DESCRIPTION OF BUSINESS AND ACCOUNTING POLICIES
Description of Business
Amazon.com opened its virtual doors on the World Wide Web in July 1995. We seek to be Earth’s most customer-centric company. In each of our two geographic segments, we serve our primary customer sets, consisting of consumers, sellers, enterprises, and content creators. We serve consumers through our retail websites and focus on selection, price, and convenience. We also manufacture and sell electronic devices. We offer programs that enable sellers to sell their products on our websites and their own branded websites and to fulfill orders through us, and programs that allow authors, musicians, filmmakers, app developers, and others to publish and sell content. We serve developers and enterprises of all sizes through AWS, which provides access to technology infrastructure that enables virtually any type of business. In addition, we provide services, such as advertising services and co-branded credit card agreements.
We have organized our operations into two segments: North America and International. See “Note 12—Segment Information.”
Prior Period Reclassifications
Certain prior period amounts have been reclassified to conform to the current period presentation. Unearned revenue is now presented separately on our consolidated balance sheets.
Principles of Consolidation
The consolidated financial statements include the accounts of Amazon.com, Inc., its wholly-owned subsidiaries, and those entities in which we have a variable interest and of which we are the primary beneficiary. Intercompany balances and transactions between consolidated entities are eliminated.
Use of Estimates
The preparation of financial statements in conformity with GAAP requires estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities, revenues and expenses, and related disclosures of contingent liabilities in the consolidated financial statements and accompanying notes. Estimates are used for, but not limited to, determining the selling price of products and services in multiple element revenue arrangements and determining the lives of these elements, incentive discount offers, sales returns, vendor funding, stock-based compensation forfeiture rates, income taxes, valuation and impairment of investments, inventory valuation and inventory purchase commitments, collectability of receivables, valuation of acquired intangibles and goodwill, depreciable lives of property and equipment, internal-use software, acquisition purchase price allocations, investments in equity interests, and contingencies. Actual results could differ materially from those estimates.
Earnings per Share
Basic earnings per share is calculated using our weighted-average outstanding common shares. Diluted earnings per share is calculated using our weighted-average outstanding common shares including the dilutive effect of stock awards as determined under the treasury stock method. In periods when we recognize a net loss, we exclude the impact of outstanding stock awards from the diluted loss per share calculation as their inclusion would have an antidilutive effect.
The following table shows the calculation of diluted shares (in millions):
Year Ended December 31,
Shares used in computation of basic earnings per share
Total dilutive effect of outstanding stock awards
Shares used in computation of diluted earnings per share
We recognize revenue from product sales or services rendered when the following four criteria are met: persuasive evidence of an arrangement exists, delivery has occurred or services have been rendered, the selling price is fixed or determinable, and collectability is reasonably assured. Revenue arrangements with multiple deliverables are divided into separate units and revenue is allocated using estimated selling prices if we do not have vendor-specific objective evidence or third-party evidence of the selling prices of the deliverables. We allocate the arrangement price to each of the elements based on the estimated selling prices of each element. Estimated selling prices are management’s best estimates of the prices that we would charge our customers if we were to sell the standalone elements separately and include considerations of customer demand, prices charged by us and others for similar deliverables, and the price if largely based on costs. Sales of our Kindle device are considered arrangements with multiple deliverables, consisting of the device, 3G wireless access and delivery for some models, and software upgrades. The revenue related to the device, which is the substantial portion of the total sale price, and related costs are recognized upon delivery as cost of sales. Revenue related to 3G wireless access and delivery and software upgrades is amortized over the average life of the device. Sales of Amazon Prime memberships are considered arrangements with multiple deliverables, including shipping benefits, Prime Instant Video, and access to the Kindle Owners' Lending Library. The revenue related to the deliverables is amortized over the life of the membership according to the estimated delivery of services. Amazon Prime membership fees are allocated between product sales and services sales. Costs to deliver Amazon Prime benefits are recognized as cost of sales as incurred.
