SUMMARY OF SIGNIFICANT ACCOUNTING POLICIES
|12 Months Ended|
Dec. 31, 2020
|Accounting Policies [Abstract]|
|SUMMARY OF SIGNIFICANT ACCOUNTING POLICIES||SUMMARY OF SIGNIFICANT ACCOUNTING POLICIES
As used herein, the terms Equifax, the Company, we, our and us refer to Equifax Inc., a Georgia corporation, and its consolidated subsidiaries as a combined entity, except where it is clear that the terms mean only Equifax Inc.
Nature of Operations. We collect, organize and manage various types of financial, demographic, employment and marketing information. Our products and services enable businesses to make credit and service decisions, manage their portfolio risk, automate or outsource certain payroll-related, tax and human resources business processes, and develop marketing strategies concerning consumers and commercial enterprises. We serve customers across a wide range of industries, including the financial services, mortgage, retail, telecommunications, utilities, automotive, brokerage, healthcare and insurance industries, as well as government agencies. We also enable consumers to manage and protect their financial health through a portfolio of products offered directly to consumers. As of December 31, 2020, we operated in the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, India, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, or U.K., Uruguay, and the United States of America, or U.S. We also offer Equifax branded credit services in Russia through a joint venture, have investments in consumer and/or commercial credit information companies through joint ventures in Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates and have an investment in a consumer and commercial credit information company in Brazil.
We develop, maintain and enhance secured proprietary information databases through the compilation of consumer specific data, including credit, income, employment, asset, liquidity, net worth and spending activity, and business data, including credit and business demographics, that we obtain from a variety of sources, such as credit granting institutions, and income and tax information primarily from large to mid-sized companies in the U.S. We process this information utilizing our proprietary information management systems. We also provide information, technology and services to support debt collections and recovery management.
Basis of Consolidation. Our Consolidated Financial Statements and the accompanying notes, which are prepared in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, include Equifax and all its subsidiaries. We consolidate all majority-owned and controlled subsidiaries as well as variable interest entities in which we are the primary beneficiary. Other parties’ interests in consolidated entities are reported as noncontrolling interests. We use the equity method of accounting for investments in which we are able to exercise significant influence. Non-consolidated equity investments are recorded at fair value when readily determinable or at cost, less any impairment, plus or minus changes resulting from observable price changes in orderly transactions when the fair value of the investment is not readily determinable. All intercompany transactions and balances are eliminated.
Our Consolidated Financial Statements reflect all adjustments which are, in the opinion of management, necessary for a fair presentation of the periods presented therein.
Segments. We manage our business and report our financial results through the following four reportable segments, which are our operating segments:
•U.S. Information Solutions, or USIS
•Global Consumer Solutions
USIS is our largest reportable segment, with 36% of total operating revenue for 2020. Our most significant foreign operations are located in Australia, the U.K. and Canada.
Use of Estimates. The preparation of our Consolidated Financial Statements requires us to make estimates and assumptions in accordance with GAAP. Accordingly, we make these estimates and assumptions after exercising judgment. We believe that the estimates and assumptions inherent in our Consolidated Financial Statements are reasonable, based upon information available to us at the time they are made including the consideration of events that have occurred up until the point these Consolidated Financial Statements have been filed. These estimates and assumptions affect the reported amounts of assets, liabilities, revenues and expenses and disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities at the date of the financial statements,
as well as reported amounts of revenues and expenses during the reporting period. Actual results could differ materially from these estimates.
Revenue Recognition and Deferred Revenue. In accordance with ASC 606, “Revenue from Contracts with Customers,” we recognize revenue when a performance obligation has been satisfied by transferring a promised good or service to a customer and the customer obtains control of the good or service. In order to recognize revenue, we note that the two parties must have an agreement that creates enforceable rights, the performance obligations must be distinct and the transaction price can be determined. Our revenue is derived from the provision of information services to our customers on a transactional basis, in which distinct services are delivered over time as the customer simultaneously receives and consumes the benefits of the services delivered. To measure our performance over time, the output method is utilized to measure the value to the customer based on the transfer to date of the services promised, with no rights of return once consumed. In these cases, revenue on transactional contracts with a defined price but an undefined quantity is recognized utilizing the right to invoice expedient resulting in revenue being recognized when the service is provided and billed. Additionally, multi-year contracts with defined pricing but an undefined quantity that utilize tier pricing would be defined as a series of distinct performance obligations satisfied over time utilizing the same method of measurement, the output method, with no rights of return once consumed. This measurement method is applied on a monthly basis resulting in revenue being recognized when the service is provided and billed.
