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Qualitative Characteristics Of Financial Statement

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Question:

If it accepted that financial information should be useful for economic decision making in terms of deciding whether to make resources available to a reporting entity, as the IASB conceptual framework indicates, a subsequent element to consider is the qualitative characteristics that financial information should have if it is to be useful for such decisions.’ (Deegan, C. 2012, Australian Financial Accounting, Ed. 7E, p. 60.

  1. Describe what you understand by the above statement and explain briefly the qualitative characteristics.
  2. Discuss and describe two IASB / AASB accounting standards and the utilisation of the qualitative characteristics to promote decision useful information.
  3. Select a company from the Australian Securities Exchange website and download the most recent annual report. With regard to your chosen standards, and in the context of your company annual report, comment on the effect the qualitative characteristics have had on the financial statements.
 

Answer:

Introduction

The qualitative characteristics of financial statements are quite important. The report has been prepared analysing the various factors such as the qualitative characteristics of financial statements as mentioned in the AASB accounting standards, discussion and description of two IASB / AASB accounting standards i.e. AASB 10 and AASB 138 and the utilisation of the qualitative characteristics to promote decision useful information and lastly the analysis of the financial statements of Origin Energy Ltd for the qualitative characteristics.

Qualitative Characteristics of Financial Statements

The qualitative characteristics of the financial statements are considered to be important for the effective and efficient decision making for the investors. The essence of the developing the accounting standard is to develop the financial information that can enable the investors and other decision makers outside the company to understand the different aspects of the business and to develop understanding on the competitiveness of the organization. These qualitative characteristics are beneficial for the companies as well, as it is the basis for the companies to take suitable actions. The qualitative characteristics as mentioned in AASB ‘framework for the preparation and presentation of financial statements’ are ( Beest, Braam & Boelens, 2009)

 Relevance: The financial dealings of the company involve large number of transactions. There is accounting information that is presented to stakeholders internal and external to the business. The key characteristics of the relevant information contained in the financial statements are predictive value and confirmatory value. The predictive and confirmatory value is associated to the ability to accurately predict the earnings capability of the company. Further the relevance of the financial statements can be considered based on completeness. Unless the information provided in the financial statements has complete information it will not be relevant. This is the fundamental characteristic of the financial statements.

Reliability: It is the quality that authorizes the users of the financial statements to rely on it with surety. It is regarded as faithful representation and is reasonably free from biasness and errors. The concept of reliability includes the following aspects

  • Identification criteria that is backed by realistic demonstration
  • Material and economic reality as divergent to legal form
  • Impartial or detachment free from partial consideration or deformation of information
  • Carefulness and vigilant guess so that overstatement of assets or revenues or minimization of liabilities or operating cost isn’t there
  • No errors, false assumptions or decapitating presentations and materiality is ensured

Comparability: The representation of the accounting information in the financial statements should be such that not only assists in the assessment of an entity at a certain point or given period but should also assist in analysing the information from similar but different entities. It helps the users to identify the similarities and the difference of the events and conditions prevailing in two entities but also analyse the performance of the entities under similar condition. This is important from the viewpoint of resource allocation. One of the important aspects of comparability is the consistency. Consistency in employing the accounting practices greatly impacts the comparability as variance in accounting standards that are being employed will have huge impact on the profitability and other figures in the income statement (Hirst, Hopkins & Wahlen, 2004).

Understandability: It means the ability of the users to understand the information with the viewpoint of decision making. This is the user specific quality as the understanding of the users to comprehend a given set of information will differ. Thus it is important that the financial information is produced in such a way so as to have a reasonable understanding of business and economic activities and develop the willingness to study the information in order to gain financial expertise of reasonable level. It is important that information related to complex matters needs to be presented, if important or material needs to be represented in understandable level without compromising with the quality of information.

The complete study of the qualitative characteristics highlight that the IASB conceptual framework, in this respect, does not provide any guideline on how the financial statements need to be prepared but does provide the basis for the preparation of the financial statements. These qualitative characteristics need to be supported by the characteristics such as verifiability and timeliness. These are considered as enhancing qualitative characteristics. Verifiability will provide the basis for ensuring that the information that is provided is correct and the timeliness of the information will ensure timely availability of information which is an important aspect in decision making (Beest, Braam & Boelens, 2009). This understanding and the viewpoint for the preparation of the financial statements is quite important and adherence to these aspects will certainly impart quality to the financial statements that will assist in decision making.

 

Utilisation of the qualitative characteristics in AASB Accounting Standard

As discussed above the AASB established the standards for the preparation and presentation of financial statements. This was the basis of the other accounting standards that have been developed. AASB 10 for Consolidated Financial Statement and AASB 138 for Intangible Assets are quite important and essential for the development of financial statements. These have been discussed below

AASB 10: Consolidated Financial Statements

The accounting standard AASB 10 provides the principles for the preparation and presentation of the consolidated financial statements when one or more than one entity is being controlled by one entity. Certain conditions have been established for satisfying the controlling factor. These are (CPA Australia, 2011a)

  • Power over the investee
  • Rights to the variable returns as a result of the involvement with investee
  • Ability to use the power to affect the returns to the investor

However there are certain cases wherein there is no need to prepare the consolidated financial statements. These are (BDO, 2013)

  • The parent company itself is the wholly owned or partially owned subsidiary and the other owners do not object to parent not presenting the consolidated financial statement
  • The debt or equity instruments are not traded publicly
  • The parent company of the parent company is producing the consolidated financial statement

In case of non-controlling interests in an entity, the same must be shown in the statement of financial position separate from the equity that has been employed.