We evaluate whether it is appropriate to record the gross amount of product sales and related costs or the net amount earned as commissions. Generally, when we are primarily obligated in a transaction, are subject to inventory risk, have latitude in establishing prices and selecting suppliers, or have several but not all of these indicators, revenue is recorded at the gross sale price. We generally record the net amounts as commissions earned if we are not primarily obligated and do not have latitude in establishing prices. Such amounts earned are determined using a fixed percentage, a fixed-payment schedule, or a combination of the two.
Product sales represent revenue from the sale of products and related shipping fees and digital content where we are the seller of record. Product sales and shipping revenues, net of promotional discounts, rebates, and return allowances, are recorded when the products are shipped and title passes to customers. Kindle devices sold through retailers are recognized at the point of sale to consumers. Retail sales to customers are made pursuant to a sales contract that provides for transfer of both title and risk of loss upon our delivery to the carrier.
Services sales represent third-party seller fees earned (including commissions) and related shipping fees, and non-retail activities such as AWS, advertising services, and our co-branded credit card agreements. Services sales, net of promotional discounts and return allowances, are recognized when services have been rendered.
Return allowances, which reduce revenue, are estimated using historical experience. Allowance for returns was $167 million, $198 million, and $155 million as of December 31, 2013, 2012, and 2011. Additions to the allowance were $907 million, $702 million, and $542 million, and deductions to the allowance were $938 million, $659 million, and $490 million as of December 31, 2013, 2012, and 2011. Revenue from product sales and services rendered is recorded net of sales and consumption taxes. Additionally, we periodically provide incentive offers to our customers to encourage purchases. Such offers include current discount offers, such as percentage discounts off current purchases, inducement offers, such as offers for future discounts subject to a minimum current purchase, and other similar offers. Current discount offers, when accepted by our customers, are treated as a reduction to the purchase price of the related transaction, while inducement offers, when accepted by our customers, are treated as a reduction to purchase price based on estimated future redemption rates. Redemption rates are estimated using our historical experience for similar inducement offers. Current discount offers and inducement offers are presented as a net amount in “Total net sales.”
Cost of Sales
Cost of sales consists of the purchase price of consumer products and digital content where we are the seller of record, inbound and outbound shipping charges, and packaging supplies. Shipping charges to receive products from our suppliers are included in our inventory, and recognized as cost of sales upon sale of products to our customers. Payment processing and related transaction costs, including those associated with seller transactions, are classified in “Fulfillment” on our consolidated statements of operations.
We have agreements with our vendors to receive funds for cooperative marketing efforts, promotions, and volume rebates. We generally consider amounts received from vendors to be a reduction of the prices we pay for their goods or services, and therefore record those amounts as a reduction of the cost of inventory or cost of services. Vendor rebates are typically dependent upon reaching minimum purchase thresholds. We evaluate the likelihood of reaching purchase thresholds using past experience and current year forecasts. When volume rebates can be reasonably estimated, we record a portion of the rebate as we make progress towards the purchase threshold.
When we receive direct reimbursements for costs incurred by us in advertising the vendor’s product or service, the amount we receive is recorded as an offset to “Marketing” on our consolidated statements of operations.
Fulfillment costs represent those costs incurred in operating and staffing our fulfillment and customer service centers, including costs attributable to buying, receiving, inspecting, and warehousing inventories; picking, packaging, and preparing customer orders for shipment; payment processing and related transaction costs, including costs associated with our guarantee for certain seller transactions; responding to inquiries from customers; and supply chain management for our manufactured electronic devices. Fulfillment costs also include amounts paid to third parties that assist us in fulfillment and customer service operations.
Marketing costs consist primarily of targeted online advertising, television advertising, public relations expenditures, and payroll and related expenses for personnel engaged in marketing, business development, and selling activities. We pay commissions to participants in our Associates program when their customer referrals result in product sales and classify such costs as “Marketing” on our consolidated statements of operations. We also participate in cooperative advertising arrangements with certain of our vendors, and other third parties.
