Mary Dolson, partner in PwC’s Global Accounting Consulting Services, provides an overview of the impact of the current economic climate on 2011 financial statements of entities outside the banking and financial services sector (guidance on issues affecting financial services entities is available in our practical guide).
There continue to be significant concerns about the economies of some European countries. Austerity programs and rescue packages have not eliminated the possibility of default on sovereign debt, and the broader economic news remains gloomy.
All entities doing business in the eurozone need to consider the impact of the current economic climate on their 2011 financial statements. Entities in some industries are directly exposed to the government as a customer. Banks and other financial institutions are the most exposed to sovereign debt. Many entities in a variety of industries are exposed to macro-economic trends, such as reduced consumer spending and downward pricing pressure.
The current environment might result in reduced availability of credit and declining business performance. Financial institutions might impose stringent requirements over new or existing borrowings. This could cast doubt on the going concern assumption.
Conditions or events that might cast doubt on the going concern assumption include:
You should assess the appropriateness of the going concern assumption and disclose any material uncertainties.
Many entities continue to do business with governments in the troubled eurozone countries, despite long delays in payment, mandatory restructuring of older unpaid debtors, significant discounts on factoring receivables where factoring is possible and downward pricing pressure on goods and services. If these are your circumstances, you should consider what issues might arise around the valuation of accounts receivable and recognizing revenue.
You should also consider for impairment all existing and new trade receivables from governmental bodies in troubled eurozone countries. An impairment loss is calculated based on revised expected cash flows, discounted at the receivables’ original effective interest rate. Any impairment charge is recorded as a current period’s bad debt expense.
You should consider discounting, on initial recognition, any receivables that are not expected to be collected immediately. There is no grace period in the revenue standard for receivables that are collected within one year or any other specific period. You should discount accounts receivable at initial recognition, with a consequential reduction in revenue, if the effect of discounting is expected to be material.
Discounting requires estimating the date of collection and the actual amounts that will be collected, and determining an appropriate interest rate to use.
When estimating the date of collection, you should use the most recent data available on day-sales outstanding, adjusted for any recent developments.
The appropriate discount rate is the rate at which the customer could otherwise borrow on similar terms. For a governmental body, a reasonable starting point for estimation is the most recent rate at which the relevant governmental body has been able to borrow.
Some receivables may be interest bearing by statute; however, this does not remove the requirement to consider discounting. The rate of interest that governmental bodies are paying is unlikely to be the same as the rate at which receivables should be discounted.
You also need to determine whether revenue should be recognized for current sales, and the amount of revenue to be recognized. You have to meet all five revenue recognition criteria in IAS 18, Revenue, in order to recognize revenue. The criteria that are most under stress in the current environment are:
You should first determine if it is probable that you will be paid for the goods you have received. Slow payment does not, on its own, preclude revenue recognition. However, slow payment may well reduce the amount of revenue, because the corresponding receivable will be discounted.
Revenue recognized might be further reduced by an estimate of discounts, clawbacks and future allowances that governments might demand.
You should not recognize revenue if you do not expect to receive payment, or if you expect discounts and allowances to be material but cannot estimate them.
Current economic difficulties will impact the expected future cash flows to be generated by long-term, non-financial assets, such as goodwill, PPE and intangible assets. If your business has significant non-financial assets relating to, located in or selling to any of the troubled eurozone economies, you should consider the impact when measuring the recoverable amount of non-financial assets.
The effects of the economic downturn could impact impairment calculations in several different ways, notably: triggering impairment reviews; affecting key assumptions underlying management’s cash flow forecasts (growth, discount rates); and requiring more sensitivity disclosures.
You should determine an impairment loss, if any, after calculating the recoverable amount. You also need to be alert to the use of over-optimistic assumptions in impairment cash flow models in the current environment.
Long-term employee benefit liabilities, including defined benefit pension obligations, are discounted using a rate based on market yields at the balance sheet date on high-quality corporate bonds of equivalent currency and term. The bonds should be rated at least AA to be considered high-quality. Use market yields (at the balance sheet date) on government bonds of equivalent currency and term if there is no deep market in high-quality corporate bonds. Discount rates and other assumptions are coming under more scrutiny in the current environment.
Entities in the eurozone have a policy choice to consider discount rates either at the level of the eurozone or the individual country. You should apply the policy consistently from year to year, and any change is a change in an accounting policy. A change from a eurozone corporate bond rate to a country’s government bond rate is unlikely to provide more reliable and relevant information.
Many entities use actuaries to help derive appropriate assumptions; actuaries use different approaches to develop their advice. Where an actuary uses a different methodology from that used in prior periods, you should bear in mind consistency and applicability. A change in methodology should lead to a better estimate of the appropriate discount rate, and should reflect available data about market yields and the benefit plan’s expected cash flows.
