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Financial Reporting: Its Conceptual Framework
CONTENT ANALYSIS OF END-OF-CHAPTER ASSIGNMENTS
|2-1||Conceptual Framework||Titles of Statement of Concepts||1||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|2-2||Conceptual Framework||Purpose of conceptual framework||1||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|2-3||Accounting Concepts, Principles, Standards and
|Differences among concepts, principles, standards and rules||1||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|2-4||Conceptual Framework||What the FASB Concepts Statements establish||1||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|Financial reporting and users of financial reporting||2||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|Useful information about expected returns||2||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|Useful information about net cash inflows||2||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|2-8||External Stakeholders Information Needs||Information available in financial reports for external stakeholders||2||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|2-9||Financial Reporting and Management Stewardship||Use of financial reporting to assess management stewardship of company||2||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|2-10||Financial Reporting Definitions||Define key terms describing users’ information needs.||2||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|2-11||Primary Qualitative Characteristics of Useful Accounting Information||Relevance and faithful representation.||3||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|2-12||Relevant Accounting Information||Characteristics of relevant accounting information as defined by Statement of Financial Accounting Concepts No. 8||3||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|2-13||Materiality||Definition of materiality||3||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|2-14||Faithful Representation||Characteristics of faithful representation||3||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|2-15||Enhancing Characteristics of Accounting Information||Identify enhancing characteristics of accounting information
and explain how they enhance it
|2-16||Comparability and Consistency||Compare and contrast comparability and consistency||3||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|2-17||Cost Constraint||Cost constraints and financial reporting.||3||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|2-18||Reporting Entity Assumption||Reporting entity assumptions in financial reporting||4||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|2-19||Going-Concern Assumption||Going concern assumptions and financial reporting||4||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|2-20||Period-of-Time Assumption||Periodicity and financial reporting||1||Easy||10||Analytic||Measurement||Application|
|2-21||Mixed Measurement Attributes||The use of mixed measurement attributes in financial reporting||4||Easy||10||Analytic||Measurement||Application|
|2-22||Interrelationships between attributes||Relating historical cost, relevance, and faithful representation||4||Easy||10||Analytic||Measurement||Application|
|2-23||Recognition||Definition of recognition as defined by Statement of Financial Accounting Concepts No. 8||4||Easy||10||Analytic||Measurement||Application|
|2-24||Accrual Accounting||Objectives of accrual accounting||4||Easy||10||Analytic||Measurement||Application|
|2-25||Revenue Recognition||Timing and conditions of revenue recognition||4||Easy||10||Analytic||Measurement||Application|
|2-26||Expense Recognition||Timing and conditions of expense recognition||4||Easy||10||Analytic||Measurement||Application|
|2-27||Conservatism||Valuation of financial statement elements when their value is uncertain||4||Easy||10||Analytic||Measurement||Application|
|2-28||Reporting model in the FASB Conceptual Framework||Sources of useful information identified in the FASB Conceptual Framework||5||Easy||10||Analytic||Measurement||Application|
|2-29||Primary Sources of Useful Information||The sources of useful information in the reporting model||5||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|M2-1||Financial Reporting||Application to individual companies, industries, and economy as a whole||1||AICPA||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|M2-2||Constraints of Useful Information||Constraints of useful information as defined by Statement of Financial Accounting Concepts No. 8||3||AICPA||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|M2-3||Relevant Accounting Information||Characteristics of relevant accounting information as defined by Statement of Financial Accounting Concepts No. 8||3||AICPA||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|M2-4||Qualitative Characteristics of Useful Accounting Information||Characteristics of useful accounting information when qualified individuals arrive at similar conclusions||3||AICPA||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|M2-5||Decision-Useful Information||Characteristics