find some evidence suggesting the use of IFRS may actually lead to lower dispersion in reporting outcomes.

You do not currently have access to this content.