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The Bruce Column — The struggles to make disclosure principled

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Mar 30, 2017

The IASB has published its long-awaited discussion paper on Principles of Disclosure and now everyone has six months to grapple with the important questions it raises. Robert Bruce, our regular, resident commentator looks at where the answers may lie.

It is the traditional Catch-22 of financial disclosure. Create a mass of requirements and all you will see is checklist and boilerplate information. Remove some of the requirements in an attempt to encourage judgement and what you get is complaints from investors that they are being denied information. Furthermore, if you want a degree of consistency, preparers need disclosure objectives to exercise their judgement.

There is also the question of whether you need to write out principles about good communication, or whether it should be down to common sense.

Although the debate has been with us for many years this is the IASB’s first attempt to step back, rethink and try to steer an effective way through these issues. The IASB has produced a discussion paper on Principles of Disclosure.

It all comes down to a deceptively simple question: deciding what to disclose and how to disclose it.

The discussion paper leaves everyone with a lot to think about. There are complexities and uncertainties. Will it be possible to create more structure? What role should management judgement be allowed to play? The next six months gives everyone an opportunity to put their views across.

Read the entire column on our Global IAS Plus site.

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