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IPE special report May 2018

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Accounting roundup: Reporting reforms and post-Brexit rules

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The International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) has instructed its staff to prioritise the development of new type of financial performance measure to be included in IFRS statements.

The board expressed a preference for a measure based on earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) over parallel plans to include a management-defined measure of performance.

The IASB also signalled a preference for a modified version of EBIT over any off-the-shelf definition. 

The decisions came during the board’s latest discussions on its Primary Financial Statements project.

IASB member Ann Tarca said: “I think it is more productive to be focused on EBIT or similar subtotal, which many preparers already do. I think we can deal with the management performance measure in the notes somewhere… I don’t think it needs to be on the face of the income statement.”

The board’s discussions are currently at an early stage. Staff plan to bring proposals to a future meeting to see how their thinking could be adapted to a complex financial institution.

Staff have acknowledged that if any EBIT-like line item is too restrictive to accommodate a management performance subtotal, it might be necessary to relegate any management performance measure to a separate reconciliation or the notes.

The focus in the latest staff papers has shifted from references to pure EBIT subtotal to a description of “profit before financing and income tax”.

Meanwhile, the IASB has also recognised the need for a separate investing category in companies’ income statements.

Under this proposal, defined benefit (DB) scheme sponsors would classify any interest on a surplus to this new category.

’Material information’ definition under review

The body that advises the European Union on accounting matters, EFRAG, has published a draft comment letter in support of an IASB draft statement on materiality.

In a webcast to introduce the proposals, IASB member Francoise Flores said: “The definition of materiality is easy to understand but difficult to apply. It is a totally company-specific notion that requires the exercise of judgement tailored to a company’s circumstances.”

In the context of financial reporting, material information is data that is either significant or relevant.

Flores added: “Currently, there is little if any guidance in IFRS on how to make materiality judgements. This lack of guidance can be regarded as partly responsible for IFRS disclosure requirements not being sufficiently challenged in practice from a materiality perspective and rather being used as a checklist.”

The IASB’s practice statement is non-mandatory. Interested parties have until 5 January 2018 to comment on the EFRAG draft.

UK ‘should maintain international standards’ post-Brexit

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) has warned that the UK has failed to give sufficient thought to the implications of its vote to leave the EU.

In a policy discussion paper on the implications of Brexit for financial reporting, the institute said it supported a UK-specific endorsement mechanism for new international standards.

The report’s authors argued: “[A] new national mechanism could function more smoothly and far more quickly than the EU’s, and indeed this should be regarded as a key prize available to the UK from the change in endorsement arrangements.”

The paper also considered the option of accepting all international financial reporting standards (IFRS) as issued by the IASB with no modifications, as well as continuing to participate in the EU’s current endorsement mechanism.

Finally, the ICAEW also called for the UK to join the IFRS Foundation’s Monitoring Board and the Accounting Standards Advisory Forum.

Under the rules governing membership of the two bodies, there is no current basis for UK membership of either body.

IPE has learned that UK government officials are considering separate proposals for a UK endorsement mechanism – possibly modelled on the Australian model.

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