Potentially dysfunctional impacts of harmonising accounting standards: the case of intangible assets

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Intangible Assets as a category within accounting and reporting disclosures have become far more noticeable in recent years, including large amounts associated with brands, mastheads, franchises, and patents. Many of these items are not purchased but internally generated within the organisation, and may account for much of the difference in magnitude between book value and market capitalisation. The International Accounting Standards Committee has recently issued IAS 38 to regulate the reporting of intangible assets, and includes therein the prohibition of those intangible assets, which have been internally generated. This prohibition would cut across recently developed practices in Australia and New Zealand. The problem is compounded by an increasingly close relationship between IASs and the national standards of both Australia and New Zealand, making it very likely that the problem areas within IAS 38 will be transferred to the national standards. This paper examines the areas within IAS 38, which are likely to lead to undesirable consequences, both for internally generated intangible assets but also in terms of the reinforcement of somewhat conservative aspects of financial accounting including historical cost and the inhibiting effects on new developments generally. The possible compounding effects of an expectations gap between the traditional and expected role of financial statements is briefly examined as a possible explanation of the divergence of opinion between different groups involved in the development of accounting standards and reports.
Intangible assets, Accounting standards