IFRS 15, telecoms, policies, paras 110-129 certain disclosures

TELUS Corporation – Annual report – 31 December 2020

Industry: telecoms

1 Summary of significant accounting policies

(b) Use of estimates and judgments

The preparation of financial statements in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles requires management to make estimates, assumptions and judgments that affect: the reported amounts of assets and liabilities at the date of the financial statements; the disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities at the date of the financial statements; and the reported amounts and classification of income and expense during the reporting period. Actual results could differ from those estimates.

Judgments

In respect of revenue-generating transactions, we must make judgments that affect the timing of the recognition of revenue, as set out following:

  • We have millions of multi-year contracts with our customers and we must make judgments about when we have satisfied our performance obligations to our customers, either over a period of time or at a point in time. Service revenues are recognized based upon customers’ access to, or usage of, our telecommunications infrastructure; we believe that this method faithfully depicts the transfer of the services, and thus the revenues are recognized as the services are made available and/or rendered. We consider our performance obligations arising from the sale of equipment to have been satisfied when the equipment has been delivered to, and accepted by, the end-user customers (see (e) following).
  • Principally in the context of revenue-generating transactions involving wireless handsets, we must make judgments about whether third-party re-sellers that deliver equipment to our customers are acting in the transactions as principals or as our agents. Upon due consideration of the relevant indicators, we believe that the decision to consider the re-sellers to be acting, solely for accounting purposes, as our agents is more representative of the economic substance of the transactions, as we are the primary obligor to the end-user customers. The effect of this judgment is that no equipment revenue is recognized upon the transfer of inventory to third-party re-sellers.
  • We compensate third-party re-sellers and our employees for generating revenues, and we must make judgments as to whether such sales-based compensation amounts are costs incurred to obtain contracts with customers that should be capitalized (see Note 20). We believe that compensation amounts tangentially attributable to obtaining a contract with a customer, because the amount of such compensation could be affected in ways other than by simply obtaining that contract, should be expensed as incurred; compensation amounts directly attributable to obtaining a contract with a customer should be capitalized and subsequently amortized on a systematic basis, consistent with the satisfaction of our associated performance obligations.

Judgment must also be exercised in the capitalization of costs incurred to fulfill revenue-generating contracts with customers. Such fulfilment costs are those incurred to set up, activate or otherwise implement services involving access to, or usage of, our telecommunications infrastructure that would not otherwise be capitalized as property, plant, equipment and/or intangible assets (see Note 20).

(e) Revenue recognition

General

We earn the majority of our revenues (wireless: network revenues (voice and data); wireline: data revenues (which include: internet protocol; television; hosting, managed information technology and cloud-based services; customer care and business services; certain healthcare solutions; and home and business smart technology (including security and agriculture)) and voice revenues) from access to, and usage of, our telecommunications infrastructure. The majority of the balance of our revenues (wireless equipment and other) arises from providing services and products facilitating access to, and usage of, our telecommunications infrastructure.

We offer complete and integrated solutions to meet our customers’ needs. These solutions may involve deliveries of multiple services and products (our performance obligations) that occur at different points in time and/or over different periods of time; as referred to in (b), this is a significant judgment for us. As required, the performance obligations of these multiple element arrangements are identified, the transaction price for the entire multiple element arrangement is determined and allocated among the performance obligations based upon our relative stand-alone selling prices for each of them, and our relevant revenue recognition policies are then applied, so that revenue is recognized when, or as, we satisfy the performance obligations. To the extent that variable consideration is included in determining the minimum transaction price, it is constrained to the “minimum spend” amount required in a contract with a customer. Service revenues arising from contracts with customers typically have variable consideration, because customers have the ongoing ability to both add and remove features and services, and because customer usage of our telecommunications infrastructure may exceed the base amounts provided for in their contracts.

Our contracts with customers do not have a significant financing component. With the exception of both equipment-related upfront payments that may be required under the terms of contracts with customers and in-store “cash and carry” sales of equipment and accessories, payments are typically due 30 days from the billing date. Billings are typically rendered on a monthly basis.

Multiple contracts with a single customer are normally accounted for as separate arrangements. In instances where multiple contracts are entered into with a customer in a short period of time, the contracts are reviewed as a group to ensure that, as with multiple element arrangements, their relative transaction prices are appropriate.