AASB 138: Intangible Assets

AASB 138 comprehensively deals with the intangible assets accounting. It replaces general requirements of the accounting standards for revaluation of non-current assets, depreciation, acquisition, revaluation and accounting for goodwill. This accounting standard isn’t applicable for financial assets, expenditure on development & extraction of oil related resources and Exploration & evaluation assets while softwares are included in AASB 138.

AASB 138 gives the definition of intangible assets, recognition, measurement and disclosure of intangible assets. Further classification of intangible assets as internally and externally generated. Further treatment of different intangible assets is described with illustrations (CPA Australia, 2011b). According to AASB 138 research cost can be expensed whereas the capitalization is to be done for the development cost.

AASB 138 states that measurement of the intangible asset will be based on different consideration for each of the assets as separately acquired, acquired in business combination, assets acquired free of charge, assets acquired in exchange for non-monetary assets and internally generated assets that satisfy the recognition criteria.

The two models that have been mentioned for the measurement of intangible assets are cost model and revaluation model (Lightfoot, 2013). Cost model is carried out by reducing the cost by the accumulated amortization and accumulated impairment losses. The revaluation model considers the fir value i.e. value as per the active market.

The companies that are preparing the financial statements based on these regulations clearly highlight all the factors that have been mentioned above provide more clarity and knowledge on how the assets have been utilised. Further employing the fair value accounting in the valuation also ensures that value of the assets is aligned with the market parameters rather on the basis of book value. Further if there is any reduction in the valuation or impairment taking place, it will be included in the financial statements of the company. This would be backed by the performance of the company as the value of the intangible assets and the impairment, as identified above, is directly linked to the performance and the market forces. Overall considering the factors discussed above and inter-relating these factors with the qualitative characteristics clearly shows that these accounting standards do conform by these characteristics. However there may be issue with the understandability due to high level of complexity related to the aspects that have been covered by these accounting standards and the applicability of these standards for the assets of the company which are quite important.

 Financial Statement Analysis: Origin Energy Ltd

With respect to the various aspects that have been discussed above the effect the qualitative characteristics have had on the financial statements have been analysed based on the financial statements of Origin Energy Ltd. included in the annual report for the year 2014. Firstly the income statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement and the statement of changes in equity clearly shows the value for the current year and the previous year. This enables the comparability with respect to different aspects such as interest, revenue, profitability, assets, liabilities, equity or any other aspect related to the cash flow.

Secondly it has been reviewed that the financial statements include the notes to the financial statements. These notes discuss in detail the various aspects of the financial statements. The notes to the financial statements include separate discussion on each of the aspects. The key features as highlighted from the notes to the financial statement highlights that the company has included each and every aspect in the notes to the financial statements and complete detail on each and every aspect has been provided. For example the detailed discussion on aspects such as amortization, impairment or depreciation has been provided in much detail and thus assisting investors in understanding the level of impact on the performance.

One of the most important and considerable factor that is to be considered is that the financial statement includes the statement for reconciliation of profit after income tax to net cash inflow/(outflow) from operating activities. This is quite useful in understanding the performance of the company. This highlights what are the aspects that impacted the cash flow and the liquidity in the company.

 

Apart from these factors the annual report contains the message from the chairman and other high level management and their perspective on the performance of the company. Further the financial review, objectives from the coming year and the risks associated with the business have been identified. It enables the users of the financial statements to correlate these factors with the current years’ performance and the future profitability and the business environment. The annual report of the company also includes the sustainable report on the environment, land, employment and community specifying the key aspects and the strategy of the company in these aspects.

Overall the above discussion with respect to the qualitative characteristics of the financial statements of the Origin Energy Ltd shows that company has ensured that the aspects related to the accounting standard for ensuring these characteristics in the financial statements is there. This has been done in quite detail which is very useful for the investors. For example the segment report seems to be quite inadequate and may require further detail on such aspects. Lastly considering the regulations that have been discussed above i.e. AASB 10 & AASB 138 have been considered and information has been provided accordingly. The company has provided the complete details on the non-controlling interest that is there in the subsidiaries. The above discussion clearly highlights the company need to ensure that the company has prepared detailed financial statement with due consideration to the different accounting standards.

 

References

CPA Australia. (2011a). International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS): IFRS 10 Consolidated Financial Statements. Available At: https://www.cpaaustralia.com.au/~/media/corporate/allfiles/document/professional-resources/reporting/ifrs-10-consolidated-fin-statements.pdf

CPA Australia. (2011b). International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS): IAS 38 Intangible Assets. Available At: https://www.cpaaustralia.com.au/~/media/corporate/allfiles/document/professional-resources/reporting/ias-38-intangible-assests.pdf

Lightfoot, S. (2013). Research into the accounting for intangible assets. Available At: https://www.charteredaccountants.com.au/News-Media/Charter/Charter-articles/Reporting/2013-02-Research-into-the-accounting-for-intangible-assets.aspx

BDO. (2013). Will the new consolidation and joint arrangements standards change your financial statements? Available At: https://www.bdo.com.au/resources/newsletters/accounting-news/accounting-news,-may-2013/will-the-new-consolidation-and-joint-arrangements-standards-change-your-financial-statements

Beest, F.V., Braam, G. & Boelens, S. (2009). Quality of Financial Reporting: measuring qualitative characteristics.

Hirst, D., Hopkins, P. & Wahlen, J. (2004). Fair Values, Income Measurement, and

Bank Analysts’ Risk and Valuation Judgments. The Accounting Review, 79(2), 453-472.

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