of decision-useful information as defined by Statement of Financial Accounting Concepts No. 8||3||AICPA||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|M2-6||Recognition||Term describing recording and reporting an item in the financial statements as defined by Statement of Financial Accounting Concepts No. 6||4||AICPA||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|M2-7||Conservatism||Identification of term when firms accrue net losses on obsolete inventory||4||AICPA||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|M2-8||Going Concern||Identification of term when firms report cash they expect to receive in the future||4||AICPA||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|M2-9||Accrued Expense||Definition of accrued expense||4||AICPA||Easy||5||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|M2-10||Expense Recognition||Patent amortization and patent impairment; expense recognition principles||4||AICPA||Easy||10||Analytic||Measurement||Comprehension|
|E2-1||Qualitative Characteristics||Matching of definitions to the qualities of useful accounting information||3||Moderate||15||Analytic||Measurement||Application|
|E2-2||Accounting Assumptions||Matching of a list of descriptive statements with a list of assumptions||4||Moderate||10||Analytic||Measurement||Application|
|C2-1||Objectives of Financial Reporting||Identify and explain the objectives of financial reporting||2||Moderate||15||Analytic||Measurement||Application|
|C2-2||Useful Accounting Information||Describe and explain useful accounting information||3||Moderate||15||Analytic||Measurement||Application|
|C2-3||Characteristics of Useful Accounting Information||Identify and discuss characteristics of useful accounting information||3||Moderate||15||Analytic||Measurement||Application|
|C2-4||Characteristics of Useful Accounting Information||Identify and discuss characteristics of useful accounting information||3||CMA||Moderate||20||Analytic||Measurement||Application|
|C2-5||Cost and Expense Recognition||Identify and discuss rationale for cost and expense recognition||4||AICPA||Moderate||15||Analytic||Measurement||Application|
|C2-6||Relevance versus Faithful Representation||Identify and discuss characteristics of relevant and reliable information||3||CMA||Moderate||25||Analytic||Measurement||Analysis|
|C2-7||Conceptual Framework||Define the objective of general purpose external financial reporting; qualitative and enhancing characteristics of useful information, and the constraint||3||Moderate||20||Analytic||Measurement||Analysis|
|Primary objectives, sophistication level, and stewardship responsibilities of management as defined by Statement of Financial Accounting Concepts No. 8||4||CMA||Moderate||20||Analytic||Measurement||Analysis|
|C2-9||Reporting Entity||Definition of reporting entity; application of reporting entity assumption to various situations||4||AICPA||Moderate||15||Analytic||Measurement||Analysis|
|C2-10||Accruals and Deferrals||Accruals, deferrals, and the determination of income||4||AICPA||Moderate||15||Analytic||Measurement||Analysis|
|C2-11||Revenue Recognition||Timing of revenue recognition||4||Moderate||15||Analytic||Measurement||Analysis|
|C2-12||Violations of Assumptions and Principles||Identification of the violation of various accounting assumptions and principles||4||Moderate||15||Analytic||Measurement||Analysis|
|C2-13||Ethics and Income Reporting||Ethical perspectives in financial reporting||Moderate||15||Analytic||Measurement||Analysis|
|C2-14||Inconsistent Statements on Accounting Principles||Fallacies, half-truths, circular reasoning, erroneous comments, or inconsistencies potentially associated with accounting principles||2,5||AICPA||Moderate||15||Analytic||Measurement||Analysis|
ANSWERS TO GOT IT?QUESTIONS
2-1 The FASB’s Conceptual Framework establishes a theoretical foundation of interrelated objectives, concepts, principles, and definitions that lead to the establishment of consistent high-quality financial accounting standards and the appropriate application of those standards in accounting practice. The Conceptual Framework provides a logical structure of objectives, concepts, principles, and definitions that establish the foundation for financial accounting and reporting.
The titles of the Statements of Concepts issued by the FASB are: Statement No. 1 “Objectives of Financial Reporting by Business Enterprises,” Statement No. 2 “Qualitative Characteristics of Accounting Information,” Statement No. 3 “Elements of Financial Statements of Business Enterprises,” (replaced by Statement No. 6 “Elements of Financial Statements”), Statement No. 4 “Objectives of Financial Reporting by Nonbusiness Organizations,” Statement No. 5 “Recognition and Measurement in Financial Statements of Business Enterprises,” Statement No. 7 “Using Cash Flow Information and Present Value in Accounting Measurements,” and Statement No. 8 “Conceptual Framework for Financial Reporting: Chapter 1: The Objective of General Purpose Financial Reporting and Chapter 3: Qualitative Characteristics of Useful Financial Information.”
