Forensic Accounting – a New Paradigm For Niche Consulting

OBJECTIVES OF WRITING THIS ARTICLE: Forensic accounting(F.A.) has come into limelight due to rapid increase in financial frauds and white-collar crimes. But it is largely untrodden area in India.The integration of accounting, auditing and investigative skills creates the speciality know as F.A.The opportunities for the Forensic Accountants are growing fast;they are being engaged in public practice and are being employed by insurance companies, banks, police forces, government agencies etc.This article seeks to examine the meaning and nature, activities and services rendered, core knowledge and personal skills required for forensic accounting as a specialized field in accountancy profession. Indeed there is a future in F.A. as a separate niche consulting.

The lack of respect and belief in India’s law enforcement agencies and the rate at which white-collar crimes have increased has prompted the development of Forensic Accounting in India. The fraud detecting agencies seems to lack time and devotion needed for detecting and prevention of errors and fraud. According to a large global accounting firm, the market is sufficiently big enough to maintain an unit devoted entirely towards “forensic accounting”. Many large as well as small accounting firms as well as the tiny firms have inculcated or rather developed separate forensic accounting departments.

We were of the belief that detection and prevention of frauds or white-collar crimes is part of conventional accounting function. It was thought that the frauds, both internal as well as external has be to detected by the auditors through their periodic audit. Now it is crystal clear that auditors can only check for the compliance of a company’s books to generally accepted accounting principles, auditing standards and company policies. Hence the need was felt to detect the frauds in companies that are suspected to be engaged in fraudulent transactions. This field of accounting is known as “forensic accounting”.

The litmus test of investigation, first introduced by the ever great Sherlock-Homes(considered by many as the father of Forensic Accounting) is perhaps the first ever application of forensic accounting. Though, the contribution of the other few great historians to the field of forensic accounting cannot be overlooked. They used various tricks to investigate various crimes.

F.A. is a specialized a area of accounting practice that describes engagements which result from actual or anticipated disputes or litigation. The word “forensic” means “suitable for use in court”. The forensic accountants have to keep in mind this statement while they have to work or chalk out their programme. The F.A. work is tailor made according to the situation and need. The gathering of information and evidences is done according to the need and situation. We can say, it is customized according to the situation. The forensic-accountants give expert evidence at the ultimate trial. All the modern medium-sized as well as the large-sized accounting firms have specialized forensic accounting departments. Within these firms there may be specialized forensic accounting departments. Within these groups their may be further sub-specializations. Various sub-specializations include insurance claims, personal injury claims, fraud detection, construction or royalty audits. Nearly 40 percent of the top 100 US accounting firms are expanding their forensic and fraud services, according to Accounting Today. Now if we consider this data as significant then we can say that the total contribution of forensic accounting to the total revenue of the C.A. firms would be highly significant in the years to come. Under rising instances of frauds and litigation and flourishing businesses these services are considered to be very significant as they are rendered at a very competitive price.

The forensic accountants utilize the various information relating the business, utilizes financial reporting systems, various accounting and auditing standards and procedures, investigative techniques and litigation processes and procedure to perform their work. By acting as advisors to audit committees and assisting in investment analyst research, they are playing more “proactive” risk reduction roles.This is possible by designing and performing extended procedures as part of the statutory audit. The objectives of such an accounting include measurement of losses caused by an auditor due to his negligence, to look into the matter whether their has been any embezzlement of cash, the amount, necessity of criminal proceedings, computation of asset values in a divorced proceeding.

The primary approach technique of forensic accounting is explanatory analysis(cause and effect)of the phenomena-including the discovery of deception(if any), and its effects -introduced into an accounting system field. The primary methodology employed by the forensic accountants is the verification of the objective. They are trained to deal with real world business and do have the sufficient expertise to look beyond(behind) the numbers. The scope of the forensic accountants are growing at a rapid pace. The increase in their work opportunities have been accelerated due to the fall of the Enron corporation and the collapse of the American Twin Towers.

This has led to increase in the demand for American forensic accountants. So as far India is concerned, formation of Serious Fraud Investigation Office(SIFO) is a landmark creation so far as forensic accountants are concerned. Failure of regulators to track security scams, increasing cyber crimes, chain of cooperative banks bursting -all point to the ever increasing need for forensic accountants. Our understanding of the need for forensic accountants is immaterial here. In India due to the growing number of frauds the need for forensic accountants is ever increasing. The regulatory and administrative agencies will put pressure for greater demand of forensic practices. This has been initiated due to the changing nature of Indian and International accounting.Auditing and assurance standards also confirm this. A change in the curriculum can be initiated if the written exams and practical industrial training are boosted to show the “new knowledge base and skill-set” required by the professional accountants in the new era. It is therefore recommended that the “forensic accounting and auditing” be introduced as a paper in the various professional examinations conducted by the various accounting bodies in India. Unfortunately forensic accounting is largely an unexplored area as far as India is concerned. The chartered Accountants(CAs) deal with such cases in an irregular fashion. In the western counter-part(countries), the Lawyers, police, insurance companies, government and regulatory bodies, banks, courts and business communities are increasingly utilizing the services of the forensic accountants.The accountants and the auditors must have the skills and expertise to venture into the emerging field of forensic accounting.

What Is Forensic Accounting? The growing needs of corporations has changed the definition of forensic accounting. As per Bologna and Indquist, “the application of financial skills and an investigative mentality to unresolved issues, conducted within the context of rules of evidence.It is a new emerging field that encompasses financial expertise, fraud knowledge, and a sound knowledge and understanding of business reality and the working of the legal system.”It means that the forensic accounting should be skilled not only in financial accounting but also internal control systems, the legal matters, other institutional requirements, investigative blend of mind and interpersonal skills.

According to AICPA: “Forensic accounting is the application of accounting principles, theories, and discipline to facts or hypotheses at issues in a legal dispute and encompasses every branch of accounting knowledge: ‘ Similarly, forensic accounting is defined by Horty as:

“The science that deals with the relation and application of finance, accounting, tax and auditing knowledge to analyze, investigate, inquire, test and examine matters in civil law, criminal law and jurisprudence in an attempt to obtain the truth from which to render an expert opinion.”

In simple words, forensic accounting includes the use of accounting, auditing as well as investigative skills to assist in legal matters.It comprises of two major components: litigation services, that recognizes the role of an accountant as an expert consultant and investigative services, that uses a forensic accountant, s skills and may require possible court-room testimony.

Investigation of theft and defalcation of corporate and individual assets are part of legal matters.They use their education as well as experience to discuss the facts, patterns of the theft or misappropriation.Business accounting systems are reviewed by the forensic accountants.They suggest ways and means to solve and improve the internal control and internal accounting system.This is adopted to prevent theft and fraud. Because of their expert knowledge and educational background and experience their(forensic accountants) work is elevated to a new height.

Forensic accountants do not contest in cases.They act as fact finding devices, try trt to seek the real truth from the hidden facts.They conduct their work in an unbiased and objective manner.They need legal knowledge, expertise, training and experience to perform their work in an effective and real manner.Extensive knowledge in the field of commerce, legal, accounting as well an investigative blend of mind is needed to perform the work in a proper fashion.Expertise in litigation support and testimony in courts of law are also prerequisites of the forensic accountants.This is due to the fact that their work would many times be used in a court of law.The valuation of damages due to criminal and civil wrong-doings need to be done with perfection and for that reason knowledge of business valuation theory is the most essential.

What exactly do the Forensic Accountants perform? Answer: They are trained to deal with real life business situations and are trained to look beyond the numbers.

Analysis, interpretation and summarization of complex financial and business related issues are prominent characteristics of this accounting/auditing profession. Familiarity with legal concepts and procedures is a must.Insurance companies, public practice, banks, police forces and government agencies are major employers of forensic accountants.

The various field of work encompassing the arena of a forensic accountant can be stated in points format as follows:

1) Financial evidence investigation and analysis.

2) Development of computerized software to help in the analysis and presentation of financial evidence.

3) Sharing their findings in the form of reports, slide shows or exhibits and documents collected.

4) To support trial evidence they prepare visual slides, assist in legal proceedings, including testifying in courts as an expert witness.

If we want to say or rather point out the role performed by the forensic accountants in a nutshell, we can say as follows:

Measurement or to quantify the impact of lost earnings. Such as construction delays, stolen trade secrets, insurance disputes, damage/loss estimates, malpractice claims, employee theft, loss of profit, financial solvency reports, disturbance damages, loss of goodwill, compensation losses suffered in expropriation determination, assessment of the potential business compensation costs and providing consultation on business defalcation minimization. Lease default damages, breach of contract, business interruptions, breaches of shareholders and partnership agreements, reconstruction of accounting records,

Investigation of misappropriation, assistance in establishing ownership and division of assets, commercial damages, professional negligence cases, partnership disputes, expert evidence, fair value or fair market value and personal injury damages are included in commercial damages. Tax advocacy, compliance and review of financial statements, tax reporting and tax planning in such areas as income as estate matters are included in tax matters. Analysis, interpretation, summarization, presentation of complex financial and issues relating to the business for investigation is the role of a forensic accountant.

They carry out investigative accounting and provide litigation support.

