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Survey on reporting in the not-for-profit sector

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13 Nov 2013

A number of accounting bodies in the United Kingdom and Ireland have launched a survey in order to understand international accounting practices in the not-for-profit sector. The survey is part of a wider research project to establish whether there is a demand for the development of an international financial reporting framework, guidance or standards for the not-for-profit-sector.

The survey is being conducted on behalf of the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies (CCAB), which comprises The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS), The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland (ICAI), The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).  The CCAB appointed Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) to co-lead the project with colleagues from the University of Dundee, and with further support from University College, Dublin and Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.

The survey is a further step in meeting the objectives of the wider research project, which aims to:

  • Identify what is meant by the not-for-profit sector internationally and the nature and scale of issues
  • Identify current accounting framework, standards and guidance applied to the various specialisms in the not-for-profit sector, e.g. the United Kingdom Statements of Recommended Practice (SORPS) dealing with charities
  • Focus on specific accounting issues relating to charities
  • Consider whether there is a need or not for the development of some form of international financial reporting framework, guidance or standard(s) for the not-for-profit sector.

The background paper on the research project notes the following:

The development of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) has been an important facilitation factor for global business – enabling investors and other users of accounts to have confidence that the accounts have been prepared on a consistent basis. The potential role for International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) is also being increasingly recognised in the debate around how to improve government reporting in the wake of the Sovereign Debt Crisis. However, the unique issues present in the non-profit sector – primarily the treatment of gifts, definition of a liability (recognition of constructive obligations) and an asset (valuation on the basis of service potential) and responsibility to the donor – are not covered by international standards.

The paper also notes that many countries "appear to use for-profit business standards when accounting for not-for-profit entities", that charities and other organisations are increasingly adopting a global approach to their work, and that issues arising in the not-for-profit sector are relevant to parts of the public and private sectors as well due to "boundaries between sectors [becoming] increasingly blurred".

Responses to the survey are requested by 9 December 2013, and the findings of the survey are expected to be published in the first quarter of 2014.

Click for press release with links to the survey on the CCAB website.

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