SME Provisions and Contingencies

Section 21 Provisions and Contingencies Provisions and Contingencies

Scope of this section

21.1 This section applies to all provisions (ie liabilities of uncertain timing or amount), contingent liabilities and contingent assets except those provisions covered by other sections of this Standard. These include provisions relating to: Provisions and Contingencies

  1. leases (See Section 20 Leases). However, this section deals with operating leases that have become onerous.
  2. construction contracts (Section 23 Revenue). However this section deals with construction contracts that have become onerous.
  3. employee benefit obligations (Section 28 Employee Benefits). Provisions and Contingencies
  4. income tax (Section 29 Income Tax). Provisions and Contingencies

21.2 The requirements in this section do not apply to executory contracts unless they are onerous contracts. Executory contracts are contracts under which neither party has performed any of its obligations or both parties have partially performed their obligations to an equal extent.

21.3 The word ‘provision’ is sometimes used in the context of such items as depreciation, impairment of assets, and uncollectible receivables. Those are adjustments of the carrying amounts of assets, instead of recognition of liabilities, and therefore are not covered by this section. Provisions and Contingencies

Initial recognition

21.4 An entity shall recognise a provision only when: Provisions and Contingencies

  1. the entity has an obligation at the reporting date as a result of a past event;
  2. it is probable (ie more likely than not) that the entity will be required to transfer economic benefits in settlement; and
  3. the amount of the obligation can be estimated reliably.

21.5 The entity shall recognise the provision as a liability in the statement of financial position and shall recognise the amount of the provision as an expense, unless another section of Provisions and Contingencies requires the cost to be recognised as part of the cost of an asset such as inventories or property, plant and equipment.

21.6 The condition in paragraph 21.4(a) (obligation at the reporting date as a result of a past event) means that the entity has no realistic alternative to settling the obligation. This can happen when the entity has a legal obligation that can be enforced by law or when the entity has a constructive obligation because the past event (which may be an action of the entity) has created valid expectations in other parties that the entity will discharge the obligation. Obligations that will arise from the entity’s future actions (ie the future conduct of its business) do not satisfy the condition in paragraph 21.4(a), no matter how likely they are to occur and even if they are contractual. To illustrate, because of commercial pressures or legal requirements, an entity may intend or need to carry out expenditure to operate in a particular way in the future (for example, by fitting smoke filters in a particular type of factory). Because the entity can avoid the future expenditure by its future actions, for example by changing its method of operation or selling the factory, it has no present obligation for that future expenditure and no provision is recognised.

Initial measurement

21.7 An entity shall measure a provision at the best estimate of the amount required to settle the obligation at the reporting date. The best estimate is the amount an entity would rationally pay to settle the obligation at the end of the reporting period or to transfer it to a third party at that time:

  1. when the provision involves a large population of items, the estimate of the amount reflects the weighting of all possible outcomes by their associated probabilities. Where there is a continuous range of possible outcomes, and each point in that range is as likely as any other, the mid-point of the range is used.
  2. when the provision arises from a single obligation, the individual most likely outcome may be the best estimate of the amount required to settle the obligation. However, even in such a case, the entity considers other possible outcomes. When other possible outcomes are either mostly higher or mostly lower than the most likely outcome, the best estimate will be a higher or lower amount than the most likely outcome. Provisions and Contingencies

When the effect of the time value of money is material, the amount of a provision shall be the present value of the amount expected to be required to settle the obligation. The discount rate (or rates) shall be a pre-tax rate (or rates) that reflect(s) current market assessments of the time value of money. The risks specific to the liability shall be reflected either in the discount rate or in the estimation of the amounts required to settle the obligation, but not both.

21.8 An entity shall exclude gains from the expected disposal of assets from the measurement of a provision. Provisions and Contingencies

21.9 When some or all of the amount required to settle a provision may be reimbursed by another party (for example, through an insurance claim), the entity shall recognise the reimbursement as a separate asset only when it is virtually certain that the entity will receive the reimbursement on settlement of the obligation. The amount recognised for the reimbursement shall not exceed the amount of the provision. The reimbursement receivable shall be presented in the statement of financial position as an asset and shall not be offset against the provision. In the statement of comprehensive income, the entity may offset any reimbursement from another party against the expense relating to the provision.

Subsequent measurement

21.10 An entity shall charge against a provision only those expenditures for which the provision was originally recognised.

21.11 An entity shall review provisions at each reporting date and adjust them to reflect the current best estimate of the amount that would be required to settle the obligation at that reporting date. Any adjustments to the amounts previously recognised shall be recognised in profit or loss unless the provision was originally recognised as part of the cost of an asset (see paragraph 21.5). When a provision is measured at the present value of the amount expected to be required to settle the obligation, the unwinding of the discount shall be recognised as a finance cost in profit or loss in the period it arises.

