Accounting Policies

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Accounting Principles

The financial statements and accompanying notes are prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America ("U.S. GAAP").

Principles of Consolidation

The financial statements include the accounts of Microsoft Corporation and its subsidiaries. Intercompany transactions and balances have been eliminated. Equity investments through which we exercise significant influence over but do not control the investee and are not the primary beneficiary of the investee's activities are accounted for using the equity method. Investments through which we are not able to exercise significant influence over the investee and which do not have readily determinable fair values are accounted for under the cost method.

Estimates and Assumptions

Preparing financial statements requires management to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets, liabilities, revenue, and expenses. Examples include: estimates of loss contingencies, product warranties, product life cycles, product returns, and stock-based compensation forfeiture rates; assumptions such as the elements comprising a software arrangement, including the distinction between upgrades/enhancements and new products; when technological feasibility is achieved for our products; the potential outcome of future tax consequences of events that have been recognized in our financial statements or tax returns; estimating the fair value and/or goodwill impairment for our reporting units; and determining when investment impairments are other-than-temporary. Actual results and outcomes may differ from management's estimates and assumptions.

Foreign Currencies

Assets and liabilities recorded in foreign currencies are translated at the exchange rate on the balance sheet date. Revenue and expenses are translated at average rates of exchange prevailing during the year. Translation adjustments resulting from this process are recorded to Other Comprehensive Income ("OCI").

Revenue Recognition

Revenue is recognized when persuasive evidence of an arrangement exists, delivery has occurred, the fee is fixed or determinable, and collectibility is probable. Revenue generally is recognized net of any taxes collected from customers and subsequently remitted to governmental authorities.

Revenue for retail packaged products, products licensed to original equipment manufacturers ("OEMs"), and perpetual licenses under certain volume licensing programs generally is recognized as products are shipped or made available. Revenue for products under technology guarantee programs, which provide free or significantly discounted rights to use upcoming new versions of a software product if an end user licenses existing versions of the product during the eligibility period, is allocated between existing product and the new product, and revenue allocated to the new product is deferred until that version is delivered. The revenue allocation is based on vendor-specific objective evidence of fair value of the products.

Certain multi-year licensing arrangements include a perpetual license for current products combined with rights to receive future versions of software products on a when-and-if-available basis ("Software Assurance") and are accounted for as subscriptions, with billings recorded as unearned revenue and recognized as revenue ratably over the billing coverage period. Revenue from certain arrangements that allow for the use of a product or service over a period of time without taking possession of software are also accounted for as subscriptions. Revenue for software products where customers have the right to receive unspecified upgrades/enhancements on a when-and-if-available basis and for which vendor-specific objective evidence of fair value does not exist for the upgrades/enhancements is recognized on a straight-line basis over the estimated life of the software.

Revenue related to our Xbox 360 gaming and entertainment console, Kinect for Xbox 360, games published by us, and other hardware components is generally recognized when ownership is transferred to the resellers. Revenue related to games published by third parties for use on the Xbox 360 platform is recognized when games are manufactured by the game publishers.

Display advertising revenue is recognized as advertisements are displayed. Search advertising revenue is recognized when the ad appears in the search results or when the action necessary to earn the revenue has been completed. Consulting services revenue is recognized as services are rendered, generally based on the negotiated hourly rate in the consulting arrangement and the number of hours worked during the period. Consulting revenue for fixed-price services arrangements is recognized as services are provided. Revenue from prepaid points redeemable for the purchase of software or services is recognized upon redemption of the points and delivery of the software or services.

Cost of Revenue

Cost of revenue includes; manufacturing and distribution costs for products sold and programs licensed; operating costs related to product support service centers and product distribution centers; costs incurred to include software on PCs sold by OEMs, to drive traffic to our Web sites, and to acquire online advertising space ("traffic acquisition costs"); costs incurred to support and maintain Internet-based products and services, including royalties; warranty costs; inventory valuation adjustments; costs associated with the delivery of consulting services; and the amortization of capitalized research and development costs. Capitalized research and development costs are amortized over the estimated lives of the products.

