Application of prudence in fnancial reporting – a habit or necessity?
Keywords:prudence, neutrality, financial reporting, qualitative characteristics, unconditional conservatism, conditional conservatism, IAS/IFRS, Conceptual Framework for Financial Reporting
For many centuries financial reporting has been rightfully labeled as conservative. The principle of prudence whose application generates conservatism, which is characterized by time asymmetry in the recognition of gains and losses, is not only one of the oldest but also one of the most in?uential rules in financial reporting. Determining the investors, creditors and other lenders as primary users of financial statements has led to the fact that in the Conceptual Framework for Financial Reporting the neutral presentation of financial statements has the absolute precedence over prudence, which is marked as undesirable. Numerous empirical studies largely caused by such a radical change have shown that the benefits of application of conservatism in financial reporting and in the present circumstances are such that they greatly surpass its weaknesses. On the other hand, neutrality can be achieved in the presentation of certain positions in financial statements but not under the existing circumstances and financial statements in general.
Substituting prudence with neutrality violates consistency, which is necessary between the Conceptual Framework for Financial Reporting and IAS/IFRS. Many of IAS/IFRS contain requests for recognition and validation that are based on the prudence. Meeting these requests will inevitably lead to conservatism in the presentation of financial statements.
Since IAS/IFRS are built on a mixed basis consisting of the historical cost concept, which is tightly linked with prudence, and fair value concept, which is linked with neutrality, then it is quite reasonable to expect both neutrally and conservatively presented information in the presentation of financial statements. By restoring prudence in the Conceptual Framework for Financial Reporting, besides eliminating inconsistence that exists between it as a basis for revising existing and adopting new standards, contribution of conservatism to protecting the interests of creditors and investors would be confirmed.