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Twitter’s Off-Balance Sheet Liabilities Fall $167.6 Million

Social media firm is still excluding more than $400 million from future operating lease liabilities.

February 22, 2022

Twitter is significantly understating its future lease liabilities— and total liabilities— offering investors an incomplete picture of its future financial obligations. In its latest 10-K, the company says it has more than $1.87 billion in future undiscounted operating lease liabilities. This understates Twitter’s true liability since the company doesn’t count leases not yet commenced. The additional liabilities are buried in the footnotes.

On an undiscounted basis, Twitter’s $409.3 million in not yet commenced leases are 21.8% of the company’s total future lease obligations and 6% of the company’s total liabilities.

When last we checked, Twitter had $576.9 million in off-balance sheet not-yet-commenced lease obligations, or $167.6 million more than it presently has.

Under an accounting loophole, companies can omit from the balance sheet leases that haven’t started as well as corporate offices under construction or build-to-suit arrangements. It’s seemingly inconsistent with FASB’s guidance on the topic which states if a lease is legally binding— as Twitter acknowledges— Topic 842 (ASU 2016-02) makes clear it must be accounted for on the balance sheet:

“A lessee should recognize in the statement of financial position a liability to make lease payments (the lease liability)...”

Twitter isn’t the only company using the loophole to make its balance sheet look stronger. We recently documented billions of dollars in future operating lease liabilities being excluded from corporate balance sheets.


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