Product Warranty

We provide for the estimated costs of fulfilling our obligations under hardware and software warranties at the time the related revenue is recognized. For hardware warranties, we estimate the costs based on historical and projected product failure rates, historical and projected repair costs, and knowledge of specific product failures (if any). The specific hardware warranty terms and conditions vary depending upon the product sold and the country in which we do business, but generally include parts and labor over a period generally ranging from 90 days to three years. For software warranties, we estimate the costs to provide bug fixes, such as security patches, over the estimated life of the software. We regularly reevaluate our estimates to assess the adequacy of the recorded warranty liabilities and adjust the amounts as necessary.

Research and Development

Research and development expenses include payroll, employee benefits, stock-based compensation expense, and other headcount-related expenses associated with product development. Research and development expenses also include third-party development and programming costs, localization costs incurred to translate software for international markets, and the amortization of purchased software code and services content. Such costs related to software development are included in research and development expense until the point that technological feasibility is reached, which for our software products, is generally shortly before the products are released to manufacturing. Once technological feasibility is reached, such costs are capitalized and amortized to cost of revenue over the estimated lives of the products.

Sales and Marketing

Sales and marketing expenses include payroll, employee benefits, stock-based compensation expense, and other headcount-related expenses associated with sales and marketing personnel, and the costs of advertising, promotions, trade shows, seminars, and other programs. Advertising costs are expensed as incurred. Advertising expense was $1.9 billion, $1.6 billion, and $1.4 billion in fiscal years 2011, 2010, and 2009, respectively.

Employee Severance

We record employee severance when a specific plan has been approved by management, the plan has been communicated to employees, and it is unlikely that significant changes will be made to the plan. In January 2009, we announced and implemented a resource management program to reduce discretionary operating expenses, employee headcount, and capital expenditures. Severance expenses associated with this program were $59 million and $330 million in fiscal years 2010 and 2009, respectively, and are included in general and administrative expenses.

Stock-Based Compensation

We measure stock-based compensation cost at the grant date based on the fair value of the award and recognize it as expense over the vesting or service period, as applicable, of the stock award (generally four to five years) using the straight-line method.

Employee Stock Purchase Plan

Shares of our common stock may be purchased by employees at three-month intervals at 90% of the fair market value of the stock on the last day of each three-month period. Compensation expense for the employee stock purchase plan is measured as the discount the employee is entitled to upon purchase and is recognized in the period of purchase.

Income Taxes

Income tax expense includes U.S. and international income taxes, the provision for U.S. taxes on undistributed earnings of international subsidiaries not deemed to be permanently invested, and interest and penalties on uncertain tax positions. Certain income and expenses are not reported in tax returns and financial statements in the same year. The tax effect of such temporary differences is reported as deferred income taxes. The deferred income taxes are classified as current or long-term based on the classification of the related asset or liability.

Fair Value Measurements

We account for certain assets and liabilities at fair value. The hierarchy below lists three levels of fair value based on the extent to which inputs used in measuring fair value are observable in the market. We categorize each of our fair value measurements in one of these three levels based on the lowest level input that is significant to the fair value measurement in its entirety. These levels are:

  • Level 1 – inputs are based upon unadjusted quoted prices for identical instruments traded in active markets. Our Level 1 non-derivative investments primarily include U.S. treasuries, domestic and international equities, and actively traded mutual funds. Our Level 1 derivative assets and liabilities include those actively traded on exchanges.
  • Level 2 – inputs are based upon quoted prices for similar instruments in active markets, quoted prices for identical or similar instruments in markets that are not active, and model-based valuation techniques (e.g. the Black-Scholes model) for which all significant inputs are observable in the market or can be corroborated by observable market data for substantially the full term of the assets or liabilities. Where applicable, these models project future cash flows and discount the future amounts to a present value using market-based observable inputs including interest rate curves, foreign exchange rates, and forward and spot prices for currencies and commodities. Our Level 2 non-derivative investments consist primarily of corporate notes and bonds, mortgage-backed securities, agency securities, certificates of deposit, and commercial paper. Our Level 2 derivative assets and liabilities primarily include certain over-the-counter option and swap contracts.
  • Level 3 – inputs are generally unobservable and typically reflect management's estimates of assumptions that market participants would use in pricing the asset or liability. The fair values are therefore determined using model-based techniques, including option pricing models and discounted cash flow models. Our Level 3 non-derivative assets primarily comprise investments in certain corporate bonds. We value these corporate bonds using internally developed valuation models, inputs to which include interest rate curves, credit spreads, stock prices, and volatilities. Unobservable inputs used in these models are significant to the fair values of the investments. Our Level 3 derivative assets and liabilities primarily comprise derivatives for foreign equities. In certain cases, market-based observable inputs are not available and we use management judgment to develop assumptions to determine fair value for these derivatives.