2-2 The Conceptual Framework is expected to:
- Guide the FASB in establishing accounting standards
- Provide a frame of reference for standard setters, financial statement preparers, and auditors for resolving accounting questions in situations where a standard does not exist
- Establish objectives and conceptual guidelines that form the bounds for judgment in the preparation of financial statements
- Increase users’ understanding of and confidence in financial reporting
- Enhance financial statement comparability across firms and over time
2-3 Concepts statements and principles are broad and definitional; standards are applications of concepts and principles to different types of transactions, events, and circumstances; rules are specific implementation procedures.
2-4 To establish the Conceptual Framework, the FASB has issued a number Concepts Statements that establish:
- fundamental principles of accounting
- objectives of financial reporting
- qualities of useful financial accounting information
- definitions of basic elements like assets and liabilities
- types of economic transactions, events, and arrangements to be recognized
in financial statements
- measurement attributes to use to measure and report these transactions, events, and arrangements
- how transactions, events, and arrangements should be presented and classified in financial statements
2-5 The FASB and the IASB state that the objective of general purpose financial reporting is to: “Provide financial information about the reporting entity that is useful to existing and potential investors, lenders, and other creditors in making decisions about providing resources to the entity. Those decisions involve buying, selling, or holding equity and debt instruments and providing or settling loans and other forms of credit.” Investors, lenders and other creditors are external suppliers of financial capital, as opposed to specific internal decision makers, such as management. These external financial statement users do not have the authority to prescribe the financial information they desire from a particular company. Therefore, they must rely on the information that the management of the company communicates to them.
2-6 This objective is to provide useful information for:
- Decisions by existing and potential investors about buying, selling, or holding equity instruments, which depend on the returns that they expect from an investment in those instruments, such as dividends and market price increases.
- Decisions by existing and potential lenders and other creditors about buying, selling, or holding debt instruments or providing or settling loans and other forms of credit, which depend on the principal and interest payments or other returns that they expect.
2-7 This objective is to provide existing and potential investors, lenders, and other creditors with useful information to help them assess the amount, timing, and uncertainty of the prospects for future net cash inflows to the company. This objective is important because investors’, lenders’, and other creditors’ expectations about returns depend on their assessment of the amount, timing, and uncertainty of the prospects for future net cash inflows to the entity.
2-8 a. A specific objective of financial reporting is to provide information about
a company’s economic resources and the claims on the company. This information is useful to external users for the following reasons:
- To identify the company’s resources, its obligations, its financial strengths and weaknesses and to assess its liquidity and solvency
- To specify the types of resources in which the company has invested, as well as the types and timing of the claims on the entity
- To indicate the potential future cash flows from the company’s resources and the ability of the resources to satisfy the claims on the company
- Information about a company’s financial performance helps external users assess the return a company has earned on its economic resources and form expectations about its future performance. In particular, information concerning the company’s comprehensive income and its components is useful to external users in:
- Evaluating management’s performance
- Estimating the company’s “earning power,” or other amounts that are representative of persistent long-term income-producing ability
- Predicting future income and net cash inflows
- Assessing the risk of investing in or lending to the company
- Cash flow information shows how a company obtains and spends cash for its operating, investing, and financing activities, including cash dividends and other distributions of company resources to owners. Investors, lenders, and other creditors use cash flow information about a company to:
- Help understand its operations and the cash-generating ability of the business
- Evaluate its strategic sourcing and use of cash for financing and investing activities
- Assess its liquidity and solvency
- Interpret other information about financial performance
2-9 Financial reporting should provide information about how efficiently and effectively the company’s management and governing board have discharged their responsibilities to use the entity’s resources. Information about a company’s financial performance helps users to understand how well management has discharged its responsibilities to make efficient and effective use of its resources. Information about the variability and components of that financial performance also is important, especially in assessing the uncertainty of future cash flows. Information about a company’s past financial performance and how its management discharged its responsibilities is useful for decisions by existing investors, lenders, and other creditors who have the right to vote on or otherwise influence management’s actions.
