IESBA proposes update to ethics code for professional accountants in business

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26 Nov, 2014

The International Ethics Standards Board for Accountants (IESBA) has issued an exposure draft of proposed changes to the 'Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants' (the Code). The proposals focus on the requirements of professional accountants in business involved in the presentation of financial and non-financial information, and also provide guidance on dealing with pressure from superiors and other to engage in unethical or illegal acts.

The exposure draft, Proposed Changes to Part C of the Code Addressing Presentation of Information and Pressure to Breach the Fundamental Principles, is focused on accountants who work on their own or in organisations other than public accounting practices, such as in commerce, industry, education, and the public and not-for-profit sectors. The exposure draft addresses key priorities for such accountants contained in Part C of the Code, which were identified through a consultation process involving working groups, the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) Professional Accountants in Business Committee (PAIB), IFAC member bodies and the IESBA Consultative Advisory Group (CAG).

The key proposals include:

  • Widening the scope of the existing requirements around the preparation and reporting of information to reduce the emphasis on external financial information, and instead focus on both financial and non-financial information for both internal and external purposes. This would mean that the requirements of the Code for information to be prepared "fairly and honestly" would apply consistently to all information produced by a PAIB. Examples provided in the exposure draft of information captured include operating and performance reports, budged and forecasts, information provided to internal and external auditors, risk analyses, general and special purpose financial statements, tax returns and regulatory reports
  • Providing additional guidance around the "fair and honest" principle when preparing financial and non-financial information, including:
    • Preparing or presenting information in a manner that is intended neither to mislead nor influence contractual or regulatory outcomes inappropriately
    • Not omitting information with the intention of rendering the information misleading
    • Presenting the information in accordance with a relevant reporting framework where applicable (this is currently a separate requirement of the Code, but is proposed to be repurposed as guidance on applying the "fair and honest" principle)
  • In relation to the "fair and honest" preparation and presentation of financial information, to introduce additional guidance that a PAIB should not exercise judgements and discretion available under the applicable financial reporting framework in a manner that is intended to mislead, including when determining estimates, selecting a particular accounting method among two or more alternatives, determining the structuring of transactions and determining disclosures
  • Proposing a new section of the Code to provide more robust and practical guidance on how a PAIB should respond when facing pressure from a superior or others that may result in a breach of the fundamental principles of the Code. The new section would introduce a explicit requirements for a PAIB not to allow pressure to result in a breach of the fundamental principles, and to prohibit a PAIB from placing pressure on others that would result in such a breach.

The exposure draft is open for comment until 15 April 2015. Click for IESBA press release (link to IFAC website).

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