Insights on Management Commentary in financial reports: The views of users, preparers and auditors

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(c) The authors (CC BY-NC 4.0)
Purpose: New Zealand (NZ) has no reporting standard or guidance for management commentary (MC) that accompanies financial reports. This is unusual, considering MC is provided by many entities and valued by users. Further, the guidance on MC provided by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) in their Management Commentary Practice Statement 1 (MCPS1), which was issued in 2010, is currently under review. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to examine the views of NZ’s financial reporting stakeholders, particularly users, preparers and auditors of financial reports for insights regarding the usefulness of MC. Design/methodology/approach: To gain insights into the views of NZ’s financial reporting stakeholders on MC, this paper surveyed users, preparers and auditors of financial statements. This paper includes an analysis of their views on the objectives, content and principles that should underlie MC in financial reporting, based on the IASB’s MCPS1 with consideration of recent work by the IASB on the revision of MCPS1. In addition, the analysis provides insights as to whether the reporting of MC should be made mandatory, and whether assuring MC would increase its usefulness. Findings: This study found that auditors generally view MC as less useful and more in need of assurance than do preparers and users. Respondents’ ratings indicate that the most important objective for MC is “to enable the assessment of the quality of management’s stewardship”. “Assessing the entity’s future prospects”, and “assessing future cash flows” are also highly rated objectives. The most important principle in preparing MC is identified as “focus on the most important and relevant information”, while the most important content element identified is “the entity's financial performance and position, and cash flows”. Originality/value: This paper highlights the views of various stakeholders regarding MC reporting, particularly preparers and auditors whose views have not been noted previously in the literature. Also, this study should be of interest to both international and national financial reporting standard setters and regulators. It is particularly timely in view of the current IASB work towards revision and updating of MCPS1, as it provides current insights into what users, preparers and auditors perceive as the most important considerations for MC. This study also has implications for the XRB in NZ, where there is no prior research on stakeholders’ views on MC.
Meditari Accountancy Research, 2022, Forthcoming