Advertising and other promotional costs are expensed as incurred and were $2.4 billion, $2.0 billion, and $1.4 billion in 2013, 2012, and 2011. Prepaid advertising costs were not significant as of December 31, 2013 and 2012.
Technology and Content
Technology and content expenses consist principally of technology infrastructure expenses and payroll and related expenses for employees involved in application, product, and platform development, category expansion, editorial content, buying, merchandising selection, systems support, and initiatives to expand our ecosystem of digital products and services, as well as costs associated with AWS.
Technology and content costs are expensed as incurred, except for certain costs relating to the development of internal-use software and website development, including software used to upgrade and enhance our websites and applications supporting our business, which are capitalized and amortized over two years.
General and Administrative
General and administrative expenses consist of payroll and related expenses for employees involved in general corporate functions, including accounting, finance, tax, legal, and human resources, among others; costs associated with use by these functions of facilities and equipment, such as depreciation expense and rent; professional fees and litigation costs; and other general corporate costs.
Compensation cost for all stock awards expected to vest is measured at fair value on the date of grant and recognized over the service period. The fair value of restricted stock units is determined based on the number of shares granted and the quoted price of our common stock. Such value is recognized as expense over the service period, net of estimated forfeitures, using the accelerated method. The estimation of stock awards that will ultimately vest requires judgment, and to the extent actual results or updated estimates differ from our current estimates, such amounts will be recorded as a cumulative adjustment in the period estimates are revised. We consider many factors when estimating expected forfeitures, including employee class, economic environment, and historical experience.
Other Operating Expense (Income), Net
Other operating expense (income), net, consists primarily of intangible asset amortization expense and expenses related to legal settlements.
Other Income (Expense), Net
Other income (expense), net, consists primarily of foreign currency gains and losses of $(137) million, $(95) million, and $64 million in 2013, 2012, and 2011, and realized gains and losses on marketable securities sales of $(1) million, $10 million, and $4 million in 2013, 2012, and 2011.
Income tax expense includes U.S. and international income taxes. Except as required under U.S. tax law, we do not provide for U.S. taxes on our undistributed earnings of foreign subsidiaries that have not been previously taxed since we intend to invest such undistributed earnings indefinitely outside of the U.S. If our intent changes or if these funds are needed for our U.S. operations, we would be required to accrue or pay U.S. taxes on some or all of these undistributed earnings. Undistributed earnings of foreign subsidiaries that are indefinitely invested outside of the U.S were $2.5 billion as of December 31, 2013. Determination of the unrecognized deferred tax liability that would be incurred if such amounts were repatriated is not practicable.
Deferred income tax balances reflect the effects of temporary differences between the carrying amounts of assets and liabilities and their tax bases and are stated at enacted tax rates expected to be in effect when taxes are actually paid or recovered.
Deferred tax assets are evaluated for future realization and reduced by a valuation allowance to the extent we believe a portion will not be realized. We consider many factors when assessing the likelihood of future realization of our deferred tax assets, including our recent cumulative earnings experience and expectations of future taxable income and capital gains by taxing jurisdiction, the carry-forward periods available to us for tax reporting purposes, and other relevant factors. We allocate our valuation allowance to current and long-term deferred tax assets on a pro-rata basis.
We utilize a two-step approach to recognizing and measuring uncertain income tax positions (tax contingencies). The first step is to evaluate the tax position for recognition by determining if the weight of available evidence indicates it is more likely than not that the position will be sustained on audit, including resolution of related appeals or litigation processes. The second step is to measure the tax benefit as the largest amount which is more than 50% likely of being realized upon ultimate settlement. We consider many factors when evaluating and estimating our tax positions and tax benefits, which may require periodic adjustments and which may not accurately forecast actual outcomes. We include interest and penalties related to our tax contingencies in income tax expense.
Fair Value of Financial Instruments
Fair value is defined as the price that would be received to sell an asset or paid to transfer a liability in an orderly transaction between market participants at the measurement date. To increase the comparability of fair value measures, the following hierarchy prioritizes the inputs to valuation methodologies used to measure fair value:
Level 1—Valuations based on quoted prices for identical assets and liabilities in active markets.
