A court case

IAS 37 Provisions, Contingent Liabilities and Contingent Assets –
Example on recognising and measuring provisions

The case:

A customer has sued Entity X, seeking damages for injury the customer allegedly sustained from using a product sold by Entity X. Entity X disputes liability on grounds that the customer did not follow directions in using the product. Up to the date the board authorised the financial statements for the year to 31 December 20X1 for issue, the entity’s lawyers advise that it is probable that the entity will not be found liable. However, when the entity prepares the financial statements for the year to 31 December 20X2, its lawyers advise that, owing to developments in the case, it is now probable that the entity will be found liable.

(a) At 31 December 20X1

Present obligation as a result of a past obligating event—on the basis of the evidence available when the financial statements were approved, there is no obligation as a result of past events.

Conclusion—no provision is recognised. The matter is disclosed as a contingent liability unless the probability of any outflow is regarded as remote.

(b) At 31 December 20X2

Present obligation as a result of a past obligating event—on the basis of the evidence available, there is a present obligation. The obligating event is the sale of the product to the customer.

An outflow of resources embodying economic benefits in settlement— probable.

Conclusion—a provision is recognised at the best estimate of the amount to settle the obligation at 31 December 20X2, and the expense is recognised in profit or loss. It is not a correction of an error in 20X1 because, on the basis of the evidence available when the 20X1 financial statements were approved, a provision should not have been recognised at that time.

All of the entities in the examples have 31 December as their reporting date. In all cases, it is assumed that a reliable estimate can be made of any outflows expected. In some examples the circumstances described may have resulted in impairment of the assets; this aspect is not dealt with in the examples. References to ‘best estimate’ are to the present value amount, when the effect of the time value of money is material.