2-10 Return on investment provides a measure of overall company performance. Risk is the uncertainty or unpredictability of the future results of a company. The greater the variability and uncertainty in a company’s future performance, the greater the risk of an investment in or extension of credit to the company. Financial flexibility is the ability of a company to use its financial resources to adapt to change and to take advantage of opportunities. Liquidity refers to how quickly a company can convert its assets into cash to meet short-term obligations and cover operating costs. Operating capability refers to the ability of a company to produce goods and services for customers.
2-11 Decision usefulness is the overall qualitative characteristic that is the ultimate objective of accounting information. Whether or not financial information is useful depends on the decision to be made, the way in which it is made, the information already available, and the decision maker’s ability to process the information. Because the FASB establishes standards for investors, lenders, and other creditors, however, it must consider the quality of decision usefulness for their purposes. This overall goal of decision usefulness can be separated into the fundamental characteristics of relevance and faithful representation.
2-12 Accounting information has relevance if it is capable of making a difference in decisions made by financial statement users. Financial information is capable of making a difference if the information is capable of helping users predict future outcomes and/or confirm or correct prior expectations and is material in nature and amount. To have predictive value, accounting information should help users form expectations about the future. Financial information can have predictive value if it can be used as an input to a process to predict future outcomes (such as an
analyst’s forecast). Financial information can have confirmatory value if it provides feedback to confirm or correct prior predictions and expectations. Materiality refers to the nature and magnitude of an omission or misstatement of accounting information that would influence the judgment of a reasonable person relying on that information.
2-13 Materiality refers to the nature and magnitude of an omission or misstatement of accounting information that would influence the judgment of a reasonable person relying on that information. Materiality and relevance both relate to how information influences a decision maker, but there is a difference between the two terms. A company may make a decision to disclose certain information because users need that information (it is relevant) and because the amount is large enough to make a difference (it is material). Alternatively, a decision not to disclose certain information may be made because the user has no need for the information (it is not relevant) or because the amount is too small to make a difference (it is not material).
2-14 Accounting information is a faithful representation of the underlying economic transactions, events, and arrangements when the words and numbers accurately depict the economic substance of what they purport to represent. To be a faithful representation, the information must be complete, neutral, and free from error.
- A complete representation provides a user with full disclosure of all the information necessary to understand the information being reported, with all necessary facts, descriptions, and explanations.
- A neutral representation is not biased, slanted, emphasized, or otherwise manipulated to achieve a predetermined result or to influence users’ behavior in a particular direction. However, neutral does not mean that accounting information does not influence human behavior; indeed, accounting information is intended to be useful in decision making, thereby influencing the decision makers’ behavior, but not in a predetermined or manipulated direction.
- Free from error means the information is presented as accurately as possible, using a process that reflects the best available inputs. It also means the description of the information is appropriate and the amount has been determined with a process that is accurate.
2-15 The FASB and IASB describe four characteristics that enhance the decision usefulness of information that is relevant and faithfully represented: comparability, verifiability, timeliness, and understandability. Comparability of accounting information enables users to identify and explain similarities and differences between two or more sets of economic facts. Note that comparability does not mean uniformity. Comparability means similar things look similar and different things look different. Consistency is related to comparability, but it is not the same. Consistency means accounting methods and procedures are applied in the same manner from period to period. Accounting information is verifiable when different knowledgeable and independent observers can reach consensus (but not necessarily complete agreement) that a particular representation is faithful. Accounting information is timely when it is available to decision makers in time to influence their decisions. Understandability means that accounting information should be comprehensible to users who have a reasonable knowledge of business and economic activities and who are willing to study the information carefully.
2-16 Comparability of accounting information enables users to identify and explain similarities and differences between two or more sets of economic facts. Note that comparability does not mean uniformity. Comparability means similar things look similar and different things look different. Consistency is related to comparability but it is not the same. Consistency means accounting methods and procedures are applied in the same manner from period to period. Consistency, like comparability, is a quality of the accounting process that generates financial information over time rather than a quality of the accounts and amounts themselves. Consistency helps to achieve the goal of comparability across periods, but only if the underlying phenomena being reported remain the same.