We measure certain assets, including our cost and equity method investments, at fair value on a nonrecurring basis when they are deemed to be other-than-temporarily impaired. The fair values of these investments are determined based on valuation techniques using the best information available, and may include quoted market prices, market comparables, and discounted cash flow projections. An impairment charge is recorded when the cost of the investment exceeds its fair value and this condition is determined to be other-than-temporary.

Our current financial liabilities have fair values that approximate their carrying values. Our long-term financial liabilities consist of long-term debt which is recorded on the balance sheet at issuance price less unamortized discount.

Financial Instruments

We consider all highly liquid interest-earning investments with a maturity of three months or less at the date of purchase to be cash equivalents. The fair values of these investments approximate their carrying values. In general, investments with original maturities of greater than three months and remaining maturities of less than one year are classified as short-term investments. Investments with maturities beyond one year may be classified as short-term based on their highly liquid nature and because such marketable securities represent the investment of cash that is available for current operations. All cash equivalents and short-term investments are classified as available-for-sale and realized gains and losses are recorded using the specific identification method. Changes in market value, excluding other-than-temporary impairments, are reflected in OCI.

Equity and other investments classified as long-term include both debt and equity instruments. Debt and publicly-traded equity securities are classified as available-for-sale and realized gains and losses are recorded using the specific identification method. Changes in market value, excluding other-than-temporary impairments, are reflected in OCI. Common and preferred stock and other investments that are restricted for more than one year or are not publicly traded are recorded at cost or using the equity method.

We lend certain fixed-income and equity securities to increase investment returns. The loaned securities continue to be carried as investments on our balance sheet. Cash and/or security interests are received as collateral for the loan securities with the amount determined based upon the underlying security lent and the creditworthiness of the borrower. Cash received is recorded as an asset with a corresponding liability.

Investments are considered to be impaired when a decline in fair value is judged to be other-than-temporary. Fair value is calculated based on publicly available market information or other estimates determined by management. We employ a systematic methodology on a quarterly basis that considers available quantitative and qualitative evidence in evaluating potential impairment of our investments. If the cost of an investment exceeds its fair value, we evaluate, among other factors, general market conditions, credit quality of debt instrument issuers, the duration and extent to which the fair value is less than cost, and for equity securities, our intent and ability to hold, or plans to sell, the investment. For fixed-income securities, we also evaluate whether we have plans to sell the security or it is more likely than not that we will be required to sell the security before recovery. We also consider specific adverse conditions related to the financial health of and business outlook for the investee, including industry and sector performance, changes in technology, and operational and financing cash flow factors. Once a decline in fair value is determined to be other-than-temporary, an impairment charge is recorded to other income (expense) and a new cost basis in the investment is established.

Derivative instruments are recognized as either assets or liabilities and are measured at fair value. The accounting for changes in the fair value of a derivative depends on the intended use of the derivative and the resulting designation.

For a derivative instrument designated as a fair-value hedge, the gain (loss) is recognized in earnings in the period of change together with the offsetting loss or gain on the hedged item attributed to the risk being hedged. For options designated as fair-value hedges, changes in the time value are excluded from the assessment of hedge effectiveness and are recognized in earnings.

For derivative instruments designated as cash-flow hedges, the effective portion of the derivative's gain (loss) is initially reported as a component of OCI and is subsequently recognized in earnings when the hedged exposure is recognized in earnings. For options designated as cash-flow hedges, changes in the time value are excluded from the assessment of hedge effectiveness and are recognized in earnings. Gains (losses) on derivatives representing either hedge components excluded from the assessment of effectiveness or hedge ineffectiveness are recognized in earnings.

For derivative instruments that are not designated as hedges, gains (losses) from changes in fair values are primarily recognized in other income (expense). Other than those derivatives entered into for investment purposes, such as commodity contracts, the gains (losses) are generally economically offset by unrealized gains (losses) in the underlying available-for-sale securities, which are recorded as a component of OCI until the securities are sold or other-than-temporarily impaired, at which time the amounts are moved from OCI into other income (expense).

