The Sage Group plc – Annual report – 30 September 2020
With effect from 1 October 2019, the Group reports revenue under two revenue categories and the basis of recognition for each category is described below:
Prior to 1 October 2019, the Group reported three revenue categories: Recurring revenue, Software and software-related services and Processing revenue. The aggregation of Software and software-related services and Processing revenue into the Other revenue category reflects the focus on recurring revenue and the divestment of certain processing businesses. There has been no change to the revenue recognition policy compared to the year ended 30 September 2019.
Identification of performance obligations
When the Group enters into an agreement with a customer, goods and services deliverable under the contract are identified as separate performance obligations (“obligations”) to the extent that the customer can benefit from the goods or services on their own and that the separate goods and services are considered distinct from other goods and services in the agreement. Where individual goods and services do not meet the criteria to be identified as separate obligations they are aggregated with other goods and/or services in the agreement until a separate obligation is identified.
Typically, the products and services outlined in the categories of revenue section qualify as separate performance obligations and the portion of the contractual fee allocated to them is recognised separately. However, certain on-premise subscription contracts, which combine the delivery of on-premise software and maintenance and support services, require unbundling. Sage cloud native services usually do not require unbundling as the terms usually do not provide the customer with a right to terminate the hosting contract and take possession of the software.
When selling goods or services, in certain instances, customers pay a non-refundable contract sign-up fee when they enter into a new initial contract for a software product, and no equivalent fee is payable on subsequent renewals. The Group applies judgement in determining whether such sign-up fees provide a material right to the customer that the customer would not receive without entering into that contract. In applying this judgement, the Group considers whether the options entitle the customer to a discount that exceeds the discount that would normally be granted for the respective goods or services if they were to be sold without the option. Where this is the case, the non-refundable contract sign-up fee is treated as a separate performance obligation.
Determination of transaction price and standalone selling prices
The Group determines the transaction price it is entitled to in return for providing the promised obligations to the customer based on the committed contractual amounts, net of sales taxes and discounts. Contract terms generally are monthly or annual and customers either pay up-front or over the term of the related service agreement.
The transaction price is allocated between the identified obligations according to the relative standalone selling prices (SSPs) of the obligations. The SSP of each obligation deliverable in the contract is determined according to the prices that the Group would obtain by selling the same goods and/or services included in the obligation to a similar customer on a standalone basis. See “Critical accounting estimates and judgements” in note 1 for details.
Timing of recognition
Revenue is recognised when the respective obligations in the contract are delivered to the customer and payment remains probable.
- Licences for standard on-premise software products are typically delivered by providing the customer with access to download the software. The licence period starts when such access is granted. Licence revenue is recognised at a point in time or over time depending on whether the Group delivers software with significant standalone functionality or software which is dependent on updates for ongoing functionality. The Group recognises revenue for these licences which have significant standalone functionality at the point in time when the customer has access to and control over the software. For licences which are dependent on updates for ongoing functionality, the Group recognises revenue based on time elapsed and thus rateably over the term of the contract. Typically, this includes our payroll and tax compliance software.
- Where the Group’s performance obligation is the grant of a right to continuously access a cloud offering for a certain term, revenue is recognised based on time elapsed and thus rateably over the term.
- Maintenance and support revenue is typically recognised based on time elapsed and thus rateably over the term of the support arrangement. Under the standardised maintenance and support services, the Group’s performance obligation is to stand ready to provide technical product support and unspecified updates, upgrades and enhancements on a when-and-if-available basis. The customers simultaneously receive and consume the benefits of these services.
- Professional services and training revenue are typically recognised over time. Where the Group stands ready to provide the service (such as access to learning content), revenue is recognised based on time elapsed and thus rateably over the service period. Consumption-based services (such as separately identifiable professional services and premium support services, messaging services, and classroom training services) are recognised over time as the services are utilised, typically following the percentage-of-completion method or rateably.
- Non-refundable contract sign-up fees that qualify as separate performance obligations are recognised as revenue over the anticipated period of benefit to the customer, which takes account of the likelihood of the customer renewing the contract.
Identification of contract with the customer
When the Group sells goods or services through a business partner, a key consideration is determining whether the business partner or the end user is Sage’s customer. The key criteria in this determination is whether the business partner has taken control of the product. Considering the nature of Sage’s subscription products and support services, this is usually assessed based on whether the business partner has responsibility for payment, has discretion to set prices, and takes on the risks and rewards of the product from Sage. See “Critical accounting estimates and judgements” in note 1 for details.
Principal versus agent considerations
When the Group has control of third-party goods or services prior to delivery to a customer, then the Group is the principal in the sale to the customer. As a principal, receipts from customers and payments to suppliers are reported on a gross basis in revenue and cost of sales. If the Group does not have control of third-party goods or services prior to transfer to a customer, then the Group is acting as an agent for the other party and revenue in respect of the relevant obligations is recognised net of any related payments to the supplier and reported revenue represents the margin earned by the Group. Whether the Group is considered to be the principal or an agent in the transaction depends on analysis by management of both the legal form and substance of the agreement between the Group and its supplier. This takes into account whether Sage bears the price, inventory and performance risks associated with the transaction.
As the majority of contracts have a term of one year or less, the Group has applied the following practical expedients.
- The aggregate transaction price allocated to the unsatisfied or partially unsatisfied performance obligations at the end of the reporting period is not disclosed.
- Any financing component is not considered when determining the transaction price.
1 Basis of preparation and critical accounting estimates and judgements (extract)
Critical accounting estimates and judgements (extract)
Approximately 35% of the Company’s revenue is generated from sales to partners rather than end users. The key judgement is determining whether the business partner is a customer of the Group. The key criteria in this determination is whether the business partner has taken control of the product. Considering the nature of Sage’s subscription products and support services, this is usually assessed based on whether the business partner has responsibility for payment, has discretion to set prices, and takes on the risks and rewards of the product from Sage.
Where the business partner is a customer of Sage, discounts are recognised as a deduction from revenue.
Where the business partner is not a customer of Sage and their part in the sale has simply been in the form of a referral, they are remunerated in the form of a commission payment. These payments are treated as contract acquisition costs.
An additional area of judgement is the recognition and deferral of revenue on on-premise subscription offerings, for example the sale of a term licence with an annual maintenance and support contract as part of a subscription contract. In such instances, the transaction price is allocated between the constituent performance obligations on the basis of standalone selling prices (SSPs). Judgement is required when estimating SSPs. The Group has established a hierarchy to identify the SSPs that are used to allocate the transaction price of a customer contract to the performance obligations in the contract. Where SSPs for on-premise offerings are observable and consistent across the customer base, SSP estimates are derived from pricing history. Where there are no directly observable estimates available, comparable products are utilised as a basis of assessment or the residual approach is used. Under the residual approach, the SSP for the offering is estimated to be the total transaction price less the sum of the observable SSPs of other goods or services in the contract. The Group uses this technique in particular for estimating the term licence SSP sold as part of its on-premise subscription offerings as Sage has previously not sold term licences on a stand-alone basis (i.e. the selling price is uncertain).