Australian FRC explores complexity in reporting

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19 Jun 2012

The Australian Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has released a report 'Managing Complexity in Financial Reporting'. The report explores the issue of complexity in financial reporting from an Australian perspective and makes recommendations of what might reasonably be done within the global accounting framework to address complexity concerns - including making better use of information technology (including XBRL), addressing legal impediments and urging the IASB to undertake reforms.

The FRC report arises from the work of the FRC Managing Complexity Task Force.  The report recognises the many benefits of Australia's early adoption of IFRS from 2005, but also notes increasing global calls for reductions in, and simplifications of, various requirements.

The report notes the following sources of reporting complexity:

  • Increasingly complex business operations - requiring complex reporting requirements
  • Complexities in the regulatory framework - including a "shifting mix of principles and rules, too often complicated by exceptions", the hybrid measurement model applied (cost and fair value), wide application of IFRS in the Australian context, and additional complexities being introduced as a result of the response to the global financial crisis
  • Changing attitudes of businesses and stakeholders - resulting from increased aversion to risk by company directors, preparers and auditors in response to a more litigious business environment
  • Developments in integrated reporting - hope for reducing the current reporting burden is tempered by "the potential for integrated reporting to become yet another complex set of requirements which which companies must comply".

In its wide ranging suggested strategies to better manage complexity, the report supports the Australian Accounting Standards Board (AASB) to call for the IASB to establish a framework for presentation and disclosure, that disclosures should be rationalised, and the nature of "other comprehensive income" lacks meaning and consistency.

In order for Australia to maintain and enhance its influence with the IASB, the report acknowledges the key role played by the AASB, Asian-Oceanian Standard-Setters Group (AOSSG) and global industry groups.  In addition, the FRC encourages Australian representation on international accounting and auditing boards.

Many of the themes in the report echo those expressed by others, and also provide guidelines that may be relevant in other jurisdictions.

The report is open for comment until 31 July 2012.  Click for FRC press release (link to FRC website).

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