Additionally, we recognize revenue from subscription-based contracts under which a customer pays a preset fee for a predetermined or unlimited number of transactions or services provided during the subscription period, generally one year. Revenue from subscription-based contracts having a preset number of transactions is recognized as the services are provided, using an effective transaction rate as the actual transactions are delivered. Any remaining revenue related to unfulfilled units is not recognized until the end of the related contract’s subscription period. Revenue from subscription-based contracts having an unlimited volume is recognized ratably during the contract term. Multi-year subscription contracts are analyzed to determine the full contract transaction price over the term of the contract and the subsequent price is ratably recognized over the full term of the contract.
Revenue is recorded net of sales taxes.
If at the outset of an arrangement, we determine that collectibility is not reasonably assured, revenue is deferred until the earlier of when collectibility becomes probable or the receipt of payment from the customer. If there is uncertainty as to the customer’s acceptance of the performance obligation, revenue is not recognized until the earlier of receipt of customer acceptance or expiration of the acceptance period.
We sell certain offerings that contain multiple performance obligations. These obligations may include consumer or commercial information, file updates for certain solutions, services provided by our decisioning technologies personnel, training services, statistical models and other services. In order to account for each of these obligations separately, the delivered promises within our contracts must meet the criterion to be considered distinct performance obligations to our customer. If we determine that the arrangement does not contain separate distinct obligations, the performance obligations are bundled together until a distinct obligation is achieved. This may lead to the arrangement consideration being recognized as the final contract obligation is delivered to our customer or ratably over the term of the contract.
Some of our arrangements with multiple performance obligations involve the delivery of services generated by a combination of services provided by one or more of our operating segments. No individual information service impacts the value or usage of other information services included in an arrangement and each service can be sold alone or, in most cases, purchased from another vendor without affecting the quality of use or value to the customer of the other information services included in the arrangement. Some of our products require the installation of interfaces or platforms by our technology personnel that allow our customers to interact with our proprietary information databases. These installation services do not meet the requirement for being distinct, thus any related installation fees are deferred when billed and are recognized over the expected period that the customer will benefit from the related services. Revenue from the delivery of one-time files and models is recognized as the service is provided and accepted, assuming all other revenue recognition criteria are met. The direct costs of installation of a customer are capitalized and amortized over the useful life of the identifiable asset.
We record revenue on a net basis for those sales in which we have in substance acted as an agent or broker in the transaction and therefore do not have control.
In certain instances within our debt collections and recovery management services in our International operating segment and certain tax management services within our Workforce Solutions operating segment, variable consideration is constrained due to the fact that the revenue is contingent on a particular outcome. Within our debt collections and recovery
management businesses, revenue is calculated as a percentage of debt collected on behalf of the customer and, as such, is primarily recognized when the debt is collected assuming all other revenue recognition criteria are met. Within our Workforce Solutions operating segment, the fees for certain of our tax credits and incentives revenue are based on a percentage of the credit delivered to our clients. Revenue for these arrangements is recognized based on the achievement of milestones, upon calculation of the credit, approval from a regulatory agency or when the credit is utilized by our client, depending on the provisions of the client contract.
Certain costs incurred prior to the satisfaction of a performance obligation are deferred as contract costs and are amortized on a systematic basis consistent with the pattern of transfer of the related goods and services. These costs generally consist of labor costs directly relating to the implementation and setup of the contract.
Judgments and Uncertainties – Each performance obligation within a contract must be considered separately to ensure that appropriate accounting is performed for these distinct goods or services. These considerations include assessing the price at which the element is sold compared to its standalone selling price; concluding when the element will be delivered; evaluating collectability; and determining whether any contingencies exist in the related customer contract that impact the prices paid to us for the services.
Contract Balances – The contract balances are generated when revenue recognized varies from billing in a given period. A contract asset is created when an entity transfers a good or service to a customer and recognizes more revenue than what has been billed. As of December 31, 2020, the contract asset balance was $11.0 million. A contract liability is created when an entity transfers a good or service to a customer and recognizes less than what has been billed. Deferred revenue is recognized when we have an obligation to transfer goods or services to a customer and have already received consideration from the customer. We generally expect to recognize our deferred revenue as revenue within twelve months of being recorded based on the terms of the contracts.
