Accounting for Pollution Expenditure Counting Crows Company operates several plants at which limestone is processed into quicklime and hydrated lime. The Eagle Ridge plant, where most of the equipment was installed many years ago, continually deposits a dusty white substance over the surrounding countryside. Citing the unsanitary condition of the neighboring community of Scales Mound, the pollution of the Galena River, and the high incidence of lung disease among workers at Eagle Ridge, the state’s Pollution Control Agency has ordered the installation of air pollution control equipment. Also, the Agency has assessed a substantial penalty, which will be used to clean up Scales Mound. After considering the costs involved (which could not have been reasonably estimated prior to the Agency’s action), Counting Crows Company decides to comply with the Agency’s orders, the alternative being to cease operations at Eagle Ridge at the end of the current fiscal year. The officers of Counting Crows agree that the air pollution control equipment should be capitalized and depreciated over its useful life, but they disagree over the period(s) to which the penalty should be charged. Discuss the conceptual merits and reporting requirements of accounting for the penalty in each of the following ways.
(a) As a charge to the current period.
(b) As a correction of prior periods.
(c) As a capitalizable item to be amortized over future periods.