THE NATURE OF NONRECURRING ITEMS




Defining nonrecurring items is difficult. Writers often begin with phrases like “unusual” or “infrequent in occurrence.” Donald Keiso and Jerry Weygandt in their popular intermediate accounting text use the term irregular to describe what most statement users would consider nonrecurring items. For our purposes, irregular or nonrecurring revenues, gains, expenses, and losses are not consistent contributors to results, in terms of either their presence or their amount. This is the manner in which we use the term nonrecurring items throughout this chapter.

From a security valuation perspective, nonrecurring items have a smaller impact on share price than recurring elements of earnings. Some items, such as restructuring charges, litigation settlements, flood losses, product recall costs, embezzlement losses, and insurance settlements, can easily be identified as nonrecurring. Other items may appear consistently in the income statement but vary widely in sign (revenue versus expense, gain versus loss) and amount. For example, the following gains on the disposition of flight equipment were reported over a number of years by Delta Air Lines:

1992                                  $35 million
1993                                    65 million
1994                                      2 million
1995                                      0 million
1996                                      2 million

The gains averaged about $25 million over the 10 years ending in 1996 and ranged from a loss of $1 million (1988) to a gain of $65 million (1993). The more recent five years typify the variability in the amounts for the entire 10- year period. These gains did recur, but they are certainly irregular in amount.

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There are at least three alternative ways to handle this line item in revising results to identify sustainable or recurring earnings. First, one could simply eliminate the line item based on its highly inconsistent contribution to results. Second, one could include the line item at its average value ($25 million for the period 1987 to 1996) for some period of time. Third, one could attempt to acquire information on planned aircraft dispositions that would make possible a better prediction of the contribution of gains on aircraft dispositions to future results. While the last approach may appear to be the most appealing, it may prove to be difficult to implement because of lack of information, and it may also be less attractive when viewed from a cost-benefit perspective. In general, we would normally recommend either removing the gains or simply employing a fairly recent average value for the gains in making earnings projections.

After 1996, Delta Air Lines disclosed little in the way of nonrecurring gains on the sale of flight equipment. Its 2000 annual report, which covered the years from 1998 to 2000, did not disclose any gains or losses on the disposition of flight equipment. With hindsight, the first option, which would remove all of the gains and losses on flight equipment, may have been the most appropriate alternative.

The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company provides a timeless example of the impact of nonrecurring items on the evaluation of earnings performance. Exhibit 2.2 shows pretax results for Goodyear, with and without losses on foreign exchange.

As with Delta Air Lines, it may seem questionable to characterize as nonrecurring exchange losses that appear repeatedly. However, in line with the key characteristics of nonrecurring items given earlier, Goodyear’s foreign exchange losses are both irregular in amount and unlikely to be consistent contributors to results in future years. Across the period 1993 to 1995 the reduction in foreign exchange losses contributed to Goodyear’s pretax results by $35.5 million in 1994 and $60.2 million in 1995. That is, the entire $60.1 million increase in earnings for 1995 could be attributed to the $60.2 million decline in foreign exchange losses. The only way that the foreign exchange line could contribute a further $60.2 million to pretax earnings in 1996 would be for Goodyear to produce a foreign exchange gain of $42.8 million ($60.2 − $17.4).

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Other examples of irregular items of revenue, gain, expense, and loss abound. For example, there were temporary revenue increases and decreases associated with the Gulf War. (“Sales to the United States government increased substantially during the Persian Gulf War. However, sales returned to more normal levels in the second half of the year.”) Temporary revenue increases have been associated with expanded television sales due to World Cup

THE NATURE OF NONRECURRING ITEMS

soccer. Temporary increases or decreases in earnings have resulted from adjustments to loan loss provisions resulting from economic downturns and subsequent recoveries in the financial services industry. Most recently, there have been widely publicized problems with tires produced for sports utility vehicles that will surely create substantial nonrecurring increases in legal and warranty expenses.