Level 2—Valuations based on observable inputs other than quoted prices included in Level 1, such as quoted prices for similar assets and liabilities in active markets, quoted prices for identical or similar assets and liabilities in markets that are not active, or other inputs that are observable or can be corroborated by observable market data.
Level 3—Valuations based on unobservable inputs reflecting our own assumptions, consistent with reasonably available assumptions made by other market participants. These valuations require significant judgment.
We measure the fair value of money market funds and equity securities based on quoted prices in active markets for identical assets or liabilities. All other financial instruments were valued either based on recent trades of securities in inactive markets or based on quoted market prices of similar instruments and other significant inputs derived from or corroborated by observable market data. We did not hold any cash, cash equivalents, or marketable securities categorized as Level 3 as of December 31, 2013, or December 31, 2012.
Cash and Cash Equivalents
We classify all highly liquid instruments with an original maturity of three months or less at the time of purchase as cash equivalents.
Inventories, consisting of products available for sale, are primarily accounted for using the FIFO method, and are valued at the lower of cost or market value. This valuation requires us to make judgments, based on currently-available information, about the likely method of disposition, such as through sales to individual customers, returns to product vendors, or liquidations, and expected recoverable values of each disposition category.
We provide Fulfillment by Amazon services in connection with certain of our sellers’ programs. Third-party sellers maintain ownership of their inventory, regardless of whether fulfillment is provided by us or the third-party sellers, and therefore these products are not included in our inventories.
Accounts Receivable, Net and Other
Included in “Accounts receivable, net and other” on our consolidated balance sheets are amounts primarily related to vendor and customer receivables. As of December 31, 2013 and 2012, vendor receivables, net, were $1.3 billion and $1.1 billion, and customer receivables, net, were $1.7 billion and $1.5 billion.
Allowance for Doubtful Accounts
We estimate losses on receivables based on known troubled accounts and historical experience of losses incurred. Receivables are considered impaired and written-off when it is probable that all contractual payments due will not be collected in accordance with the terms of the agreement. The allowance for doubtful accounts was $153 million, $116 million, and $82 million as of December 31, 2013, 2012, and 2011. Additions to the allowance were $172 million, $136 million, and $87 million, and deductions to the allowance were $135 million, $102 million, and $82 million as of December 31, 2013, 2012, and 2011.
Internal-use Software and Website Development
Costs incurred to develop software for internal use and our websites are capitalized and amortized over the estimated useful life of the software. Costs related to design or maintenance of internal-use software and website development are expensed as incurred. For the years ended 2013, 2012, and 2011, we capitalized $581 million (including $87 million of stock-based compensation), $454 million (including $74 million of stock-based compensation), and $307 million (including $51 million of stock-based compensation) of costs associated with internal-use software and website development. Amortization of previously capitalized amounts was $451 million, $327 million, and $236 million for 2013, 2012, and 2011.
Property and Equipment, Net
Property and equipment are stated at cost less accumulated depreciation. Property includes buildings and land that we own, along with property we have acquired under build-to-suit, financing, and capital lease arrangements. Equipment includes assets such as furniture and fixtures, heavy equipment, servers and networking equipment, and internal-use software and website development. Depreciation is recorded on a straight-line basis over the estimated useful lives of the assets (generally the lesser of 40 years or the remaining life of the underlying building, two years for assets such as internal-use software, three years for our servers, five years for networking equipment, five years for furniture and fixtures, and ten years for heavy equipment). Depreciation expense is classified within the corresponding operating expense categories on our consolidated statements of operations.
Leases and Asset Retirement Obligations
We categorize leases at their inception as either operating or capital leases. On certain of our lease agreements, we may receive rent holidays and other incentives. We recognize lease costs on a straight-line basis without regard to deferred payment terms, such as rent holidays that defer the commencement date of required payments. Additionally, incentives we receive are treated as a reduction of our costs over the term of the agreement. Leasehold improvements are capitalized at cost and amortized over the lesser of their expected useful life or the non-cancellable term of the lease.