Remaining Performance Obligation – We have elected to disclose only the remaining performance obligations for those contracts with an expected duration of greater than 1 year and do not disclose the value of remaining performance obligations for contracts in which we recognize revenue at the amount to which we have the right to invoice. We expect to recognize as revenue the following amounts related to our remaining performance obligations as of December 31, 2020, inclusive of the foreign exchange impact:
Cost of Services. Cost of services consist primarily of (1) data acquisition and royalty fees; (2) customer service costs, which include: personnel costs to collect, maintain and update our proprietary databases, to develop and maintain software application platforms and to provide consumer and customer call center support; (3) hardware and software expense associated with transaction processing systems; (4) telecommunication and computer network expense; and (5) occupancy costs associated with facilities where these functions are performed by Equifax employees.
Selling, General and Administrative Expenses. Selling, general and administrative expenses consist primarily of personnel-related costs, restructuring costs, corporate costs, fees for professional and consulting services, advertising costs, and other costs of administration.
Advertising. Advertising costs, which are expensed as incurred, totaled $59.0 million, $51.9 million and $43.1 million during 2020, 2019 and 2018, respectively.
Stock-Based Compensation. We recognize the cost of stock-based payment transactions in the financial statements over the period services are rendered according to the fair value of the stock-based awards issued. All of our stock-based awards, which are stock options and nonvested stock, are classified as equity instruments.
Income Taxes. We account for income taxes under the liability method. We record deferred income taxes using enacted tax laws and rates for the years in which the taxes are expected to be paid. Deferred income tax assets and liabilities are recorded based on the differences between the financial reporting and income tax bases of assets and liabilities. We assess whether it is more likely than not that we will generate sufficient taxable income to realize our deferred tax assets. We record a valuation allowance, as necessary, to reduce our deferred tax assets to the amount of future tax benefit that we estimate is more likely than not to be realized.
We record tax benefits for positions that we believe are more likely than not of being sustained under audit examinations. We assess the potential outcome of such examinations to determine the adequacy of our income tax accruals. We recognize interest and penalties accrued related to unrecognized tax benefits in the provision for income taxes on our Consolidated Statements of Income (Loss). We adjust our income tax provision during the period in which we determine that the actual results of the examinations may differ from our estimates or when statutory terms expire. Changes in tax laws and rates are reflected in our income tax provision in the period in which they are enacted.
Earnings Per Share. Our basic earnings per share, or EPS, is calculated as net income divided by the weighted-average number of common shares outstanding during the reporting period. Diluted EPS is calculated to reflect the potential dilution that would occur if stock options or other contracts to issue common stock were exercised and resulted in additional common shares outstanding. The net income amounts used in both our basic and diluted EPS calculations are the same. A reconciliation of the weighted-average outstanding shares used in the two calculations is as follows:
For the twelve months ended December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018, 0.4 million, 1.1 million and 0.7 million stock options, respectively, were anti-dilutive and therefore excluded from this calculation.
Cash Equivalents. We consider all highly-liquid investments with an original maturity of three months or less to be cash equivalents.
Trade Accounts Receivable and Allowance for Doubtful Accounts. Accounts receivable are stated at cost. Significant payment terms for customers are identified in the contract. We do not recognize interest income on our trade accounts receivable. Additionally, we generally do not require collateral from our customers related to our trade accounts receivable.
The allowance for doubtful accounts is based on management's estimate for expected credit losses for outstanding trade accounts receivables. We determine expected credit losses based on historical write-off experience, an analysis of the aging of outstanding receivables, customer payment patterns, the establishment of specific reserves for customers in an adverse financial condition and adjusted based upon our expectations of changes in macroeconomic conditions that may impact the collectability of outstanding receivables. We reassess the adequacy of the allowance for doubtful accounts each reporting period. Increases to the allowance for doubtful accounts are recorded as bad debt expense, which are included in selling, general and administrative expenses on the accompanying Consolidated Statements of Income (Loss). Below is a rollforward of our allowance for doubtful accounts for the twelve months ended December 31, 2020 and 2019:
Other Current Assets. Other current assets on our Consolidated Balance Sheets included directors and officers liability insurance receivable for costs incurred to date related to the 2017 cybersecurity incident that are reimbursable and probable for recovery under our insurance coverage. As of December 31, 2019, the insurance receivable balance was approximately $112.4 million and we had accrued for the maximum remaining reimbursement amount allowed under the insurance policy. As of December 31, 2020 all amounts outstanding had been collected and the Company had no insurance receivables outstanding. Other current assets also include certain current tax receivable accounts. As of December 31, 2020 and 2019, these assets were approximately $21.3 million and $35.6 million, respectively. Additionally, other current assets include amounts in specifically designated accounts that hold the funds that are due to customers from our debt collection and recovery management services. As of December 31, 2020 and 2019 these assets were approximately $25.1 million and $29.3 million, respectively, with fully offsetting balances in other current liabilities. These amounts are restricted as to their current use and will be released according to the specific customer agreements.
