GAAP Chats: Latest Developments in IFRS
GAAP Chats: Latest Developments in IFRS

GAAP Chats: Latest Developments in IFRS

Chris: Welcome to GAAP Chats, the podcast dedicated to all things accounting, brought to you by GAAP Dynamics. I’m your host, Chris Brundrett and in honor of our discussion of what’s going on with International Financial Reporting Standards, I’ve invited the “international man of mystery” himself, Bob Laffler, to join me. We hope you’ll join us on our journey today as we share our passion for accounting and help change the way you train. So Bob, since Mike and I discussed recent happenings in the world of U.S. GAAP last week, I thought it only fitting to do the same for IFRS this week. And, this will be the first in our “across the pond” segment which is dedicated to International Financial Reporting Standards. 

Bob: Oh yeah, I'm ready to talk some IFRS!

Chris: I thought you’d like today’s topic which is why I invited you to co-host. Mike is just too “American” to talk about IFRS.

Bob: That’s probably because he grew up in Florida.

Chris: Oh behave. Let’s not insult our listeners from the sunshine state.

Bob: Okay, okay. 

Chris: Let’s get started, but with a word of warning. We are not going to cover or even mention all of the new guidance and projects going on in IFRS. We have just chosen a few to discuss in our time today. Let’s start with arguably the most important first, new guidance that is effective for the first time in 2023.

Bob: Right, this is the stuff that preparers and auditors need to be worrying about now.

Chris: Or at least before the end of the year. So, I think we should at least mention IFRS 17, Insurance Contracts, and some amendments to IAS 12 which is the guidance on accounting for income taxes. 

Bob: IFR 17 is probably the biggest thing to affect IFRS from a standard setting perspective this year. However, like you mentioned, it's kind of industry specific. I guess one thing to point out right off the bat is IFRS 17 applies to insurance contracts, not insurance companies. So it's really any entity that issues insurance contracts. And the scope of IFRS 17 makes it clear what is an insurance contract. And while obviously it is your traditional life and property and casualty policies and so forth, there's other types of instruments that might qualify as insurance contracts that could bring banks and some service organizations and so forth into play. So you're definitely going to want to check out that scope. 

Chris: I was going to ask a question, Bob. You know, you're talking about the scope and insurance contracts. I mean, hasn’t IFRS dealt with this before? I mean, why this big new standard? I mean, U.S. GAAP, for example, has had insurance guidance for as long as I can remember. It's changed a little bit in recent years. But I mean, what's going on here?

Bob: Well, this standard basically is going to replace IFRS 4. That's really been out since, you know, back in probably 2004 when IFRS was being adopted by the European Union and made that big step up to legitimacy. But it was kind of an emergency standard at that time when IFRS 4 came out and basically just kind of defined what an insurance contract was, and gave some general principles. As I like to summarize, IFRS 4  in one sentence: whatever you were doing, keep on doing it. If you want to improve on your insurance, here are some things that you can do. IFRS 4 was really limited and didn't really achieve what the IASB is all about, which is having one uniform, unified approach to accounting for insurance contracts. Really from the moment IFRS 4 was issued, they kind of, you know, went out and started an insurance contract project, which was back in 2004 or 2005 when it was effective. You know, they've been working really from shortly after 2005 on IFRS 17. Now, finally here we are in 2023 and we're adopting it. So this has been a long time coming. Some might argue, well, why did it take so long? Well, you know, nothing happens quickly in the world of IFRS, especially when we're talking about big projects.

Bob: They went through many iterations of "what is this going to look like?" A lot of it was really kind of shocking the insurance world by fundamentally changing the way we look at insurance contracts. Despite the pushback, what you're seeing with IFRS 17 is going to more or less be a lot of those core fundamentals they've been talking about for the past 10, 15 years almost. So it's a really big deal for adopting IFRS 17 for insurance companies. We're going to see this building block approach that companies are required to take, required to apply, which really is going to have a segregation of cash flows, discount rates, explicit risk adjustments. And then, of course, you've got your contract service margin, which is kind of your unearned profit within the contracts. It's done on a portfolio basis and that's your general model. Of course, there are some alternative models, the most important one probably being the premium allocation approach, which is really adopting more of a P&C, short duration contract accounting like we see under U.S. GAAP, where you're really looking at your unearned premium reserve. That's kind of the amount of premiums that you are due over the contract period as a basis for recognizing the revenue associated with the contract. The inner workings of how we account for the policies is a big change.

Bob: But then from a bigger picture and really even from those that aren't necessarily the nerdy accountants getting into the actual contracts themselves, just from the way we look at the financial statements, we're going to have a huge change in the way insurance companies present their financial information. A lot of the revenue line items are going to be different. Right now, it's no longer you got premiums earned. There are no premiums earned. There is no recognition of amortization, of acquisition costs or everything. Everything's going to be captured into one line item for insurance results. You'll have financial results for some of the unwinding of your discount rates as well as your investment income. And that's pretty much all you're seeing on the income statement. On the balance sheet side, it's really just going to be insurance contract assets and insurance contract liabilities. There is no separate recognition of acquisition costs. All these different types of insurance specific line items that we've seen on the balance sheet are largely gone. And you really are just left with a very simplified balance sheet and income statement. So big changes in IFRS with regards to insurance contracts. I don't know if you want me to go any deeper there, Chris, but given our audience that might lose them right away.

Chris: Well, I know you like to geek out on insurance contracts and IFRS 17 and to your credit, Bob, you've really taken this one under your wing as far as really understanding what's going on with it and developing some of our trainings on it. It is a big deal to those that it affects. But I guess one final question before we move on to the next one. How will this you know, how will this align with U.S. GAAP? As we mentioned earlier, U.S. GAAP has had specific insurance guidance for as long as I can remember. How will this be the same or differ? 

Bob: So, interestingly, it's probably not going to align that much. Certainly it might end up coming up with similar results, but it wouldn't necessarily because of having similar standards, U.S. GAAP was going to join IFRS and kind of revise their entire insurance standard. They actually began this approach and this is probably a good reason why it took so long because they were working on this as a joint project. And a few years after some of these controversial aspects of the new way of accounting for insurance contracts were going through, the FASB just kind of said, you know what, this is too much. Our standards are not that broken like IFRS standard was. Therefore, we're not going to make these huge changes. What they did was really they fixed short duration contracts by coming out with a disclosure standard. That came out a few years ago. And they just recently are putting through as well this year their long duration insurance contract, which is really where U.S. GAAP had their problems, where everything was fixed and they've kind of opened it up. So, they've dealt with it by making amendments to their standards. But generally speaking, they've got the same kind of approach as they always had. So we're going to have differences here, not convergence, with the adoption of IFRS 17.

Chris: Okay. Well, moving on to another amendment. Bob talked about IFRS 17 as a whole new standard. This is just an amendment that I'm going to mention to an existing standard, one of my favorites, and it is IAS 12 Accounting for Income Taxes. And I guess I'll start out talking about little U.S. GAAP versus IFRS kind of deal. I mean, overall IFRS12 is very similar to ASC 740. Same idea and approach towards the accounting for income taxes and the recognition of deferred taxes and all that. But there are some differences when you get down into the details of the standard. One of those relates to certain exceptions to deferred tax recognition. You know, IFRS has what we refer to as the “initial recognition exemption”. Basically, what that says is deferred tax liabilities or assets should not be recognized for taxable or deductible differences to the extent that this is the initial recognition of an asset or a liability, it is not a business combination, and it's a transaction that, at the time of the transaction, affects neither accounting profit or taxable profit or loss. So,  basically, it's the initial recognition of an asset or liability and that asset or liability hasn't had any income, any impact on either accounting profit or loss or taxable profit or loss.

Chris: And so in addition to that, there's an initial recognition exemption under IFRS for the initial recognition of goodwill. U.S. GAAP doesn't have this exception. And under U.S. GAAP, we end up having to apply what's called the simultaneous equation to calculate the deferred tax asset or liability. Because a problem arises if you're recognizing an asset, let's say, and there's an associated deferred tax amount because there's nothing that's affected the profit or loss yet. The offset to the recognition of that deferred tax item is the recognized asset or liability. You end up sort of in a circular referencing issue where you need a mathematical equation to calculate the journal entry. U.S.GAAP deals with it that way. IFRS deals with it by having an exemption from initial recognition of the associated deferred tax asset or liability. That's kind of the backstory there. The amendment is basically to say this initial recognition exemption does not apply when we're recognizing an equal and offsetting deferred tax asset and liability at the same time as it relates to the same transaction. This came about because of the new standard on lease accounting, or IFRS 16. Like U.S. GAAP, IFRS 16 requires most leases to end up on the balance sheet. You have a right-of-use asset and a lease liability. Now the subsequent accounting is different from US GAAP, but that's not the point of our discussion here.

Chris: We end up with this ROU asset and lease liability. Often they're the same amount and they will, by their nature, generate a temporary difference and for which we need to recognize the deferred tax asset and liability. Those will also be equal and offsetting the deferred tax asset on the lease liability and the deferred tax liability on the ROU asset. Some companies were applying the initial recognition exemption to that and just not recognizing any deferred tax. Others said, no, that doesn't really apply here. So the IASB has come in and said no, the initial recognition exemption does not apply here. You have an equal and offsetting deferred tax asset and liability. There's no impact on the ROU asset or the lease liability. There's no issue that arises in the accounting. So, there's no need to apply this here. So it's prohibited. Basically it was written because of the effects of lease accounting. But, it also may apply to other transactions, like decommissioning obligations, which is the international term for asset retirement obligations, like we say under U.S. GAAP. So, anyway, I know I probably went too far with that, Bob, but I love the whole discussion of accounting for income taxes.

Bob: I know you can't stop yourself when it comes to taxes. I guess to kind of wrap things up,  what we're hearing is that this is a change to IFRS that is in fact kind of harmonizing with U.S. GAAP, at least with these initial offsetting assets and liabilities. There's still a difference for those true “no impact on profit and loss”. What would be an example of maybe one of those types of transactions where IFRS would allow for this exemption, whereas U.S. GAAP would require the simultaneous equation.

Chris: Let's say you recognized some sort of asset that had an associated tax deduction with it. I mean, one example we always use is, you purchase some zero emission vehicle and there's tax incentives to purchasing that. You get a tax credit associated with the purchase of that vehicle that would generate a deferred tax asset. There's value in that. You end up, because there's been no effect on accounting or taxable profit or loss, with an issue about how to record the deferred tax asset or calculate the amount. That's where the initial recognition exemption would apply. To summarize, the bottom line is this: if you're recognizing leases on your books, you're going to have associated deferred tax assets and liabilities, and that applies under IFRS. They've clarified that here and that has always applied under U.S. GAAP.

Bob: Well, I'm glad you had your chance to geek out on taxes. The next thing I guess I'll just mention really quick and just to kind of wrap up stuff that's effective for 2023. Nothing huge here, but interesting nonetheless. The first one is the definition of accounting estimates. These are amendments to IAS 8 where basically they're getting at this idea of, when you have a change in estimate or a change in accounting policy, we have to account for things differently. So, Chris, guess just let's remind everyone, when you have a change in accounting policy, how do you account for a change in accounting policy?

Chris: Unless, it's related to the adoption of a new standard, and there's specific transition guidance or change in accounting policy is a retrospective application.  Whereas a change in accounting estimate is prospective. So differentiating between the two is pretty important.

Bob: Exactly, Very important. Here was the problem with IFRS: they define what an accounting policy is, right? That's what's understood. But, there was never really a definition in IFRS regarding what is an accounting estimate. It was just kind of one of these things that accountants were supposed to know. I would imagine most of us probably do know the difference between a policy and estimate. In our courses, we always would have an example and say, what is this a policy or an estimate? Interestingly, a good percentage of the classes would know the distinction. There were always a few that were like, no, I think this one's a policy or I think it's an estimate, even though it wasn't. So what is our brand new shiny definition of an accounting estimate thanks to this amendment? 

Chris: So, they've now defined the accounting estimate as monetary amounts in financial statements that are subject to measurement uncertainty.

Bob: So, an estimate then?

Chris: Yeah, pretty much! But it wasn't defined before. I mean, this was not meant to be wholescale changes in practice. It's a clarification. I think the other important thing that they clarified here is the effect on an accounting estimate of a change in input, or a change in measurement technique, are changes in accounting estimate unless they result from the correction of prior period errors. Let's say you were doing a fair value measurement and you were applying, you know, some sort of a valuation approach to determining fair value and you changed the valuation approach. You went from an income approach to a market approach or you changed some input. That's a change in accounting estimate because fair value is an accounting estimate. Your policy is to account for whatever the item is at fair value, but fair value in the calculation is an estimate. That was one that maybe confused people. So that was probably helpful clarification there. I know there was one other you know, if you want to mention it really quick. There's this disclosure initiative which has been going on for a long time. But, you know, accounting policies, we had some guidance that came out on that, right? It's effective this year.

Bob: So, this one I wouldn't call it a huge deal. I mean, I find the disclosure initiative to be an interesting thing to to talk to practitioners about because the whole point of this disclosure initiative is really to focus on providing information in the financial statements that is most useful and relevant and and really getting rid of some of the superfluous stuff, some of the boilerplate stuff that's in a lot of financial statements. Let's face it, when IFRS comes out and says, here are your disclosure requirements, we are going to make sure that we comply with every one of those disclosure requirements. I'd rather take care and make sure I'm covering my back rather than going off there and saying, well, even though IFRS says that something should be in there, I'm going to leave it out because it's not material. It's not really important to the readers. So, we went through this big process where we defined what material was as part of this disclosure initiative. What this amendment dealing with accounting policies is all about is one of the first footnotes we're going to see in a set of financial statements is our significant accounting policies. Well, once again, what's a significant accounting policy? What IASB said was well, wait a second. Financial statements are supposed to be presented material. Why don't we change those policies from significant accounting policies to material accounting policies? We've got this new definition of material. Now, let's demand that people provide material accounting policies in those disclosures, really focusing once again on the stuff that's most important. They really highlighted here that it's not just simply material areas in terms of quantitative size. They're really talking more about areas where judgment is being applied. Areas where you might have some choices. Areas where you might have changed things. So it's important for readers to understand how these accounting policies are being kind of cultivated.  

Chris: Okay, great. So that's all. That's at least the bigger piece of new guidance that's effective for the first time in 2023. There's some other smaller ones, too. Let's look forward and mention some of the guidance that will be effective next year, and that means 2024. So the first one's kind of interesting, I think, because it deals with a pretty age-old issue which is classification of liabilities as current versus non-current. This guidance has been out forever, but there's actually two amendments. The first one came out quite a few years ago, and it's the effective date has now been deferred to 2024. The second one came in to kind of amend the first one a little bit and provide some additional guidance as well as require some disclosures. Because they're related, they're all related to the same topic, we'll talk about them together. So we'll look at the highlights here. This is one where you know, if you've attended our courses, we do a lot of different examples on how to apply it. But, let's just talk about the overall principles. The IASB really didn't intend for this to cause changes in practice. They just feel that they are clarifying what they've always meant, clarifying existing guidance, and providing more application guidance in this. They did not intend for this to cause changes in practice. 

Bob: However, we might actually be seeing that though. At times when we've been teaching this, I am amazed at how often this spurs debate and how often people are getting these examples that we go through wrong. Like you said, most thought leadership already had views at least that are in line with these new amendments. Yet when we actually get to the people applying these standards, you see that there's a lot of difference in opinion on what is current versus what is non-current liability.

Chris: I think we're going to see some real changes out there because this clarifying guidance has been obviously very necessary. If you were not applying this guidance correctly before, the big thing to be careful about is this; if there are changes that occur because of the adoption of this, this may be the correction of an error, you know, rather than a change in accounting policy or the adoption of a new accounting principle. Again, the IASB didn't intend for this to cause changes fundamentally in practice. You'd have to really look closely at that. But overall, you know, there's a few different areas of these amendments. The first one is just dealing with the whole idea of current vs. non-current. Existing requirements that have been around forever. It is basically saying companies should classify a liability as current when they do not have an unconditional right to defer settlement for at least 12 months after the reporting date. That whole idea of unconditional was interpreted differently in practice. Some people took that as a pretty high threshold and a high hurdle, whereas others sort of interpreted it differently. The IASB decided that they needed to work on that a little bit so they removed the word unconditional. They basically say now, if you have the right to defer settlement beyond 12 months from the reporting date and that right has substance, that's a non-current liability.  Anything under that is a current liability. So, the big focus here is do you have the right to defer settlement,  and is it a substantive right to defer settlement? 

