Better Communication in Financial Reporting

Better Communication in Financial Reporting

Better Communication in Financial Reporting is an IFRS.org initiative to focus financial reporting on users. There is a general view that financial reports have become too complex and difficult to read and that financial reporting tends to focus more on compliance than communication. See also narrative reporting as a discussion on alternative ways of reporting.

At the same time, users’ tolerance for sifting through information to find what they need continues to decline.

This has implications for the reputation of companies who fail to keep pace. A global study confirmed this trend, with the majority of analysts stating that the quality of reporting directly influenced their opinion of the quality of management.

To demonstrate what companies could do to make their financial report more relevant, there are several suggestions to ‘streamline’ the financial statements to reflect some of the best practices that have been emerging globally over the past few years. In particular:

  • Information is organized to clearly tell the story of financial performance and make critical information more prominent and easier to find.
  • Additional information is included where it is important for an understanding of the performance of the company. For example, we have included a summary of significant transactions and events as the first note to the financial statements even though this is not a required disclosure.

Improving disclosure effectiveness

Terms such as ’disclosure overload’ and ‘cutting the clutter’, and more precisely ‘disclosure effectiveness’, describe a problem in financial reporting that has become a priority issue for the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB or Board), local standard setters, and regulatory bodies. The growth and complexity of financial statement disclosure is also drawing significant attention from financial statement preparers, and more importantly, the users of financial statements.

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What happened in the reporting period

What happened in the reporting period

There is no requirement to disclose a summary of significant events and transactions that have affected the company’s financial position and performance during the period under review (or simply what happened in the reporting period). However, information such as this could help readers understand the entity’s performance and any changes to the entity’s financial position during the year and make it easier finding the relevant information. However, information such as this could also be provided in the (unaudited) operating and financial review rather than the (audited) notes to the financial statements.

Covid-19
At the time of writing, the biggest impact on the financial statements of entities all around the world is related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most entities will be affected by this in one form or another and should discuss the impact prominently in their financial statements. However, as the events are still unfolding, this publication is not providing any illustrative examples or guidance. See how to account for Covid-19 to get an up-to-date discussion.

Going concern disclosures [IAS1.25]
When preparing financial statements, management shall make an assessment of an entity’s ability to continue as a going concern. Financial statements shall be prepared on a going concern basis unless management either intends to liquidate the entity or to cease trading, or has no realistic alternative but to do so.

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IFRS 9 Best long-read SPPI Test

The SPPI Test

If an asset is in a hold-to-collect or hold-to-collect or sell business model, an entity assesses whether the cash flows from the financial asset meet the ‘solely payments of principal and interest’ (SPPI Test) benchmark – i.e. whether the contractual terms of the financial asset give rise, on specified dates, to cash flows that are solely payments of principal and interest.

  • Principal’ is the fair value of the financial asset on initial recognition. The principal may change over time – e.g. if there are repayments of principal.
  • Interest’ is consideration for the time value of money and credit risk. Interest can also include consideration for other basic lending risks and costs, and a profit margin.

A financial asset that does not meet the SPPI Test is always measured at FVPL, unless it is a non-trading equity instrument and the entity makes an irrevocable election to measure it at FVOCI. Here is the decision tree to put the narrative in context:

SPPI Test

Contractual cash flows that meet the SPPI Test are consistent with a basic lending arrangement in the banking industry.

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Sale with a right of return in IFRS 15

Sale with a right of return in IFRS 15

Under IFRS 15 Revenue from contract with customers, when an entity makes a sale with a right of return it recognises revenue at the amount to which it expects to be entitled by applying the variable consideration and constraint guidance set out in Step 3 of the model (see Step 3 Determine the transaction price). The entity also recognises a refund liability and an asset for any goods or services that it expects to be returned.

  • An entity applies the accounting guidance for a sale with a right of return when a customer has a right to:
    a full or partial refund of any consideration paid;
  • a credit that can be applied against amounts owed, or that will be owed, to the entity; or
  • another product in exchange (unless it is another product of the same type, quality, condition and price – e.g. exchanging a red sweater for a white sweater). [IFRS 15.B20]

An entity does not account for its stand-ready obligation to accept returns as a performance obligation. [IFRS 15.B21–B22]

In addition to product returns, the guidance also applies to services that are provided subject to a refund.Sale with a right of return

The guidance does not apply to:

  • exchanges by customers of one product for another of the same type, quality, condition and price; and
  • returns of faulty goods or replacements, which are instead evaluated under the guidance on warranties. [IFRS 15.B26–B27]

When an entity makes a sale with a right of return, it initially recognises the following: [IFRS 15.B21, B23, B25]

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Licensing of intellectual property

Licensing of intellectual property – in summary

The standard provides application guidance for the recognition of revenue attributable to a distinct licence of intellectual property (IP).