Long-Lived Assets. Property and equipment are stated at cost less accumulated depreciation and amortization. The cost of additions is capitalized. Property and equipment are depreciated on a straight-line basis over the assets’ estimated useful lives, which are generally to years for data processing equipment and capitalized internal-use software and systems costs. Leasehold improvements are depreciated over the shorter of their estimated useful lives or lease terms that are reasonably assured. Buildings are depreciated over a -year period. Other fixed assets are depreciated over to years. Upon sale or retirement of an asset, the related costs and accumulated depreciation are removed from the accounts and any gain or loss is recognized and included in income from operations on the Consolidated Statements of Income (Loss), with the classification of any gain or loss dependent on the characteristics of the asset sold or retired.
Certain internal-use software and system development costs are capitalized. Accordingly, the specifically identified costs incurred to develop or obtain software, which is intended for internal use, are not capitalized until the preliminary project stage is completed and management, with the relevant authority, authorizes and commits to funding a software project and it is probable that the project will be completed and the software will be used to perform the function intended. Costs incurred during a software development project’s preliminary stage and post-implementation stage are expensed as incurred. Application development activities that are eligible for capitalization include software design and configuration, development of interfaces, coding, testing, and installation. Capitalized internal-use software and systems costs are subsequently amortized on a straight-line basis over a - to -year period after project completion and when the related software or system is ready for its intended use.
Depreciation and amortization expense related to property and equipment was $249.3 million, $191.0 million and $157.6 million during the twelve months ended December 31, 2020, 2019, and 2018, respectively.
Industrial Revenue Bonds. Pursuant to the terms of certain industrial revenue bonds, we have transferred title to certain of our fixed assets with total costs of $156.4 million as of December 31, 2020 and 2019 to a local governmental authority in the U.S. to receive a property tax abatement related to economic development. The title to these assets will revert back to us upon retirement or cancellation of the applicable bonds. These fixed assets are still recognized in the Company’s Consolidated Balance Sheets as all risks and rewards remain with the Company.
Impairment of Long-Lived Assets. We monitor the status of our long-lived assets in order to determine if conditions exist or events and circumstances indicate that an asset group may be impaired in that its carrying amount may not be recoverable. Significant factors that are considered that could be indicative of impairment include: changes in business strategy, market conditions or the manner in which an asset group is used; underperformance relative to historical or expected future operating results; and negative industry or economic trends. If potential indicators of impairment exist, we estimate recoverability based on the asset group’s ability to generate cash flows greater than the carrying value of the asset group. We estimate the undiscounted future cash flows arising from the use and eventual disposition of the related long-lived asset group. If the carrying value of the long-lived asset group exceeds the estimated future undiscounted cash flows, an impairment loss is
recorded based on the amount by which the asset group’s carrying amount exceeds its fair value. We utilize estimates of discounted future cash flows to determine the asset group’s fair value. We did not record any material impairment losses of long-lived assets in any of the periods presented.
Goodwill and Indefinite-Lived Intangible Assets. Goodwill represents the cost in excess of the fair value of the net assets of acquired businesses. Goodwill is not amortized. We are required to test goodwill for impairment at the reporting unit level on an annual basis and on an interim basis if an event occurs or circumstances change that would more likely than not reduce the fair value of a reporting unit below its carrying value. We perform our annual goodwill impairment test as of September 30 each year.
Under ASC 350, we have an option to perform a “qualitative” assessment of our reporting units to determine whether further impairment testing is necessary. If an entity believes, as a result of its qualitative assessment, that it is more-likely-than-not that the fair value of a reporting unit is less than its carrying amount, the quantitative impairment test is required. Otherwise, no further testing is required. For reporting units that we determine meet these criteria, we perform a qualitative assessment. In this qualitative assessment, we consider the following items for each of the reporting units: macroeconomic conditions, industry and market conditions, overall financial performance and other entity specific events. In addition, for each of these reporting units, we assess whether the most recent fair value determination results in an amount that exceeds the carrying amount of the reporting units. Based on these assessments, we determine whether the likelihood that a current fair value determination would be less than the current carrying amount of the reporting unit is not more likely than not. If it is determined it is not more likely than not, no further testing is required. If further testing is required, we continue with the quantitative impairment test.