2-17 To be reported, accounting information not only must be relevant and faithfully represented but it also must pass an economic test by satisfying the benefit/cost constraint. Accounting information is very beneficial to decision makers, but it is also costly to prepare and use. The preparer (the company) initially incurs the costs of providing financial information. These costs include the cost of collecting, processing, auditing, and communicating the information. The costs might also include the risk of losing a competitive advantage by disclosing the information. The benefits are enjoyed by a diverse group of investors and creditors who use the information and
by the company itself because, by providing the information, it can compete for
and attract scarce economic resources. The determination of whether the
benefits exceed the costs is normally more of a qualitative assessment than a quantitative one.
2-18 In accounting, we assume the reporting entity is distinct from its owners. Each separate reporting entity prepares its own financial records and reports. For companies that are legally distinct entities, such as corporations, the reporting entity is distinct from the common equity shareholders who own the company. In sole proprietorships, in which an individual may both own and operate the business, accounting serves to record and report the transactions and events of the business separately from the proprietor’s personal transactions.
2-19 The going-concern assumption (continuity assumption) assumes that the company will continue to operate in the foreseeable future, unless substantial evidence to the contrary exists. If a company is not regarded as a going concern, it is not clear that the company can recognize assets that represent expected future economic benefits, because it is not clear if the company will survive to enjoy those future benefits.
2-20 Financial statement users need timely information to evaluate a company’s financial position, profitability, and cash flows on an ongoing basis. In accordance with the period-of-time assumption, companies prepare and report financial statements at the end of each year and include them in an annual report and in annual filings with the SEC. The annual reporting period is sometimes called the accounting period (or fiscal year). By reporting on a periodic basis in order to provide users more timely information, it requires the accountant to measure the assets, liabilities, and owners’ equity on the balance sheet as of the last day of each period. In addition, the accountant must measure the financial performance during each period, including the income generated during the period as well as the cash inflows and outflows.
2-21 In order to provide financial statement users with the most relevant and faithfully represented measures of companies’ resources, obligations, and financial performance, accounting uses a mixture of measurement attributes. The mixed attribute measurement model seeks to measure assets, liabilities, revenues, expenses, and other elements of the financial statements with the most relevant and faithful measurement available. The types of measurement attributes used include historical costs, allocated historical costs, fair values, present values of future cash flows, net realizable values, and others.
2-22 At the time of most transactions, the historical cost (the exchange price) is the most relevant and faithful representation of the value of the exchange. Historical cost provides evidence that independent parties have willingly agreed on the value of the items exchanged at the time of the transaction, and thus historical cost has the qualities of relevance, representational faithfulness (neutrality), and verifiability. Accountants understand that historical cost information can lose relevance for financial decisions if the economic value of the resource or obligation has changed since the time of the original transaction.
2-23 Recognition means the process of formally recording and reporting an item in the financial statements of a company. A recognized item is shown in both words and numbers, with the amount included in the financial statement totals. The FASB has identified four fundamental recognition criteria. To be recognized, an item must:
- Meet the definition of an element (such as an asset, liability, revenue, expense, etc.)
- Be measurable
- Be relevant
- Be representationally faithful
2-24 Accrual accounting is the process of measuring and reporting the economic effects of transactions, events, and circumstances in the appropriate period when those effects occur, even though the cash consequences may occur in a different period. If a company creates economic resources by generating revenues from selling products to customers in a particular period, accrual accounting will recognize the revenues in that period, even though the customers may have paid cash for the products in an earlier period or will pay cash for the products in a future period. Likewise, when a company consumes resources in order to generate revenues during a period, accrual accounting measures the economic effects of the resources consumed in that period, even though the company may have paid cash for those resources in a prior period or will pay for them in a future period. The objectives of accrual accounting are to appropriately measure financial position and financial performance each period.
2-25 The revenue recognition principle is an application of accrual accounting. It determines the appropriate period in which a company creates economic benefits and can recognize revenues in income. Companies should recognize revenue to depict the transfer of goods or services that reflects the consideration to which the entity expects to be entitled. This occurs when a company satisfies its performance obligations, or promises within the contract, with a customer.
