Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations - (continued)
(Amounts in Millions, Except Per Share Amounts)
Depending on the terms of a client contract, fees for services performed can be recognized in three principal ways: proportional performance (input or output), straight-line (or monthly basis) or completed contract.
Depending on the terms of the client contract, revenue is derived from diverse arrangements involving fees for services performed, commissions, performance incentive provisions and combinations of the three. Commissions are generally earned on the date of the broadcast or publication. Contractual arrangements with clients may also include performance incentive provisions designed to link a portion of our revenue to our performance relative to either qualitative or quantitative goals, or both. Performance incentives are recognized as revenue for quantitative targets when the target has been achieved and for qualitative targets when confirmation of the incentive is received from the client. The classification of client arrangements to determine the appropriate revenue recognition involves judgments. If the judgments change there can be a material impact on our Consolidated Financial Statements, and particularly on the allocation of revenues between periods.
The majority of our revenue is recorded as the net amount of our gross billings less pass-through expenses charged to a client. In most cases, the amount that is billed to clients significantly exceeds the amount of revenue that is earned and reflected in our Consolidated Financial Statements because of various pass-through expenses, such as production and media costs. We assess whether our agency or the third-party supplier is the primary obligor, and we evaluate the terms of our client agreements as part of this assessment. In addition, we give appropriate consideration to other key indicators such as latitude in establishing price, discretion in supplier selection and credit risk to the vendor. Because we operate broadly as an advertising agency, based on our primary lines of business and given the industry practice to generally record revenue on a net versus gross basis, we believe that there must be strong evidence in place to overcome the presumption of net revenue accounting. Accordingly, we generally record revenue net of pass-through charges as we believe the key indicators of the business suggest we generally act as an agent on behalf of our clients in our primary lines of business. In those businesses where the key indicators suggest we act as a principal (primarily sales promotion and event, sports and entertainment marketing), we record the gross amount billed to the client as revenue and the related incremental direct costs incurred as office and general expenses. In general, we also report revenue net of taxes assessed by governmental authorities that are directly imposed on our revenue-producing transactions.
As we provide services as part of our core operations, we generally incur incidental expenses, which, in practice, are commonly referred to as “out-of-pocket” expenses. These expenses often include expenses related to airfare, mileage, hotel stays, out-of-town meals and telecommunication charges. We record the reimbursements received for such incidental expenses as revenue with a corresponding offset to office and general expense.
The determination as to whether revenue in a particular line of business should be recognized net or gross involves complex judgments. If we make these judgments differently it could significantly affect our reported results. If it were determined that we must recognize a significant portion of revenues on a gross basis rather than a net basis it would positively impact revenues, have no impact on our operating income and have an adverse impact on operating margin.
We receive credits from our vendors and media outlets for transactions entered into on behalf of our clients that, based on the terms of our contracts and local law, are either remitted to our clients or retained by us. If amounts are to be passed through to clients, they are recorded as liabilities until settlement or, if retained by us, are recorded as revenue when earned.
The provision for income taxes includes U.S. federal, state, local and foreign taxes. Deferred tax assets and liabilities are recognized for the estimated future tax consequences of temporary differences between the financial statement carrying amounts and their respective tax bases. Deferred tax assets and liabilities are measured using enacted tax rates expected to apply to taxable income in the year in which the temporary differences are expected to be reversed. Changes to enacted tax rates would result in either increases or decreases in the provision for income taxes in the period of change.
We are required to evaluate the realizability of our deferred tax assets, which is primarily dependent on future earnings. A valuation allowance shall be recognized when, based on available evidence, it is “more likely than not” that all or a portion of the deferred tax assets will not be realized. The factors used in assessing valuation allowances include all available evidence, such as past operating results, estimates of future taxable income and the feasibility of tax planning strategies. In circumstances where there is negative evidence, establishment of a valuation allowance must be considered. We believe that cumulative losses in the most recent three-year period represent significant negative evidence when evaluating a decision to establish a valuation allowance. Conversely, a pattern of sustained profitability represents significant positive evidence when evaluating a decision to reverse a valuation allowance. Further, in those cases where a pattern of sustained profitability exists, projected future taxable income may also represent positive evidence, to the extent that such projections are determined to be reliable given the current economic environment. Accordingly, the increase and decrease of valuation allowances has had and could have a significant negative or positive impact on our current and future earnings.