In analyzing goodwill for potential impairment in the quantitative impairment test, we use a combination of the income and market approaches to estimate the reporting unit’s fair value. Under the income approach, we calculate the fair value of a reporting unit based on estimated future discounted cash flows. The assumptions we use are based on what we believe a hypothetical marketplace participant would use in estimating fair value. Under the market approach, we estimate the fair value based on market multiples of revenue or earnings before interest, income taxes, depreciation and amortization for benchmark companies. If the fair value of a reporting unit exceeds its carrying value, then no further testing is required. However, if a reporting unit’s fair value were to be less than its carrying value, we would then determine the amount of the impairment charge, if any, which would be the amount that the carrying value of the reporting unit’s goodwill exceeded its fair value.
Indefinite-lived reacquired rights represent the value of rights which we had granted to various affiliate credit reporting agencies that were reacquired in the U.S. and Canada. A portion of our reacquired rights are perpetual in nature and, therefore, the useful lives are considered indefinite in accordance with the accounting guidance in place at the time of the acquisitions. Indefinite-lived intangible assets are not amortized. We are required to test indefinite-lived intangible assets for impairment annually and whenever events and circumstances indicate that there may be an impairment of the asset value. Our annual impairment test date is September 30. We perform the impairment test for our indefinite-lived intangible assets by first assessing qualitative factors to determine whether it is necessary to perform a quantitative impairment test. If the qualitative assessment indicates that we need to perform a quantitative impairment test, we compare the asset’s fair value to its carrying value. We estimate the fair value based on projected discounted future cash flows. An impairment charge is recognized if the asset’s estimated fair value is less than its carrying value.
We completed our annual impairment testing for goodwill and indefinite-lived intangible assets during the twelve months ended December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018, and we determined that there was no impairment in any of these years.
Purchased Intangible Assets. Purchased intangible assets represent the estimated fair value of acquired intangible assets used in our business. Purchased data files represent the estimated fair value of consumer and commercial data files acquired primarily through the purchase of independent credit reporting agencies in the U.S., Australia, and Canada. We expense the cost of modifying and updating credit files in the period such costs are incurred. We amortize purchased data files, which primarily consist of acquired credit files, on a straight-line basis. All of our other purchased intangible assets are also amortized on a straight-line basis.
Other Assets. Other assets on our Consolidated Balance Sheets primarily represents our investment in unconsolidated affiliates, the long-term portion of the Company’s operating lease right-of-use assets, assets related to life insurance policies covering certain officers of the Company, and employee benefit trust assets.
Equity Investment. We record our equity investment in Brazil within Other Assets using the measurement method of cost, less any impairment, plus or minus changes resulting from observable price changes in orderly transactions. As the fair value of the investment has not historically been readily determinable, our investment has been recorded at cost, less impairment. On September 30, 2020, the company in which we are invested in Brazil underwent an initial public offering and began to trade publicly in Brazil. The carrying value of the investment has been adjusted to $127.7 million based on observable Level 1 inputs as of December 31, 2020, resulting in an unrealized gain of $116.6 million for the twelve months December 31, 2020. All unrealized gains or losses on the investment are recorded in Other Income (Expense), Net within the Consolidated Statements of Income (Loss).
Other Current Liabilities. Other current liabilities on our Consolidated Balance Sheets consist of the current portion of our operating lease liabilities and various accrued liabilities such as costs related to the 2017 cybersecurity incident as described more fully in Note 6, interest expense, and accrued employee benefits. Other current liabilities includes accrued legal expense of $379.7 million and $589.0 million as of December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively. The accrued legal balance primarily consists of $355.2 million and $563.9 million accruals for losses associated with certain legal proceedings and investigations related to the 2017 cybersecurity incident that have not been paid as of December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively. Other current liabilities also include the offset to other current assets related to amounts in specifically designated accounts that hold the funds that are due to customers from our debt collection and recovery management services. These funds were approximately $25.1 million and $29.3 million as of December 31, 2020 and 2019, respectively. The associated assets are restricted as to their current use and will be released according to the specific customer agreements.
Benefit Plans. We sponsor various pension and defined contribution plans. We also maintain certain healthcare and life insurance benefit plans for eligible retired U.S. employees. Benefits under the pension and other postretirement benefit plans are generally based on age at retirement and years of service and for some pension plans, benefits are also based on the employee’s annual earnings. The net periodic cost of our pension and other postretirement plans is determined using several actuarial assumptions, the most significant of which are the discount rate and the expected return on plan assets. The expected rate of return on plan assets is based on both our historical returns and forecasted future investment returns by asset class, as provided by our external investment advisor. In the fourth quarter of 2020, we voluntarily changed our method of accounting for recognizing actuarial gains and losses and expected return on plan assets for our defined benefit pension and other postretirement benefit plans, as further described below. Our Consolidated Balance Sheets reflect the funded status of the pension and other postretirement plans.