The services rendered by the forensic accountants are in great demand in the following areas:

1) Fraud detection where employees commit Fraud:

Where the employee indulges in fraudulent activities:

Where the employees are caught to have committed fraud the forensic accountant tries to locate any assets created by them out of the funds defalcated, then try interrogate them and try to find out the hidden truth.

2)Criminal Investigation: Matters relating to financial implications the services of the forensic accountants are availed of. The report of the accountants are considered in preparing and presentation as evidence.

3) Outgoing Partner’s settlement:

If the outgoing partner is not happy about his settlement he can employ a forensic accountant who will correctly assess his dues(assets) as well as his liabilities correctly.

4)Cases relating to professional negligence:

Professional negligence cases are taken up by the forensic accountants.

Non-conformation to Generally Accepted Accounting Standards(GAAS) or non compliance to auditing practices or ethical codes of any profession they are needed to measure the loss due to such professional negligence or shortage in services.

5) Arbitration service: Forensic accountants render arbitration and mediation services for the business community, since they undergo special training in the area of alternative dispute resolution.

6) Facilitating settlement regarding motor vehicle accident: As the forensic accountant is well acquainted with intricacies of laws relating to motor vehicles, and other relevant laws in force, his services become indispensable in measuring economic loss when a vehicle meets with an accident.

7) Settlement of insurance claims: Insurance companies engage forensic accountants to have an accurate assessment of claims to be settled. Similarly, policyholders seek the help of a forensic accountant when they need to challenge the claim settlement as worked out by the insurance companies. A forensic accountant handles the claims relating to consequential loss policy, property loss due to various risks, fidelity insurance and other types of insurance claims.

8) Dispute settlement: Business firms engage forensic accountants to handle contract disputes, construction claims, product liability claims, infringement of patent and trade marks cases, liability arising from breach of contracts and so on.

9) Matrimonial dispute cases: Forensic accountants entertain cases pertaining to matrimonial disputes wherein their role is merely confined to tracing, locating and evaluating any form of asset involved.

Core Knowledge Of Forensic Accountants:

A forensic accountant is expected to be a specialist in accounting and financial systems. Yet, as companies continue to grow in size and complexity, uncovering fraud requires a forensic accountant to become proficient in an ever- increasing number of professional skills and competencies. Here are some of the broad areas of useful expertise for a forensic accountant:

” An in-depth knowledge of financial statements and the ability to critically analyse them. These skills help forensic accountants to uncover abnormal patterns in accounting information and recognise their source.

” A thorough understanding of fraud schemes, including but not limited to asset misappropriations, money laundering, bribery, and corruption.

” The ability to comprehend the internal control systems of corporations, and to set up a control system that assesses risks, achieves management objectives, informs employees of their control responsibilities, and monitors the quality of the programme so that corrections and changes can be made.

” Proficiency in computer and knowledge of network systems. These skills help forensic accountants to conduct investigations in the area of e-banking and computerised accounting systems.

” Knowledge of psychology in order to understand the impulses behind criminal behaviour and to set up fraud prevention programmes that motivate and encourage employees.

” Interpersonal and communication skills, which aid in disseminating information about the company’s ethical policies and help forensic accountants to conduct interviews and obtain crucially needed information.

” Thorough knowledge of company.s governance policies and the laws that regulate these policies.

” Command of criminal and civil law, as well as, of the legal system and court procedures.

Personal Skills Required:

So what does it take to become a forensic accountant? In addition to the specialised knowledge about the techniques of finding out the frauds, one needs patience and an analytical mindset. One has to look beyond the numbers and grasp the substance of the situation. There is a need for the same basic accounting skills that it takes to become a good auditor plus the ability to pay attention to the smallest detail, analyse data thoroughly, think creatively, possess common business sense, be proficient with a computer, and have excellent communication skills. A “sixth”sense that can be used to reconstruct details of past accounting transactions is also beneficial. A photographic memory helps when trying to visualise and reconstruct these past events. The forensic accountant also needs the ability to maintain his composure when detailing these events on the witness stand. Finally, a forensic accountant should be insensitive to personal attacks on his professional credibility. A fraud accountant (as forensic accountants are sometimes called) should also observe and listen carefully. By this, you can improve your ability to detect lies whether they involve fraud or not. This is so because”not all liars are fraudsters, but all fraudsters are liars”(Wells).

According to a forensic accounting expert, “the traits of a forensic accountant could be compared to a well-baked pizza. The base of forensic accounting is accounting knowledge. Size and the extent of baking decide the quality of the pizza. A middle layer is a dispersed knowledge of auditing, internal controls, risk assessment and fraud detection. It is like the spread of the cheese in pizza. The toppings of this pizza area basic understanding of the legal environment. The legal environment is essential in order to support the litigations. The cherry on the toppings of the pizza is a strong set of communication skills, both written and oral. It is just the beautification part. Perfect combination of the pizza base, cheese spread and good toppings makes the pizza delicious and the of company’s the laws that Forensic Auditor perfects. It is a combination that will be in demand for as long as human nature exists.”

In addition to these personal characteristics, accountants must meet several additional requirements to become successful forensic accountants, say a Certification, acknowledging his competence. One can learn forensic accounting by obtaining a diploma given by Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) in the US. Indian chapter of ACFE offers the course based on the white-collared crimes prevalent in US, based on their laws. However, there is no formal body that provides formal education of the frauds in India. Besides the formal certificate, one can deepen one’s knowledge and sharpen one’s skills in forensic accounting by undergoing training under an experienced forensic accountant, participating in various international conferences, reading relevant journals, books and other literature on forensic accounting.

To combat the frauds effectively one needs the active support of government at every stage. There are three-four such agencies in India, which are dedicated to the mission of combating frauds. Serious Fraud Office looks into violations of Income Tax, FEMA, RBI Act, etc.; CBI (Economic Office Wing) deals with big financial frauds; Central Vigilance Commission deals with corruption. These are the major government agencies that combat frauds of different types. Unfortunately, there is no specialised education provided by any of the Universities in the country. Recently, TCS has also come out with software to combat money laundering and Subex Systems have designed software to combat the telecom frauds. Thus, combating the frauds with software has started picking up in India, with few big companies like ACL and IDEA, joining the race.

The Need For Niche Consulting:

The CPA Vision Statement states: “The CPAs are trusted professionals who enable people and organisations to shape their future. Combining insight with integrity, CPAs deliver value by: (a) communicating the total picture with clarity and objectivity, (b) translating corn plex information into critical knowledge, (c) anticipating and creating opportunities, and (d) developing pathways that transform vision into reality1 It reflects the trend towards providing a broader range of assurance services. However, recent corporate accounting scandals and the resultant outcry for transparency and honesty in reporting have given rise to two disparate yet logical outcomes. First, forensic accounting skills have become crucial in untangling the complicated accounting manoeuvres that have obfuscated financial statements. Second, public demand for change and subsequent regulatory action has transformed corporate governance. Increasingly, company officers and directors are under ethical and legal scrutiny. Both trends have the common goal of responsibly addressing investors’ concerns about the financial reporting system. Indeed, there is a future in forensic accounting as a separate”niche” consulting area in India. The need to specialise, otherwise known as Niche Consulting, is imperative to practising accountants because the fast-paced developments in business thereby demand specialised knowledge and skills. While a majority of CAs have excellent analytical skills, they need to acknowledge that ‘forensic’ services require ‘specialised’ training as well as real-life ‘practical’ corporate experience. There is a need for specialised information, not just audit and tax service. What clients seem to want are people with unique sets of skills and experiences. With the maturing of the audit business, and the rapid development of technology that makes existing services low cost and cheap, it appears that it is the right time now to acquire those unique skills. To help practitioners move into ‘niche’ consulting, some professional organisations in the US have concluded that: “Future success for the profession depends, in part, on how the public perceives the ability of CPAs. New efforts in consulting, specialisation and understanding global business practices and strategies are considered crucial. We go out into the niche market, examining our strengths first. We go where the action is, only then we know we can adequately service our clients and make money doing it.” One area where ‘niche’ consulting is becoming the global trend is in “Forensic Accounting and Auditing’ But the major question facing the Indian accountancy profession is: Are we ready to plunge to where the challenging action is?

Forensic Accounting In India:

It is in an infancy state in India.It is still an untrodden area in India.But due to ever increasing cases of bank & cyber-frauds its growing importance cannot be denied.

One immediate landmark creation is “Forensic Research Foundation”.They provide support for investigation of fraud.They publish one bi-monthly journal named as “White Crimes”.It relates to forensic and economic crimes. Another international organization named as KPNG has set up investigation detection centre in India.. Networks Limited, a Delhi based organization, working in the similar field, they are also trying to innovate ways and means to detect financial irregularities and crimes in India.Serious Investigation Fraud Offices(SIFO), has been established in India for the same reason, i.e. detection and prevention of economic irregularities and crimes. The need for such bodies and the importance of Forensic Accountants have been highlighted by L.N.Roy Committee.Lenin Parekh Committee has also expressed the view that one “fraud detection committee”need to be established. The main aim of such boards should be to prevent the interest of the stakeholders.