Lease accounting is applied to an accounting unit if it conveys to a customer the right to use a specific asset but does not convey the risks and/or benefits of ownership.

Our revenues are recorded net of any value-added and/or sales taxes billed to the customer concurrent with a revenue-generating transaction.

We use the following revenue accounting practical expedients provided for in IFRS 15, Revenue from Contracts with Customers:

  • No adjustment of the contracted amount of consideration for the effects of financing components when, at the inception of a contract, we expect that the effect of the financing component is not significant at the individual contract level.
  • No deferral of contract acquisition costs when the amortization period for such costs would be one year or less.
  • When estimating minimum transaction prices allocated to any remaining unfulfilled, or partially unfulfilled, performance obligations, exclusion of amounts arising from contracts originally expected to have a duration of one year or less, as well as amounts arising from contracts under which we may recognize and bill revenue in an amount that corresponds directly with our completed performance obligations.

Contract assets

Many of our multiple element arrangements arise from bundling the sale of equipment (e.g. a wireless handset) with a contracted service period. Although the customer receives the equipment at contract inception and the revenue from the associated completed performance obligation is recognized at that time, the customer’s payment for the equipment will effectively be received rateably over the contracted service period to the extent it is not received as a lump-sum amount at contract inception. The difference between the equipment revenue recognized and the associated amount cumulatively billed to the customer is recognized on the Consolidated statements of financial position as a contract asset.

Contract assets may also arise in instances where we give consideration to a customer. When we receive no identifiable, separable benefit for consideration given to a customer, the amount of the consideration is recorded as a reduction of revenue rather than as an expense. Such amounts are included in the determination of transaction prices for allocation purposes in multiple element arrangements.

  • Some forms of consideration given to a customer, effectively at contract inception, such as rebates (including prepaid non-bank cards) and/or equipment, are considered to be performance obligations in a multiple element arrangement. Although the performance obligation is satisfied at contract inception, the customer’s payment associated with the performance obligation will effectively be received rateably over the associated contracted service period. The difference between the revenue arising from the satisfied performance obligation and the associated amount cumulatively reflected in billings to the customer is recognized on the Consolidated statements of financial position as a contract asset.
  • Other forms of consideration given to a customer, either at contract inception or over a period of time, such as discounts (including prepaid bank cards), may result in us receiving no identifiable, separable benefit and thus are not considered performance obligations. Such consideration is recognized as a reduction of revenue rateably over the term of the contract. The difference between the consideration provided and the associated amount recognized as a reduction of revenue is recognized on the Consolidated statements of financial position as a contract asset.

Contract liabilities

Advance billings are recorded when billing occurs prior to provision of the associated services; such advance billings are recognized as revenue in the period in which the services and/or equipment are provided (see Note 24). Similarly, and as appropriate, upfront customer activation and connection fees are deferred and recognized over the average expected term of the customer relationship.

Costs of contract acquisition and contract fulfilment

Costs of contract acquisition (typically commissions) and costs of contract fulfilment are capitalized and recognized as an expense, generally over the life of the contract on a systematic and rational basis consistent with the pattern of the transfer of goods or services to which the asset relates. The amortization of such costs is included in the Consolidated statements of income and other comprehensive income as a component of Goods and services purchased, with the exception of amounts paid to our employees, which are included as Employee benefits expense.

The total cost of wireless equipment sold to customers and advertising and promotion costs related to initial customer acquisition are expensed as incurred; the cost of equipment we own that is situated at customers’ premises and associated installation costs are capitalized as incurred. Costs of advertising production, advertising airtime and advertising space are expensed as incurred.

Voice and data

We recognize revenues on an accrual basis and include an estimate of revenues earned but unbilled. Wireless and wireline service revenues are recognized based upon access to, and usage of, our telecommunications infrastructure and upon contract fees.

Advance billings are recorded when billing occurs prior to provision of the associated services; such advance billings are recognized as revenue in the period in which the services are provided. Similarly, and as appropriate, upfront customer activation and connection fees are deferred and recognized over the average expected term of the customer relationship.