Foreign Currency Translation. The functional currency of each of our foreign operating subsidiaries is that subsidiary’s local currency except for Argentina. Argentina has experienced multiple periods of increasing inflation rates, devaluation of the peso, and increasing borrowing rates. As such, Argentina was deemed a highly inflationary economy by accounting policymakers. Beginning in the third quarter of 2018, we accounted for Argentina as a highly inflationary economy by remeasuring the peso denominated monetary assets and liabilities which resulted in the recognition of $0.5 million, $1.0 million and $1.8 million of foreign currency losses that were recorded in other income, net in our Consolidated Statements of Income (Loss) for the twelve months ended December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018, respectively.
Other than Argentina, we translate the assets and liabilities of foreign subsidiaries at the year-end rate of exchange and revenue and expenses at the monthly average rates during the year. We record the resulting translation adjustment in other comprehensive loss, included in accumulated other comprehensive loss, a component of shareholders’ equity. We also record gains and losses resulting from the translation of intercompany balances of a long-term investment nature in foreign currency
translation in other comprehensive loss and accumulated other comprehensive loss. In the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018, we recorded $7.5 million, $3.0 million and $1.6 million of foreign currency transaction losses in our Consolidated Statements of Income (Loss), respectively.
Financial Instruments. Our financial instruments consist primarily of cash and cash equivalents, accounts receivable, accounts payable and short and long-term debt. The carrying amounts of these items, other than long-term debt, approximate their fair market values due to the short-term nature of these instruments. The fair value of our fixed-rate debt is determined using Level 2 inputs such as quoted market prices for publicly traded instruments, and for non-publicly traded instruments, through valuation techniques depending on the specific characteristics of the debt instrument, taking into account credit risk. As of December 31, 2020 and 2019, the fair value of our long-term debt, including the current portion, based on observable inputs was $4.8 billion and $3.6 billion, respectively, compared to its carrying value of $4.4 billion and $3.4 billion, respectively.
Fair Value Measurements. Fair value is determined based on the assumptions marketplace participants use in pricing an asset or liability. We use a three level fair value hierarchy to prioritize the inputs used in valuation techniques between observable inputs that reflect quoted prices in active markets, inputs other than quoted prices with observable market data and unobservable data (e.g., a company’s own data).
The following table presents assets and liabilities measured at fair value on a recurring basis:
(1) We maintain deferred compensation plans that allow for certain management employees to defer the receipt of compensation (such as salary and incentive compensation) until a later date based on the terms of the plans. The liability representing benefits accrued for plan participants is valued at the quoted market prices of the participants’ investment elections. The asset consists of mutual funds reflective of the participants investment selections and is valued at daily quoted market prices.
Assets and Liabilities Measured at Fair Value on a Nonrecurring Basis. As disclosed in Note 3, we completed various acquisitions during the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019. The values of net assets acquired were recorded at fair value using Level 3 inputs. The majority of the related current assets acquired and liabilities assumed were recorded at their carrying values as of the date of acquisition, as their carrying values approximated their fair values due to their short-term nature. The fair values of definite-lived intangible assets acquired in these acquisitions were estimated primarily based on the income approach. The income approach estimates fair value based on the present value of the cash flows that the assets are expected to generate in the future. We developed internal estimates for the expected cash flows and discount rates in the present value calculations.
Variable Interest Entities. We hold interests in certain entities, including credit data, information solutions, debt collections and recovery management ventures and an identity authentication company, that are considered variable interest entities, or VIEs. These variable interests relate to ownership interests that require financial support for these entities. Our investments related to these VIEs totaled $26.8 million at December 31, 2020, representing our maximum exposure to loss, with the exception of the guarantees referenced in Note 6. We are not the primary beneficiary and are not required to consolidate any of these VIEs, with the exception of a debt collections and recovery management venture, for which we meet the consolidation criteria under ASC 810. In regards to that consolidated VIE, we have a 75% equity ownership interest and control of the activities that most significantly impact the VIE’s economic performance. The assets and liabilities of the VIE for which we are the primary beneficiary were not significant to the Company’s consolidated financial statements.
