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Accounting roundup: IASB, asymmetry, FRC, cashflow statements

The International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) has agreed to include a discussion of asymmetry in the main body of its Conceptual Framework document.

Staff will now work on a revised form of words to work into Chapter 2 of the framework. 

The decision to include an analysis of asymmetry is driven by the board’s earlier decision to reintroduce a reference to prudence back into its framework.

Since the financial crisis, the accounting establishment has come under pressure for what some critics see as its inherently imprudent standards.

Doubts remain, however, whether the IASB’s latest effort to win over long-term investors will succeed.

Speaking during the 18 October discussion, IASB member Mary Tokar said: “We aren’t setting a requirement – we are just doing an unnecessary acknowledgement in the text of the standard that we may make asymmetric decisions. That is what we were asked to acknowledge.

“I think, then, we should draft it in accordance with that, which is that this does not preclude the board from establishing requirements that may be asymmetrical.”

Project manager Anne McGeachin said: “For you to be able to reach a decision about asymmetry, you need to be able to conclude it provides relevant information and that the information was faithfully represented. To be faithfully represented, it would need to be neutral.” 

The board is attempting to juggle the demands from some UK-based long-term investor interests on the one hand and the need to maintain convergence with the US FASB’s accounting model on the other.

Chapter 2 of the Conceptual Framework currently follows a form of words agreed with the US board that eliminated the notion of conservatism from the accounting rubric.

Meanwhile, the UK Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has concluded that “reporting quality is generally good, but companies have room for improvement”.

The verdict comes in the audit watchdog’s Annual Review of Corporate Reporting 2015-16

In its latest review of the UK reporting landscape over the past year, the FRC concluded: “Given the complexity and breadth of corporate reporting, it is not possible to assess the overall quality of corporate reporting in one sentence.

“Compliance with the accounting framework, particularly by larger public companies, is generally good, and the introduction of the strategic report has improved the quality of narrative reporting.”

The FRC has also repeated its call from 2015 for preparers to adopt the requirements of the IASB’s draft amendments early to its asset-celling guidance in IFRIC 14.

The IFRS Interpretations Committee agreed at its September meeting to press ahead with the amendments.

Further in relation to pensions, the FRC flagged up what it calls “recent high-profile corporate failures” as having highlighted the risk posed by defined benefit scheme deficits in today’s low interest rate and low-return environment.

The FRC urged directors to consider “whether a company’s obligations under pension agreements with current and future employees create principal risks and uncertainties to be disclosed and explained in the strategic report”.

Lastly, the FRC has released a consultation on improvements to the cashflow statement.

The FRC has said it wanted to hear views on potential improvements to the statement.

It plans to feed through input from interested parties to the IASB’s Primary Financial Statements project.

This project, a research initiative, is at an early stage and examining possible changes to the structure and content of the primary financial statements.

In particular, the FRC discussion paper contains an analysis of the direct method cashflow statement.

This method proved highly controversial when floated by the IASB during its abandoned project on financial statement presentation.

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