IAS 37, Provisions, requires provisions to be discounted, typically starting with a risk-free rate. The sovereign debt crisis raises the question of whether downgraded government credit ratings mean that government bond yields no longer provide a risk-free rate.
There are some countries for which all the ratings agencies have acted to downgrade government bonds. The yield on these bonds is unlikely to be a risk-free rate; you will need to make some risk adjustment to establish a risk-free rate. Judgment is needed to determine whether government bonds remain risk free.
You should scrutinize the recoverability of deferred tax assets, particularly, when current and expected future profits are adversely affected by market conditions. Deferred tax assets are recognized only to the extent it is probable that future taxable profit will be available against which the assets can be utilized.
Consider future reversals of existing deferred tax liabilities, future taxable profits and tax planning opportunities when evaluating deferred tax assets. You should give particular attention to the assumptions underlying expected taxable profits in future periods and to the requirement to have convincing evidence of future profits when the entity has a history of losses.
Additional disclosures may well be required in the current economic environment; several regulators have already issued guidance about their expectations in this area. IFRS 7, Financial Instruments: Disclosures, is particularly relevant; take care to ensure the objectives set out in the standard are met. Further disclosures are required by IAS 1, Presentation of Financial Statements. It may be necessary to make broader disclosures about the impact of the European economic environment on your business, financial instruments, concentration of risk and future.
Events may unfold quickly; you should consider carefully whether you need to reflect events occurring between the balance sheet date and the date of authorization in the financial statements. Events are either adjusting or non-adjusting; many non-adjusting events will still require disclosure.
You can find our guidance on economic pressures in the current environment from the topic summary: Impacts of the current market conditions. Click this link or visit pwc.com/ifrs, Additional PwC guidance.
IASB chairman, Hans Hoogervorst, tells IFRS news about his approach to standard-setting and the challenges around the convergence agenda.
It’s pretty simple really. Our job is to develop a single set of globally consistent financial reporting standards that deliver high-quality information to investors. At the same time, we are working with national and regional public authorities, as well as other international organizations, to encourage global adoption of these standards.
In practice, that means completing our current work program with the US FASB to the highest possible standard. It means consulting on our future agenda and continuing to strengthen the institutional relationships between the IASB and our stakeholders.
There are two primary challenges. The first challenge is for the IASB and the FASB to complete jointly the remaining convergence projects of revenue recognition, leasing and financial instruments. The second is to encourage the remaining major economies to come on board.
On the first challenge, we are pretty far advanced in our work to deliver improvements to the revenue recognition and leasing accounting standards. Given the importance of this work, we are re-exposing for public comment both sets of proposals. At the same time, we are conducting an unprecedented number of outreach activities on these projects to ensure we fully understand all of the issues and, as far as possible, we have avoided any unintended consequences.
The remaining convergence project is financial instruments. I’m pretty hopeful that we will get very close to a converged solution in many areas of the financial instruments project. It’s a difficult task, as the boards have been pulled in different directions. We’ve each tried to respond as best we can, but this has made achieving convergence very challenging.
In my view, a good accounting standard is one that delivers high-quality, comparable information to investors, but that does so in a way that minimizes the burden on preparers. The standard needs to be applicable across developed and emerging economies, auditable, enforceable and not lead to diversity in practice. It’s a tall order, but one that we take very seriously.
There are various ways we achieve this. We have a geographically and professionally diverse board of talented individuals. Our work benefits from a thorough, robust and comprehensive due process. We welcome broad participation in the standard-setting process, and we debate the different viewpoints in a very transparent manner. We take the time to explain what we heard, how we responded and the rationale for the decisions we have taken. And then, we revisit the standard a few years after it has come into effect, just to make sure it is working as designed. That’s about as much as anyone could expect.
Yes, I believe it will happen. The question is when and how. Global accounting standards are an inevitable consequence of globally interconnected financial markets. The greatest obstacle is political will, and that is largely contained through the recommendations of the G20 leaders and others. Even in the US, support for global accounting standards is SEC policy and the policy of the US government. However, the SEC is an independent agency and will go through its own independent decision-making process.
One of the most important things is respect for the organization and its work. Have we sought broad input throughout the standard-setting process, given careful consideration to the issues, developed the best possible standards, made sure they can be applied around the world and sought to avoid unintended consequences?
Not everyone will like the outcome, but respect for the way we have gone about our work, as an independent standard-setter, is, in my opinion, the measure of our success.
They are both very good assessments of the current state of play.