Contingent liabilities

21.12 A contingent liability is either a possible but uncertain obligation or a present obligation that is not recognised because it fails to meet one or both of the conditions (b) and (c) in paragraph 21.4. An entity shall not recognise a contingent liability as a liability, except for provisions for contingent liabilities of an acquiree in a business combination (see paragraphs 19.20 and 19.21). Disclosure of a contingent liability is required by paragraph 21.15 unless the possibility of an outflow of resources is remote. When an entity is jointly and severally liable for an obligation, the part of the obligation that is expected to be met by other parties is treated as a contingent liability.

Contingent assets

21.13 An entity shall not recognise a contingent asset as an asset. Disclosure of a contingent asset is required by paragraph 21.16 when an inflow of economic benefits is probable. However, when the flow of future economic benefits to the entity is virtually certain, then the related asset is not a contingent asset, and its recognition is appropriate.

Disclosures

Disclosures about provisions

21.14 For each class of provision, an entity shall disclose all of the following:

  1. a reconciliation showing:
    1. the carrying amount at the beginning and end of the period;
    2. additions during the period, including adjustments that result from changes in measuring the discounted amount;
    3. amounts charged against the provision during the period; and
    4. unused amounts reversed during the period.
  2. a brief description of the nature of the obligation and the expected amount and timing of any resulting payments;
  3. an indication of the uncertainties about the amount or timing of those outflows; and
  4. the amount of any expected reimbursement, stating the amount of any asset that has been recognised for that expected reimbursement.

Comparative information for prior periods is not required.

Disclosures about contingent liabilities

21.15 Unless the possibility of any outflow of resources in settlement is remote, an entity shall disclose, for each class of contingent liability at the reporting date, a brief description of the nature of the contingent liability and, when practicable:

  1. an estimate of its financial effect, measured in accordance with paragraphs 21.7–21.11;
  2. an indication of the uncertainties relating to the amount or timing of any outflow; and
  3. the possibility of any reimbursement.

If it is impracticable to make one or more of these disclosures, that fact shall be stated.

Disclosures about contingent assets

21.16 If an inflow of economic benefits is probable (more likely than not) but not virtually certain, an entity shall disclose a description of the nature of the contingent assets at the end of the reporting period and, unless it would involve undue cost or effort, an estimate of their financial effect, measured using the principles set out in paragraphs 21.7–21.11. If such an estimate would involve undue cost or effort, the entity shall disclose that fact and the reasons why estimating the financial effect would involve undue cost or effort.

Prejudicial disclosures

21.17 In extremely rare cases, disclosure of some or all of the information required by paragraphs 21.14–21.16 can be expected to prejudice seriously the position of the entity in a dispute with other parties on the subject matter of the provision, contingent liability or contingent asset. In such cases, an entity need not disclose the information, but shall disclose the general nature of the dispute, together with the fact that, and reason why, the information has not been disclosed.

Appendix to Section 21 Guidance on recognising and measuring provisions

This Appendix accompanies, but is not part of, Section 21. It provides guidance for applying the requirements of Section 21 in recognising and measuring provisions.

All of the entities in the examples in this Appendix 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.

Example 1 Future operating losses

21A.1 An entity determines that it is probable that a segment of its operations will incur future operating losses for several years.
Present obligation as a result of a past obligating event—there is no past event that obliges the entity to pay out resources.

Conclusion—the entity does not recognise a provision for future operating losses. Expected future losses do not meet the definition of a liability. The expectation of future operating losses may be an indicator that one or more assets are impaired—see Section 27 Impairment of Assets.

Example 2 Onerous contracts

21A.2 An onerous contract is one in which the unavoidable costs of meeting the obligations under the contract exceed the economic benefits expected to be received under it. The unavoidable costs under a contract reflect the least net cost of exiting from the contract, which is the lower of the cost of fulfilling it and any compensation or penalties arising from failure to fulfil it. For example, an entity may be contractually required under an operating lease to make payments to lease an asset for which it no longer has any use.

Present obligation as a result of a past obligating event—the entity is contractually required to pay out resources for which it will not receive commensurate benefits.

Conclusion—if an entity has a contract that is onerous, the entity recognises and measures the present obligation under the contract as a provision.

Example 3 Restructurings

21A.3 A restructuring is a programme that is planned and controlled by management and materially changes either the scope of a business undertaken by an entity or the manner in which that business is conducted.

Present obligation as a result of a past obligating event—a constructive obligation to restructure arises only when an entity:

  1. has a detailed formal plan for the restructuring identifying at least:
    1. the business or part of a business concerned;
    2. the principal locations affected;
    3. the location, function and approximate number of employees who will be compensated for terminating their services;
    4. the expenditures that will be undertaken; and
    5. when the plan will be implemented; and
  2. has raised a valid expectation in those affected that it will carry out the restructuring by starting to implement that plan or announcing its main features to those affected by it.

Conclusion—an entity recognises a provision for restructuring costs only when it has a legal or constructive obligation at the reporting date to carry out the restructuring.