We establish assets and liabilities for the estimated construction costs incurred under build-to-suit lease arrangements to the extent we are involved in the construction of structural improvements or take construction risk prior to commencement of a lease. Upon occupancy of facilities under build-to-suit leases, we assess whether these arrangements qualify for sales recognition under the sale-leaseback accounting guidance. If we continue to be the deemed owner, the facilities are accounted for as financing leases.
We establish assets and liabilities for the present value of estimated future costs to retire long-lived assets at the termination or expiration of a lease. Such assets are depreciated over the lease period into operating expense, and the recorded liabilities are accreted to the future value of the estimated retirement costs.
We evaluate goodwill for impairment annually or more frequently when an event occurs or circumstances change that indicate that the carrying value may not be recoverable. We test goodwill for impairment by first comparing the book value of net assets to the fair value of the reporting units. If the fair value is determined to be less than the book value or qualitative factors indicate that it is more likely than not that goodwill is impaired, a second step is performed to compute the amount of impairment as the difference between the estimated fair value of goodwill and the carrying value. We estimate the fair value of the reporting units using discounted cash flows. Forecasts of future cash flows are based on our best estimate of future net sales and operating expenses, based primarily on expected category expansion, pricing, market segment share, and general economic conditions.
We conduct our annual impairment test as of October 1 of each year, and have determined there to be no impairment for any of the periods presented. There were no triggering events identified from the date of our assessment through December 31, 2013 that would require an update to our annual impairment test. See “Note 4—Acquisitions, Goodwill, and Acquired Intangible Assets.”
Included in “Other assets” on our consolidated balance sheets are amounts primarily related to acquired intangible assets, net of amortization; digital video content, net of amortization; long-term deferred tax assets; certain equity investments; marketable securities restricted for longer than one year, the majority of which are attributable to collateralization of bank guarantees and debt related to our international operations; and intellectual property rights, net of amortization.
We obtain digital video content through licensing agreements that have a wide range of licensing provisions and generally have terms from one to five years with fixed payment schedules. When the license fee for a specific movie or television title is determinable or reasonably estimable and available for streaming, we recognize an asset representing the fee per title and a corresponding liability for the amounts owed. We relieve the liability as payments are made and we amortize the asset as cost of sales on a straight-line basis over each title’s contractual window of availability, which typically ranges from six months to five years. If we are unable to reasonably estimate the cost per title, no asset or liability is recorded and licensing costs are expensed as incurred.
We generally invest our excess cash in investment grade short- to intermediate-term fixed income securities and AAA-rated money market funds. Such investments are included in “Cash and cash equivalents,” or “Marketable securities” on the accompanying consolidated balance sheets, classified as available-for-sale, and reported at fair value with unrealized gains and losses included in “Accumulated other comprehensive loss.”
Equity investments are accounted for using the equity method of accounting if the investment gives us the ability to exercise significant influence, but not control, over an investee. The total of our investments in equity-method investees, including identifiable intangible assets, deferred tax liabilities, and goodwill, is included within “Other assets” on our consolidated balance sheets. Our share of the earnings or losses as reported by equity-method investees, amortization of the related intangible assets, and related gains or losses, if any, are classified as “Equity-method investment activity, net of tax” on our consolidated statements of operations. Our share of the net income or loss of our equity-method investees includes operating and non-operating gains and charges, which can have a significant impact on our reported equity-method investment activity and the carrying value of those investments. In the event that net losses of the investee reduce our equity-method investment carrying amount to zero, additional net losses may be recorded if other investments in the investee, not accounted for under the equity method, are at-risk even if we have not committed to provide financial support to the investee. We regularly evaluate these investments, which are not carried at fair value, for other-than-temporary impairment. We also consider whether our equity-method investments generate sufficient cash flows from their operating or financing activities to meet their obligations and repay their liabilities when they come due.
