April 24, 2020

PPP: Accounting for Loan Forgiveness

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PPP: Accounting for Loan Forgiveness
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Under the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”), as part of the CARES Act, the federal government authorizes up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees during the COVID-19 crisis.

Generally, the loan amounts will be forgiven as long as:

• The loan proceeds are used to cover payroll costs, and most mortgage interest, rent, and utility costs over the 8 week period after the loan is made; and

• Employee and compensation levels are maintained

Our conclusion on accounting for government assistance in the form of loan forgiveness:

While US GAAP does not speak specifically to the accounting for PPP loan forgiveness, we believe that three standards, detailed below in section titled “The guidance related to loan forgiveness” provide a basis for a reasonable accounting treatment by analogy. The FASB or other regulatory bodies may issue guidance related to this issue in the next few months, which would supersede this guidance.

Each of the sources of accounting guidance indicate that loan forgiveness would be recorded as income for the borrower, though there are nuances under each approach leading to variances in how and when the income would be recorded. Generally, the company would record the forgiveness of debt when the debt has been officially forgiven.


The CARES Act explicitly provides that loans forgiven under the PPP are not subject to taxation as discharge of indebtedness income as they shall be excluded from gross income. Accordingly, additional taxable income should not result from the forgiveness of PPP debt. For state income tax purposes, it will vary based on state tax laws.


It is important that companies maintain records related to payroll, rent and utilities during the eight week period to be certain that they are able to meet the criteria for debt forgiveness. The company is also required to certify that they have maintained their headcount of employees.

More specifics related to the CARES Act:

PPP loans or portions of those loans are not forgiven if loan amounts are used for anything other than payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities payments over the 8 weeks after getting the loan. Due to likely high subscription, it is anticipated that not more than 25% of the forgiven amount may be for nonpayroll costs. Loan forgiveness will

• Number of Staff: loan forgiveness will be reduced if borrowers decrease full-time employee headcount.

• Level of Payroll: loan forgiveness will also be reduced if borrowers decrease salaries and wages by

more than 25% for any employee that made less than $100,000 annualized in 2019.

• Re-Hiring: Borrowers have until June 30, 2020 to restore full-time employment and salary levels for

any changes made between February 15, 2020 and April 26, 2020.

Borrowers may request loan forgiveness

By submitting a request to the lender that is servicing the loan. The request will include documents that verify the number of full-time equivalent employees and pay rates, as well as the payments on eligible mortgage, lease, and utility obligations. Borrowers must certify that the documents are true and that they used the forgiveness amount to keep employees and make eligible mortgage interest, rent, and utility payments. The lender must make a decision on forgiveness within 60 days.

The guidance related to loan forgiveness

We have considered three potential sources of guidance that could apply to accounting for government assistance in the form of loan forgiveness:

• Guidance under ASC 405-20, Extinguishments of Liabilities and ASC 470-50, Debt Modifications and Extinguishments

• Guidance under ASC 958-605, Not-for-Profit Entities, Revenue Recognition

• Guidance under IAS 20, Accounting for Government Grants and Disclosure of Government Assistance

Accounting under ASC 405-20, Extinguishments of Liabilities and ASC 470-50, Debt Modifications and Extinguishments

ASC 405-20 provides accounting guidance relevant to the extinguishment of liabilities. Under ASC 405, when a debtor is legally released from a liability, the debt is considered extinguished via “legal defeasance.” Based on the information available at this time, loan forgiveness under the Paycheck Protection Program appears to fit the characteristics of a legal defeasance, and could therefore be accounted for as a debt extinguishment.

Generally, when debt is extinguished, the debtor will calculate a gain or loss on extinguishment of the debt under guidance in ASC 470-50. This guidance indicates that the gain or loss is calculated as “the difference between the reacquisition price of debt and the net carrying amount of the extinguished debt.” This difference is the gain or loss recognized in income when the extinguishment occurs and should be reported as a separate line item. Generally, when PPP debt is extinguished, there will be no reacquisition of debt, so the borrower’s calculation of gain or loss will result in a net gain on extinguishment.

Accounting under ASC 958-605, Not-for-Profit Entities, Revenue Recognition

ASC 958-605 provides guidance applicable to not-for-profit entities on accounting for non-exchange transactions which would include contributions or federal grants. If ASC 958-605 applied, government assistance in the form of loan forgiveness would be considered a nonreciprocal or non-exchange transaction referred to in the guidance as a contribution. A contribution is in part, defined as “An unconditional transfer of cash or other assets to an entity or a settlement or cancellation of its liabilities in a voluntary nonreciprocal transfer by another entity acting other than as an owner.”

Because the PPP loan forgiveness is dependent on meeting certain conditions as noted above, the loan forgiveness would be considered a conditional contribution (or conditional promise to give). Conditional contributions are recognized as income when the conditions on which they depend are substantially met.

Click here for a downloadable version of this article, including a chart comparing the three sources of guidance.

** For purposes of PPP loan forgiveness, it would make the most sense to report separately. Per IAS 20.30, “Supporters of the first method (gross presentation) claim that it is inappropriate to net income and expense items and that separation of the grant from the expense facilitates comparison with other expenses not affected by a grant. For the second method it is argued that the expenses might well not have been incurred by the entity if the grant had not been available and presentation of the expense without offsetting the grant may therefore be misleading.” Under PPP, borrowers would argue that most of the expenses would have been incurred even without the loan/loan forgiveness granted under the program.

We can help

Contact a member of the Elliott Davis Financial Services Group for more information. Please visit our COVID-19 Resource Page for more information.

The information provided in this communication is of a general nature and should not be considered professional advice. You should not act upon the information provided without obtaining specific professional advice. The information above is subject to change as a result of rapidly evolving legislative developments and government guidance.

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