Now the very important clarification here, and I think this is where a lot of the issues arose, Bob, is, you know, this decision of classification, do I have the right to defer settlement for a period beyond 12 months? That means it's non-current. You know, we look at this and do not consider management's intentions and expectations.  So, the decision of current versus non-current is unaffected by whatever management's intentions are. My point is this; Let's say you have a loan and it has two years left. You have the right to defer settlement for a period beyond 12 months, it's your substantive right. If you have  the intention to pay the loan off in two months it is still non-current. That’s because management's intention doesn't matter. I think that's where we're going to see some changes. The other thing that they talked about here is, what about liabilities with covenants? You look at that, do I have the right to defer settlement for a period of at least 12 months?  When covenants come into play, they clarify that these are only covenants that are in place on or before the balance sheet affect the classification. However there are questions out there. For example, am I looking at the covenants that are in place and I must comply with on or before the balance sheet date? What if there's a covenant that might apply to me in six months and I'm not sure if I'm going to meet that covenant or not?  That doesn't affect anything. Future covenants and potential issues with future covenants, that's where disclosure comes in. There's disclosure guidance in that second amendment I talked about that describes  that situation. As far as the classification, future covenants aren't considered, but they may be considered for disclosure purposes. 

The final area of change affects liabilities that can be settled in a company's own shares. Here we're talking about convertible debt. They defined, or better defined, the term settlement, so that we can determine whether something is settleable in its own shares and whether or not it should be current or non-current. If you have convertible debt, you're following IFRS, or you have a client that has convertible debts following IFRS, pay particular attention here because this may be an area where we do see a change and we may see more convertible debt being classified as current instead of non-current as a result of this. So that's it in a nutshell. It is effective retrospectively, but beginning in 2024. But be aware of those potential disclosure requirements in 2023. If there's a change that's going to occur.

Bob: Then I would imagine that is probably the biggest amendment that's coming out in 2024. It affects everybody. Now, once again we're talking about across the pond here, IFRS. I mean this is one of those areas where U.S. GAAP is just still stuck in the olden days, they have not amended their guidance here, right, Chris? 

Chris: That’s right, no changes here. That may result in some differences in classification between IFRS versus U.S. GAAP.

Bob: U.S. GAAP has that crazy rule that says as long as you're able to remediate any issues that you have before the release of the financial statements, and that proves your intention at December 31st to extend it. Therefore you get a lot more long-term non-current liabilities under U.S. GAAP that would never qualify under IFRS.

Chris: No, and it's never existed. That guidance has never existed under IFRS.

Bob: You know, the FASB, the FASB has been talking about changing it, but they still have not been able to do it. So that's a tough one. 

Chris: There's one dealing with sale leaseback. I mean, let's not spend a ton of time on it, but just mention it. At least if anybody's out there wants to know. 

Bob: This is a more narrow one. This was an amendment issued back in September of 2022. So, it's relatively new. All it really is dealing with sale-leaseback transactions. This is where you sell an asset and then you lease it back. When IFRS 16 came out, they basically deferred to revenue recognition, said, look, if you have earned the right to recognize revenue from that initial sale, well then, okay, you can recognize a gain. But, if you know, if you are going to sell something and then lease part of it back again, the part that you're leasing back, you shouldn't be able to recognize a gain or loss on because you're still controlling that portion of the asset. So in IFRS 16, we already had rules that basically said with regards to that right-of-use asset, the lease that you're coming back, there should be no gain or loss related to the portion of the asset that you sold that you are leasing back. That makes sense. The amendment is just simply trying to extend that and saying, oh yeah, by the way, when you have a lease-back, you're going to have a right-of-use asset. You're also going to have a lease liability. Well, the same comes into play with the lease liability. You shouldn't have some kind of gain or loss on settlement of an obligation. That lease liability should not allow you to recognize any portion related to that liability as a gain or loss. So, it's really just harmonizing the accounting treatment with the right-of-use asset as it has with the liability. I would describe it as a pretty narrow amendment and probably one that shouldn't result in too much change in practice. 

Chris: Well, thank you for that. That's really it for the new standards or new guidance that we want to talk about. Again, there's lots of other little changes out there. We just want to highlight some of the bigger, more generally important ones. If you're interested in knowing more, there's always an up to date project listing on the IASB's website. We'll put a link to the project table in the notes to the podcast. 