We use the liability method of accounting for the amounts of our quality of service rate rebates that arise from the jurisdiction of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

The CRTC has established a mechanism to subsidize local exchange carriers, such as ourselves, that provide residential basic telephone service to high cost serving areas. The CRTC has determined the per network access line/per band subsidy rate for all local exchange carriers.

We recognize the subsidy on an accrual basis by applying the subsidy rate to the number of residential network access lines we provide in high cost serving areas, as discussed further in Note 7. Differences, if any, between interim and final subsidy rates set by the CRTC are accounted for as a change in estimate in the period in which the CRTC finalizes the subsidy rate.

Other and wireless equipment

We recognize product revenues, including amounts related to wireless handsets sold to re-sellers and customer premises equipment, when the products are both delivered to, and accepted by, the end-user customers, irrespective of which supply channel delivers the product. With respect to wireless handsets sold to re-sellers, we consider ourselves to be the principal and primary obligor to the end-user customers. Revenues from operating leases of equipment are recognized on a systematic and rational basis (normally a straight-line basis) over the term of the lease.

4 Financial instruments (extract)

(b) Credit risk

Excluding credit risk, if any, arising from currency swaps settled on a gross basis, the best representation of our maximum exposure (excluding income tax effects) to credit risk, which is a worst-case scenario and does not reflect results we expect, is set out in the following table.

Cash and temporary investments, net

Credit risk associated with cash and temporary investments is managed by ensuring that these financial assets are placed with: governments; major financial institutions that have been accorded strong investment grade ratings by a primary rating agency; and/or other creditworthy counterparties. An ongoing review evaluates changes in the status of counterparties.

Accounts receivable

Credit risk associated with accounts receivable is inherently managed by the size and diversity of our large customer base, which includes substantially all consumer and business sectors in Canada. We follow a program of credit evaluations of customers and limit the amount of credit extended when deemed necessary. Accounts are considered to be past due (in default) when customers have failed to make the contractually required payments when due, which is generally within 30 days of the billing date. Any late payment charges are levied at an industry-based market or negotiated rate on outstanding non-current customer account balances.

1 Net amounts represent customer accounts receivable for which an allowance had not been made as at the dates of the Consolidated statements of financial position (see Note 6(b)).

We maintain allowances for lifetime expected credit losses related to doubtful accounts. Current economic conditions (including forward-looking macroeconomic data), historical information (including credit agency reports, if available), reasons for the accounts being past due and the line of business from which the customer accounts receivable arose are all considered when determining whether to make allowances for past-due accounts. The same factors are considered when determining whether to write off amounts charged to the allowance for doubtful accounts against the customer accounts receivable; amounts charged to the customer accounts receivable allowance for doubtful accounts that were written off but were still subject to enforcement activity as at December 31, 2020, totalled $597 million (2019 – $449 million).

The doubtful accounts expense is calculated on a specific-identification basis for customer accounts receivable above a specific balance threshold and on a statistically derived allowance basis for the remainder. No customer accounts receivable are written off directly to the doubtful accounts expense.

The following table presents a summary of the activity related to our allowance for doubtful accounts.

Contract assets

Credit risk associated with contract assets is inherently managed by the size and diversity of our large customer base, which includes substantially all consumer and business sectors in Canada. We follow a program of credit evaluations of customers and limit the amount of credit extended when deemed necessary.

We maintain allowances for lifetime expected credit losses related to contract assets. Current economic conditions, historical information (including credit agency reports, if available), and the line of business from which the contract asset arose are all considered when determining impairment allowances. The same factors are considered when determining whether to write off amounts charged to the impairment allowance for contract assets against contract assets.

5 Segment information

General

Operating segments are components of an entity that engage in business activities from which they earn revenues and incur expenses (including revenues and expenses related to transactions with the other component(s)), the operations of which can be clearly distinguished and for which the operating results are regularly reviewed by a chief operating decision-maker to make resource allocation decisions and to assess performance. Effective January 1, 2020, we embarked upon modifying our internal and external reporting processes, systems and internal controls to accommodate the technology convergence-driven cessation of the historical distinction between our wireless and wireline operations at the level of regularly reported discrete performance measures that are provided to our chief operating decision-maker. Prior to the World Health Organization characterizing COVID-19 as a pandemic, we had anticipated transitioning to a new segment reporting structure during 2020, and did not, and do not, anticipate a substantive change to our products and services revenue reporting from such transition; such transition is now anticipated in the first quarter of 2021.