Conclusion:

Forensic accounting in India has come to limelight only recently due to rapid increase in white-collar crimes and the belief that our law enforcement agencies do not have sufficient expertise or the time needed to uncover frauds. A large global accounting firm believes the market is sufficiently large to support an independent unit devoted strictly to ‘forensic’ accounting. All of the larger accounting firms, as well as, many medium-sized and boutique firms have recently created forensic accounting departments.

Forensic accounting, in fact, integrates accounting, auditing, and investigative skills to conduct an examination into a company’s financial statements. Broad-based knowledge (within the themes listed above) is crucial to the success of entry-level forensic accountants. Because forensic accounting is relatively a new area of study, a series of working definitions and sharing of corporate experiences should be undertaken and encouraged to ensure a common understanding. Indeed, there is great future in forensic accounting as a separate”niche” consulting.

While the forensic accounting and auditing practice had commenced in the US as early as ‘1995, the seed of this specialisation has yet to take off in India. Forensic accountants are only dealing with financial implications of the cases entrusted to them and not engaging in auditing exercise. On account of global competition, the accounting profession must convince the marketplace that it has the “best-equipped” professionals to perform such services.

Forensic accountants are also increasingly playing more ‘proactive’ risk reduction roles by designing and performing extended procedures as part of the statutory audit, acting as advisors to audit committees, and assisting in investment analyst research.

While majority of CAs have excellent analytical skills, they need to acknowledge that ‘forensic’ services require ‘specialised’ training as well as real-life ‘practical’ corporate experience.

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References: –

1)Journal Of Forensic Accounting: Editor-In Chief: Crumbley D. Larry, Publisher: Inc.Edwards. R.T.

2)Journal Of The Chartered Accountant 2007, Pages: 1000-1010.Dr. Madan Bhasin, The Author is Head, Accounting Department, Mazoon College, Muscat, Sultanate Of Oman.

3)Referential Notes Of Prof. Dutta Kr. Uttam, Reader Deaprtment Of Commerce, Reader, University Of Burdwan.

4)Website access: http://www.wikipedia.com, accessed on 4th, February, 2008.

Branches of Accounting, Uses of Accounting and Limitations of Financial Accounting

Accounting vs. Book-keepingBook-keeping concerns itself with the recording (correctly and in a set of books) of those transactions that result in the transfer of money or money’s worth. Whereas accounting is comprehensive in perspective. It extends to classifying, summarizing, presenting and even analyzing accounting information .

Accounting vs. Accountancy

Body of knowledge (consisting of principles, postulates, assumptions, conventions, concepts and rules) governing the science of recording classifying and analyzing financial transactions is accounting. Whereas the practice and art of the science of accounting is termed as accountancy.To meet the ever increasing demands made on accounting by different interested parties (such as owners, management, creditors, taxation authorities etc.) the various branches have come into existence. Financial AccountingThe object of financial accounting is to ascertain the result (profit or loss) of business operations during the particular period and to state the financial position (Balance Sheet) as on a date at the end of the period.

Cost Accounting

The object of cost accounting is to find out the cost of goods produced or services rendered by a business. It also helps the business in controlling the costs by indicating avoidable losses and wastes.Management AccountingThe object of management accounting is to supply relevant information at appropriate time to the management to enable it to take decision and effect control.In this web primer, we are concerned only with financial accounting. The objects of financial accounting as stated above can be achieved only by recording the financial transactions in a systematic manner according to a set of principles. The recorded information has to be classified, analyzed and presented in a manner in which business results and financial position can be ascertained.

Uses of Accounting

Accounting plays important and useful role by developing the information for providing answers to many questions faced by the users of accounting information.

(1) How good or bad is the financial condition of the business?

(2) Has the business activity resulted in a profit or loss?

(3) How well the different departments of the business have performed in the past?

(4) Which activities or products have been profitable?

(5) Out of the existing products which should be discontinued and the production of which commodities should be increased.

(6) Whether to buy a component from the market or to manufacture the same?

(7) Whether the cost of production is reasonable or excessive?

(8) What has been the impact of existing policies on the profitability of the business?

(9) What are the likely results of new policy decisions on future earning capacity of the business?

(10) In the light of past performance of the business how it should plan for future to ensure desired results ?

Above mentioned are few examples of the types of questions faced by the users of accounting information. These can be satisfactorily answered with the help of suitable and necessary information provided by accounting.

Besides, accounting is also useful in the following respects :-

(1) Increased volume of business results in large number of transactions and no businessman can remember everything. Accounting records obviate the necessity of remembering various transactions.

(2) Accounting record, prepared on the basis of uniform practices, will enable a business to compare results of one period with another period.

(3) Taxation authorities (both income tax and sales tax) are likely to believe the facts contained in the set of accounting books if maintained according to generally accepted accounting principles.

(4) Cocooning records, backed up by proper and authenticated vouchers are good evidence in a court of law.

(5) If a business is to be sold as a going concern then the values of different assets as shown by the balance sheet helps in bargaining proper price for the business.

Limitations of Financial Accounting

Advantages of accounting discussed in this section do not suggest that accounting is free from limitations.

Following are the limitations:

Financial accounting permits alternative treatmentsAccounting is based on concepts and it follows ” generally accepted principles” but there exist more than one principle for the treatment of any one item. This permits alternative treatments with in the framework of generally accepted principles. For example, the closing stock of a business may be valued by anyone of the following methods: FIFO (First-in- First-out), LIFO (Last-in-First-out), Average Price, Standard Price etc., but the results are not comparable.

Financial accounting does not provide timely information

It is not a limitation when high powered software application like HiTech Financial Accenting are used to keep online and concurrent accounts where the balance sheet is made available almost instantaneously. However, manual accounting does have this shortcoming.

Financial accounting is designed to supply information in the form of statements (Balance Sheet and Profit and Loss Account) for a period normally one year. So the information is, at best, of historical interest and only ‘post-mortem’ analysis of the past can be conducted. The business requires timely information at frequent intervals to enable the management to plan and take corrective action. For example, if a business has budgeted that during the current year sales should be $ 12,00,000 then it requires information whether the sales in the first month of the year amounted to $ 10,00,000 or less or more?

Traditionally, financial accounting is not supposed to supply information at shorter interval less than one year. With the advent of computerized accounting now a software like HiTech Financial Accounting displays monthly profit and loss account and balance sheet to overcome this limitation. Financial accounting is influenced by personal judgments’Convention of objectivity’ is respected in accounting but to record certain events estimates have to be made which requires personal judgment. It is very difficult to expect accuracy in future estimates and objectivity suffers. For example, in order to determine the amount of depreciation to be charged every year for the use of fixed asset it is required estimation and the income disclosed by accounting is not authoritative but ‘approximation’.

Financial accounting ignores important non-monetary information

Financial accounting does not consider those transactions of non- monetary in nature. For example, extent of competition faced by the business, technical innovations possessed by the business, loyalty and efficiency of the employees; changes in the value of money etc. are the important matters in which management of the business is highly interested but accounting is not tailored to take note of such matters. Thus any user of financial information is, naturally, deprived of vital information which is of non-monetary character. In modern times a good accounting software with MIS and CRM can be most useful to overcome this limitation partially.

Financial Accounting does not provide detailed analysis

The information supplied by the financial accounting is in reality aggregates of the financial transactions during the course of the year. Of course, it enables to study the overall results of the business the information is required regarding the cost, revenue and profit of each product but financial accounting does not provide such detailed information product- wise. For example, if business has earned a total profit of say, $ 5,00,000 during the accounting year and it sells three products namely petrol. diesel and mobile oil and wants to know profit earned by each product Financial accounting is not likely to help him unless he uses a computerized accounting system capable of handling such complex queries. Many reports in a computer accounting software like HiTech Financial Accounting which are explained with graphs and customized reports as per need of the business overcome this limitation.

Financial Accounting does not disclose the present value of the business

In financial accounting the position of the business as on a particular date is shown by a statement known as ‘Balance Sheet’. In Balance Sheet the assets are shown on the basis of “Continuing Entity Concept. Thus it is presumed that business has relatively longer life and will continue to exist indefinitely, hence the asset values are ‘going concern values.’ The ‘realized value’ of each asset if sold to-day can’t be known by studying the balance sheet.

Corporate Governance and Accounting Standards in Oman: An Empirical Study on Practices

RELEVANCE:

In recent years, the Oman economy has undergone a number of reforms, resulting in a more market-oriented economy. Particularly, the financial impetus extended by the Sultanate of Oman had signaled the beginning of a positive trend. The size of Oman industry is becoming much bigger and the expectations of various concerned parties are also increasing, which can be satisfied only by good Corporate Governance.

The importance of good Corporate Governance has also been increasingly recognized by the industry for improving the firms’ competitiveness, better corporate performance and better relationship with all stakeholders(1). In oman also the industries have obliged to reform their principles of Governance, for which, Oman companies will now be required to make more and more elaborate disclosures than have been making hitherto. This necessiates to adhere to the uniform and proper accounting standards, as the standards reduce discretion, discrepancy and enhances not only the degree of transparency in sharing of information with the parties concerned but also reinforces the broader role the directors need to play for achieving Corporate objectives in the midst of challenges and adversities.

Here, the Corporate Governance is a voluntary, ethical code of business concerned with the morals, ethics, values, parameters, conduct and behavior of the company and its management. The corporate responsibility begins with the directors who are the mind and soul of a firm.

