Historical Cost Accounting Versus Fair Value Accounting Essay

Fair value versus historical cost Accounting

Measurement is a cardinal construct in accounting and fiscal coverage. Fiscal coverage is centered on describing a house ‘s province of personal businesss and its public presentation over a period through the usage of Numberss. As noted by CIPFA ( 2010 ) , fiscal coverage has as its major objective the ‘production of accurate, complete, relevant, seasonably and dependable fiscal information to show and keep answerability, to run into statutory coverage demands, to account to an organisation ‘s stakeholders for its fiscal public presentation and to back up decision-making ‘ ( CIPFA, 2010, p. 24 ) . ICAEW ( 2006 ) posits that there are five different bases of measuring that serves the intent of accrual accounting. These bases include historical cost, value to the concern ( current cost or deprival value ) , just value, realizable value and value in usage ( p. 21 ) . The ICAEW argue that the pick of a measurement methodological analysis should be based foremost its ‘cost effectivity ‘ and its ‘fitness for intent ‘ ( P. 21 ) and so following on its ‘relevance ‘ and ‘reliability ‘ . Alexander et Al. ( 2006 ) notes that there is a general penchant for current value measuring methods ( current cost, just value, realizable value and value in usage ) when compared with historical costs methods and there is a peculiar penchant from just value accounting.

This gap paragraph highlights the potency for contention that lies in the pick of measurement footing for assets and liabilities. To farther worsen this contention there are no clear criterions or counsel to day of the month either from the IASB or the FASB on what the appropriate measurement footing is. The develop of this criterion can be considered as a work in advancement, with the IASB noting that the completion of this procedure and the establishment of a criterion to cover just value accounting is non in sight ( Nikolaev and Christensen, 2009 ; Shortridge et al. , 2007 ) . The argument has been brought to life by legion position points from faculty members and practicians. The concluding ‘straw that broke the camel ‘s dorsum ‘ was the recent planetary fiscal crisis and the possible function that just value accounting played in escalating the crises. This undertaking sets out to reexamine the virtues and demerits of just value accounting in the face of its background ( historical cost accounting ) . It will besides measure whether historical cost information remains utile in amidst the execution of just value accounting. The function of just value accounting in the planetary fiscal crisis will be evaluated and recent developments on just value accounting by the IASB will be highlighted. Core beginnings of information for this rating will be publications for standard compositors ( IASB and FASB ) , professional accounting organic structures ( ACCA, ICAEW, CIPFA and ICAS ) , sentiments of concern leaders and empirical research propositions from faculty members.

Merits and demerit of just value ( as opposed to historical cost ) accounting

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Fair value accounting ( besides known as Marked-to-market accounting ) is fundamentally fiscal describing ‘at fair values ‘ . IAS 39 defines just value as ‘the sum for which an plus could be exchanged or a liability settled, between knowing, willing parties in an arm ‘s length dealing ‘ ( Alexander et al. , 2007, p. 395 )

The IASB ‘s Fair value accounting policies are encompassed in IAS 39: Fiscal Instruments ; Recognition and Measurement ( Alexander et al. 2007 ) . The standard prescribes that fiscal assets and liabilities should be ab initio measured at cost. Alexander et Al. ( 2007 ) noted that the IASB has besides introduced an option for houses to ‘designate fiscal assets and liabilities at just value through net income or loss history and step it at just value for the whole period of its acknowledgment ‘ ( p. 413 ) . The addition or loss from subsequent measuring is transferred to the equity and income history depending on the plus type ( Alexander et al. , 2007 ) . Initial measuring of fixed assets ( belongings, works and equipment- PPE ) is at historical costs ( IAS 16 ) , while a house has two options for subsequent measurings: ‘-an point of PPE shall be carried at its cost less any accrued depreciation and any accrued impairment loss ; -an point of PPE whose just value can be measured faithfully shall be carried at a revalued sum, being its just value at the day of the month of reappraisal less any subsequent accumulated depreciation and subsequent accrued impairment loss ‘ ( IAS16, Par. 30-31 )

Relevance versus dependability

The chief argument around the historical cost versus just value accounting seems to be on how they adhere to accounting rules and doctrines notably the rules of relevancy and dependability. Shortridge et Al. ( 2006 ) argue that the issue is a philosophical argument were protagonists of historical cost accounting postulate that just value accounting is undependable while advocates of just value history argue that historical cost accounting is irrelevant.

Relevance is an accounting rule which argues that fiscal studies should supply utile information to run into the demands of stakeholders ( Alexander et al. , 2007 ) . Shortridge et Al. ( 2006 ) contend protagonists of fair-value accounting argue that measurings at just value are more relevant to determination shapers even if they are less dependable. Balance sheets presented just values are more likely to stand for the true province of the company ( Christensen and Nikolaev, 2009 ) . Historical cost information becomes irrelevant as the values of assets change over clip which is frequently the instance. Shortridge et Al. ( 2006 ) argue that historical cost accounting does non let stakeholders to derive of import information about alterations in plus values that may originate either from depreciation or grasp.

Dependability refers to the rule of fiscal coverage that asserts that ‘users should be able to hold a high grade of assurance in the information ‘ provided by fiscal statements ( Alexander et al. , 2007, p. 9 ) . The widely held belief in the concern universe is that just value accounting is markedly undependable. Historical cost accounting warrants that assets are reported at their historical costs adjusted for accrued depreciation ( Nikolaev and Christensen, 2009 ) . This means that there is less chance for unscrupulous direction to fiddle with plus values. Fair value accounting nevertheless requires that plus values be ascribed based on direction assessments, ratings and estimations. More badgering is that fact that additions from subsequent ratings ( utilizing any of the many rating techniques available ) can be transferred straight to the income statement ( Alexander et al. , 2007 ) . This provides an chance for unsafe net incomes direction. Worse still, Martin et Al. ( 2006 ) noted that effectual auditing of just value accounting statements requires particular accomplishments which hearers do non hold.


Fair-value or marked-to-market accounting consequences in instability in fiscal coverage. Fair values alter invariably because by definition they depend on the current market monetary value of assets. This was the instance during the recent planetary fiscal crisis. Boyer ( 2007 ) argues that just values are riotous as they incorporate the instability of fiscal markets into fiscal coverage. Asset values plummeted significantly from one fiscal one-fourth to another implying that the value of a house ‘s assets fluctuate significantly and net incomes reported will be significantly capable to the pick of balance sheet day of the month. Ramesh and Graziono ( 2004 ) contend that just value accounting presents a new chance for uninterrupted describing where houses report their net incomes on a more uninterrupted footing as opposed to the current discrete ( quarterly, semi yearly and yearly ) describing systems under historical cost accounting.


By definition carnival values change invariably and for just value coverage to be effectual, comptrollers must continuously supervise the market value of each plus and invariably upgrade their histories. This is non a simple procedure or cost effectual procedure for houses. The contrary statement is that it that historical cost coverage does non do rating simpler for investors either ( Ramesh and Graziono, 2004 ; Shortridge et al. , 2006 ) . If the house does non describe at current values, investors are forced to decode such statements in their command to rectify value the houses to do their investing determinations. Ramesh and Graziono ( 2004 ) noted that historical cost accounting is income statement focused while just value accounting is more balanced sheet oriented. None of the theoretical accounts hence makes describing simpler for houses or for investors.

The measuring job

Some assets are non traded often and hence a market monetary value for them will be difficult discovery. See for illustration a bespoke machine design and constructed to accommodate the demands of a peculiar coal excavation house. This machine will really non hold a market value because it unique to this house and can therefore non be traded in an weaponries length unfastened market dealing. The best usher to the value of that machine is its historical cost. The deficiency of suited comparatives is hence a major job in geting at just values for many houses. This is non the instance with fiscal assets which are extremely tradable. The fact that they are extremely liquid agencies that the best rating for them is non their historical cost but the monetary value that the market is willing to pay to get such assets ( Ramesh and Graziano, 2004 ) . Ramesh and Graziono ( 2004 ) commend historical cost coverage for initial acknowledgment but noted that ‘subsequent measurings are based on ad hoc allotments ‘ ( P. 6 )

Book values versus market values

It is non unusual to happen a house whose market value is significantly greater than its book value. What this implies in an efficient market is that the book values of the assets do non really reflect the just values of the assets. The message is hence that book values ( derived from historical costs ) can non be excessively relied upon-irrelevance. The usage of just value accounting is bound to drive book value closer to market values therefore bettering the significance of fiscal coverage in general. Boyer ( 2007 ) how of all time noted that market values really constitute unfulfilled additions. The force per unit area to travel towards just values means that houses will often describe unfulfilled net incomes and with increasing force per unit area from investors, such unfulfilled net incomes will be distributed. This is against the accounting construct of prudence. Again Boyer ( 2007 ) noted that just value accounting relies strongly on the efficiency of fiscal markets which another topic for argument. In the yesteryear, accounting values were instead used to measure the cogency of market values and market efficiency ( see Lee et al. , 1999 ) .

The impairment versus grasp contention

The IASB in its IAS 36: Damage of Assetss, authorizations that plus damage be tested by sing whether the historical cost of the plus outstrips its recoverable value[ 1 ]. If this is the instance, a house is required to acknowledge and impairment loss. This is an facet of the prudence construct. There is hence small justification and a big incompatibility if houses are non allowed to acknowledge plus ( reappraisal ) additions based on the just value construct.