In evaluating whether we have the power to direct the activities of a VIE that most significantly impact its economic performance, we consider the purpose for which the VIE was created, the importance of each of the activities in which it is
engaged and our decision-making role, if any, in those activities that significantly determine the entity’s economic performance as compared to other economic interest holders. This evaluation requires consideration of all facts and circumstances relevant to decision-making that affects the entity’s future performance and the exercise of professional judgment in deciding which decision-making rights are most important.
In determining whether we have the right to receive benefits or the obligation to absorb losses that could potentially be significant to the VIE, we evaluate all of our economic interests in the entity, regardless of form (debt, equity, management and servicing fees, and other contractual arrangements). This evaluation considers all relevant factors of the entity’s design, including: the entity’s capital structure, contractual rights to earnings (losses), subordination of our interests relative to those of other investors, contingent payments, as well as other contractual arrangements that have the potential to be economically significant. The evaluation of each of these factors in reaching a conclusion about the potential significance of our economic interests is a matter that requires the exercise of professional judgment.
Certain of our VIEs have redeemable noncontrolling interests that are subject to classification outside of permanent equity on the Company’s Consolidated Balance Sheet. The redeemable noncontrolling interests are reflected using the redemption method as of the balance sheet date. Redeemable noncontrolling interest adjustments to the redemption values are reflected in retained earnings. The adjustment of redemption value at the period end that reflects a redemption value in excess of fair value is included as an adjustment to net income attributable to Equifax stockholders for the purposes of the calculation of earnings per share. None of the current period adjustments reflect a redemption in excess of fair value. Additionally, due to the immaterial balance of the redeemable noncontrolling interest, we have elected to maintain the noncontrolling interest in permanent equity, rather than temporary equity, within our Consolidated Balance Sheet.
Adoption of New Accounting Standards. In June 2016, the FASB issued ASU No. 2016-13 “Financial Instruments-Credit Losses (Topic 326): Measurement of Credit Losses on Financial Instruments” which requires the measurement and recognition of expected credit losses for financial assets held at amortized cost. ASU 2016-13 replaces the existing incurred loss impairment model with an expected loss methodology, which will result in more timely recognition of credit losses. ASU 2016-13 is effective for annual reporting periods, and interim periods within those years, beginning after December 15, 2019. As of January 1, 2020, we adopted the standard. The adoption of the standard did not have a material impact on our consolidated financial statements with the most significant impact being the increase in allowance for doubtful accounts related to our trade accounts receivable. The adoption adjustment was recorded to Retained Earnings, as seen in the Consolidated Statements of Changes in Equity.
In January 2017, the FASB issued ASU 2017-04 “Simplifying the Test for Goodwill Impairment (Topic 350).” This standard eliminates Step 2 from the current goodwill impairment test, instead requiring an entity to recognize a goodwill impairment charge for the amount by which the reporting unit's carrying amount exceeds the reporting unit’s fair value. This guidance is effective for interim and annual goodwill impairment tests in fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2019 with early adoption permitted. This guidance must be applied on a prospective basis. The adoption of this standard did not materially impact our consolidated financial statements or disclosures.
In August 2018, the FASB issued ASU No. 2018-13 “Fair Value Measurement (Topic 820): Disclosure Framework-Changes to the Disclosure Requirements for Fair Value Measurement” which eliminates, adds, and modifies certain disclosure requirements for fair value measurements as part of its disclosure framework project. ASU 2018-13 is effective for all entities for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2019, and interim periods therein, but entities are permitted to early adopt either the entire standard or only the provisions that eliminate or modify the requirements. The adoption of this standard did not materially impact our consolidated financial statements or disclosures.
In August 2018, the FASB issued ASU No. 2018-14 “Compensation-Retirement Benefits-Defined Benefit Plans-General (Subtopic 715-20): Disclosure Framework-Changes to the Disclosure Requirements for Defined Benefit Plans” which requires minor changes to the disclosure requirements for employers that sponsor defined benefit pension and/or other postretirement benefit plans. ASU 2018-14 is effective for fiscal years ending after December 15, 2020 and early adoption is permitted. We have updated our disclosures in Note 9 to conform with the standard.
In August 2018, the FASB issued ASU No. 2018-15 “Intangibles-Goodwill and Other-Internal-Use Software (Subtopic 350-40): Customer’s Accounting for Implementation Costs Incurred in a Cloud Computing Arrangement That is a Service Contract.” ASU 2018-15 requires that issuers follow the internal-use software guidance in Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) 350-40 to determine which costs to capitalize as assets or expense as incurred. The ASC 350-40 guidance requires that certain costs incurred during the application development stage be capitalized and other costs incurred during the preliminary project and post-implementation stages be expensed as they are incurred. ASU 2018-15 is effective for fiscal years
beginning after December 15, 2019 and interim periods therein. The adoption of the standard did not have a material impact on our consolidated financial statements.
