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Issues In Harmonization Of Accounting Standards

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Question:

Discuss about the Harmonization of the Accounting Standards with the International Accounting Standards (IAS/IFRS).
 
 

Answer:

Introduction

The harmonization of the accounting standards refers to the process of aligning the local accounting standards of a country with the international accounting standards. The primary objective of harmonization is to achieve the comparability in the financial reporting. Different countries have different accounting practices; the harmonization is an attempt to reduce the differences in the accounting practices adopted by different countries (Wang, 2011). In the context of this, a report has been presented to provide discussion on the harmonization of the accounting standards. For the analysis of practical case, WIPRO Limited listed on the National Stock Exchange of India has been chosen.

Reasons for Harmonization

The accounting standards and practices are set out by the government of a country by referring to the economic environment of that country. The economic environment of countries is bound to be different. Thus, there arise differences in the accounting standards and the practices of the countries (Franklin, 2012). The difference in accounting practices of countries is the primary reason that laid to harmonization. As has already been iterated that harmonization of the accounting standards brings in parity in the financial reporting of two companies that operate in two different countries. The local accounting standards of a country are modified or changed to make them in line with the international accounting standards through the harmonization process (Franklin, 2012).

It is crucial to understand that harmonization is different from convergence. In the convergence process, the local accounting standards of a country are changed to incorporate the provisions of the international accounting standards. However, in the harmonization process, the local accounting standards are modified only to the extent these are in conflict with the international accounting standards. In the harmonization process, the local accounting standards are allowed to keep and retain the provisions that can not be altered due to peculiarities of the economic environment of a country. For example, Indian GAAP harmonizes the accounting standards to make them aligned with the international accounting standard but simultaneously it also provides curve outs. The curve outs have been issued to provide for the areas in the accounting standard which are to be kept and retained and not be adopted from international accounting standard (KPMG, 2014).

 


The harmonization also assists the companies in raising capital at the international platform. In order to raise capital at the international platform, it is essential for a company to prepare and present its financial statements in accordance with the international accounting practices (Wang, 2011). Thus, by adopting the harmonization process, the local accounting standards are aligned with the international accounting standards. Due to this harmonization, the financial statements prepared by the companies become comparable which makes it easy for the investors to evaluate the company’s financial performance. The evaluation of financial performance of the company is an important exercise in the investment decision. Thus, if the investor is not able to evaluate the financial performance of a company due to the reasons that its financial statements have been prepared using different accounting practices, he would not be able to make out the decision to invest in the company (Wang, 2011).  

In the context of Indian economy, it is essential to promote high quality financial reporting practices for the overall economic growth. One way to improve the quality of accounting practices in India is to make the modifications in the accounting practices to align them with the international accounting practices (Kaur, 2014). Thus, harmonization of the Indian accounting standards is critical for the economic growth in India. It is perceived that the improvement in the accounting practices through harmonization of the accounting standards in India would help the trade and business grow. As the harmonization of the Indian accounting practices will help in developing capital markets, improve access to credit, and developing the financial sector. It will bring in the financial stability which is crucial for the sustainable economic growth. The Indian economy is on the development pathway and it needs the financial support at the international platform to grow rapidly. However, it is possible only when India harmonizes its accounting and financial reporting practices with the international standards. The harmonization of the Indian accounting standards with the international accounting standards would bring transparency in the system which is much needed for economic growth (Kaur, 2014).                  

Issues in Harmonization of Accounting Standards 

It is considered that the high quality accounting practices coupled with the stringent governance mechanism are the basics for economic development. In order to improve the accounting practices and the governance system in the country, it is essential to increase transparency and fix accountability (Griff, 2014). In this direction, one of the endeavors of the government is the harmonization of the accounting standards with the international accounting standards. However, the process of harmonization of the accounting standards with the international accounting standards is not easy. There are various economic, political, and social obstacles that come in the way of harmonization process. It is important to find out resolutions to the issues and problems that are being faced in the process of harmonization to make it a successful mission (Griff, 2014).

The first issue that comes in the way of harmonization process is the differences in the economic environment of the developing and the developed countries. The characteristics of a developing country will be different from those of a developed country. However, the international accounting standards equally apply to all the countries; thus, there would be certain things that are not suitable to the economic environment of the developing countries (Bensadon & Praquin, 2016). Further, there arise issues from the political view point also. The harmonization of the accounting standards is given effect through a legal process only. The political parties have influence over the legal processes, thus, the political differences could arise when considering approving the harmonization process. Particularly, in the democratic country like India, the political issues are most likely to arise (Bensadon & Praquin, 2016).