Identifying nonrecurring or irregular items is not a mechanical process; it calls for the exercise of judgment and involves both line items and as the period-to-period behavior of individual income statement items.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Ans: A special committee of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) concluded the following about earnings and the needs of those who use financial statements: Users want information about the portion of a company’s reported earnings that is stable or recurring and that provides a basis for estimating sustainable earnings. view more..
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Ans: Financial ratios are useful not only to assess the past or present condition of an enterprise, but also to reliably predict its future solvency or bankruptcy. This type of information is of critical importance to present and potential creditors and investors. There are several different methods of analysis for obtaining this predictive information. view more..
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Ans: Up to this point we have considered financial ratios one at a time. However, there is a useful method for combining financial ratios known as Dupont1 analysis. To explain it, we first need to define some financial ratios, together with their abbreviations, as follows: view more..
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Ans: Defining nonrecurring items is difficult. Writers often begin with phrases like “unusual” or “infrequent in occurrence.” Donald Keiso and Jerry Weygandt in their popular intermediate accounting text use the term irregular to describe what most statement users would consider nonrecurring items. view more..
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Ans: Careful analysis of past financial performance aimed at removing the effects of nonrecurring items is a more formidable task than one might suspect. This task would be fairly simple if (1) there was general agreement on just what constitutes a nonrecurring item and (2) if most nonrecurring items were prominently displayed on the face of the income statement. view more..
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Ans: An examination of the income statement, the first step in the search sequence, requires an understanding of the design and content of contemporary income statements. This knowledge will aid in the location and analysis of nonrecurring view more..
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Ans: After the income statement, the operating activities section of the statement of cash flows is an excellent secondary source to use in locating nonrecurring items (step 2 in the search sequence in Exhibit 2.3). The diagnostic value of this section of the statement of cash flows results from two factors. First, gains and losses on the sale of investments and fixed assets must be removed from net income in arriving at cash flow from operating activities. Second, noncash items of revenue or gain and expense or loss must also be removed from net income. view more..
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Ans: The carrying values of inventories maintained under the LIFO method are sometimes significantly understated in relationship to their replacement cost. For public companies, the difference between the LIFO carrying value and replacement cost (frequently approximated by FIFO) is a required disclosure under SEC regulations. An example of a substantial difference between LIFO and current replacement value is found in a summary of the inventory disclosures of Handy and Harman Inc. in Exhibit 2.17. view more..
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Ans: Income tax notes are among the more challenging of the disclosures found in annual reports. They can, however, be a rich source of information on nonrecurring items. Fortunately, our emphasis on the persistence of earnings requires a focus on a single key schedule found in the standard income tax note. The goal is simply to identify nonrecurring tax increases and decreases in this schedule. view more..
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Ans: An “other income (expense), net,” or equivalent line item is commonly found in both the single- and multistep income statement. In the case of the multistep format, the composition of other income and expenses is sometimes detailed on the face of the income statement. In both the multi- and single-step formats, the most typical presentation is a single line item with a supporting note. Even though a note detailing the contents of other income and expense may exist, companies typically do not specify its location. Other income and expense notes tend to be listed close to the end of the notes to the financial statements view more..
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Ans: Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations (MD&A) is an annual and a quarterly Securities and Exchange Commission reporting requirement. Provisions of this regulation have a direct bearing on the goal of locating nonrecurring items. As part of the MD&A, the SEC requires registrants to: view more..
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Ans: Typically, most material nonrecurring items will have been located by proceeding through the first six steps of the search sequence in Exhibit 2.3. However, some additional nonrecurring items may be located in other notes. Nonrecurring items can surface in virtually any note to the financial statements. We will now discuss three selected notes that frequently contain other nonrecurring items: notes on foreign exchange, restructuring, and quarterly and segment financial data. Recall that inventory, income tax, and other income and expense notes have already been discussed in steps 3 to 5. view more..
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Ans: The last section in the AK Steel Holdings income statement in Exhibit 2.9 is devoted to the reporting of other comprehensive income. This is a relatively new feature of the income statement and was introduced with the issuance by the FASB of SFAS No. 130, Reporting Comprehensive Income.44 The goal of the standard is to expand the concept of income to included selected items of nonrecurring revenue, gain, expense and loss. Under the new standard, traditional net income is combined with a new component, “other comprehensive income,” to produce a new bottom line, “comprehensive income.” view more..
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Ans: The work to this point has laid out important background but is not complete. Still required is a device to assist in summarizing information discovered on nonrecurring items so that new measures of sustainable earnings can be developed. We devote the balance of this chapter to introducing a worksheet specially designed to summarize nonrecurring items and illustrating its development and interpretation in a case study. view more..
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Ans: The sustainable earnings worksheet is shown in Exhibit 2.26. Detailed instructions on completing the worksheet follow: 1. Net income or loss is recorded on the top line of the worksheet. 2. All identified items of nonrecurring expense or loss, which were included in the income statement on a pretax basis, are recorded on the “add” lines provided. view more..
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Ans: The sustainable earnings base provides earnings information from which the distorting effects of nonrecurring items have been removed. Some analysts refer to such revised numbers as representing “core” or “underlying” earnings. Sustainable is used here in the sense that earnings devoid of nonrecurring items of revenue, gain, expense, and loss are much more likely to be maintained in the future, other things equal. Base implies that sustainable earnings provide the most reliable foundation or starting point for projections of future results. The more reliable such forecasts become, the less the likelihood that earnings surprises will result. Again, Phillips Petroleum captures the essence of nonrecurring items in the following: view more..
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Ans: This case example of using the SEB worksheet is based on the 1997 annual report of Baker Hughes Inc. and its results for 1995 to 1997. The income statement, statement of cash flows, management’s discussion and analysis of results of operations (MD&A), and selected notes are in Exhibits 2.27 through 2.34. Further, to reinforce the objective of efficiency in financial analysis, we adhere to the search sequence outlined in Exhibit 2.3. view more..
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Ans: The nonrecurring items located in the Baker Hughes annual report are enumerated in the completed SEB worksheet in Exhibit 2.35. Each of the nonrecurring items is recorded on the SEB worksheet. When an item is disclosed for the first, second, third, or fourth time, it is designated by a corresponding superscript view more..




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