Debt Issue Costs

Definition

The term debt issue costs refers to the expenses associated with issuing bonds or notes.  These expenses can include underwriting charges, printing costs, and legal and registration fees. Accounting rules require companies to amortize these costs over the term of the associated debt.

Explanation

Issuing long-term bonds represents an important source of financing for many companies. 
The process of issuing bonds to the public takes a considerable amount of time.  Approval is needed from the Securities and Exchange Commission, a prospectus must be written, and underwriting of the securities might be arranged.

When a company issues debt, it can do so in one of two ways:

  • Underwriter Placement:  the entire debt issue is sold to an investment bank, who subsequently resells to both the public as well as security dealers.  The underwriter will purchase the bonds at a specific price, thereby assuming the risks associated with this debt.
  • Private Placement:  the company can also choose to sell the debt issue directly to the public; oftentimes a pension fund or another large institutional investor such as an insurance company.  This is a less costly option since it does not require the use of an underwriter or approval of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

With either of the above two options, the company incurs costs such as legal fees, printing expenses, and possibly underwriting and registration fees.  Generally Accepted Accounting Principles require companies to create an asset account known as bond issue costs or debt issue costs, and move these costs over the term of the security to the income statement using a corresponding expense account.

Example

Company A issued $10,000,000 in bonds with a coupon rate of 3.5% and a term of twenty years.  The Federal Reserve decreased interest rates slightly as Company A prepared the public offering of these securities.  For this reason, the bonds were sold at 102, which is 102% of par value.  Company A also incurred $40,000 in fees and other charges associated with issuing this debt.

The journal entry to record the issuing of the bonds at a premium would be:

  Debit Credit
Cash ($10,000,000 x 1.02), Less Costs $10,160,000  
Debt Issue Costs $40,000  
Premium on Bonds Payable   $200,000
Bonds Payable   $10,000,000

Note:  Cash is recorded as the difference between the amount paid for the securities ($10,200,000) minus the debt issue costs of $40,000.

Using the straight line method, Company A would amortize the premium over a period of twenty years.  The journal entry for this transaction is as follows:

  Debit Credit
Premium on Bonds Payable ($200,000 / 20 years) $10,000  
Interest Expense   $10,000

As noted in the above journal entry, selling the bond at a premium effectively decreases the interest expense of the issuing company.  Using the straight line method, Company A would amortize the debt issue costs over a period of twenty years.  The journal entry for this transaction is as follows:

  Debit Credit
Debt Issue Expense ($40,000 / 20 years) $2,000  
Debt Issue Costs   $2,000

Related Terms

liabilities, long-term liabilities, interest expense, bonds issued at a premium, bonds issued at a discount