The wireless segment includes network revenues and equipment sales arising from mobile technologies. The wireline segment includes data revenues (which include internet protocol; television; hosting, managed information technology and cloud-based services; customer care and business services; certain healthcare solutions; and home and business security and agriculture), voice and other telecommunications services revenues (excluding wireless arising from mobile technologies), and equipment sales. Segmentation has been based on similarities in technology (mobile versus fixed), the technical expertise required to deliver the services and products, customer characteristics, the distribution channels used and regulatory treatment. Intersegment sales are recorded at the exchange value, which is the amount agreed to by the parties.

The segment information regularly reported to our Chief Executive Officer (our chief operating decision-maker), and the reconciliations thereof to our products and services view of revenues, other revenues and income before income taxes, are set out in the following table.

1 Earnings before interest, income taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) does not have any standardized meaning prescribed by IFRS-IASB and is therefore unlikely to be comparable to similar measures presented by other issuers; we define EBITDA as operating revenues and other income less goods and services purchased and employee benefits expense. We have issued guidance on, and report, EBITDA because it is a key measure that management uses to evaluate the performance of our business, and it is also utilized in measuring compliance with certain debt covenants.

2 Total capital expenditures (CAPEX); see Note 31(a) for a reconciliation of capital expenditures, excluding spectrum licences, to cash payments for capital assets, excluding spectrum licences, reported in the Consolidated statements of cash flows.

Geographical information

We attribute revenues from external customers to individual countries on the basis of the location where the goods and/or services are provided; for the year ended December 31, 2020, we attributed approximately $1.9 billion (2019 – $1.1 billion) of our revenues to countries other than Canada (our country of domicile). We do not have significant amounts of property, plant and equipment located outside of Canada. As at December 31, 2020, on a historical cost basis, we had approximately $2.2 billion (2019 – $0.2 billion) and approximately $2.2 billion (2019 – $0.6 billion) of intangible assets and goodwill, respectively, located outside of Canada.

6 Revenue from contracts with customers

(a) Revenues

In the determination of the minimum transaction prices in contracts with customers, amounts are allocated to fulfilling, or completion of fulfilling, future contracted performance obligations. These unfulfilled, or partially unfulfilled, future contracted performance obligations are largely in respect of services to be provided over the duration of the contract. The following table sets out our aggregate estimated minimum transaction prices allocated to remaining unfulfilled, or partially unfulfilled, future contracted performance obligations and the timing of when we might expect to recognize the associated revenues; actual amounts could differ from these estimates due to a variety of factors, including the unpredictable nature of: customer behaviour; industry regulation; the economic environments in which we operate; and competitor behaviour.

1 Excludes constrained variable consideration amounts, amounts arising from contracts originally expected to have a duration of one year or less and, as a permitted practical expedient, amounts arising from contracts that are not affected by revenue recognition timing differences arising from transaction price allocation or from contracts under which we may recognize and bill revenue in an amount that corresponds directly with our completed performance obligations.

2 IFRS-IASB requires the explanation of when we expect to recognize as revenue the amounts disclosed as the estimated minimum transaction price allocated to remaining unfulfilled, or partially unfulfilled, performance obligations. The estimated amounts disclosed are based upon contractual terms and maturities. Actual minimum transaction price revenues recognized, and the timing thereof, will differ from these estimates primarily due to the frequency with which the actual durations of contracts with customers do not match their contractual maturities.

(b) Accounts receivable

(c) Contract assets

1 For the year ended December 31, 2020, amounts billed for our wireless products and services and reclassified to accounts receivable totalled $1,015 (2019 – $1,288).

8 Employee benefits expense

1 For the year ended December 31, 2020, wages and salaries are net of Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program amounts.

20 Other long-term assets

1 Fair value measured at reporting date using significant other observable inputs (Level 2).

The costs incurred to obtain and fulfill contracts with customers are set out in the following table:

1 Presented in the Consolidated statements of financial position in prepaid expenses.  

24 Advance billings and customer deposits

Contract liabilities represent our future performance obligations to customers in respect of services and/or equipment for which we have received consideration from the customer or for which an amount is due from the customer. Our contract liability balances, and the changes in those balances, are set out in the following table: