IASB discusses IFRS 17 at today's meeting

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24 Oct 2018

At its meeting currently held in London, the IASB discussed IFRS 17 'Insurance Contracts' to determine whether the various concerns regarding the standard that have been brought to the IASB's attention require action of the Board. Aware of the attention this discussion would get, the IASB did not pull forward the discussion although it finished its other discussions early.

Since IFRS 17 was issued in May 2017, the Board has been monitoring the implementation and has learned about concerns and implementation challenges, among them the issues identified in the EFRAG letter sent to the IASB last month.

There were four papers for the meeting: A summary of the TRG meeting held in September, the TRG submission log, the criteria the staff of the IASB has developed for the Board to apply in assessing whether a concern warrants considering an amendment, and identified concerns and implementation challenges. All papers for this session are available on the IASB website (please scroll down).

The discussion focused on agenda paper 2C for the meeting revealing the criteria the staff of the IASB has developed for the Board to apply in assessing whether a concern warrants considering an amendment:

  1. the amendment would not result in significant loss of useful information relative to that which would be provided by IFRS 17 for users of financial statements and
  2. the amendment would not unduly disrupt implementation processes that are already under way or risk undue delays in the effective date of a standard that is needed to address many inadequacies in the existing wide range of insurance accounting practices.

In the paper, the staff also noted that even if the Board agrees that any potential amendment to IFRS 17 meets the criteria, it does not mean that all amendments meeting these criteria are justified. The staff also stressed that any changes would affect the effective date.

The Board made the following comments:

  • amendments need to be necessary, not just fulfil the criteria;
  • what's missing in the criteria is that changes should not compromise the criteria of IFRS 17;
  • the Board should deal with implementation issues only, not just anything that is connected with IFRS 17;
  • changes should be narrow in scope and should be able to be dealt with efficiently;
  • changes to IFRS 17, a final standard, would impact those who have already begun implementing it;
  • pushback must be expected;
  • 25 issues is many;
  • picking up some issues but not all will make some people happy and some very unhappy;
  • any changes would need to go through the full due process;
  • establishing a TRG meant the IASB is open to hearing about problems and to deal with them;
  • the IASB needs to consider interaction with IFRS 9;
  • do the issues identified relate to material new information or are they issues the Board has considered before?;
  • investors are waiting for the new standard, there needs to be a high hurdle for changing it;
  • benefits of changes need to exceed the costs;
  • are there items on the list for which the efforts or costs are underestimated?;
  • could practical expedients help?;
  • the IASB needs to avoid being pulled into something that seems to be unavoidable;
  • costs and efforts of the whole package of changes must be considered;
  • exceptions increase the complexity;
  • it must be prevented that the IASB having this discussion in the first place will lead to entities downing their tools;
  • how did the items get onto the list?;
  • should new unexpected costs be a criterion?;
  • a lot of work went into the standard;
  • a lot of feedback was gathered;
  • a lot of people are waiting for the standard to become effective.

Chairman Hans Hoogervorst concluded the discussion by stating that he had read the papers for the discussion with a heavy heart. He just hoped that the standard would get into place before the next financial crisis - as the markets were very nervous and there was much too much debt in the market. He therefore concluded that changes to IFRS 17 should be fine-tuning only and legitimised by decreasing costs. He also added that the whole package of issues should be looked at and that 25 issues were too many.

The Board voted unanimously for the criteria developed by the staff.

Another focus of the meeting was agenda paper 2D including some background information and providing for each identified concern or implementation challenge:

  • an overview of the IFRS 17 requirements;
  • a summary of the Board’s rationale for setting those requirements;
  • an overview of the concern or implementation challenge expressed; and
  • staff preliminary thoughts.

Only some of the individual concerns and challenges were discussed, none in detail, however, there was significant discussion around the issues related to the effective date of IFRS 17. It was noted by IASB Board individual members:

  • that a lot of users are waiting for IFRS 17;
  • that some preparers are calling for more time/don't want to be rushed/want to ensure a quality implementation;
  • that it is important to keep track of the different reasons for calling for a deferral;
  • that the effect of having no comparatives would need to be considered;
  • that the interaction with IFRS 9 would need to be considered; and
  • that a two-tier model (listed and unlisted companies) might help/ would take little pressure off the market.

The Board will be asked to consider at a future meeting whether any of the concerns and implementation challenges indicate a need for standard-setting to amend the requirements of IFRS 17.

The IASB itself has relaesed a short press release commenting on the session.

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