2-26 The expense recognition principle is also an application of accrual accounting. It determines the appropriate period in which a company has consumed economic resources in conducting business operations. Companies typically recognize expenses in a particular period on the basis of three principles:
- Cause and effect
- Immediate consumption
- Systematic and rational allocation over time
2-27 Conservatism is an approach that accountants use to avoid overstating net assets and net income when these amounts are uncertain. When accounting valuations are uncertain and alternative accounting valuations for assets or liabilities are equally possible, the accountant should select the one that is least likely to overstate the company’s assets and income in the current period. The application of conservatism results in the reporting of lower asset values or higher liability values when those values are uncertain. In addition, accountants typically use a lower threshold for the recognition of losses than for gains. Conservatism is not desirable, nor is it a principle of accounting; instead, it is a practical approach accountants take to avoid misleading investors, lenders, and other creditors when valuations are uncertain. Over the years, conservatism gained prominence as a counterweight to balance the optimism of company managers.
2-28 Conceptually, the FASB’s financial reporting model identifies the five specific financial statements that are the primary sources of useful financial information.
They are the:
- Balance sheet (statement of financial position)
- Income statement
- Comprehensive income statement
- Statement of cash flows
- Statement of shareholders’ equity
Under GAAP, the financial statements should also include the notes to explain the policies, methods, and estimates the company used to measure and report the statements, as well as any required supplementary information.
ANSWERS TO MULTIPLE-CHOICE
- a 3. b 5. a 7. a 9. a
- a 4. b 6. c 8. c 10. b
ANSWERS TO EXERCISES
- G 4. B 7. E 10. K 13. D
- L 5. H 8. N 11. J 14. M
- C 6. I 9. A 12. F
- C 3. E 5. B 7. D 9. F
- I 4. A 6. H 8. J 10. G
ANSWERS TO CASES
The objective of general purpose financial reporting is to provide financial information about a company that is useful to existing and potential investors, lenders, and other creditors in making decisions about providing resources to the company. Those decisions involve buying, selling,
or holding equity and debt instruments and providing or settling loans and other forms of
Equity investors include holders of equity securities, holders of partnership interests, and other equity interests. These equity investors generally invest economic resources (usually cash) in order to receive a return on, as well as a return of, the cash they invested. Lenders, including financial institutions and purchasers of traded debt securities (e.g., bonds), provide financial capital to a company by lending it economic resources (usually cash). Lenders generally expect to receive a return on their lending in the form of interest, repayments of borrowings, and increases in the prices of the debt securities they own. Other groups (e.g., suppliers who extend credit to a company) provide resources to the company as a result of their relationship with it even though the relationship is not that of a capital provider. These groups may make decisions relating to providing “capital” to the company, and therefore would also be considered capital providers.
Decisions by existing and potential investors about buying, selling, or holding equity and debt instruments depend on the returns that they expect from an investment in those instruments. For example, dividends, principal and interest payments, or market price increases. Similarly, decisions by existing and potential lenders and other creditors about providing or settling loans and other forms of credit depend on the principal and interest payments or other returns that they expect. Investors’, lenders’, and other creditors’ expectations about returns depend on their assessment of the amount, timing, and uncertainty of (the prospects for) future net
cash inflows to the entity. Consequently, existing and potential investors, lenders, and other creditors need information to help them assess the prospects for future net cash inflows to an entity.
A company’s management is responsible to the company’s capital providers for safely, efficiently, and profitably using its economic resources. Because management’s performance in regard to its stewardship responsibilities usually affects the company’s ability to generate net cash flows, information about the discharge of these responsibilities is also important to current and potential capital providers.
A company’s financial reports should provide useful information about its economic resources (its assets) and the claims on the entity (its liabilities and equity). These financial reports can provide capital providers with information useful in identifying its financial strengths and weaknesses, and in assessing its liquidity and solvency. This financial information indicates the cash flow potentials of some assets (e.g., accounts receivable) and the cash needed to satisfy most claims of lenders and other creditors (e.g., accounts payable). However, many operating cash flows of a company are the result of combining various assets to produce, market, and deliver goods or services to customers. Capital providers need to know the nature and quantity of these resources for the company to use in its operations. Information about the company’s financial structure (i.e., its financial position) also helps capital providers evaluate its need for additional borrowing and the likelihood that it will be able to obtain this borrowing. This information is also helpful in predicting the future cash flows to different capital providers.