The Board is expected to act as conscience-keeper of the corporate vision and mission, and devise the right type of systems for organizational effectiveness and satisfaction of stakeholders. Thus, the Corporate Governance is a system of accountability primarily directed towards the shareholders in addition to maximizing the shareholders’ welfare(2), where the debate on disclosure/ transparency issues of Corporate Governance eventually centres around the proper accounting standards and their practices and issues, as the application of accounting standards give a lot of confidence to the corporate management and make the disclosure more effective and ensure the good Corporate Governance to promote a healthy investment climate.

Thus, the study of practices of accounting standards is an important and relevant issue of good Corporate Governance in the present environment, as the standards are viewed as a technical response to call for better financial accounting and reporting; or as a reflection of a society’s changing expectations of corporate behavior and a vehicle in social and political monitoring and control of the enterprise(3).

STUDY:

The old ways of selective and conservative reporting is yielding place to more transparent and voluntary disclosures, in tune with the changing times. There is no alternative to adopting by the corporate entities of new standards of accountability, where the accountability is largely a matter of disclosure, of transparency, of explaining a company’s activities to those to whom the company has responsibilities(4) i.e. the disclosure in simple, understandable and comparable form, forms clearly the basis for accountability, which can be provided only if companies adopt uniform accounting policies and disclose adequate information about the accounting standards followed. Thus, accounting standards ensure the comprehensive disclosure of the corporate’s accountability, which may be regarded as a prime issue and a pre requisite for good Corporate Governance.

An examination of practices of accounting standards, and their issues in Oman industry may help to understand the existing practices of accounting standards, which in turn help in designing the effective standard practices so as to ensure good Corporate Governance leading to a healthy investment environment.

In this context, an attempt is made here to examine the accounting standards and their practices in Oman, with a view to strengthen the accounting standards and improve their practices for good Corporate Governance. The data for the study are obtained from the annual reports (published during 2001-’02) of ten Omani companies of different nature, selected from the top companies in terms of assets. The sample consisted of 6 private and 4 public companies. The simple per centage method is used to analyze the data. The authenticity of the data is verified with the opinions of management, who are aware of the company affairs and Corporate Governance. The corporates’ perceptions on the relevance of accounting standards for good Corporate Governance in the context of Oman are also examined.

STANDARDS IN OMAN:

In any country, the awareness and competitiveness among the corporates would be strengthened when they understand each other and compare their performance, for which the simple, understandable and comparable disclosure is an important instrument. The main objective of disclosure would be fulfilled and the utility of the disclosure towards good Corporate Governance would be improved when the disclosure is done on the basis of uniform and consistent accounting standards. Thus, the development and the practice of uniform accounting standards has become an essential ingredient of Corporate Governance and the various bodies have been contributing their wisdom to strengthen the standards to make the Corporate Governance more effective in the context of the changing corporate environment. The corporate management is also now feeling the pressure for reforming accounting practices and level of transparency emanating from alert lenders, regulatory agencies, financial analysts and above all, board of directors who realize that it is the quality of information which will determine how efficiently they have discharged their responsibilities towards the good Corporate Governance.

In Oman, though the financial statements have been prepared in accordance with International Accounting standards issued by the International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC), interpretations issued by the Standing Interpretation Committee of the IASC and the requirements of the Commercial Companies Law of the Sultanate of Oman and the disclosure requirements set out in the rules for disclosure issued by the Capital Market Authority of the Sultanate of Oman, the disclosure is inadequate and is a negative phenomenon to a country which wishes to be strengthened further, because it cannot hope to tap the GDR market with inadequate financial disclosures, since the more transparent activities of a company governed by the proper accounting standards, the more accurately will its securities be valued(5).

The International Accounting Standards followed in Oman industry are Presentation of Financial Statements (IAS 1); Inventories (IAS 2); Cash Flow Statements (IAS 7); Net Profit or Loss for the period (IAS 8); Fundamental Errors & Changes in Accounting policies (IAS 9); Events After the Balancesheet Date (IAS 10); Construction Contracts (IAS 11); Income Taxes (IAS 12); Segment Reporting (IAS 14); Effects of Changing Prices (IAS 15); Property, Plant and Equipment (IAS 16); Leases (IAS 17); Revenue (IAS 18); Employment Benefits (IAS 19); Accounting for Govt. Grants & Govt. Assistance (IAS 20); Effects of Changes in Foreign Exchange Rates (IAS 21); Business Combinations (IAS 22); Borrowing Costs (IAS 23); Related Party Disclosures (IAS 24); Retirement Benefit Plans (IAS 26); Consolidated Financial Statements (IAS 27); Investments in Associates (IAS 28), Hyperinflationary Economies (IAS 29); Banks & Similar Financial Institutions (IAS 30); Interests in Joint Ventures (IAS 31); Financial Instruments: Disclosure & Presentation (IAS 32); Earnings Per Share (IAS 33); Interim Financial Reporting (IAS 34); Discontinuing Operations (IAS 35); Impairment of Assets (IAS 36); Provisions, Contingent Liabilities & Assets (IAS 37); Intangible Assets (IAS 38); Financial Instruments: Recognition & Measurement (IAS 39); Investment Property (IAS 40); Agriculture (IAS 41).

Though the Oman industry has been following all the International Accounting Standards, in practice, some of them are not free from criticism due to certain inherent weaknesses. The practices of these standards in the Oman industries and the gaps are discussed in what follows with a view to strengthen them for ensuring the good Corporate Governance.

PRACTICES:

The primary and secondary data collected from the select companies are carefully examined to find the extent of compliance with the accounting standards and issues in corporate practices. Some of the important findings are as follows:

i) Perceptions on the relevance of Accounting Standards for Corporate Governance: Except one sample of private companies which has not disclosed its opinion, all others (90% of the sample) have expressed the accounting standards as more relevant for Corporate Governance.

ii) Practices of Accounting Policies Disclosed in Annual Reports: The majority of the sample companies (80%) disclosed twenty to twenty five policies and the remaining is equally distributed between less than twenty and more than twenty five standards disclosed by the select companies. All the select public limited companies have complied with twenty to twenty five accounting standards.

iii) Practices of Inventory Valuation: The sample companies have adopted either the lower of cost or net realisable value or moving average methods for the inventory valuation.

iv) Practices of Preparation of Cash Flow Statement: All the select companies have presented cash flow and changes in equity statements.

v) Corporate Practices of Depreciation: The study revealed that the majority of the sample companies (90%) have followed straight line method for the computation of depreciation and the remaining followed diminishing value method. Further examination revealed that all sample public companies followed the straight line method of depreciation.

vi) Practices of Construction Contracts: The sample consists of one construction company, which has followed per cent of completion method.

vii) Practices of Research & Development: None of the select companies has disclosed the expenditure on research and development.

viii) Practices of other Standards: The study revealed that the accounting practices related to fundamental errors and changes, effects of changing prices, business combinations, hyperinflationary economies, financial statements of banks and similar financial institutions and agriculture were not disclosed by any of the select companies as the companies are not concerned with such activities.

From the analyses of practices and general discussions, some of prime issues of accounting standards in the context of Oman are identified and presented here under in brief.

ISSUES:

i) Disclosure of Accounting Policies is followed by most of the sample companies, since it is mandatory. The items stated under accounting policies or notes are more or less same in all the concerns selected for the study, but the treatment of some items were not similar to the other concerns.

The requirement of the disclosure standard is only to disclose the material facts, what is the material or immaterial it would be decided by the organization, where the influence of personal judgement is expected in the absence of concrete guidelines. Therefore, the existence of the standard is doubtful.

ii) In few accounting standards, such as, valuation of inventories and depreciation accounting, the alternative accounting treatment is allowed. This kind of flexibility creates problems in judging the quality and reliability of financial statements of an enterprise and the different methods are followed for different companies or for different periods, the possibility of inter-unit, intra-industry or inter-period comparison is impaired. The lack of comparability renders the financial information less useful and creates confusion in the minds of the investing public.

iii) In case of construction contracts, the standard provides for adoption of either completed contract method or percentage of completion method for recognition of profit on completed contract, which attracts the same limitation of comparability.

iv) The hybrid method of accounting i.e. accounting for income on cash basis and expenditure on accrual (mercantile basis), followed by corporates, conveniently allows them to manipulate their reports.

v) The standards setting process is closed and narrow and the execution is unsound , that causes the various practices and imperfect disclosure, which defeats the prime objective of accounting standards in achieving the good Corporate Governance.

vi) The adoption of IAS in toto without looking into their relevance in the context of Oman industrial environment, lacks the focus on the domestic problems and indigenisation.

The following suggestion are made on the basis of discussions with the corporates to solve the above issues and to improve the utility of accounting standards for ensuring good Corporate Governance.

