Extraordinary Item

A transaction or event deemed extraordinary in accounting is unrelated to routine business operations and unlikely to happen again soon.

Author: Osman Ahmed
Osman Ahmed
Osman Ahmed
Investment Banking | Private Equity

Osman started his career as an investment banking analyst at Thomas Weisel Partners where he spent just over two years before moving into a growth equity investing role at Scale Venture Partners, focused on technology. He's currently a VP at KCK Group, the private equity arm of a middle eastern family office. Osman has a generalist industry focus on lower middle market growth equity and buyout transactions.

Osman holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of Southern California and a Master of Business Administration with concentrations in Finance, Entrepreneurship, and Economics from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Reviewed By: Christy Grimste
Christy Grimste
Christy Grimste
Real Estate | Investment Property Sales

Christy currently works as a senior associate for EdR Trust, a publicly traded multi-family REIT. Prior to joining EdR Trust, Christy works for CBRE in investment property sales. Before completing her MBA and breaking into finance, Christy founded and education startup in which she actively pursued for seven years and works as an internal auditor for the U.S. Department of State and CIA.

Christy has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Maryland and a Master of Business Administrations from the University of London.

Last Updated:October 31, 2023

What Is an Extraordinary Item?

A transaction or event deemed extraordinary in accounting is unrelated to routine business operations and unlikely to happen again soon.

According to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), extraordinary items are no longer used formally. Hence the information that follows is historical. In addition, the notion of an unusual item is absent from International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).

Additionally, they are unpredictable and do not frequently happen. Therefore, in the past, FASB has mandated that businesses separately record these transactions on the income statement.

However, the FASB changed its income statement standard 2015-01 in 2015 to eliminate the need for these items to be reported separately.

Even though these requirements won't exist in the future, I believe it's still crucial to compare the previous standards and how they address them.

All company transactions were initially required to be examined for two key factors by FASB: unusualness and infrequency. 

Management was required to disclose these events separately in a different area of the income statement if a transaction met both of these requirements, i.e., it happened seldom and was outside the normal course of business operations.

This rule makes sense since creditors and investors want to know whether an event that affects the income statement is unrelated to the company's operations.

The devastation of buildings by an earthquake or the ruining of a vineyard by a hailstorm in an area with extremely infrequent hail is two examples that could be categorized as remarkable. 

Crop damage caused by weather in a place where it was rather common illustrates an event that did not qualify as unusual. 

Companies sought to designate as many losses as unusual items as possible to move them to the bottom of the income statement for reporting purposes, which necessitated this level of precision.

To make it clear to the reader which items were completely unconnected to a business's operational and financial performance, unusual items were reported in distinct line items on the income statement.

Features of an Extraordinary Item

Gains and losses from special business transactions that stand out from the norm as extraordinary items are referred to as such. They, therefore, relate to transactions that are not a standard component of the company's daily activities.

Among the crucial elements are:

1. Rare/Unusual

They are deals that don't happen every day. It may only occur once every five or ten years, occasionally, or never again for the rest of the company's existence.

The important thing to remember is that not all unique, unusual, or non-recurring transactions fall within the category of extraordinary items. Likewise, non-recurring transactions are possible but are not necessarily extraordinary.

Example 1: PQR Co. believes there is a lot of room for revenue growth in the industry despite the current manufacturing capacity for buses being constrained. 

Management has authorized purchasing a new plant to boost production capacity in light of this. Therefore, despite the fact that it is a one-time transaction, it might be considered a boost to capital assets rather than a substantial loss.

Example 2: Using PQR Co. from the first example, they aim to stop manufacturing cars, which is a non-recurring transaction and, hence, qualifies as an unusual gain.

2. Materiality

The exceptional and occasional occurrence of the transaction is the primary highlighted characteristic of extraordinary items. These transactions are unexpected and are not common. 

These are distinct acts taken for the smooth operation of the firm daily, independent from the regular daily business transactions.

Materiality refers to whether or not an item is truly impactful for the business.

Example 1: If ABC Co. disposes of a business car in Chicago for scrap, the resulting business gain of $20,000 will not be significant enough to be categorized as an unusual gain. 

This is because $20,000 is immaterial, given that XYZ Co.'s total revenue is $ 200 billion.

Example 2: A small-time vendor who sells hotdogs outside Northern Park earns a royalty of $500 for selling his hotdog recipe to a chain restaurant. 

Because this transaction exceeds the materiality criterion, it is classified as an extraordinary item. It matters in this instance because the shop has an annual profit of roughly $5000.

Purpose of Extraordinary Items

To prevent them from distorting a company's normal profitability, rare but noteworthy events are handled as extraordinary items. Financial analysts frequently leave out extraordinary items when determining a company's P/E ratio to understand its profitability better.

Companies publish unusual items individually in their financial statements to provide investors with a more accurate picture of their continuing costs and income. 

The classification of a big loss as an unusual item may help a company paint a more accurate picture of its financial performance.

The treatment of unusual items in a company's books is outlined by GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) and IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) to preserve uniform accounting standards across businesses.

If an event or transaction was unique and rare, it was considered extraordinary. An uncommon incident must be extremely unusual, unconnected to a company's routine operating activities, and reasonably anticipated not to happen again. 

For some companies, this line item was frequently not presented for years. As a result, companies had to estimate the income taxes resulting from extraordinary events and declare the impact on earnings-per-share (EPS) in addition to segregating the impact of these items on the income statement. 

Losses from different catastrophes, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and wildfires, are examples of extraordinary items.

Identifying and calculating the impact of some extreme events (such as fires) was simple. Still, it was far more challenging to calculate the impact of other events that indirectly impacted business operations or the economy as a whole.

Types of Extraordinary Items

A distinction between extraordinary gains and losses can be made. In contrast to remarkable gains, which positively affect the company's profit, losses hurt the company's profit.

Examples of Extraordinary gains

  • Profit from the government's new statement that subsidies will be approved.
  • Gain from the sale of company segments that have been discontinued

Examples of Extraordinary Losses

  • Loss from the sale of discontinued business parts; Loss resulting from uncontrollable natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, hailstorms, etc.
  • Loss as a result of a court decision creating severe tax consequences
  • Loss resulted from a protracted workers' strike that has negatively impacted operations for more than a month.

The aforementioned examples are illustrative and subject to change depending on the circumstances of each situation.

For instance, firms in areas designated as flood-prone areas cannot claim a loss caused by a flood as an extraordinary loss. 

This is because it is assumed that firms are aware of the local climate and are, nonetheless, ready to accept the risk of operating there. This is, therefore, a component of the business risk that the firm must have already considered.

We may also use the example of a private equity company that specializes in investing in start-ups. 

In this instance, a gain or loss from selling a firm is common and neither uncommon nor abnormal. Because of this, it cannot claim that the profit from selling long-term investments was significant.

Researched and authored by Rishav Toshniwal | LinkedIn

Reviewed and edited by James Fazeli-Sinaki | LinkedIn

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