A company’s financial reports should also provide information about the effects of transactions, other events, and circumstances that change the company’s economic resources and claims on the entity. This information includes measures and other information about the financial performance of the company as well as cash inflows and outflows. This financial information helps capital providers evaluate the amount, timing, and uncertainty of the company’s future cash flows.
A company’s financial reports about its financial performance should provide information about the return it has earned on its economic resources because, in the long run, a positive return on its economic resources is needed to generate net cash inflows and thus provide a return to its capital providers. Both the variability of the return and the components of the return are important in evaluating the uncertainty of future cash flows. Capital providers usually find information about a company’s past financial performance, under both accrual accounting and cash flow accounting, to be useful in predicting the future returns on its economic resources.
- Under accrual accounting, the company should report the financial effects of its transactions, other events, and circumstances in the period in which the economic effects occur instead of when the cash receipts or payments occur. Financial reports prepared under accrual accounting generally provide better information for assessing past financial performance and future prospects than simply information about cash receipts and payments. Under accrual accounting, information about important economic resources, claims on the entity, and the related changes are included in the company’s financial statements. This information is useful in assessing the company’s past and future ability to generate net operating cash inflows, rather than by obtaining additional capital from capital providers. It is also useful for evaluating how changes in market prices (fair value) or interest rates have affected the company’s economic resources and claims to these resources, thereby affecting the company’s ability to generate future net cash inflows.
- Information about a company’s cash flows during a period also helps capital providers assess the company’s ability to generate future net cash inflows. Information about how a company obtains and spends cash, including information about its borrowing and repayment of borrowing, cash dividends, or other distributions to equity owners may affect the company’s liquidity or solvency. Capital providers use information about a company’s cash flows to understand its operations, evaluate its investing and financing activities, assess its liquidity and solvency, or interpret other information about its financial performance. Thus, a company should provide cash flow accounting information in addition to accrual accounting information in its financial reports.
A company’s financial reports should also provide information about changes in its economic resources and claims to these resources that do not result from its financial performance. With this information, capital providers can evaluate to what extent the total change in a company’s resources (and related claims) arises from management’s ability to protect and enhance the company’s economic resources (i.e., discharge its stewardship responsibilities), which will help them in predicting the company’s future financial performance.
A company’s financial reports should also include management’s explanations and other information needed to help capital providers understand the information presented. Management’s explanations help capital providers evaluate the company’s past performance and help them predict its future performance. Management knows more about the company than external users and can often help explain particular transactions, other events, and circumstances that have affected or may affect the company. Capital providers can also better evaluate the company’s financial information when management provides explanations of underlying assumptions, estimates, or methods used, as well as disclosures of significant uncertainties about these assumptions or estimates.
The objective of general purpose external financial reporting is to provide financial information about a company (including the entities under its control) that is useful to existing and potential equity investors, lenders, and other creditors in making decisions about providing resources to the company. Those decisions involve buying, selling, or holding equity and debt instruments and providing or settling loans and other forms of credit.
Relevance and faithful representation are the fundamental qualitative characteristics that must be present for financial reporting information to be useful. Relevant information must be capable of making a difference in the decisions made by external users in their capacity as capital providers. To be relevant, information must have predictive value, confirmatory value, or both. Predictive value relates to the ability of the information to help external users (capital providers) evaluate the potential effects of past, present, or future events on future cash flows. Confirmatory value relates to the ability of the information to confirm or correct external users’ previous evaluations. In addition, materiality is an entity-specific aspect of relevance that information should possess since immaterial information would not affect users’ decisions.
Faithful representation of economic phenomena occurs when the related information is complete, neutral, and free from error. Completeness means including all information necessary for faithful representation in financial reporting. Neutral means that there is an absence of bias to attain a predetermined result or induce a particular behavior. Free from error means that the information (including estimates) presented is as accurate as possible, reflecting the best available inputs.
