IFRS 8 – heading for trouble in Europe

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I have had an ongoing battle with the IASB on IFRS 8. This standard moves accounting into uncharted waters that only the US have looked at before (and not without some difficulties arising for them on the way). Worse, it abandons any commitment to accounting on the basis of geography which breaks the links between a corporation and the societies which grant its licence to operate, and as such undermines the whole essence of CSR.

As I've argued for the Publish What You Pay coalition and for the Tax Justice Network, what is needed in addition to existing segment reporting standards is country-by-country reporting by multinationals. As I reported last September, the IASB have accepted the need to set up a working party to look at this proposal, but I've got to say they're dragging their feet on the issue, which is not encouraging.

Some feared that might be the end of the matter. It looks highly unlikely that will be the case. Recent opposition to IFRS 8 has come from the private sector, as Finance Week has noted, and as I have on this blog. I think it fair to note we have been in touch with some of those mentioned. And whilst PWYP have created an opportunity for progress with the IASB this group have done so in the EU. The EU Parliament now has a motion before it that says (in summary and slightly edited to make it more comprehensible):

Whereas, within the process of convergence between IFRS and US GAAP, the IASB has proposed to replace the IAS14 with the IFRS 8, the European Parliament,

1. Is concerned about the Commission's proposal to endorse IFRS 8 through which it intends to incorporate US SFAS 131 into EU law and thus impose it on the listed EU companies;

2. Points out that such endorsement of IFRS 8 would imply moving from a regime which clearly defines how listed EU companies should define and report on segments to an approach that permits management itself to define operating segments as management finds suitable and which furthermore requires a lower level of disclosure and could thus lead to a lack of consistency in reporting;

3. Believes that the adopted standard should include a defined measure of segment profit or loss, as IAS 14 does;

4. Highlights that the IFRS 8 standard, which does not require companies to use IFRS measures in their disclosure about operating segments, may have a negative impact on the comparability of financial information and thus may pose difficulties for users (e.g. investors);

5. Is concerned that the Commission is proposing, contrary to the principles of better regulation, to import into EU law an alien standard without having conducted any impact assessment;

6. Expresses its concerns about the impact that such a move would have for the EU prepares and users of financial statements and stresses the urgent need to conduct such an impact assessment;

7. Calls on the Commission to urgently carry out an in-depth impact assessment before endorsing the standard;

8. Stresses that, should the Commission fail to do so, Parliament will carry out its own impact assessment;

9. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and Commission, and the parliaments and governments of the Member States.

I'm not sure I'd quite agree that this means, as one person has said to me, that:

IFRS 8 is now dead in the water.

But it's a very welcome sign that things are not going well for it and that real opportunities for change are being created. We have every intention of supporting that process.