The papers for the AAOIFI - World Bank Annual Conference on Islamic Banking and Finance held earlier this month and recently posted to the AAOIFI (Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions) website offer a good overview of current topics in Islamic Finance. However, they also illustrate that the definitions of Sharia-compliant operations are still diverse and can differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, which make a single approach to accounting difficult. Yet, as one of the speakers at the conference pointed out: "Ethics, transparency and accountability are values not alien to [the] Islamic world view." Please click for access to the conference papers on the AAOIFI website.
The need to harmonise the treatment of Islamic finance first in itself and then with international standards has lead to the publication of a series of papers over the last months. In September 2012, the Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) published a report from a high-level roundtable offered jointly with the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO), which was to be a first step towards the development of international regulatory standards for Islamic capital market products. In November 2012, the Malaysian Accounting Standards Board (MASB) published a staff paper discussing Islamic finance, accounting treatments for various Islamic finance instruments, and the reasons why the MASB chose to require Islamic financial institutions to follow Malaysian Financial Reporting Standards, which are equivalent to IFRS.
Finally, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) followed suit with a report published on its website calling on the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and the Islamic finance industry to work together to develop guidance, standards and educate the investor community on key issues. ACCA points out that:
- the IASB should consider issuing guidance on the application of IFRSs to the accounting for certain Islamic financial products;
- it should also consider issuing guidance on additional disclosures in relation to Sharia-compliant operations;
- the IASB should work with leading Islamic Finance standard-setters and regulators in establishing differences and developing harmonised solutions; and
- the Islamic Finance Institutes (IFIs) should support the IASB by forming an expert advisory group.
The IASB has responded to the repeated calls and has asked the MASB to help with setting up an expert advisory group on Islamic accounting. This development was first announced at the fourth meeting of the Asian-Oceanian Standard-Setters Group (AOSSG) at the end of November 2012 in Kathmandu where the IASB staff briefed the members on the plans. The IASB has since confirmed these plans in the feedback-statement to the agenda consultation:
The IASB could benefit from learning more about Islamic (Shariah-compliant) transactions and instruments - neither the IASB nor our staff have expertise in this area. The IASB is establishing a consultative group to assess the relationship between Shariah-compliant transactions and instruments and IFRS and to help educate the IASB, mainly through public education sessions. Work undertaken by some standard-setters suggests that IFRS provides relevant information about Shariah-compliant transactions and that there is little, if anything, the IASB would need to do to bring this sector of the economy within IFRS. However, the IASB needs more information before it can make that assessment itself. We have asked the Malaysian Accounting Standards Board to assist us with setting up this group, reflecting the helpful analysis they provided to the AOSSG on Shariah-compliant matters.
More information on developments in Islamic accounting and useful links are available on our dedicated IAS Plus page.