Department of Economics and Business Economics

Soon we will almost all use IFRS when preparing accounting information – but does that improve financial statements’ comparability?

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One of the objectives of using the framework of IFRS / IAS throughout the world is to facilitate more transparent comparability of the financial information presented by the companies. But do we use the IFRS principles in the same way everywhere? Does it make sense to prescribe some accounting practice such as references to the process or input part of producing accounting information when the alleged aim is to improve the comparability of the accounting information provided by the companies, i.e. the financial statements or the output part?

From the global ORBIS-database, we selected all listed non-financial and non-insurance companies with a turnover in the last available financial year larger than 100 million USD, which left us with more than 18 thousand public accounts (companies) from 124 different countries from all over the world.

Based on available information from PWC and IAS Plus dealing with providing overview of present (December 2012) status worldwide for the use and implementation of IFRS, we established a categorisation of each country’s accounting regime: is IFRS required or permitted for listed companies in the country and what “version” of IFRS is at stake here?

For our comparisons and analyses we carefully chose ROIC since this financial ratio is not biased by differences in the capital structure or size of the companies but serves as a well-defined and commonly used accounting operational profitability measure.

Multivariate statistical methods and analyses (of means and variances) reflect significant differences in the observed key financial ratios in different countries and geographic regions despite alleged use of same accounting regime – also when corrected for differences in the countries’ economic climate and industry structure.

Our first conclusion could be to expect these differences solely as a result of differences in fundamental economic conditions in various countries and regions on earth being different from World Economic Forum’s report.

But one must recognise that in a truly global world this does not make sense except in the short run. Instead our conclusion is that it would be more obvious to expect the differences to reflect different attitudes towards recognition and measuring due to differences in tradition and culture. And as a consequence, producing completely comparable annual reports across regions and countries seems to be an illusion – even within the European Union.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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