SUGGESTIONS:

i) The most important suggestion for strengthening the accounting standards to improve the quality reporting thus Corporate Governance values, is focusing on the local conditions, improving the relevance i.e. indigenisation of accounting standards to make the standards more suitable or appropriate to the existing industrial phenomenon in Oman.

ii) The Capital Market Authority in Oman in consultation with other professionals and regulatory bodies should evolve some mechanism to limit the scope of alternative methods available within an accounting standard. Thus,the use of uniform accounting standards would enhance the qualitative and comparability dimensions of financial statement and reporting.

iii) The establishment of harmony among the applicable laws like Companies Act, Income Tax Act, Banking Regulations etc., which have significant bearing on different items of financial statements, would give true and fair view of business.

iv) The formulation of comprehensive and indigeneous standards, like accounting for changes in prices, inflationary economies, segment accounting, accounting for joint ventures, earning per share, investment in subsidiaries, associates etc., useful to make accounting standards more user friendly and international acceptable.

To sum up, though the entire industrial community in Oman has been following the International Accounting Standards and adopting disclosure practices to ensure true and fair view of the economic activities, still a lot more needs to be done to promote good corporate governance and a healthy investment climate. The other middle east countries, which adopt the policy of liberalization and intend to increase in international capital market activities due to globalization should learn that reducing the variety of approaches in the each accounting standards, formulating the comprehensive and indigeneous standards and making all accounting standards as mandatory have to be given top priority for attaining the required objectives, otherwise it will be exceedingly difficult for Oman investors to trust the Corporate Governance.

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* The article is presented in Accounting, Commerce & Finance: The Islamic Perspective International Conference V, held in Brisbane, Australia during 15-17, June 2004.

REFERENCES:

1. Tiwary, Ojha, Arun Kumar, “Corporate Governance in India: What it Means and What it needs?”, The Indian Journal of Commerce, New Delhi, Oct-Dec,1998, p.154.

2. Chandratre, KR, “Role of Board of Directors in Emerging Dimensions of Corporate Governance and Impending Changes in Company Law, The Chartered Secretary, The Institute of Chartered Secretary of India, New Delhi, May 97, p. 505.

3. R.I.Ticker, “Corporate Responsibility, Institutional Governance and the Roles of Accounting Standards” in Michael Bromwich and Anthony G. Hopwood (Eds.), Accounting Standards Setting, An International Perspective, Pitman Books Ltd., London, 1883, p.27., Cited in Lele RK, Jawahar Lal, “Accounting Theory”, Himalaya Publishing House, New Delhi, 96,p.56.

4. Sir Adrian Cadbury, “Developments in Corporate Governance”, The Company Secretary, The Institute of Chartered Secretary of India, New Delhi, May 97, p. 497.

5. The Report of the Cadbury Committee on “Financial Aspects of Corporate Governance”, The Company Secretary, The Institute of Chartered Secretary of India, New Delhi, May 97, p. 573.

6. Verma, Garg, Singh, “Disclosure of Accounting Standards Vis-à-vis Company Characteristics: A Study of Indian Corporate Sector”, The Indian Journal of Commerce, New Delhi, Oct-Dec,1998, p.131.

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Matching Principle in Accounts Receivable

Matching principle is the foundation of accrual accounting and revenue recognition. According to the principle all expenses incurred in generating the revenue must be deducted from the revenue earned in the same period. This principle allows better evaluation of actual profitability and performance and reduces mismatch between when cost is incurred and when revenue is recognized. In accounts receivable providing for bad debt expense in the same year in which related sale revenue is recognized is an application of matching principle.

Accounts receivable represents the amount due from customers for money, service or purchase of merchandise on credit. On the balance sheet, they are classified as current or noncurrent assets based on expectations of the length of time it will take to collect. Majority of receivables are trade receivables, which arises from the sale of products or services to customers.

To help increase their sales revenue, company extends credits to its customers. Credit limits entice its customers to make a purchase. But whenever a company extends a credit to a customer there’s also a risk that the customer will not pay them back. In order to eliminate the risk company sets up some guidelines and policies for extending credit to its customer. They conduct credit investigation to assess the customer’s credit worthiness. They set up collection policy to ensure that they received the payment on time and reduce the risk of nonpayment. Unfortunately, there are still sales on account that may not be collected. It’s either the customer go broke, unhappy of the service provided, or just simply refuse to pay them back. Company does have legal recourse to try to collect their money but those often fail and costly too. This uncollectible accounts receivable is a loss in revenue recognized by recording bad debt expense. As a result, it is become necessary to establish an accounting process for measuring and reporting of these uncollectible accounts.

There are two methods for recording bad debt expense. The first method is the “Direct Write-off Method” and the second is the “Allowance Method”.

The Direct Write-off Method is a very weak method and it does not apply the matching principle of recording the expenses and revenue in the same period. This method records bad debt expense only when a company has exerted all it effort in collecting the money owed and finally declares it as uncollectible. It has no effect on income because it is simply reducing the accounts receivable to its net realizable value.

It is a simple method but it is only acceptable in cases where the company has no accurate means of estimating the value of the bad dents during the year or bad debts are immaterial. In accounting, an item is deemed material if it is large enough to affect the judgment of its financial users. With the direct write off method, several accounting periods have already passed before it is finally determined to be uncollectible and written off. Revenue from the credit sales are recognized in one period but the cost of uncollectible accounts that is related to those sales are not recognized until the next accounting period. This results to a mismatch of revenue and expenses.

The Allowance Method is a preferable method of recording bad debt expenses. This method is in conformity with the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Accounts receivable are reported in the financial statement at net realizable value. Net realizable value is equal to the gross amount of receivables minus an estimate of uncollectible accounts receivable. This is often called allowance for bad debts. This is considered as a contra asset account in the balance sheet. This contra asset account has a normal credit balance instead of debit balance because it is a deduction to accounts receivable. The allowance for bad debt accounts communicates to its financial user that the portion of the accounts receivable is expected to be uncollectible. Under the allowance method, you can estimate bad debts based on each period credit sales or based on accounts receivables.

Estimating bad debt as a percentage of sales is consistent with the matching concept because the bad debt expense is recorded in the same period as the associated revenue. It is computed by providing a fixed percent of debt provision from period to period to the bad debt expense account in the income statement. Prior year trends or patterns in credit sales and related bad debts provide a basis for a reasonable estimate or projection of the bad debt expense for the current year.

In estimating bad debt based on receivables a company may estimate the allowance from aging schedule or a single calculation of based on the total accounts receivable. When using the estimate based on the receivables, the journal entry for bad debt expense must consider the current balance in the allowance account. The amount for the entry is the amount that is needed to bring the balance in the allowance account to the amount desired ending balance.

Managerial Economics – Application of Economic Theory in Solving Business Problems!

Managerial economics is concerned with various micro and macro economic tools and the analysis of which can be used in managerial decision making to solve business problems. Micro economic tools that are used in this subject include demand analysis, production and cost analysis, break-even analysis, pricing theory and practice, technical progress, location decisions and capital budgeting. The macro economic concepts that are directly or indirectly relevant to managerial decision-making comprise national income analysis, business cycles, monetary policy, fiscal policy, central banking, government finance, economic growth, international trade, balance of payments, free trade protectionism, exchange rates and international monetary system.

The scope of this managerial science is wide and it has close connections with economic theory, decision sciences and accountancy. Traditional economics talks about the theory and methodology while managerial economics applies economic theory and methodology to solve business problems. It uses the tools and techniques of analysis to provide with optimal solutions to business problems.

  • Relationship with economics:

Managerial economics borrows concepts from economics just as engineering does from physics and medicine from biology. The analysis of both micro and macro economic concepts add valuable inputs to the organization. Say, national income forecasting is an important aid to business condition analysis which in turn could be a priceless input for forecasting the demand for specific product groups. The theories of market structure can be analyzed for the purpose of market segmentation.

  • Relationship with decision sciences:

Decision models are created to format the solutions for problem situations and the process utilizes techniques like, optimization, differential calculus and mathematical programming. This also helps to analyze the impact of alternate course of action and evaluate the results obtained form the model.

  • Relationship with accounting:

Accounting data and statements constitute the language of business. The accounting profession considerably influences cost and revenue information and their classification. A manager should therefore be familiar with the generation, interpretation and use of accounting data. Accounting moreover is viewed as a management decision tool and not anymore as a mere practice of bookkeeping. The concepts and practices of accounting can be very well applied to improve the economic scope of a project.

Economics is an interesting subject as it deals with the day-to-day problems of a common man and at the same time is concerned with the economic prosperity of a country as a whole. Its primary focus is on scarce resource allocations among competing ends. Individuals, enterprises and nations face problems of resource allocation. Managerial economics may be viewed as economics applied to problem solving at the level of the firm.

All You Need to Know about GAAP Accounting Standards: A Guide to Accounting Principles

What is GAAP?

GAAP, or Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, refers to rules and parameters set by the Accounting Practices Board of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. GAAP also includes certain established ways of accounting, which may or may not have been set by any authority.

Aim of GAAP:

GAAP aims toward making the accounting procedure transparent and make it easier for investors and creditors to get information. Here are some of the goals of GAAP.

1) To make information available to investors and lenders so they can make sound decisions regarding loans and investments.

2) To make information available about resources, funds, and finances.

3) To help investors and lenders assess the viability of an investment or a loan.

Principles behind GAAP:

This section discusses some of the principles behind GAAP.

1) Historical Cost Principle: Companies should make financial statements based on costs related to acquisition of assets and not fair market value. This removes any confusion regarding value of liabilities.

2) Revenue Recognition Principle: The financial statement must state whether revenue is realized or earned.

3) Full Disclosure Principle: The extent of information disclosure is based on analysis of tradeoff.

4) Matching Principle: Expenses have to be proportionate to revenues.

GAAP Suppositions:

In order to make GAAP implementation effective, here are a few basic assumptions regarding the rules.

1) Going Concern Assumption: The business is long term.

2) Economic Entity Assumption: Business is an independent entity and has an identity different from its owner.

3) Monetary Unit Assumption: The monetary currency that is going to be used for recording financial statements will be the stable currency.

4) Periodic Reporting Assumption: Business operations are to be regularly reported, and there will be a regular gap between reports.

GAAP Limits:

GAAP puts some limits on financial reporting.

1) The advantages of financial reporting need to be considered along with cost of giving the information.

2) The procedures need to scrupulously follow GAAP practices.

3) Given two financial reports, the most accurate one should be selected.

In addition to the above principles and conventions, the financial statement needs to be relevant and reliable, since investors and lenders will make decisions based on it. The report should follow prescribed norms so that reports of different businesses can be compared. Reporting should be consistent, and the accounting method should not vary too much over time. GAAP helps financial reports achieve all of the above and prevents financial misrepresentation. If you need to know more about how to implement GAAP in your financial statements, you can consult small business professionals, who will help you draw up a financial report that implements the major GAAP norms.

Importance Of Data In Accounting And Parties Interested In Accounting Information

The term “data” refers to primary details or numerical facts relating to an event or transaction. Data is stored and maintained on a computer or network. Computer Software like HiTech Financial Accounting process this electronic data. Data is also maintained as hardcopy or paper print. Since accounting limits itself only to those transactions and events which are financial in character, therefore, accounting data will consist of facts, financial in nature, relating to transactions and events of a business entity for the accounting period. Moreover, accounting data must be supported by documentary evidence. Thus, documents known as vouchers, support the data. Usually data is disorganized and disjointed in its raw form. It is not capable of being understood. So, accounting processes raw data into finished form of “information” to make it useful and meaningful, capable of being used in decision taking process by the various users of accounting information.

Thus accounting data processed by the accounting cycle produces accounting information. Data is collected, recorded, classified, grouped, valued, tabulated, arranged, summarized in order to present the same in the form of information for its use by the users to enable them to take decisions.

Accounting data Consists of financial transactions and events relating to an entity for the accounting period supported by documentary evidence (vouchers). For example receipts and payments are documented by payee’s receipt purchases by invoice, sales by outwards invoice, returns inwards by credit note; returns outwards by debit note; expenses by bills or payment rolls etc.

Thus the first and the most important function of accounting is to collect the data supported by the vouchers to ensure the authenticity of the same. Accounting processes consist of recording in the books of original entry (journal or sub- journals); classifying (posting into ledger) grouping (putting transactions of similar nature at one place in one account) valuing (finding the value at year end by balancing or valuing) tabulating (preparing list of balances and checking arithmetical accuracy) and preparing financial statements (Trading and Profit and loss account; Balance Sheet) in report form to communicate the information.

Now-a-days computer accounting software can manage this task very efficient in a matter of short time. Accounting information is presented mostly in the form of financial statements like Income statement (Trading and Profit & Loss account) Position statement (Balance sheet). Now-a-days statement of changes in financial position; value added statement; report on Human resources accounting; Social performance report etc. form part of accounting information

Difference between Data and Information

Data

1. Refers to details, facts about any event.

2. Is, generally, disorganized and disjointed in the form.

3. Is in raw-form and is the input of accounting.

4. Cannot be understood or made use of by the users.

5. It does not depend upon information.

Information

1. Refers to only those events which are concerned with entity.

2. Is properly arranged, classified and organized.

3. Is in the finished form and is the output of accounting.

4. Is understood and used by the users of accounting information for taking their decisions.

5. Information is based upon and derived from data.

Parties interested in accounting information

Accounting information is of interest to various persons who are directly or indirectly concerned with an enterprise.

Management:

A small business is generally carried on by the sole trader or by the partners. But a large business is usually conducted by an incorporated company which separates management from ownership. Managers’ responsibility is to operate the business efficiently and maximize the return on capital without jeopardizing the fund.

Management needs accounting information in

(1) selecting out of alternative proposals;

(2) controlling acquisition and maintenance of inventories (stock) cash receipts and payments;

(3) planning or budgeting for the future

(4) appraising the performance and

(5) devising remedial measures for the deviations of the actual results from the budgeted targets.

Owners:

Although owners initiate in contributing fund to the business yet they are the last to receive their claim on equity’s return on their investment. This is true not only in repaying but also in rewarding their capital. After meeting all the charges including employees’ salaries and lender’s interest profit if any can be distributed as a reward on capital. Naturally, the owners are interested in the safety of their capital as also for a reasonable return thereon, which rest on the concern’ s stability and prosperity. Accounting reports (annual) not only appraise the past performance but also assist in assessing future prospects of the entity. Such information is also very important for would-be-owners.

Creditors:

May be short-term viz, suppliers of goods, lenders of temporary advance or long-terms viz. mortgages, debenture holders etc. Although both are interested in the stability and earnings of the debtor firm yet the former specially looks to its short-term solvency i.e. liquidity whereas the latter is interested in long-term solvency of the firm.

Government:

Many products now-a-days are subject to excise-duty and sales Lax. Also the government regulates the prices of essential goods e.g.. drugs, vegetables, oil etc. So the Government is interested to know the costing information to administer excise duties and to regulate the prices of products. Government is also interested in the accounting information on the profits for income tax purposes.

Employees:

Steady employment and stability of business go together. Again trade unions are interested in sharing the profit of the firm in the form of bonus. Therefore, the employees are naturally interested in the accounting information provided by the annual accounting reports.

Consumers:

Price-increase is disfavored in almost all the quarters. Accordingly, a producer endeavors to reduce his product cost as also its selling price. Recently consumer protection associations have been formed to exercise control on the business and industry and also to make them aware of the “Social responsibility” towards society. Thus consumers also need accounting information.

Researchers:

The financial statements, being a mirror of business conditions are of inestimable value for research into business affairs. These statements are therefore of great interest to scholars undertaking research in accounting theory as well as business affairs and practices.

The nature of business income

One of the main objectives of financial accounting is to ascertain whether the business operations have been profitable or not. Accounting enables us to find out whether a business has earned profits or suffered losses during the accounting period.

Principles of Accounting and Accounting Assumptions

In the modem world no business can afford to remain secretive because various parties such as creditors, employees, taxation authorities, investors, public and government etc., are interested to know about the affairs of the business. Affairs of the business can be studied mainly by consulting final accounts and the balance sheet of the particular business. Final accounts and the balance sheet are end products of book-keeping. Because of the importance of these statements it became necessary for the accountants to develop some principles, concepts and conventions which may be regarded as fundamentals of accounting. Such fundamentals having wide acceptance give reliability and creditability to the financial statements prepared by the accountants. The need for ‘generally accepted accounting principles’ arises for two reasons: First, to be logical and consistent in recording the transactions and second, to conform to, the established practices and procedures.

There is no agreement among the accountants as regards the basic concepts of accounting. There is no uniformity in generally accepted accounting principles (GAPP). The terms-axioms, assumptions, conventions, concepts, generalizations, methods, rules, doctrines, techniques, postulates, standards and canons are used freely and inconsistently in the same sense.

Principles

“A general law or rule, adopted or professed as a guide to action, a settled ground or basis of conduct or practice.” This definition given by dictionaries comes nearest to describing what most accountants mean by the word ‘Principle’. Care should be taken to make it clear that as applied to accounting practice, the world principle, does not connote a rule for which there can be no deviation. An accounting principle is not a principle in the sense that it admits of no conflict with other principles.

Postulates

Mean to assume without proof, to take for granted or positive consent, a position assumed as self- evident. Postulates are assumptions but they are not arbitrary deliberate assumptions but generally recognized assumptions which reflect the judgment of ‘facts’ or trend or events, assumptions which have been borne out in past by facts supposed by legal institutions making them enforceable to some extent.

Doctrines

Mean principles of belief: what the scriptures teach on any subject. It refer to an established principle propagated by a teacher which is followed in strict faith. But in accounting practice, no such doctrine need be adhered to but the word denotes the general principles or policies to be followed.

Axiom

Denotes a statement of truth which cannot be questioned by anyone.

Standards

Refer to the basis expected in accounting practice, under different circumstances. In Indian context, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) constituted an Accounting Standards Board on 21st April, 1977. The main function of ASB is to formulate accounting standards taking into consideration the applicable laws, customs, usages and business environment.

Accounting Assumptions

The International Accounting Standards Committee (lASC) as well as the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) treat (vide IAS-I & AS-I) the following as the fundamental accounting assumptions:

(1) Going concern

In the ordinary course, accounting assumes that the business will continue to exist and carry on its operations for an indefinite period in the future. The entity is assumed to remain in operation sufficiently long to carry out its objects and plans. The values attached to the assets will be on the basis of its current worth. The assumption is that the fixed assets are not intended for re-sale. Therefore, it may be contended that a balance sheet which is prepared on the basis of record of facts on historical costs cannot show the true or real worth of the concern at a particular date. The underlying principle there is that the earning power and not the cost is the basis for valuing a continuing business. The business is to continue indefinitely and the financial and accounting policies are followed to maintain the continuity of the business unit.

(2) Consistency

There should be uniformity in accounting processes and policies from one period to another. Material changes, if any, should be disclosed even though there is improvement in technique. A change of method from one period to another will affect the result of the trading materially. Only when the accounting procedures are adhered to consistently from year to year the results disclosed in the financial statements will be uniform and comparable.

(3) Accrual

Accounting attempts to recognize non-cash events and circumstances as they occur. Accrual is concerned with expected future cash receipts and payments: it is the accounting process of recognizing assets, liabilities or income for amounts expected to be received or paid in future. Common examples of accruals include purchases and sales of goods or services on credit, interest, rent (not yet paid), wages and salaries, taxes. Thus, we make record of all expenses and incomes relating to the accounting period whether actual cash has been disbursed or received or not. If a fundamental accounting assumption (i.e. Going concern, consistency and accrual) is not followed (in the preparation of financial statements) the fact should be disclosed. [AS-I para 27].

The Emerging Role (Future) Of Accounting

1. INTRODUCTION

Accounting has evolved as human beings have evolved and as the concepts of the accounting subject are directly coined out from its most fundamental principle of conservatism, it is not difficult to see why the style of accounting at every point in time has a direct link with the age. As man has developed from a primitive age to a modern interdependence age, living has advanced from being subsistent as a hunter-gatherer to a knowledge driven globalised world concept of ‘effectiveness turning to greatness’ and all along with this evolution, self accounting with the abacus has developed through stewardship accounting to financial accounting and now managerial accounting; which has a focus on decision making.

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) of the US which generally standardised and strengthened the globally adopted Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) took significant strides in the year 2012 to come together with the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) in a manner termed as ‘International Convergence’. Such a convergence is expected to gradually harmonise the GAAPs and the IFRS until they become one and the same in a bid to stream line corporate/company reports into a uniform process globally.

1.1 Statement of the Problem

There is no absolute certainty as to what the future holds for the Accounting Profession. It thus seems however, that the future age which definitely would be one of scientific advancement, would move man from greatness to something worthier for the time. Spiritualism, Environmentalism and Developmentalism could be key factors in the future age. This paper is to find out if Accounting itself would be more of a reality providing accurate solutions to financial problems where man’s ability to value natural capital fairly would give rise to a significant asset on the balance sheet in contrast to the industrial age when even man himself was regarded as labour and not being considered as important as the machines he operated.

2. LITERATURE REVIEW

This paper was approached from a content analysis view point – both conceptual and relational. A content analysis is “a research technique for the objective, systematic, and quantitative description of manifest content of communications” – (Berelson, 52). The conceptual analysis was simply to examine the presence of the problem, i.e. whether there is a stronger presence of positive or negative words used with respect to the specific argument while the relational analysis built on the conceptual analysis by examining the relationships among concepts. As with other sorts of inquiry, initial choices with regard to what is being studied determined the possibility of this particular paper.

2.1 Evolution of Accounting Theory

According to investopedia.com, Accounting Theory in the light of its evolution can be defined as the review of both historical foundations of accounting practice as well as the way in which accounting practices are verified and added to the study and application of financial principles. Accounting as a discipline is believed to have existed since the 15th Century. From that time to now businesses and economies have continued to evolve greatly. Accounting theory must adapt to new ways of doing business, new technological standards and gaps that are discovered in reporting mechanisms hence, it is a continuously evolving subject. As professional accounting organisations help companies interpret and use accounting standards, so do the Accounting Standards Board help continually create more efficient practical applications of accounting theory. Accounting is the foundation of efficient and effective business management and intelligent managerial decision making, without which businesses and trade world-wide would operate blindly and fatally. It is therefore necessary to link how it has evolved to its future role.

2.2 The Origin of Accounting

Luca Pacioli wrote a Maths book in 1494 (ehow) that consisted of a chapter on the mathematics of business. As this book is thought to be first official book on accounting, Luca Pacioli has severally been regarded as ‘the father of accounting’. In his Maths book, Pacioli explained that the successful merchant needed 3 things: sufficient cash or credit; an accounting system that can tell him how he is doing; and a good book keeper to operate it. Pacioli’s theory still holds today, it included both journals and ledgers and it is believed to have popularised the use of the double entry accounting that had been in place since the late 1300s.

2.2.1 The First Change in Accounting

During the depression of 1772, the Accounting profession went beyond book keeping to cost accounting. The theory and the idea were transformed into a method determining whether a business is operating efficiently or using an excess of labour and resources. The new theory of cost accounting allowed a trained book-keeper or an accountant to use the book kept to extract financial reports to show the efficiency represented by such data. This new idea led to the survival of businesses during the depression; business that would otherwise have failed without an intelligent management decision making informed by a cost accounting breakthrough.

2.2.2 The American Revolution/ British Courts Influence

The end of the American Revolution saw the first United States (US) governmental accounting system being created in 1789 and it was established to account for and manage the treasury of the US. The double entry practice and theory were adopted. The British courts ruled that they needed professional accountants to make financial information in relation to court cases. Chartered accounting bodies/ concepts were introduced in Britain (and in the US in particular, the Certified Public Accountant – CPA). In 1887, the first standardised exam emerged with Frank Broaker becoming US’s first CPA.

2.3 Modern Cost Accounting

This was first established by General Motors (GM) Company in 1923 and it developed methods that helped cut its costs and streamlined operations and this remained relevant for over 50 years. The new accounting techniques developed included return on investment, return on equity and GM’s flexible/adjustable budget concept.

2.4 Accounting Concepts and Conventions

This was established in US between 1936 and 1938 by the Committee on Accounting Procedure (CAP) thereby standardising Accounting practices for all companies throughout the US. In 1953, the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) was updated to new standards, CAP became Accounting Principles Board (APB) in 1959 and later in 1973, APB (having suffered from poor management) was replaced by Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) with greater powers and opinion for its professional stance.

2.5 International Financial Reporting Standards

FASB issued almost 200 pronouncements between 1973 and 2009 thereby establishing the foundation of Accounting Standards in use presently and is now making current moves to harmonise all accounting principles of GAAP with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). It is widely believed that development of accounting profession in any nation and around the globe is a mixed effort of both accounting theoreticians and practicing accountants. Thus, the framework of accounting is a harmony of efforts whereby professional accounting bodies are usually in the lead of a path to regulation and standardisation of issues relating to accounting.

2.6 The Nigerian Scenario

In Nigeria, the case is not different from what has already been discussed. Most of the country’s accounting standards (concepts and conventions) were inherited from the British colonial masters. And because the world has indeed become a large global village with globalised accounting bodies supervising and making sure that all member countries are abreast with current Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, Nigeria has also tagged along making several public sector and private sector reforms the most recent and famous of which include the approval by the Federal Government in July 2010 to adopt International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) for the public sector and the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) for the private sector as a conscious effort to ensure a uniform chart of reporting system throughout the country by both the public sector and private sector.

2.7 International Convergence of Accounting Standards

This concept is both a goal and a path taken to reach such a goal. The FASB believed that the ultimate goal of convergence is a single set of high-quality, international accounting standards that, companies world-wide would use for both domestic and cross-border financial reporting. To this end, conscious efforts are being made by the FASB and the IASB to jointly eliminate the differences between the ‘GAAP’ and the ‘IFRS’. One such conscious effort was made on the April 5th 2012 when an update report was submitted to the Financial Stability Board Plenary on Accounting Convergence. The ever increasing demand by global capital markets driven by investors’ desire for high-quality internationally comparable financial information is as a result of the usefulness it is expected to immediately provide for decision making and thereafter accurate solutions to problem solving. The IASB was established 1st April 2001 as successor to International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC) and on March 1st 2001 the IASB, which is an independent accounting standard-setter based in London, England assumed the responsibilities for Accounting Standardisation. The IASB is responsible for issuing many accounting standards and pronouncements known as the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).

3. PRESENTATION OF FINDINGS

To give a pictorial view to this paper, two (2) illustrations are used to make presentations (interpretations) of the findings. Illustration.1 traces the Evolution of Accounting; its principles, roles, concepts, professionalism, standardisation and internationalisation. Illustration.2 on the one hand relates Accounting evolution with Human evolution and on the other hand it broadens the understanding of the reader with regards to the subject matter. The reader (user) of this paper easily discovers a past-present-future view of the Role of Accounting and it purports to postulate finally what the future of Accounting could (or should) be. Self Accounting is not a terminology found in the literature of Accounting but is used here to depict any primitive Accounting system which was maintained by traders long before double-entry. Self Accounting, thus, was the past of Accounting when the role of Accounting was merely to have records of Incomes and Expenses, show Liabilities and not necessarily showing Assets and profits as distinguished from the personal or private earnings/estates of a trader. Assets at times might have been recorded as expenses. These are assumable because most businesses operated (and still operate) as sole-ownerships. The Present role of Accounting encompasses; stewardship, financial reporting and managerial decision making. These three provide the nexus of what Accounting is today. The stewardship aspect is so referred to because rich merchants in Europe and the Americas at that time trained their slaves to render book-keeping services. So the merchants themselves did not have to do the tasks. Financial Accounting was developed to give standard to financial reporting especially for the users of such reports who are largely to the businesses concerned. Managerial Accounting evolved to provide records that would aid the decision making process of the managers and owners of businesses. Generally all three roles of accounting as at present assist stakeholders to make good judgments regarding their dealings with businesses. These stakeholders may or ‘may not’ have rights to receive the reports so discussed. The stakeholders include; creditors and government (having rights to receive only financial reports); the shareholders, investors and management (who make use of both the financial reports and the managerial reports); the employee and the management team (who are the users of all the reports: book-keeping, financial reports and managerial reports); and the competitors, resident community and customers – who do not have rights to receive such reports but are able to retrieve financial reports (annual reports) to aid their decisions with regards any business of interest to them.