Further, taking a narrow view point, the harmonization of the accounting standards will also cause changes in other laws of the country. The accounting standards are issued under the authority of the corporations/companies act (Wong, 2014). Thus, the harmonization process would first lead to changes in the corporations act. Further, the consequent changes in the various other laws could also be required such as taxation laws and securities exchange laws and regulations. Thus, the harmonization of the accounting standards is not a one step process. It will require substantial changes in the legal system of the country, which could make it a time consuming process (Wong, 2014).

 


Further, in addition to the above, the most critical issue arises for the small and medium sized enterprises. It has been considered that the international accounting standards will add complexity to accounting process of the small and medium sized firms (Wong, 2014). Further, it is also argued that the international accounting standards are not as relevant to the small and medium sized firms as these are to the large corporations. The adoption of international accounting standards by the small and medium sized firms not only adds complexities to the accounting process but it will also cause additional costs being incurred by these firms. Further, the issues may arise in regards to understanding of the international accounting standards in the small firms. In the absence of adequate training, the small firms may not be able to apply the international accounting standards appropriately (Wong, 2014).

In India, the ministry of corporate affairs has declared harmonization of the Indian accounting standards with the international accounting standards. The convergence of Indian accounting standards is in the process. The Indian government has replaced the old accounting standards with the new Indian accounting standards in its endeavor to converge with the international accounting standards (RSM, 2017). The new Indian accounting standards have been prepared on the lines of international accounting standards. Further, the new Indian accounting standards have been made applicable to the companies in the phased manner. The listed entities and the unlisted public companies with net worth of ? 500 cores or more have been mandated to prepare their financial statements for the year 2016-17 in accordance with new Indian accounting standards (RSM, 2017).

In the convergence and implementation of the accounting standards many issues have been faced in India. Firstly, the Indian economy is characterized as a developing economy and the international accounting standards are framed from the view point of developed countries. Thus, the difference in the nature of economy is an issue itself. Secondly, India is a democratic country which means that the political challenges are severe in regards to approval and implementation of the converged accounting standards (Siddiqui, 2011). There have been endeavors since the year 2011 to converge and implement the converged accounting standards, but the same is yet to be implemented in the full phase. The Indian accounting standards differs significantly from the international accounting standards on the aspects of fair value measurements. Thus, it is really difficult for the companies to adopt the converged accounting standards in the accounting areas which require fair value measurements such as financial instruments, employee stock options, and valuation of the assets (Siddiqui, 2011).

 

Case Study to Illustrate the Attempt to Harmonization

In order to demonstrate the issues and challenges in adoption of the harmonized accounting standards and under the same from the practical view point, it is necessary to analyze case of a company. It has been observed that the converged accounting standards in India have been made applicable for the listed and other big size public companies from the financial year 2016-17 (RSM, 2017). Therefore, the financial statements of the companies under the new financial reporting regime are yet to publish. However, WIPRO Limited listed on the national stock exchange (NSE) of India has been proactive in adopting the international accounting standards for the financial reporting purposes. WIPRO Limited is engaged in the business of information technology services and it operates worldwide in many countries. The company has prepared the financial statement of the year 2016-17 in accordance with the Ind AS which are converged Indian accounting standards (Annual WIPRO, 2016).    

In the year 2016-17, the company has prepared the financial statement in accordance with the Ind AS for the first time. The process of migration from the old India GAAP to the new Indian GAAP has been successful in the company. However, there have been various challenges in front of the management in changing the accounting policies to make them align with the Ind AS. The financial impact of adoption of Ind AS on WIPRO’s financial performance and position has been depicted as shown below:

Figure 1: Impact of Adoption of Ind AS (Annual WIPRO, 2016)

It could be observed from the chart presented above that there has been positive impact on the shareholder’s equity. Due to adoption of the Ind AS, the shareholder’s equity has increased from ?409,052 to ?412,257 in the year 2016. Further, the profitability has also increased under the new reporting regime. The net profit of the company was ?80,990 in the year 2016 under the old GAAP, however the same increased to ?82,005 under the new GAAP (Annual WIPRO, 2016). The differences in the accounting practices in the old and the new GAAP are many, however, the major are in the areas of recognition of dividend liability, valuation of investments and intangible assets, employee payments, and share based payments. As per the new GAAP, the dividend liability in respect of the current year dividend is to be recognized in the current year itself. Thus, the company has revised its policy regarding recognition and disclosure of the dividend in the financial statements (Annual WIPRO, 2016).

