I'm working on this year's Mind the Tax Gap at the moment. That's an analysis of the tax paid by the top 50 companies in the UK. I admit that collecting the data is dull. tedious work which has also to be right.
One of the opportunities this is giving me is the chance to compare old UK GAAP accounts with IFRS accounts. So far there's a broad summary to be made. In a majority of cases it's hard to see a difference. And then you get someone like Cadbury Schweppes. Let's look at some of the comparatives that have changed:
- Number of staff employed (How?)
- The dividend (I kid you not)
- Tax due after more than one year (where did £97 million due disappear to, I wonder?)
The list could go on. But why, I wonder are some companies seeking to present as much continuity as possible and others, of which Cadbury's is a good example, seemingly sweeping all away and apparently starting afresh from a point that nobody could recognise?
It worries me.
As does the whole IFRS approach. I've heard rumour that analysts think IFRS accounts an improvement and accountants think they're a lot worse. I'm with the accountants - except that they've understated the case. When you get to a company that has discontinued operations IFRS reporting basically makes it almost impossible to secure meaningful data - even the auditor's remuneration is restated in that case. Which is a joke, unless, of course, you see Sir David Tweedie in the role of Big Brother rewriting history.
Now there's an idea.