Example 4 Warranties

21A.4 A manufacturer gives warranties at the time of sale to purchasers of its product. Under the terms of the contract for sale, the manufacturer undertakes to make good, by repair or replacement, manufacturing defects that become apparent within three years from the date of sale. On the basis of experience, it is probable (ie more likely than not) that there will be some claims under the warranties.

Present obligation as a result of a past obligating event—the obligating event is the sale of the product with a warranty, which gives rise to a legal obligation. An outflow of resources embodying economic benefits in settlement—probable for the warranties as a whole.

Conclusion—the entity recognises a provision for the best estimate of the costs of making good under the warranty products sold before the reporting date.

Illustration of calculations:
In 20X0, goods are sold for CU1,000,000. Experience indicates that 90 per cent of products sold require no warranty repairs; 6 per cent of products sold require minor repairs costing 30 per cent of the sale price; and 4 per cent of products sold require major repairs or replacement costing 70 per cent of sale price. Consequently, estimated warranty costs are:

CU1,000,000 x 90% x 0% =

CU0

CU1,000,000 x 6% x 30% =

CU18,000

CU1,000,000 x 4% x 70% =

CU28,000

Total

CU46,000

The expenditures for warranty repairs and replacements for products sold in 20X0 are expected to be made 60 per cent in 20X1, 30 per cent in 20X2 and 10 per cent in 20X3, in each case at the end of the period. Because the estimated cash flows already reflect the probabilities of the cash outflows, and assuming there are no other risks or uncertainties that must be reflected, to determine the present value of those cash flows the entity uses a ‘risk-free’ discount rate based on government bonds with the same term as the expected cash outflows (6 per cent for one-year bonds and 7 per cent for two-year and three-year bonds).

Calculation of the present value, at the end of 20X0, of the estimated cash flows related to the warranties for products sold in 20X0 is as follows:

Year

Expected cash

payments

(CU)

Discount rate

Discount factor

Present value

(CU)

1

60% x CU46,000

27,600

6%

0.9434

(at 6%

for 1 year

26,038

2

30% x CU46,000

13,800

7%

0.8734

(a 7%

for 2 years)

12,053

3

10% x CU46,000

4,600

7%

0.8163

(at 7%

for 3 years)

3,755

Total

41,846

The entity will recognise a warranty obligation of CU41,846 at the end of 20X0 for products sold in 20X0.

Example 5 Refunds policy

21A.5 A retail store has a policy of refunding purchases by dissatisfied customers, even though it is under no legal obligation to do so. Its policy of making refunds is generally known.

Present obligation as a result of a past obligating event—the obligating event is the sale of the product, which gives rise to a constructive obligation because the conduct of the store has created a valid expectation on the part of its customers that the store will refund purchases. An outflow of resources embodying economic benefits in settlement—probable that a proportion of goods will be returned for refund.

Conclusion—the entity recognises a provision for the best estimate of the amount required to settle the refunds.

Example 6 Closure of a division—no implementation before end of reporting period

21A.6 On 12 December 20X0 the board of an entity decided to close down a division. Before the end of the reporting period (31 December 20X0) the decision was not communicated to any of those affected and no other steps were taken to implement the decision.

Present obligation as a result of a past obligating event—there has been no obligating event, and so there is no obligation.

Conclusion—the entity does not recognise a provision.

Example 6 Closure of a division—no implementation before end of reporting period

21A.6 On 12 December 20X0 the board of an entity decided to close down a division. Before the end of the reporting period (31 December 20X0) the decision was not communicated to any of those affected and no other steps were taken to implement the decision.

Present obligation as a result of a past obligating event—there has been no obligating event, and so there is no obligation.

Conclusion—the entity does not recognise a provision.

Example 7 Closure of a division—communication and implementation before end of reporting period

21A.7 On 12 December 20X0 the board of an entity decided to close a division making a particular product. On 20 December 20X0 a detailed plan for closing the division was agreed by the board, letters were sent to customers warning them to seek an alternative source of supply and redundancy notices were sent to the staff of the division.

Present obligation as a result of a past obligating event—the obligating event is the communication of the decision to the customers and employees, which gives rise to a constructive obligation from that date, because it creates a valid expectation that the division will be closed.

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

Conclusion—the entity recognises a provision at 31 December 20X0 for the best estimate of the costs that would be incurred to close the division at the reporting date.

Example 8 Staff retraining as a result of changes in the income tax system

21A.8 The government introduces changes to the income tax system. As a result of those changes, an entity in the financial services sector will need to retrain a large proportion of its administrative and sales workforce in order to ensure continued compliance with tax regulations. At the end of the reporting period, no retraining of staff has taken place.

Present obligation as a result of a past obligating event—the tax law change does not impose an obligation on an entity to do any retraining. An obligating event for recognising a provision (the retraining itself) has not taken place.

Conclusion—the entity does not recognise a provision.

Example 9 A court case

21A.9 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:

  1. at 31 December 20X1Present 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.
  2. (b) at 31 December 20X2Present 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.

See also: The IFRS Foundation

Provisions and Contingencies