In February 2016, the FASB issued ASU 2016-02 “Leases (Topic 842).” This standard requires lessees to record most leases on their balance sheets and expenses on their income statements in a manner similar to current lease accounting. The guidance also eliminates current real estate-specific provisions for all entities. For lessors, the guidance modifies the classification criteria and the accounting for sales-type and direct financing leases. All entities will classify leases to determine how to recognize lease-related revenue and expense. The guidance became effective for fiscal years and interim reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2018.
In July 2018, the FASB approved an additional optional transition method by allowing entities to initially apply the new lease standard at the adoption date. As of January 1, 2019, we adopted the standard using this optional transition method. The adoption of the standard did not have a material impact on our consolidated financial statements with the most significant impact being the recognition of right-of-use assets and lease liabilities for operating leases in other assets, net and other current and long-term liabilities, respectively, in our Consolidated Balance Sheets. We have applied the available package of practical expedients, as well as the election not to apply recognition and measurement requirements to short-term leases. See Note 12 for further details.
In August 2017, the FASB issued ASU 2017-12, “Targeted Improvements to Accounting for Hedging Activities (Topic 815).” The amendments in ASU 2017-12 provide targeted improvements to the accounting for hedging activities to better align an entity’s risk management activities and financial reporting for hedging relationships through changes to both the designation and measurement guidance for qualifying hedging relationships and the presentation of hedge results. The adoption of ASU 2017-12 is effective for annual periods beginning after December 15, 2018, although early adoption is permitted. This guidance must be applied on a prospective basis. The adoption of this guidance did not have an impact on our financial position, results of operations or cash flows.
Recent Accounting Pronouncements. Reference Rate Reform. In March 2020, the FASB issued ASU No. 2020-04 “Reference Rate Reform (Topic 848): Facilitation of the Effects of Reference Rate Reform on Financial Reporting.” The update provides optional guidance for a limited period of time to ease the potential burden in accounting for (or recognizing the effects of) contract modifications on financial reporting, caused by reference rate reform. ASU 2020-04 is effective for all entities as of March 12, 2020 through December 31, 2022. We are still evaluating the impact, but do not expect the adoption of the standard to have a material impact on our Consolidated Financial Statements.
Change in Accounting Principle. In the fourth quarter of 2020, we voluntarily changed our method of accounting for recognizing actuarial gains and losses and expected return on plan assets for our defined benefit pension and other postretirement benefit plans. Under the accounting method change, remeasurement of projected benefit obligation and plan assets are immediately recognized in earnings through net periodic benefit cost within Other Income (Expense) on the Consolidated Statements of Income (Loss), with pension and postretirement plans to be remeasured annually in the fourth quarter or on an interim basis as triggering events require remeasurement. In addition, we changed our accounting for measuring the market-related value of plan assets from a calculated amount to fair value, no longer recognizing the difference between expected return on assets and actual return on assets over a five year period. Prior to this accounting method change, unrecognized actuarial gains and losses were included in Accumulated Other Comprehensive Loss on the Consolidated Balance Sheet and were amortized into earnings over the average remaining service period of active employees expected to receive benefits under the plan. We also determined the market-related value of plan assets based on a calculated market adjustment to reflect investment gains and losses during each of the last five years, with differences between expected and actual return on plan assets recognized at a rate of 20% per year. While the historical accounting principle was acceptable, we believe that the current accounting policies provide a better representation of the operating results of the Company and the economic performance of plan assets in relation to the measurement of its benefit obligations for the period. The changes in accounting will more clearly reflect the current period impact of the Company’s pension asset investment strategy to readers of the financial statements.
This change has been applied on a retrospective basis for all prior years presented. As of January 1, 2018, the cumulative effect of this change resulted in a $302.6 million decrease to retained earnings and a corresponding $302.6 million decrease to Accumulated Other Comprehensive Loss. The impact of the change in accounting principle on current and prior period financial information is detailed further in Notes 14 and 15.
The entire disclosure for the basis of presentation and significant accounting policies concepts. Basis of presentation describes the underlying basis used to prepare the financial statements (for example, US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, Other Comprehensive Basis of Accounting, IFRS). Accounting policies describe all significant accounting policies of the reporting entity.
Reference 1: http://fasb.org/us-gaap/role/ref/legacyRef