IAS 39

IFRS 9 examinability

Published on: 04 Dec 2009

Graham Holt, the examiner for ACCA paper P2, has long stated that he wishes P2 to remain a “cutting edge” paper.  This means that he is fond of testing new accounting standards, especially those that are controversial.  We at ExP think that this is both appropriate and fair.

We’ve been asked by a number of people via the “ask the tutor” facility whether the new standard for financial instruments, IFRS 9 could be examined in the December 2009 exam.  The answer is that IFRS 9 is definitely not within the scope of the P2 exam in December 2009, though it will be from June 2010.

HOWEVER, the controversy around some of the perceived weaknesses of IAS 39 would be within the syllabus for the December 2009 exam.  This means that the new rules won’t be examined, but we can easily imagine a question that asks, say, if the number of different classifications within IAS 39 is excessively confusing and asking students to criticise whether people can really be expected to know all of IAS 39’s rather piecemeal rules.  For example, the treatment of transaction costs is rather inconsistent within IAS 39 depending on the initial categorisation of an investment; so that the same investment in the same shares could be required to include transaction costs (if classified as available for sale) or require that those transaction costs are written off (if classified as held at fair value through profit or loss).

Similarly, some weaknesses in IAS 39 that could be “inspired” by the terms of IFRS 9 could be in there, such as whether it really gives a true and fair view to have gains and losses on available for sale financial assets shown initially through equity, yet dividends from those same investments shown in profit.  Wouldn’t it be more sensible to have a uniform treatment for all gains and losses relating to that instrument (as IFRS 9 does).

So the full answer is a bit more complicated than the basic answer.  The examiner can’t test IFRS 9 directly, but he could test it through the “back door” by asking for criticism of the previous rules.

IFRS 9 released. This is a biggie.

Published on: 29 Nov 2009

On 12 November 2009, the IASB issued IFRS 9 “Financial Instruments”.  This is the first stage of a three stage project that will probably make or break the international reputation of the IASB and its deeply impressive chairman, Sir David Tweedie.

The IASB inherited IAS 32 and IAS 39 from its predecessor, the IASC.  IAS 32 and IAS 39 have been rather markedly unloved ever since their introduction.  IAS 39 in particular has been criticised for taking fairly complicated financial transactions and making them more complicated still with piecemeal rules for different types of transaction.  Although it definitely had its supporters, many people said that the perceived complexity of IAS 39 made it insufficiently understandable by most people to be much real use.

Here at ExP, we believe that IAS 39 has had a slightly unfair press over the years.  It does have its faults for sure, but it also has a decent logic at its core.  The new IFRS (which will come in three parts over the next year; the next two stages to deal with impairments and the third phase to address hedging rules) has a tough job.  Make the rules simpler and it will create loopholes that will be exploited by creative accounting.  Close every possible gap and it will result in an accounting standard that puts on weight each year with minor amendments and ends up not understandable.

The attempts at simplification are honourable.  We’ll wait to see with interest how well they work.  But well done to the IASB for keeping calm in the global financial crisis that many commentators blamed the accountancy profession for making much worse.  They were under huge pressure to make change and they appear to have done a good job in the time they had available.

The ExP Group