Allowance for Doubtful Accounts

The allowance for doubtful accounts reflects our best estimate of probable losses inherent in the accounts receivable balance. We determine the allowance based on known troubled accounts, historical experience, and other currently available evidence. Activity in the allowance for doubtful accounts was as follows:

(In millions)          
Year Ended June 30, 2011   2010   2009
Balance, beginning of period $      375   $       451   $      153
Charged to costs and other           14              45           360
Write-offs          (56 )           (121 )            (62 )
Balance, end of period $      333   $       375   $      451


Inventories are stated at the lower of cost or market, using the average cost method. Cost includes materials, labor, and manufacturing overhead related to the purchase and production of inventories. We regularly review inventory quantities on hand, future purchase commitments with our suppliers, and the estimated utility of our inventory. If our review indicates a reduction in utility below carrying value, we reduce our inventory to a new cost basis through a charge to cost of revenue.

Property and Equipment

Property and equipment is stated at cost and depreciated using the straight-line method over the shorter of the estimated useful life of the asset or the lease term. The estimated useful lives of our property and equipment are generally as follows: computer software developed or acquired for internal use, three years; computer equipment, two to three years; buildings and improvements, five to 15 years; leasehold improvements, two to 10 years; and furniture and equipment, one to five years. Land is not depreciated.


Goodwill is tested for impairment at the reporting unit level (operating segment or one level below an operating segment) on an annual basis (May 1 for us) and between annual tests if an event occurs or circumstances change that would more likely than not reduce the fair value of a reporting unit below its carrying value.

Intangible Assets

All of our intangible assets are subject to amortization and are amortized using the straight-line method over their estimated period of benefit, ranging from one to 10 years. We evaluate the recoverability of intangible assets periodically by taking into account events or circumstances that may warrant revised estimates of useful lives or that indicate the asset may be impaired.

Recently Issued Accounting Standards

Recently adopted accounting pronouncements

On July 1, 2010, we adopted guidance issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board ("FASB") on revenue recognition. Under the new guidance on arrangements that include software elements, tangible products that have software components that are essential to the functionality of the tangible product are no longer within the scope of the software revenue recognition guidance, and software-enabled products are now subject to other relevant revenue recognition guidance. Additionally, the FASB issued guidance on revenue arrangements with multiple deliverables that are outside the scope of the software revenue recognition guidance. Under the new guidance, when vendor specific objective evidence or third party evidence for deliverables in an arrangement cannot be determined, a best estimate of the selling price is required to separate deliverables and allocate arrangement consideration using the relative selling price method. The new guidance includes new disclosure requirements on how the application of the relative selling price method affects the timing and amount of revenue recognition. Adoption of the new guidance did not have a material impact on our financial statements.

On July 1, 2010, we adopted new guidance issued by the FASB on the consolidation of variable interest entities. The new guidance requires revised evaluations of whether entities represent variable interest entities, ongoing assessments of control over such entities, and additional disclosures for variable interests. Adoption of the new guidance did not have a material impact on our financial statements.

Recent accounting pronouncements not yet adopted

In June 2011, the FASB issued guidance on presentation of comprehensive income. The new guidance eliminates the current option to report other comprehensive income and its components in the statement of changes in equity. Instead, an entity will be required to present either a continuous statement of net income and other comprehensive income or in two separate but consecutive statements. The new guidance will be effective for us beginning July 1, 2012 and will have presentation changes only.

In May 2011, the FASB issued guidance to amend the accounting and disclosure requirements on fair value measurements. The new guidance limits the highest-and-best-use measure to nonfinancial assets, permits certain financial assets and liabilities with offsetting positions in market or counterparty credit risks to be measured at a net basis, and provides guidance on the applicability of premiums and discounts. Additionally, the new guidance expands the disclosures on Level 3 inputs by requiring quantitative disclosure of the unobservable inputs and assumptions, as well as description of the valuation processes and the sensitivity of the fair value to changes in unobservable inputs. The new guidance will be effective for us beginning January 1, 2012. Other than requiring additional disclosures, we do not anticipate material impacts on our financial statements upon adoption.

In January 2010, the FASB issued guidance to amend the disclosure requirements related to fair value measurements. The guidance requires the disclosure of roll forward activities on purchases, sales, issuance, and settlements of the assets and liabilities measured using significant unobservable inputs (Level 3 fair value measurements). The guidance will become effective for us with the reporting period beginning July 1, 2011. Other than requiring additional disclosures, the adoption of this new guidance will not have a material impact on our financial statements.