Critical Accounting Policies
The preparation of financial statements in conformity with GAAP requires management to use judgment in the application of accounting policies, including making estimates and assumptions. We base our estimates on historical experience and on various other assumptions believed to be reasonable under the circumstances. These judgments affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities, disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities at the dates of the financial statements and the reported amounts of revenue and expenses during the reporting periods. If our judgment or interpretation of the facts and circumstances relating to various transactions had been different, it is possible that different accounting policies would have been applied resulting in a different presentation of our financial statements. From time to time, we reevaluate our estimates and assumptions. In the event estimates or assumptions prove to be different from actual results, adjustments are made in subsequent periods to reflect more current information. Below is a discussion of accounting policies that we consider critical in that they may require complex judgment in their application or require estimates about matters that are inherently uncertain. For a summary of our significant accounting policies, please refer to Note 3 of the notes to the consolidated and combined financial statements.
We, as a lessor, retain substantially all of the risks and benefits of ownership of the investment properties and account for our leases as operating leases. We generally accrue minimum rents on a straight-line basis over the terms of their respective leases. Many of our retail tenants are also required to pay overage rents based on sales over a stated amount during the lease year. We recognize overage rents only when each tenant's sales exceed its sales threshold as defined in their lease. We amortize any tenant inducements as a reduction of revenue utilizing the straight-line method over the term of the related lease or occupancy term of the tenant, if shorter.
We review investment properties for impairment on a property-by-property basis whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying value of investment properties may not be recoverable. These circumstances include, but are not limited to, a decline in a property's cash flows, ending occupancy, estimated market values or our decision to dispose of a property before the end of its estimated useful life. Furthermore, this evaluation is conducted no less frequently than quarterly, irrespective of changes in circumstances. We measure any impairment of investment property when the estimated undiscounted operating income before depreciation and amortization plus its residual value is less than the carrying value of the property. To the extent impairment has occurred, we charge to expense the excess of carrying value of the property over its estimated fair value. We estimate fair value using unobservable data such as operating income, estimated capitalization rates, leasing prospects and local market information. We may decide to sell properties that are held for use and the sale prices of these properties may differ from their carrying values. We also review our investments, including investments in unconsolidated entities, if events or circumstances change indicating that the carrying amount of our investments may not be recoverable. We will record an impairment charge if we determine that a decline in the fair value of the investments below carrying value is other-than-temporary. Changes in economic and operating conditions that occur subsequent to our review of recoverability of investment property and other investments could impact the assumptions used in that assessment and could result in future charges to earnings if assumptions regarding those investments differ from actual results.
To maintain its status as a REIT, WPG Inc. must distribute at least 90% of its taxable income in any given year and meet certain asset and income tests. We monitor our business and transactions that may potentially impact WPG Inc.'s REIT status. In the unlikely event that WPG Inc. fails to maintain REIT status, and available relief provisions do not apply, then it would be required to pay federal income taxes at regular corporate income tax rates during the period it did not qualify as a REIT. If WPG Inc. lost its REIT status, it could not elect to be taxed as a REIT for four years unless its failure was due to reasonable cause and certain other conditions were met. As a result, failing to maintain REIT status would result in a significant increase in the income tax expense recorded and paid during those periods.
We make estimates as part of our recording of the purchase price of acquisitions to the various components of the acquisition based upon the fair value of each component. The most significant components of our allocations are typically the recording of the fair value of buildings as-if-vacant, land and market value of in-place leases. In the case of the fair value of buildings and the recording of the fair value of land and other intangibles, our estimates of the values of these components will affect the amount of depreciation we record over the estimated useful life of the property acquired or the remaining lease term. In the case of the market value of in-place leases, we make our best estimates of the tenants' ability to pay rents based upon the tenants' operating performance at the property, including the competitive position of the property in its market as well as tenant sales, rents per square foot, and overall occupancy cost for the tenants in place at the acquisition date. Our assumptions affect the amount of future revenue that we will recognize over the remaining lease term for the acquired in-place leases.