The general model is that if the licence is distinct from the other goods or services, then an entity assesses the nature of the licence to determine whether to recognise revenue allocated to the licence at a point in time or over time and to estimate variable consideration.

But with complex topics like licensing of intellectual property, there is also guidance separate from the general model for estimating variable consideration, on the recognition of sales- or usage-based royalties on licences of IP when the licence is the sole or predominant item to which the royalty relates.

What is intellectual property?

One could say almost everything could be intellectual property! Licensing of intellectual property

Here is a description (not a definition!) from the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation):

Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions; literary and artistic works; designs; and symbols, names and images used in commerce.

IP is in general protected in law by, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefit from what they invent or create. A difficult balance exists between striking the interests of innovators and the wider public interest, businesses operating in IP have to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish.

Just take a look at the (public) discussion between open source software (Apache OpenOffice) and licensed software (Microsoft Office365).

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IAS 16 Generation assets for Power and Utilities

Generation assets for Power and Utilities

– are often large and complex installations. They are expensive to construct, tend to be exposed to harsh operating conditions and require periodic replacement or repair. This environment leads to specific accounting issues.

1 Fixed assets and components

IFRS has a specific requirement for ‘component’ depreciation, as described in IAS 16 Property, Plant and Equipment. Each significant part of an item of property, plant and equipment is depreciated separately. Significant parts of an asset that have similar useful lives and patterns of consumption can be grouped together. This requirement can create complications for utility entities, because many assets include components with a shorter useful life than the asset as a whole.

Identifying components of an asset

Generation assets might comprise a significant number of components, many of which will have differing useful lives. The significant components of these types of assets must be separately identified. This can be a complex process, particularly on transition to IFRS, because the detailed record-keeping needed for componentisation might not have been required in order to comply with national generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). This can particularly be an issue for older power plants. However, some regulators require detailed asset records, which can be useful for IFRS component identification purposes.

An entity might look to its operating data if the necessary information for components is not readily identified by the accounting records. Some components can be identified by considering the routine shutdown or overhaul schedules for power stations and the associated replacement and maintenance routines. Consideration should also be given to those components that are prone to technological obsolescence, corrosion or wear and tear that is more severe than that of the other portions of the larger asset.

First-time IFRS adopters can benefit from an exemption under IFRS 1 First-time Adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards. This exemption allows entities to use a value that is not depreciated cost in accordance with IAS 16, and IAS 23 Borrowing Costs as deemed cost on transition to IFRS. It is not necessary to apply the exemption to all assets or to a group of assets.

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Components of Financial Statements

Components of Financial Statements – The following comprise a complete set of financial statements:

  • a statement of financial position,
  • a statement of profit or loss and other comprehensive income, presented either:
    • in a single statement that included all components of profit or loss and other comprehensive income, or
    • in the form of two separate statements:
      • one displaying components of profit or loss,
      • immediately preceding another statement beginning with profit or loss and displaying components of other comprehensive income,
  • a statement of changes in equity,
  • a statement of cash flows,
  • notes to the financial statements, comprising significant accounting policies and other explanatory information,
  • a (third) statement of financial position as at the beginning of the preceding period where an entity restates comparative information following:
    • a change in accounting policy,
    • a correction of an error, or
    • a reclassification of items in the financial statements, and
    • comparative information in respect of the preceding period.

Components of Financial Statements Components of Financial Statements

Components of Financial Statements

a (third) statement of financial position as at the beginning of the preceding period where an entity restates comparative information following a (third) statement of financial position as at the beginning of the preceding period where an entity restates comparative information following a (third) statement of financial position as at the beginning of the preceding period where an entity restates comparative information following

a (third) statement of financial position as at the beginning of the preceding period where an entity restates comparative information following a (third) statement of financial position as at the beginning of the preceding period where an entity restates comparative information following a (third) statement of financial position as at the beginning of the preceding period where an entity restates comparative information following

Components of Financial Statements

IFRS 10 Special control approach

IFRS 10 Special control approach

– determines which entities are consolidated in a parent’s financial statements and therefore affects a group’s reported results, cash flows and financial position – and the activities that are ‘on’ and ‘off’ the group’s balance sheet. Under IFRS, this control assessment is accounted for in accordance with IFRS 10 ‘Consolidated financial statements’.

