In 2002 FASB and IASB joined a common project regarding convergence of the international financial accounting standards. The purpose of the project was to eliminate differences between US GAAP and IFRS and to improve the existing accounting standards as well as to improve the financial information to the users of financial reporting, in relations to their economic decisions. The boards evaluated the current standards in US GAAP and IFRS, and released a memorandum of understanding which listed the issues that should be addressed through the convergence project, signaling major changes in financial reporting was about to commence. One standard exposed to major criticism was IAS 17, the accounting standard for leases. The criticism regards the issue, recognition depends on the classification of the lease agreement and that lessees do not recognize all lease obligation on their balance sheets. In 2010 FASB and IASB released a joined exposure draft regarding IAS 17. The purpose of the analysis is partly to examine whether change in IAS 17 is consistent with purpose of the convergence project. If the standard is executed in the present edition it will change lease accounting for both lessees and lessors, and the most significant change regards recognition of all lease agreements in the balance sheets. IASB has prepared the framework as a part of international accounting standards to set out concepts which underlie the preparation and presentation of financial statements to external users. The purpose of the framework is to assess the board in development of future international accounting standards and its review of existing international accounting standards. Furthermore the framework states that information value, in the financial reporting, is ensured by the qualitative characteristics of relevance, reliability, understandability and comparability. The purpose of the analysis is to evaluate whether the change in IAS 17 complies with the qualitative characteristics in the framework as well as to illustrate whether the exposure draft is more compliant to the framework than the current IAS 17 is. As mentioned earlier, stakeholders has pointed significant criticism against IAS 17, points of criticism that has been a part of the ground on which the decision to improve the accounting standard for leases has been made. Unfortunately it does not seem as though IASB and FASB have come up with a definitive solution, instead the changes suggested leads to new questions and problems. As an example the problem with too vague definitions of leases; one for operational leases and one for financial leases, is no longer present in the changes suggested, which seems to make the recognition simpler for both lessee and lessor. This is not the case though, as two different methods of recognition, measurement and presentation is implemented for lessor Performance Obligation Approach and Derecognition Approach. The choice between these methods depends on the lessors risk assessment, which has to be evaluated separately for every single leasing agreement. All in all the transparency as well as the credibility does not seem to be improved for either lessee nor lessor, as the changes suggested, as mentioned earlier, leads to more questions and more loose ends. The changes will affect a large number of companies, however the transportation industry is assumed to be affected the most, due to the use of a large amount of lease contracts in this industry. Consequences of the change of IAS 17, according to the exposure draft, are illustrated through an example of the effect on the financial reporting and financial ratios, for a company in the transport industry, SAS Group. Furthermore the effect on Carlsberg Group is used as an example of a company not likely to be affected as much.
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