The relevancy of historical cost information amidst just value accounting

Historical costs still remain relevant amidst the thrust towards just value accounting. One ground for this is that assets have to be ab initio reported or recognized at historical cost as this presents the best estimation of the assets just value at the day of the month of origin.

The function of just value accounting in the planetary fiscal crises ( 2007-2009 )

As noted above just value accounting has been ‘under fire ‘ since the start of the planetary fiscal crisis. Boyer ( 2000 ) contends that just value accounting goads banking crisis. It does so through several ways ; ‘it gives Bankss an inducement to fudge, securitize or switch hazard to less informed histrions, it places an accent on short term consequences as opposed to long term client relationships, it reduces the ability for Bankss to cut down inter-temporal dazes, it increases the force per unit area for Bankss to administer unfulfilled additions from assets, it increases the cyclical form of bank loaning therefore cut downing imparting to SMEs and it reduces comparison amongst Bankss ‘ ( P. 792 ) . These are features that both started the crisis ( securitization ) and alleviated the crises ( decrease of loaning ) . Magnan ( 2009 ) reviewed different bank failures including Credit Suisse and Lehman Brothers and from his grounds, came to the decision that just value accounting did non merely speed up and exacerbated the crisis but was besides one of the chief implicit in causes. In his earlier survey with Cormier, Magnan asserted that just value accounting is a tendency recommending the move from accounting to ‘forecounting ‘ which he defined as ‘estimating expected future hard currency flows and integrating into fiscal statements ‘ ( Magnan and Comier, 2005, p. 250 ) . He noted that the planetary fiscal crisis can be attributed to such ‘forecounting ‘ ( Magnan, 2009 ) .

Analysis of the recent developments of just value accounting by the IASB

Deloite ( 2010 ) traces the development of just value accounting. It asserts that IAS 39 was enacted and effectual from 1 January 2001 ; It was revised to reflect macro hedge in Match 2004 ; Other amendments were made to integrate a just value option, fiscal warrant contract, and hard currency flow hedges ; These amendments came into consequence in January 2006.

Presently there is a new alteration plan in topographic point amidst all the contention originating from the recent fiscal crisis. The IASB has published a new exposure bill of exchange ( ED/2009/5 ) as of May 2009 titled just value measuring. The IASB in the gap statement notes that just value accounting has been in development since when its predecessors were in charge of standard development. They besides contend that to day of the month at that place has been no clear counsel is uncomplete and neither provides a ‘clear measuring nonsubjective nor and robust measuring model ‘ ( ED/2009/5, p. 5 ) . One noteworthy development is the new bill of exchange is the new definition of just value ; ‘the monetary value that would be received to sell an plus or paid to reassign a liability in an orderly dealing[ 2 ]between market participants at the measuring day of the month ( an issue monetary value ) ‘ ( P. 5 ) . The board goes on to province ‘In the absence of an existent dealing at the measuring day of the month, a just value measuring assumes a conjectural dealing in the most advantageous market[ 3 ]for the plus or liability ‘ ( p.5 ) .

The bill of exchange is basically geared at supplying counsel towards measuring with the hope of bettering comparison between companies and cut downing the opportunities of net incomes direction. The statements underlined can be seen as reactive accommodations originating for the recent fiscal crisis. Harmonizing to the current regulations, monolithic write downs were warranted and this is argued to hold exacerbated the planetary fiscal crisis. By enforcing limitations of ‘orderly dealing ‘ and ‘most advantageous market ‘ ( defined in the footers ) , the IASB efficaciously mitigates the jobs introduced by just value accounting in a worsening market. However, I argue that this place does non conform with the rule of prudence as it allows houses to show the ‘most optimistic ‘ image of their province of personal businesss.


In rule, just value accounting provides a more utile system of fiscal coverage. The major job nevertheless seems to be on the dependability of direction ego reported ratings. Historical cost accounting is advantageous in this facet as it relies entirely on difficult grounds and non on managerial ‘estimates ‘ . Several rating techniques mean that effectual comparison across houses, under a just value accounting position, becomes hard and hindered. Further developments in this country should therefore see the development of dependable rating methods to be used across all houses. The usage of just value accounting does non annul the utility of historical cost measurings. At the acknowledgment phase, the cost of an plus represents its just value. Historical cost will ever function as a counsel of the assets value and I will recommend that the historical cost of each plus should still be reported in the notes to the histories. Fair value accounting has besides been criticized as playing a function in the planetary fiscal crisis and empirical grounds discussed in this undertaking finds that such unfavorable judgment is non baseless. While the IASB has continued to develop and better counsel on just value accounting, I find that such counsel is reactive ( to the fiscal crises ) and is extensively imprudent.