asc 820 Fair Value Measurement

ASC 820: A CPCON Guide to Fair Value Measurement

ASC 820, also known as Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) 820 or FASB ASC 820, is a comprehensive standard that provides guidance on fair value measurements in financial reporting. 

It establishes the principles and procedures for determining the fair value of assets and liabilities and outlines the disclosures required to enhance transparency and comparability in financial statements.

What is ASC 820?

ASC 820 is a standard issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) that defines fair value and provides a framework for its measurement. 

It outlines the principles, techniques, and inputs to be used when determining fair value, as well as the hierarchy for classifying assets and liabilities based on their liquidity and observability.

The Importance of ASC 820 in Financial Reporting

ASC 820 plays a crucial role in financial reporting as it ensures that companies provide accurate and reliable fair value measurements of their assets and liabilities. 

Fair value is a key component in assessing the financial position, performance, and risks of a company. 

By following ASC 820, companies enhance transparency, comparability, and consistency in financial reporting, providing stakeholders with valuable information for decision-making.

Understanding the ASC 820 Framework

ASC 820 establishes a framework for determining fair value and classifying assets and liabilities into different levels based on their liquidity and observability. The framework provides guidance on the valuation techniques, inputs, and assumptions to be used when measuring fair value. 

It promotes the use of observable market data when available and allows for the use of alternative inputs when observable data is not present.

Defining Fair Value in ASC 820

ASC 820 defines fair value as the price that would be received to sell an asset or paid to transfer a liability in an orderly transaction between market participants at the measurement date. 

It emphasizes that fair value should reflect the assumptions that market participants would use when pricing the asset or liability, including the highest and best use of the asset.

The Role of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)

ASC 820 is part of the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) framework in the United States. GAAP provides a set of standards and principles that companies must follow when preparing and presenting financial statements. 

ASC 820 ensures consistency and adherence to these principles by providing specific guidance for fair value measurements.

The ASC 820 Fair Value Level Hierarchy

ASC 820 establishes a fair value hierarchy that classifies assets and liabilities into three levels based on their liquidity and observability. 

  1. Level 1 assets are highly liquid and easily valued, with quoted prices in active markets. 
  2. Level 2 assets are less liquid but still observable, with inputs other than quoted prices. 
  3. Level 3 assets are illiquid and require significant management judgment, as they lack observable inputs.

Level 1 Assets: Highly Liquid and Easily Valued

Level 1 assets are financial instruments with readily available prices in active markets. These assets have quoted prices that are easily accessible, such as publicly traded stocks or bonds. 

The valuation of Level 1 assets is relatively straightforward as it relies on observable market data.

Level 2 Assets: Less Liquid but Still Observable

Level 2 assets are financial instruments that do not have readily available prices but can be valued using observable inputs other than quoted prices. 

These inputs may include benchmarking to similar assets or the use of pricing models that consider observable market data.

Level 3 Assets: Illiquid and Hard to Value

Level 3 assets are financial instruments that lack observable market inputs and require significant management judgment for valuation. 

These assets are typically illiquid and may include certain derivatives, complex securities, or privately held securities. Valuing Level 3 assets involves the use of internal models or other estimation techniques.

Applying ASC 820 in Practice

Applying ASC 820 requires companies to assess their assets and liabilities, determine their classification within the fair value hierarchy, and apply appropriate valuation techniques and inputs. 

This involves evaluating the availability and reliability of observable market data, considering the characteristics of the assets or liabilities, and making informed judgments and assumptions to determine fair value.

How to Classify Assets Under ASC 820

To classify assets under ASC 820, companies should evaluate the availability of observable market data and determine the level within the fair value hierarchy that best represents the inputs used in the valuation. 

This involves assessing the liquidity, observability, and characteristics of the assets and aligning them with the criteria outlined in the ASC 820 hierarchy.

Making Disclosures Under ASC 820

ASC 820 requires companies to disclose information about the fair value measurements of their assets and liabilities. 

This includes providing details on the valuation techniques and inputs used, the level within the fair value hierarchy, and any significant unobservable inputs or assumptions. Disclosures aim to provide transparency and allow users of financial statements to understand the nature and reliability of fair value measurements.

Case Study: Applying ASC 820 in a Real-World Scenario

  1. Apple Inc.: As a technology giant, Apple applies ASC 820 to determine the fair value of its financial instruments, such as investments, derivatives, and marketable securities. The company provides detailed disclosures regarding the inputs and valuation techniques used to measure fair value in its financial statements.
  2. General Electric (GE): GE, a multinational conglomerate, applies ASC 820 to assess the fair value of its assets and liabilities, including financial instruments and investments. The company discloses the fair value hierarchy level in its financial statements to provide transparency regarding the inputs used in valuation.
  3. ExxonMobil Corporation: ExxonMobil, a major oil and gas company, applies ASC 820 for fair value measurements of its financial instruments, including derivatives and marketable securities. The company discloses information on the valuation techniques and inputs used to determine fair value in its financial reports.
  4. Johnson & Johnson: As a leading healthcare company, Johnson & Johnson follows ASC 820 for the fair value measurement of its financial assets, such as marketable securities and investments. The company discloses the fair value hierarchy level and the significant inputs used in determining fair value in its financial statements.
  5. JPMorgan Chase & Co.: JPMorgan Chase, a prominent financial institution, applies ASC 820 for fair value measurements of its financial instruments, including derivatives, securities, and investments. The company discloses the fair value hierarchy level, inputs, and techniques used in its financial reporting to ensure transparency.