Some of the challenges of applying the IFRS 10 Special control approach include:

  • identifying the investee’s returns, which in turn involves identifying its assets and liabilities. This may appear straightforward but complications arise when the legal ownership of assets diverges from the accounting depiction (for example, in financial asset transfers that ‘fail’ de-recognition, and in finance leases). In general, the assessment of the investee’s assets and returns should be consistent with the accounting depiction in accordance with IFRS
  • it may not always be clear whether contracts and other arrangements between an investor and an investee
    • create rights or exposure to a variable return from the investee’s performance for the investor; or
    • transfer risk or variability from the investor to the investee IFRS 10 Special control approach
  • the relevant activities of an SPE may not be obvious, especially when its activities have been narrowly specified in its purpose and design IFRS 10 Special control approach
  • the rights to direct those activities might also be difficult to identify, because for example, they arise only in particular circumstances or from contracts that are outside the legal boundary of the SPE (but closely related to its activities).

IFRS 10 Special control approach sets out requirements for how to apply the control principle in less straight forward circumstances, which are detailed below:  IFRS 10 Special control approach

  • when voting rights or similar rights give an investor power, including situations where the investor holds less than a majority of voting rights and in circumstances involving potential voting rights
  • when an investee is designed so that voting rights are not the dominant factor in deciding who controls the investee, such as when any voting rights relate to administrative tasks only and the relevant activities are directed by means of contractual arrangements IFRS 10 Special control approach
  • involving agency relationships IFRS 10 Special control approach
  • when the investor has control only over specified assets of an investee
  • franchises. IFRS 10 Special control approach

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The best 1 in overview – IFRS 9 Impairment requirements

IFRS 9 Impairment requirements

forward-looking information to recognise expected credit losses for all debt-type financial assets

 

Under IFRS 9 Impairment requirements, recognition of impairment no longer depends on a reporting entity first identifying a credit loss event.

IFRS 9 instead uses more forward-looking information to recognise expected credit losses for all debt-type financial assets that are not measured at fair value through profit or loss.

IFRS 9 requires an entity to recognise a loss allowance for expected credit losses on:

  • debt instruments measured at amortised cost
  • debt instruments measured at fair value through other comprehensive income
  • lease receivables
  • contract assets (as defined in IFRS 15 ‘Revenue from Contracts with Customers’)
  • loan commitments that are not measured at fair value through profit or loss
  • financial guarantee contracts (except those accounted for as insurance contracts).

IFRS 9 requires an expected loss allowance to be estimated for each of these types of asset or exposure. However, the Standard specifies three different approaches depending on the type of asset or exposure:

IFRS 9 Impairment requirements

* optional application to trade receivables and contract assets with a significant financing component, and to lease receivables

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Low credit risk operational simplification

Low credit risk operational simplification

IFRS 9 contains an important simplification that, if a financial instrument has low credit risk, then an entity is allowed to assume at the reporting date that no significant increases in credit risk have occurred. The low credit risk concept was intended, by the IASB, to provide relief for entities from tracking changes in the credit risk of high quality financial instruments. Therefore, this simplification is only optional and the low credit risk simplification can be elected on an instrument-by-instrument basis.

This is a change from the 2013 ED, in which a low risk exposure was deemed not to have suffered significant deterioration in credit risk. The amendment to make the simplification optional was made in response to requests from constituents, including regulators. It is expected that the Basel Committee SCRAVL consultation document will propose that sophisticated banks should only use this simplification rarely for their loan portfolios.

For low risk instruments, the entity would recognise an allowance based on 12-month ECLs. However, if a financial instrument is not considered to have low credit risk at the reporting date, it does not follow that the entity is required to recognise lifetime ECLs. In such instances, the entity has to assess whether there has been a significant increase in credit risk since initial recognition that requires the recognition of lifetime ECLs.

The standard states that a financial instrument is considered to have low credit risk if: [IFRS 9.B5.22]

  • The financial instrument has a low risk of default
  • The borrower has a strong capacity to meet its contractual cash flow obligations in the near term
  • Adverse changes in economic and business conditions in the longer term may, but will not necessarily, reduce the ability of the borrower to fulfil its contractual cash flow obligations Low credit risk operational simplification

A financial instrument is not considered to have low credit risk simply because it has a low risk of loss (e.g., for a collateralised loan, if the value of the collateral is more than the amount lent (see collateral) or it has lower risk of default compared with the entity’s other financial instruments or relative to the credit risk of the jurisdiction within which the entity operates.

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