Further, there has been observed difference in the valuation of investments. As per the existing accounting standard-13, the short term investments are to be valued at the lower of cost or the fair value. Further, it provided that the long term investments are to be valued at cost and only the adjustments in regards to permanent diminution in the value would be allowed to be made from the cost (Annual WIPRO, 2016). However, the position is different in the new Ind AS. As per the new Ind AS, the short and long term both the types of investments are to be valued at fair value. Further, the investments are to be marked to market to recognize the profit and loss. WIPRO Limited has changed its accounting policy in regards to recognition and measurement of the investments. The impact of change in the accounting policy on the equity and the profits has been shown in the figure depicted above (Annual WIPRO, 2016).      

The most of the investments of the company were in the form of equity shares quoted on the stock exchange, therefore, there was not much problem in adopting the fair valuation basis as required under the new Ind AS. However, the company faced problems in determining the fair value of few investments which were in the form of unlisted securities. Further, the accounting policy in regards to employee benefits was also affected due to adoption of Ind AS. Under the existing the existing accounting standard-15, the actuarial gains and losses were used to be recognized through the income statement. However, the new Ind AS provides that the actuarial gains and losses would not be recognized through the statement of profit and loss rather these should be recognized through the comprehensive statement of income (Annual WIPRO, 2016). 

 


Thus, these were the major changes caused due to harmonization of the accounting standards with the international accounting standard. WIPRO Limited however faced challenges in implementing the new accounting standards but it was able to do this convergence process successfully.  

Conclusion

The report presented in this document is concentrated in on discussing the issues and challenges in the harmonization of the accounting standards. From the discussion carried out in this report, it could be articulated that the convergence of the local accounting standards with the international accounting standards is essential and it has importance from the economic development view point. However, there are many issues that may come across while considering harmonization of the accounting standards, but it is necessary to carry out such harmonization for the well being of the economy. A case of WIPRO Limited has been discussed in the report that demonstrates the successful implementation of the converged accounting standards in India. Further recommendations in this regards are given as below:

  • To keep pace with the economic developments at the international level, it is recommended to harmonize the accounting standards and change the accounting practices as per the international accounting practices (Hindubusinessline, 2017).
  • For the smooth implementation of the convergence process, it is recommended that the accounting bodies and the government authorities should be fully prepared.
  • The implementation of the new accounting regime should be carried out in the phased manner to ensure that the adoption by the industry has been successful (Hindubusinessline, 2017).  
 

References

Annual WIPRO. 2017. Annual report of WIPRO Limited 2017. Retrieved July 31, 2017, from https://www.wipro.com/documents/investors/pdf-files/Wipro-Annual-Report-for-FY-2016-17.pdf

Bensadon, D. & Praquin, N. 2016. IFRS in a Global World: International and Critical Perspectives on Accounting. Springer.

Franklin, L. 2012. Harmonisation - The desire by the IASB to harmonise accounting is the triumph of hope over experience. GRIN Verlag.

Griff, M. 2014. Professional Accounting Essays and Assignments. Lulu Press, Inc.

Hindubusinessline. 2017. For Smother IFRS Conversion. Retrieved July 31, 2017, from https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/for-smoother-ifrs-convergence/article1067258.ece

https://www.rsm.global/india/insights/special-reports/ind-applicability-sector-wise-analysis

Kaur, M. 2014. Convergence of Accounting Standards in India with IFRS. Indian Journal of Research. Retrieved July 31, 2017, from https://www.worldwidejournals.com/paripex/recent_issues_pdf/June_2014_1402919445_0b528_7.pdf

KPMG. 2014. Amendments to Ind AS: Carve-Outs. Retrieved July 31, 2017, from https://assets.kpmg.com/content/dam/kpmg/pdf/2015/03/IFRS-Notes-Sept14.pdf

RSM. 2017. Ind AS – Applicability & Sector-wise Analysis. Retrieved July 31, 2017, from

Siddiqui, A.S. 2011. Comprehensive Accountancy XI. Laxmi Publications.

Wang, C. 2011. Accounting Standards Harmonization and Financial Statement Comparability: Evidence from Transnational Information Transfer. Retrieved July 31, 2017, from https://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/accounting/papers/Wang.pdf

Wong, P. 2014. Challenges and Successes in Implementing International Standards: Achieving Convergence to IFRS and ISA. Retrieved July 31, 2017, from https://www.cimaglobal.com/Documents/ImportedDocuments/ifac_report_challengesuccess_111004.pdf

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