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Generally, the acquirer in a business combination is willing to pay more for a business than the sum of the fair values of the individual assets and liabilities because of other inherent value associated with an assembled business. In addition, synergies and other benefits that are expected from combining the activities of the acquirer and acquiree are often drivers for paying an amount greater than the fair value of the underlying assets and liabilities. The resulting excess of the aggregate of (1) the consideration transferred, as measured in accordance with ASC 805-30-30-7, which generally requires the use of acquisition-date fair value; (2) the fair value of any noncontrolling interest in the acquiree; and (3) in a business combination achieved in stages, the acquisition-date fair value of the acquirer’s previously held equity interest in the acquiree, over the net of the acquisition-date amounts of the identifiable assets acquired and the liabilities assumed, as measured in accordance with ASC 805, is recognized as goodwill. This chapter addresses the accounting for goodwill after an acquisition.
Under ASC 350-20, goodwill is not amortized. Rather, an entity’s goodwill is subject to periodic impairment testing. ASC 350-20 requires that an entity assign its goodwill to reporting units and test each reporting unit’s goodwill for impairment at least on an annual basis and between annual tests if an event occurs or circumstances change that would more likely than not reduce the fair value of a reporting unit below its carrying amount.
An entity is permitted to first assess qualitative factors to determine whether a quantitative goodwill impairment test is necessary. Further testing is only required if the entity determines, based on the qualitative assessment, that it is more likely than not that a reporting unit’s fair value is less than its carrying amount. Otherwise, no further impairment testing is required. An entity has the option to bypass the qualitative assessment for any reporting unit in any period and proceed directly to step one of the quantitative goodwill impairment test. This would not preclude the entity from performing the qualitative assessment in any subsequent period.
When an entity bypasses the qualitative assessment or determines based on the qualitative assessment that further testing is necessary, a quantitative goodwill impairment test is performed to identify potential impairment and measure an impairment loss, if any.
To perform step one of the quantitative goodwill impairment test, an entity must:
  • Identify its reporting units
  • Assign assets and liabilities to its reporting units
  • Assign all goodwill to one or more of its reporting units
  • Determine the fair value of those reporting units to which goodwill has been assigned

Prior to the adoption of ASU 2017-04, Intangibles - Goodwill and Other (Topic 350): Simplifying the Accounting for Goodwill Impairment (discussed below), if a reporting unit fails step one (i.e., the reporting unit’s carrying amount exceeds its fair value), step two requires an assignment of the reporting unit’s fair value to the reporting unit’s assets and liabilities, using the acquisition method accounting guidance in ASC 805 to determine the implied fair value of the reporting unit’s goodwill. The implied fair value of the reporting unit’s goodwill is then compared to the carrying amount of the reporting unit’s goodwill to determine the goodwill impairment loss to be recognized, if any.
New guidance
In March 2021, the FASB issued ASU 2021-03, Intangibles—Goodwill and Other (Topic 350): Accounting Alternative for Evaluating Triggering Events, introducing an accounting alternative allowing private companies and not-for-profit entities (NFPs) to forgo the evaluation of goodwill impairment triggering events occurring throughout a reporting period. Under the accounting alternative, triggering events only need to be assessed as of the end of a reporting period, whether interim or annual.
The revised guidance is effective prospectively for private companies and NFPs for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2019. Adoption is permitted for any financial statements that have not been issued or made available for issuance as of March 30, 2021. See BCG 9.11 for more information.
In January 2017, the FASB issued ASU 2017-04, Intangibles - Goodwill and Other (Topic 350): Simplifying the Accounting for Goodwill Impairment. The revised guidance eliminates step two of the goodwill impairment test, which requires a hypothetical purchase price allocation to measure goodwill impairment. A goodwill impairment loss will instead be measured at the amount by which a reporting unit’s carrying amount exceeds its fair value, not to exceed the carrying amount of goodwill. All other goodwill impairment guidance will remain largely unchanged. Entities will continue to have the option to perform a qualitative assessment to determine if a quantitative impairment test is necessary.
The revised guidance is currently effective for public business entities that are SEC filers, excluding entities eligible to be smaller reporting companies as defined by the SEC. All other entities that have not elected the accounting alternative to amortize goodwill (see BCG 9.11) will be required to apply the guidance in fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2022. Early adoption is permitted. Early adoption in a fiscal year is precluded if an impairment test earlier in that fiscal year applied the former impairment guidance.
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