Comparability, verifiability, timeliness, and understandability are the “enhancing” characteristics that distinguish more-useful information from less-useful information and increase the decision usefulness of information. Comparability (including consistency) is the quality of accounting information that enables external users to identify similarities and differences between two sets of economic facts. Consistency means using the same accounting policies and procedures from period to period or in a single period across companies. Verifiability implies that different knowledgeable and independent measurers would reach a consensus that either (a) the information presented is free from material error or bias or (b) an appropriate recognition or measurement method has been applied without material error or bias. Timeliness means that information is made available to decision makers before it loses its ability to influence decisions. Understandability means that external users who are reasonably knowledgeable about business and financial accounting can comprehend the meaning of the financial information presented.
These qualities are subject to one constraint: the cost constraint. The cost constraint
means that the benefits of better investment, credit, and similar resource allocation decisions are greater than the direct costs (the costs of collecting, processing, verifying, and disseminating) and indirect costs (the costs to external users of analysis and interpretation) of the information.
C2-4 [CMA Adapted]
The financial information that is reported by a company in its financial reports must be useful for existing and potential investors, lenders, and other creditors. To be useful, this information must possess certain qualitative characteristics (or “ingredients”). These qualitative characteristics are classified as primary qualitative characteristics and enhancing qualitative characteristics, depending on how they affect the usefulness of the financial information. There is also a constraint to providing financial information.
PRIMARY QUALITATIVE CHARACTERISTICS
For financial information to be useful, it must possess two primary qualitative characteristics: relevance and faithful representation. Each primary qualitative characteristic also has several components.
Financial information is relevant when it can make a difference in the decisions made by external users in their capacity as capital providers. Whether financial information can make a difference is not dependent on whether the information has actually made a difference or will make a difference in the future. What is critical is that the information can make a difference, even if a user chooses not to take advantage of it. To be relevant, financial information has predictive value, confirmatory value, or both, and it must be material.
- Predictive Value. Financial information has predictive value when it can help capital providers form their expectations about the future. The information itself does not have to be predictable to have predictive value. In addition, financial information does not have to be in the form of a forecast; it only needs to be useful in a predictive process.
- Confirmatory Value. Financial information has confirmatory value if it confirms or changes capital providers’ previous expectations. Information that confirms previous expectations increases the likelihood that future outcomes or results will be as previously expected. On the other hand, information that changes previous expectations will also change the perceived probabilities of future outcomes or results. Confirmatory value is sometimes referred to as feedback value.Financial information that has predictive value usually also has confirmatory value. That is, these values are interrelated. For example, information about a company’s economic resources helps capital providers predict the company’s ability to take advantage of market opportunities. This information also helps to confirm capital providers’ predictions about this ability.
- Materiality. Materiality refers to the nature or magnitude of an omission or misstatement of financial information which could influence the decisions that capital providers make based on this information. In other words, if the dollar amount of an omission or misstatement of financial information would be large enough to influence the judgment of a decision maker, then the information is material. Immaterial information is not relevant since it would not influence a user’s decision.
- Faithful Representation
Financial reports represent economic transactions, events, and arrangements with words and numbers. Accounting information is a faithful representation of the underlying economic transactions, events, and arrangements when the words and numbers accurately depict the economic substance of what they purport to represent. To be a faithful representation, the information must be complete, neutral, and free from error.
- Completeness. Financial information is complete when it includes all the information that is necessary for the faithful representation of the economic phenomenon that is being reported. An omission can cause information to be false or misleading and, therefore, not useful to the users of financial reports.
- Neutrality. Financial information is neutral when it is not biased to attain a predetermined result or to influence behavior in a particular direction. Neutrality does not mean that financial information has no purpose or does not influence behavior. Financial information is intended to be useful in decision making, thereby influencing the decision makers’ behavior, but not in a predetermined direction.
- Free from Error. Financial information is free from error when it is presented as accurately as possible, reflecting the best available inputs. Freedom from error, however, does not imply that financial reports must be 100% accurate. Many financial reporting measures involve estimates that are based on management’s judgments. Each estimate must reflect the best available information with some minimum level of accuracy. In addition, sometimes it may be necessary to explicitly disclose the degree of uncertainty in the reported financial information.