We record purchases, including incremental purchases, of shares in equity-method investees at cost. Reductions in our ownership percentage of an investee, including through dilution, are generally valued at fair value, with the difference between fair value and our recorded cost reflected as a gain or loss in our equity-method investment activity. In the event we no longer have the ability to exercise significant influence over an equity-method investee, we would discontinue accounting for the investment under the equity method.
Equity investments without readily determinable fair values for which we do not have the ability to exercise significant influence are accounted for using the cost method of accounting and classified as “Other assets” on our consolidated balance sheets. Under the cost method, investments are carried at cost and are adjusted only for other-than-temporary declines in fair value, certain distributions, and additional investments.
Equity investments that have readily determinable fair values are classified as available-for-sale and are included in “Marketable securities” in our consolidated balance sheets and are recorded at fair value with unrealized gains and losses, net of tax, included in “Accumulated other comprehensive loss.”
We periodically evaluate whether declines in fair values of our investments below their book value are other-than-temporary. This evaluation consists of several qualitative and quantitative factors regarding the severity and duration of the unrealized loss as well as our ability and intent to hold the investment until a forecasted recovery occurs. Additionally, we assess whether we have plans to sell the security or it is more likely than not we will be required to sell any investment before recovery of its amortized cost basis. Factors considered include quoted market prices; recent financial results and operating trends; implied values from any recent transactions or offers of investee securities; credit quality of debt instrument issuers; other publicly available information that may affect the value of our investments; duration and severity of the decline in value; and our strategy and intentions for holding the investment.
Long-lived assets, other than goodwill, are reviewed for impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amount of the assets might not be recoverable. Conditions that would necessitate an impairment assessment include a significant decline in the observable market value of an asset, a significant change in the extent or manner in which an asset is used, or any other significant adverse change that would indicate that the carrying amount of an asset or group of assets may not be recoverable.
For long-lived assets used in operations, impairment losses are only recorded if the asset’s carrying amount is not recoverable through its undiscounted, probability-weighted future cash flows. We measure the impairment loss based on the difference between the carrying amount and estimated fair value. Long-lived assets are considered held for sale when certain criteria are met, including when management has committed to a plan to sell the asset, the asset is available for sale in its immediate condition, and the sale is probable within one year of the reporting date. Assets held for sale are reported at the lower of cost or fair value less costs to sell. Assets held for sale were not significant as of December 31, 2013 or 2012.
Accrued Expenses and Other
Included in “Accrued expenses and other” as of December 31, 2013 and 2012 were liabilities of $1.4 billion and $1.1 billion for unredeemed gift cards. We reduce the liability for a gift card when redeemed by a customer. If a gift card is not redeemed, we recognize revenue when it expires or when the likelihood of its redemption becomes remote, generally two years from the date of issuance.
Unearned revenue is recorded when payments are received in advance of performing our service obligations and is recognized over the service period. Unearned revenue primarily relates to Amazon Prime memberships and AWS.
We have internationally-focused websites for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Japan, Canada, China, Italy, Spain, Brazil, India, Mexico, and Australia. Net sales generated from these websites, as well as most of the related expenses directly incurred from those operations, are denominated in local functional currencies. The functional currency of our subsidiaries that either operate or support these websites is the same as the local currency. Assets and liabilities of these subsidiaries are translated into U.S. Dollars at period-end exchange rates, and revenues and expenses are translated at average rates prevailing throughout the period. Translation adjustments are included in “Accumulated other comprehensive loss,” a separate component of stockholders’ equity, and in the “Foreign-currency effect on cash and cash equivalents,” on our consolidated statements of cash flows. Transaction gains and losses including intercompany transactions denominated in a currency other than the functional currency of the entity involved are included in “Other income (expense), net” on our consolidated statements of operations. In connection with the settlement and remeasurement of intercompany balances, we recorded gains (losses) of $(84) million, $(95) million, and $70 million in 2013, 2012, and 2011.