Responses to EC review of accounting directives

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29 Oct 2009

The European Commission has published a report on the approximately 100 responses received to the Commission's consultation paper on review of the Accounting Directives: Cutting Accounting Burden for Small Business–Review of the Accounting Directives.

Click to Download the Report (PDF 309k).

For the modernisation and streamlining proposal there was wide support. Creating a separate section of the directive outlining core accounting principles was also supported. Respondents were in favour of retaining prescriptive layouts as a way of increasing comparability and transparency, however a reduction in the detail and number of layouts was commonly suggested, as was a simplification of disclosures in the notes to the accounts. A modernisation of valuation rules was widely supported.

Considerable support was expressed for the idea of following a 'bottom-up' approach to the revised Accounting Directives. This would involve separately setting out all the accounting requirements for small companies first, and adding further separate requirements for both medium and large companies. There was also support for the preparation of cash flow statements by medium and large companies. Respondents also welcomed the ideas of electronic publication and the creation of a common accounting taxonomy.

Respondents had mixed views on the current Member State options allowing preparation of abridged accounts for small and medium-sized companies. Similarly, there was no clear position on whether the separate line items for 'extraordinary items' should be removed from the face of the profit and loss account.

There was little support for reducing the number of company categories or for a possible publication exemption for small companies. However, there was general satisfaction with current size criteria and threshold levels. A radical simplification proposal to require only key accounting figures from small companies was also met with scepticism.

In response to an open-ended invitation to comment on the long-term role of the Directives, commentators made the following comments about IFRSs:

There were 29 suggestions for closer alignment with IFRSs whilst 9 respondents were against such an approach.

On the question of IFRS for SMEs 20 respondents expressed support for it, commenting that as European medium-sized and large companies expand their cross-border activity there is an increasing need for a standardised financial reporting language. They argued that comparability is not possible under the current Accounting Directives due to Member State options and 'gold-plating'. Others (12 responses) saw the IFRS for SMEs as burdensome and inappropriate for EU SMEs. They questioned its usefulness in calculating tax liabilities and distributable profits.

Some said that the Accounting Directives should be a real alternative to IFRS and should therefore be more prescriptive and detailed. They thought that creditor protection should remain the fundamental principle and the Accounting Directives should focus on private companies' user needs. They were also in favour of increased harmonisation within the Directive, which they argued, could be achieved by eliminating the numerous current options.

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