Having accurate records (reports) support good decision making but sometimes bad interpretation and judgment of the reports and their recorded results may lead to bad decisions taken. The three roles of accounting presently have been the bed-rock with which accounting standardisation of principles and procedures have evolved to date. The Emerging Role (Future) of Accounting then must be anticipated with keen readiness with regards to what should be probable. Illustration.2 would do justice to this concept.

Illustration.1- The Evolution of Accounting in the US (1300 – 2014)

Stewardship (prior 1300)

-Slaves trained to render basic book-keeping

Double Entry (1300)

-Introduction of Double Entry principles

Book-keeping improved (1494)

-Financial Reporting begins

Cost Accounting (1772)

-Managerial Accounting for Decision Making begins

Double Entry (1789)

-Principle of Conservatism fully adopted

Professionalism (1850)

-Concepts/Chartered bodies introduced

AICPA formed in US (1887)

-Providing standards and operational guidelines

-Certification process begins

Qualifying Exams (1897)

-First standardised exams introduced

Cost Accounting Revamped (1923)

-Modern cost accounting methods developed by General Motors Company and remained relevant beyond 1973

Concepts and Conventions (1936)

-Conservatism expanded into other concepts and conventions

-US Committee on Accounting Procedure (CAP) establishes standard accounting practices

CAP Evolves (1953)

-New standards of GAAP fully established

CAP further evolves (1959)

-CAP becomes APB (Accounting Principles Board)

APB evolves (1973)

-Due to poor management and inability to Accounting theory as desired, APB is replaced by FASB

FASB established (1973)

-Financial Accounting Standards Board replaces APB and makes over 200 pronouncements up to 2009

-The foundation of accounting Standards all over the world further strengthened

Influence from the England (2001)

-IASB established as an independent ‘International Accounting Standards-Setter’ based in London, England

-IASB assumes responsibilities from IASC on March 1st 2001

FASB and the International Convergence (2012-2014)

-GAAP (established by the FASB) is being considered for merger into the IFRS (established by the IASB)

3.1 Reality Accounting versus the Future Role of Accounting?

What is Reality Accounting and what then should Reality Accounting encompass? Wikipedia.com defines reality as the totality of all things, structures (actual and conceptual), events (past or present) and phenomena whether observable or not. Reality is thus seen as a term that links ideologies to world views or part of them (conceptual frameworks). Reality Accounting is close to ‘Fair Value Accounting’, which is both a basis and theory of accounting. And it seems to be transforming into the Future Role of Accounting. In Financial Accounting, it is easily seen that accounting reflects corporate and economic realities as they are, though it is common sense to know that accounting cannot adequately reflect reality particularly in relation to the technical limitation of double-entry bookkeeping and Fair Value Accounting. As part of the changes emanating from Reality Accounting, a new concept of ‘Natural Capital’ has surfaced. At the Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development organised by the United Nations Conference for Sustainable Development (UNCSD), which took place in Brazil on 20-22 June 2012. At the Conference, a Natural Capital declaration was made such that Natural capital is now understood to be comprising of all Earth’s natural assets (soil, air, water, flora and fauna) and the ecosystem services resulting from them, which make human life possible. It estimated that ecosystem goods and services from natural capital are worth trillions of US dollars per year and constitute food, fibre, water, health, energy, climate security and other essential services for everyone.

3.2 The Concept of Natural Capital

Neither the services, nor the stock of Natural Capital that provides them, are adequately valued compared to social and financial capital despite being fundamental to all that exists. The daily use of Natural Capital remains grossly undetected within our financial system. There is therefore the need to use Natural Capital in a manner that is sustainable. All stakeholders, including the private sector and governments must begin to appreciate and account for the use of Natural Capital and recognise the true cost of its economic growth as well as sustaining human wellbeing now and in the future.

3.3 Natural Capital Framework

Natural Capital though treated as a free good but must be seen as part of a global pool of wealth for which governments must act now and wisely to create a framework that shall regulate, reward or tax the private sector for its use. Reliable policy frameworks that can report the value, use and depletion of natural capital must be the intent of any government desirous of making a good start with this new accounting phenomenon. Deeper economic influence is given to accounting under Reality Accounting since all that are regarded as real are only truly real in their consequence and not in their physical. Therefore the value of Natural Capital for instance would be the value ascertained after considering various factors that give rise to such valuation. These factors include the size, presence of mineral resources, location, other natural resources, presence of plant and animal life etc.

Illustration.2- The Emerging Role (Future) of Accounting

HUMAN AGE………….HUMAN EVOLUTION…………………………….ACCOUNTING EVOLUTION

Primitive age………..Hunter – gatherer……………………………..Self Accounting

(Independence)……(Subsistent living)……………………………..(Abacus)



Colonial age…………Colonialisation…………………………………Stewardship Accounting

(Dependent age)…..(Being efficient)……………………………….(Book-keeping)



Modern Age………….Technology driven by Industrialisation…….Financial Accounting

(Independence)…….(Being effective)………………………………(Financial Reporting)



Modern Age………….Technology driven by Knowledge…………..Management Accounting

(Interdependence)…(From effectiveness to greatness)…………(Decision making)

?↓

The Future Age………Technology driven by advancements……..Reality Accounting?

(Efficiency…………….Environmentalism?…………………………..(Not as a tool for decision

based on……………..Developmentalism?………………………….making but providing

Interdependence……Spiritualism?…………………………………..accurate solutions to

…………………………(From greatness to what?)………………….financial problems)

4.0 CONCLUSION

As man seeks greater heights in a modern world full of scientific and research discoveries, Accountants must ponder what the emerging role of their profession must be. From merely providing information on the wellbeing of a business to financial reporting as a corporate responsibility and now decision making managerial approach for future forecasts, what then does that future hold for accounting or how is accounting expected to remain professional and relevant in that future which seems would be molded by environmental and developmental challenges all over the globe. As accurate records and reports have supported good decision making though sometimes bad interpretation and judgment of the reports and their recorded results have led to bad decisions taken, the present roles of accounting, which have formed the bed-rock with which accounting standardisation of principles and procedures have evolved are now facing evident changes.

Under the scope of Reality Accounting, it is clearly observed that concepts such as International Convergence, Natural Capital, Environmentalism, Developmentalism and Fair Value Accounting will sooner than latter set the path for the future of accounting.

This paper is to stimulate academic arguments for or against the subject matter in order to bring to the awareness of accountants about a subconscious change that is already taking place. It is recommended therefore that seasoned researchers should come forth with further ideas, summaries and reviews that can boost a clear pathway for the future of accounting.

REFERENCES

1. http://www.investopedia.com (Accounting Theory)

2. http://www.eHow.com (The History of Accounting Theory)

3. Berelson, Bernard. Content Analysis in Communication Research. New York: Free Press, 1952

Basic Accounting Principles – What Are They?

There are four basic accounting principles that, along with four basic accounting assumptions and four basic accounting constraints, make up the generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, in the U.S. The GAAP are the accounting rules under which businesses record and report their financial earnings and losses for the accounting period. These rules are issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board, usually in conjunction with other government entities. Accountants are not necessarily required to follow the rules, but the rules should be followed as closely as possible as they set standards that should be met to ensure appropriate accounting activity, understandability and comparability of the accounting data for different businesses.  Below is a list of the four basic accounting principles and a brief explanation of each one.

1. The Cost Principle

Businesses are required to record and report assets based on the actual cost incurred to acquire them rather then the free-market value of the acquired assets themselves. The idea behind this principle is that this method of recording and reporting is reliable and lessens the opportunity for factors such as biased market values to interfere with the accounting.  However, this method may be viewed as irrelevant as it relates to the actual value of assets.

2. The Accrual Principle

Businesses are required to record and report revenue at the time it is earned and realized by the business, not when the cash for the revenue is received by the business.  This method is known as accrual basis accounting. The purpose of this principle is to actually show what work has been completed and not what is to be done in the future.

3. The Matching Principle

This principle allows for real time analysis of the expenses and revenues. Using this principle will show just how well the business has done financially and how effective it was.  Somewhat like the Accrual Principle, expenses in this case can only be recorded and reported when revenue is to which such expenses are related was earned.

4. The Disclosure Principle

The accounting records of a business must be disclosed so that judgment about the financial status of a business can be easily made.  However, the disclosure of accounting and financial information should not cause the business to accrue unreasonable expenses or cause erroneous opinions.