The first paper looks at how well IFRS is being applied where it is required for use. The SEC staff concluded that the financial statements analyzed generally complied with IFRS, but there were inconsistencies observed – mainly due to a lack of disclosure of accounting policies and how individual standards had been applied.
Consistent application of the standards is a major challenge for standard-setters, securities regulators and market supervisors around the world. This is something that our trustees have encouraged us to look at. However, it is also important to note that this problem is not unique to IFRS. The Wall Street Journal noted that the findings were similar to an earlier SEC study of Fortune 500 companies using US GAAP. The problem of inconsistent application exists whether companies use IFRS or US GAAP.
However, the important point is this: you can only work toward consistent application if you have one single language, and IFRS is the only candidate.
The second paper looked at the differences between IFRS and US GAAP and contains no major surprises. The paper recognizes the tremendous progress that the boards have made in bringing IFRS and US GAAP into alignment. However, the paper also shows how quite a few differences remain, particularly in the detail.
Many of these differences are not very important. But getting rid of them through a process of convergence could take up many, many years. That is why I am even more convinced that it is not in the best interests of investors in the US or anywhere else in the world to spend another ten years seeking to eliminate ever-smaller differences, which entail significant costs for change without much incremental benefit. That is also why the time is right for a positive decision on the incorporation of IFRS into the US financial reporting regime.
Leslie Seidman, chair of the FASB, and I agree that we should call time on the convergence program once these few remaining projects have been completed. The convergence program has provided a very useful mechanism to improve and align IFRS and US GAAP. However, we that it is now time to look to the future. A positive SEC decision will see the FASB continuing to play a very active role in the development of IFRS.
I get to work with an enthusiastic, young, talented group of people who are passionate about what we do and are working hard to help the organization achieve its goals. It is enjoyable to work in an organization with a very strong public-interest ethic. I also enjoy the opportunity to travel to some very interesting parts of the world and meet people with involvement in the work that we do.
The technical details of the standards can be challenging, but I have found that being a relative newcomer to accounting standard-setting has helped me to offer a fresh perspective to many of our discussions.
Board members are selected by the trustees following an international public search for candidates. The primary criterion for selection is their practical experience with IFRS. The trustees also consider geographical criteria, and it is their objective to increase the size of the board to 16 members by July 2012. The trustees have just renewed the appointment of our Chinese board member, Zhang Wei-Guo, and Stephen Cooper, from the UK, for another five-year term. Paul Pacter has also agreed to stay on for a further six months, until the trustees appoint his successor.
That leaves three appointments to cover existing and forthcoming vacancies. Elke König stepped down from the IASB at the end of December 2012 to take up an appointment as President of the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority, while John Smith steps down this June 2011. A further board position is available due to the constitutional amendment to expand membership of the IASB to 16 members by July 2012.
Coffee or tea?
Restaurant or home cooking?
Balance sheet or income statement?
So you think you know your debt from your equity? Test yourself against PwC’s financial instruments specialist, Tina Farington, with this IFRS quiz (the first in a series) about how to classify financial instruments from the perspective of the issuer. Please note, this is not for amateurs!
Classification of capital as debt or equity keeps the CFO awake at night, and getting it wrong has severe consequences for measurement. The guidance to classify such instruments is addressed in IAS 32, Financial Instruments: Presentation. The IASB and FASB have been working on a project to replace their respective classification models. However, the project to define debt versus equity has been placed on hold and a converged solution seems a long way off. Practitioners are going to live and breathe the current classification model for at least a few more years. S0, here are a few questions to test your knowledge of the current model under IFRS.
Q1: Which statement is true in the definition of a financial liability?
Q2: Which of the following would preclude the classification of an instrument as equity?
Q3: Which instrument would be classified as equity under IFRS?
Q4: A company has issued non-cumulative, non-redeemable, 5% preference shares where the payment of the dividend is solely at the discretion of the board of directors. How should the instrument be classified?
Q5: Which of the following is the best example of a “compound” instrument (that is, has both a liability component and an equity component) based on the facts provided?
Q6: A puttable instrument is one that requires the issuer to repurchase or redeem the instrument for cash or other financial asset on exercise of the put. The “puttables amendment” was issued in 2008. Which of the following statements is true about the amendment?
Q7: When evaluating a bond that is convertible into equity shares, which of the following features would result in the conversion option’s being classified as equity?
Q8: On December 1, 2011, an entity enters into a contract to purchase 10 million shares of its common stock after one year at C2 per share. The contract can only be settled “gross” in shares (physical delivery) in exchange for a fixed amount of cash (C2 per share). Which statement describes the most appropriate accounting?
Q9: Other than financial liabilities measured at fair value through profit or loss, how are financial liabilities subsequently measured under IFRS?
Q10: Where should interest payments on a financial liability be recognized?