The first one I am going to talk about is primary financial statements. Now, no indication of when they expect to issue a final standard here, but that's the next step. These are really changes focusing on the profit and loss, or the income statement. They're going to require some new subtotals to be put in the profit or loss. They're going to provide guidance on disaggregation with the intent of providing more relevant information. So more disaggregation of financial information in the income statement. They're also going to talk about disclosure of some management, or they're also talking about disclosure of some management defined performance measures. Then reconciliation of those back to the IFRS amount. So non-GAAP measures, as we like to call them here in the U.S., which are exclusively outside of the financial statements under U.S. GAAP. We may see some of those in the IFRS financial statements as long as they're reconciled. So, that's interesting. They're proposing some limited changes to the statement of cash flows as well. So, just keep an eye on that. That'll affect the income statement for pretty much all companies. 

The other one I'll briefly mention is dealing with supply chain financing arrangements, and this is also referred to in practice as reverse factoring arrangements. These are relatively new out there. In a reverse factoring arrangement, the financial institution agrees to pay amounts that an entity owes to the entity's suppliers. Then the entity agrees to pay the financial institution at some point in the future.  Basically what's happening here is the company has accounts payable to one of its suppliers, a bank comes in, pays off, the supplier usually takes credit for early payment discounts, and then the entity has a longer period of time in which to pay the bank back.

 So the bank will make some money on the effect of the early payment discount. Sometimes they charge fees and interest associated with this. Of course the big question is do we still have accounts payable or do we have a loan to a bank? That's geography in the balance sheet, but it has a big effect on the statement of cash flows. A change in accounts payable which is operating or do we have a financing activity? There was an IFRIC agenda decision that came out a couple of years ago to talk about this that said, here's the things you need to consider. Oftentimes these arrangements result in financial liabilities. You have a loan to a bank, even if it might be a short term loan. What the project here is, is to add some disclosure requirements to IFRS. That IFRIC agenda decision still stands. You know, look at its guidance, but adding in some disclosure requirements would come here. But, those are interesting. You can take a look at the project table and there's links to the various different pieces of guidance. So, Bob, one last project real quick before we wrap up. I know it's a topic you love, which is financial instruments with characteristics of equity. This is the whole concept of do I classify something as debt or equity?

Bob: Once again, an age-old issue in accounting that has some significant consequences, particularly with ratios, covenants, all these different things that we've been talking about. This is the famous FICE project (Financial Instruments with Characteristics of Equity) . It's got such a long name we've given an acronym and this one too. It has been going on for a long time. What we're talking about is amending IAS 32,  a very old standard at this point in IFRS that has seen some amendments, but not a ton. Very principal based in terms of defining what a financial liability is. Over the years, we've seen through a lot of agenda decisions and requests of the IASB to clarify things, that while these principles can hold up, often there's a lot of more complex transactions and instruments that are starting to really affect those those high level principles to the point where the IASB has kind of said we need to maybe tighten this up a little bit and come out with some more specific guidance here. So, you know, there's been some inconsistencies that have been identified with IAS 32. This project hopefully will resolve them. We haven't really seen much from it, though. The big news that's coming out with this is we are expecting an exposure draft later in 2023 or maybe we're actually going to see what they're planning on coming out with. So, the exposure draft this year and then, you know, wouldn't be holding my breath for a final standard for a few more years but they are continuing to talk about this issue. 

Chris: All right. Well, thank you, Bob. Again, there's tons more projects out there. If you're interested, go to the IASB’s website. I think we covered quite a lot in a reasonably short period of time. This one went a little longer, but lots going on with it and thought it was time to give it its due and talk a little bit, a little bit more about it. 

Bob: I see we actually are going to have a pretty jam packed IFRS update this year as we come out with our materials later this year. So, this has been a good kickoff to that development season for us.

Well, that’s all for this episode of GAAP Chats, your source for all things accounting. Notes and resources for today's episode are linked in the description, and as always you can find us online at and @gaapdynsmics across social media, It's never too late to become a Gaapologist. Head over to our website and subscribe to our blog so that you're the first to know what's new with GAAP Dynamics.

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