Overcoming Challenges in ASC 820 Application

The application of ASC 820 can present challenges, such as limited availability of observable market data, complex valuation techniques, or estimating unobservable inputs. 

Overcoming these challenges requires companies to engage with valuation experts, consider alternative valuation approaches, and document their judgments and assumptions thoroughly. Regular monitoring and reassessment of fair value measurements also help address any changes or uncertainties that may arise.

Common Pitfalls in Applying ASC 820

Common pitfalls in applying ASC 820 include the misclassification of assets within the fair value hierarchy, inadequate documentation of valuation methods and inputs, and insufficient consideration of changes in market conditions. 

To avoid these pitfalls, companies should ensure proper training and understanding of ASC 820 requirements, establish robust internal controls, and seek guidance from valuation specialists when necessary.

Best Practices for ASC 820 Compliance

To achieve ASC 820 compliance, companies should establish and maintain strong internal controls over fair value measurements, regularly monitor and reassess valuation inputs, document their valuation methodologies and judgments, and stay informed about updates and interpretations related to ASC 820. 

Collaboration with valuation specialists and engaging in ongoing professional development are also valuable practices.

Tools and Services for ASC 820 Valuations

Various tools and services are available to assist companies in performing ASC 820 valuations. 

These may include valuation software, databases, and analytical models that facilitate the calculation and documentation of fair value measurements. 

Additionally, professional valuation services provided by specialized firms or experts can offer expertise and independent assessments to ensure compliance with ASC 820.

The Role of Valuation Specialists in ASC 820 Compliance

Valuation specialists play a significant role in ASC 820 compliance by providing expertise in fair value measurements, offering independent assessments, and assisting companies in applying valuation techniques and inputs. 

Their knowledge and experience can help companies navigate the complexities of ASC 820, address challenges, and ensure compliance with the standard’s requirements.

Comparing Different ASC 820 Valuation Tools and Services

When selecting ASC 820 valuation tools and services, companies should consider factors such as the capabilities and functionalities of the tools, the availability and accuracy of data sources, the reputation and expertise of service providers, and the cost-effectiveness of the solutions. Companies should evaluate their specific needs and requirements to choose the tools and services that best align with their objectives and enhance ASC 820 compliance.


In conclusion, ASC 820, also known as Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) 820 or FASB ASC 820, is a crucial standard that provides guidance on fair value measurements in financial reporting. It establishes a framework for determining and disclosing fair values of assets and liabilities, which is essential for transparent and reliable financial statements. 

Understanding ASC 820 is vital for companies as it helps them properly classify assets, make accurate valuations, and make appropriate disclosures. 

The ASC 820 framework categorizes assets into three levels based on their liquidity and observability, ensuring consistency and comparability in fair value measurements. However, applying ASC 820 in practice can present challenges, such as valuing illiquid assets or making complex judgments. 

Companies should strive for compliance by following best practices, leveraging appropriate tools and services, and considering the expertise of valuation specialists. By navigating ASC 820 effectively, companies can enhance financial reporting integrity and provide valuable information to stakeholders.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How often should I perform an ASC 820 valuation?

The frequency of performing an ASC 820 valuation depends on various factors, including the nature of the assets or liabilities being valued and the specific circumstances of the business. 

Generally, valuations should be performed when there are triggering events such as acquisitions, dispositions, impairment indicators, or significant changes in market conditions. 

Additionally, annual or periodic valuations may be necessary for certain assets or liabilities. It is important to evaluate the need for an ASC 820 valuation on a case-by-case basis and consider industry practices, regulatory requirements, and the relevance of fair value measurements to the financial statements.

What are the penalties for non-compliance with ASC 820?

The penalties for non-compliance with ASC 820 can vary depending on the jurisdiction and regulatory requirements. Non-compliance may lead to financial penalties, regulatory sanctions, reputational damage, and legal consequences. 

Inaccurate or inadequate fair value measurements could result in misrepresentation of financial statements and misinformed decision-making by stakeholders. 

To mitigate the risk of non-compliance, businesses should ensure proper understanding of ASC 820, maintain robust internal controls, seek professional advice when needed, and adhere to applicable accounting standards and regulations.

How does ASC 820 apply to small businesses or startups?

ASC 820 applies to all businesses, regardless of their size or stage of development. Small businesses and startups are not exempt from its requirements. However, the application of ASC 820 may vary based on the complexity of the business and the types of assets or liabilities involved. 

Small businesses or startups may have fewer and less complex financial instruments, which could simplify the fair value measurement process. 

Nonetheless, it is essential for small businesses and startups to understand ASC 820, assess the fair value of their assets or liabilities as required, and make appropriate disclosures in their financial statements.

Can I perform an ASC 820 valuation myself, or do I need a specialist?

Performing an ASC 820 valuation yourself or seeking the assistance of a specialist depends on various factors, such as your expertise, available resources, and the complexity of the assets or liabilities being valued. ASC 820 valuations can involve intricate methodologies, market data analysis, and professional judgment. 

While it is possible to perform a valuation in-house, engaging a specialist such as a professional appraiser, valuation expert, or certified public accountant with expertise in fair value measurements can provide additional assurance, independent assessment, and specialized knowledge. 

A specialist can help navigate complexities, ensure compliance with ASC 820, and provide valuable insights and documentation that align with industry best practices.

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