In full: Qualitative characteristic of useful financial information
A characteristic that makes financial information useful to the primary users of general purpose financial reports. Qualitative characteristic
In the Conceptual; Framework further guidance is provided – If financial information is to be useful, it must be relevant and faithfully represent what it purports to represent. The usefulness of financial information is enhanced if it is comparable, verifiable, timely and understandable. [Conceptual Framework 2.4]
The IASB identified the qualitative characteristics of the conceptual framework of accounting; the characteristics of accounting information that distinguish better (more useful) information from inferior (less useful) information for decision-making purposes. The primary qualitative characteristics are relevance and faithful representation. of accounting information that distinguish better (more useful) information from inferior (less useful) information for decision-making purposes. Qualitative characteristic
Qualitative characteristics are either fundamental or enhancing, depending on how they affect the decision-usefulness of information. Regardless of classification, each qualitative characteristic contributes to the decision-usefulness of financial reporting information. However, providing useful financial information is limited by a constraint on financial reporting—cost should not exceed the benefits of a reporting practice. Qualitative characteristic
Relevance is one of the two fundamental qualities that make accounting information useful for decision-making. Relevance and related ingredients of this fundamental quality are shown below.
To have relevance, accounting information must be capable of making a difference in a decision. Information with no bearing on a decision is irrelevant. Financial information is capable of making a difference when it has predictive value, confirmatory value, or both. Qualitative characteristic
Relevant information also helps users confirm or correct prior expectations; it has confirmatory value. For example, when UPS issues its year-end financial statements, it confirms or changes past (or present) expectations based on previous evaluations. It follows that predictive value and confirmatory value are interrelated. Qualitative characteristic
For example, information about the current level and structure of UPS’s assets and liabilities helps users predict its ability to take advantage of opportunities and to react to adverse situations. The same information helps to confirm or correct users’ past predictions about that ability. Qualitative characteristic
Materiality is a company-specific aspect of relevance. Information is material if omitting it or misstating it could influence decisions that users make on the basis of the reported financial information. An individual company determines whether information is material because both the nature and/or magnitude of the item(s) to which the information relates must be considered in the context of an individual company’s financial report. Information is immaterial, and therefore irrelevant, if it would have no impact on a decision-maker. In short, it must make a difference or a company need not report it. Qualitative characteristic
Assessing materiality is one of the more challenging aspects of accounting because it requires evaluating both the relative size and importance of an item. However, it is difficult to provide firm guidelines in judging when a given item is or is not material. Materiality varies both with relative amount and with relative importance.
Fundamental Quality—Faithful Representation
Faithful representation is the second fundamental quality that makes accounting information useful for decision-making. Faithful representation and related ingredients of this fundamental quality are shown below. Qualitative characteristic
Faithful representation means that the numbers and descriptions match what really existed or happened. Faithful representation is a necessity because most users have neither the time nor the expertise to evaluate the factual content of the information. For example, if General Motors‘ income statement reports sales of $180,300 million when it had sales of $155,399 million, then the statement fails to faithfully represent the proper sales amount. To be a faithful representation, information must be complete, neutral, and free of material error.
Completeness means that all the information that is necessary for faithful representation is provided. An omission can cause information to be false or misleading and thus not be helpful to the users of financial reports.
Neutrality means that a company cannot select information to favor one set of interested parties over another. Unbiased information must be the overriding consideration. For example, in the notes to financial statements, tobacco companies such as R.J. Reynolds should not suppress information about the numerous lawsuits that have been filed because of tobacco-related health concerns—even though such disclosure is damaging to the company.
Neutrality in rule-making has come under increasing attack. Some argue that the FASB should not issue pronouncements that cause undesirable economic effects on an industry or company. We disagree. Accounting rules (and the standard-setting process) must be free from bias, or we will no longer have credible financial statements.
Without credible financial statements, individuals will no longer use this information. An analogy demonstrates the point: Many individuals bet on boxing matches because such contests are assumed not to be fixed. But nobody bets on wrestling matches. Why? Because the public assumes that wrestling matches are rigged. If financial information is biased (rigged), the public will lose confidence and no longer use it.
Free from Error.
See also: The Conceptual Framework 2018
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