A GUIDE TO IFRS IMPLEMENTATION IN INDIA

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The Indian Council of Institute of Chartered Accountants of India had set forth the target of implementing IFRS in India way back in 2007. IFRS already is widely accepted in more than 100 companies around the world spanning several countries.

Major economies like Brazil & Japan have already set the roadmap for IFRS convergence. With the US paving its way for IFRS implementation in early 2014, it is on its way to become a globally recognized & accepted reporting standard. [1] 

Businesses are increasingly crossing the national boundaries and going international. Businesses are also going in for external funding to fulfil their capital requirement. This has brought the need to establish a globally prudent and harmonized financial reporting standard.

With 2011 at close distance, Indian companies are faced with an uphill task in terms of financial reporting. IFRS implementation not only involves large transition costs but also impacts all the financial statements considerably. Businesses need to develop detailed strategies and programmes to ensure as smooth transition as possible.

INTRODUCTION

Accounting standards applicable to the Indian companies (Indian AS) were formulated by the accounting standards board of the Institute of Charter Accounting of India (ICAI). Initially, the accounting standards were put forth as a recommendation but later on, gradually they were made compulsory.

The Companies Act 1956 was amended in 1999 to provide legal sanctity to the accounting standards. The Act said that all the companies must follow the accounting standards put forth by the Central Govt.

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs, govt. of India, prescribed the Accounting Standards 1 to 7 & 9 to 29 which were given by ICAI. It also issued some amendments in the rules to harmonize them with the new Accounting Standards issued by ICAI.

As a result of the above changes in the regulatory framework, the newer accounting standards were implemented for the preparation of financial statements from December 7, 2006.

Furthermore, notices were issued to the 3 regulatory authorities Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Insurance Development & Regulatory Authority (IRDA) and Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to comply with the new accounting standards.

ICAI is a member of the International Federation of Accountants (IFA) and thus has tried to integrate the doctrines of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). But ICAI has also modified some of the norms keeping in mind Indian conditions. [2] 

In order to bridge the gap between the Indian AS and the IFRS, ICAI in accordance with the Govt. of India, has issued the new guidelines for implementing IFRS in India.

OVERVIEW OF IFRS [3] 

IFRS stands for 'International Financial Reporting Standards'. It has been formulated by and approved by International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). These standards have been put forth for standard financial statements of for-profit companies & organizations. These include organizations carrying out commercial, financial, industrial and other similar activities. It also includes mutual insurance companies and other mutual co-operative entities.

IFRS is a principle based standard rather than a rule based standards like the previous ones.

WHY IFRS?

IFRS has been recognized as a standard reporting norm for financial statements worldwide.

Many countries like Australia, New-Zealand, Netherlands etc. have started using IFRS standards. Moreover, some countries have started to report their numbers in dual system i.e. their own national AS as well as IFRS. This is because of the increasing integration seen in the global capital markets. IFRS provides a standard platform on a global scale to compare financial reports of each & every company across different countries.

For e.g. - Currently, SEC is allowing companies to report their financial in both US GAAP as well as IFRS. SEC has mandated IFRS reporting from the year 2014 for all US companies with full conversion by 2016 depending on size of the entity.

IFRS IN INDIA

ICAI, in public interest, has proposed to implement IFRS in India by 2011. In its 1st phase IFRS will be applicable to banks, insurance companies, large-sized companies & listed companies.

ICAI has also proposed to tweak the IFRS according to Indian suitability for SMEs. But IFRS will be implemented in SMEs after the successful implementation of IFRS in other companies. Thus, IFRS implementation in SMEs will begin only in 2017.

BENEFITS OF ADOPTING IFRS

IFRS would help in the convergence the global world. Thus, implementation of IFRS would encourage more international business in India thereby increasing the foreign inflows in the country.

Investors across the globe want information which is reliable, timely & accurate. IFRS will help in comparing company financial of any company across the globe. This will in turn benefit a large faction of investors who are willing to invest in securities issued by companies outside the country.

IFRS would help Indian companies document their financial information & reports in globally accepted standards. This will help foreign investors to better understand financials of Indian companies. This will help Indian companies in raising foreign capital more easily than in the past.

Currently there are different accounting practices being followed in different companies. This proves detrimental to Indian companies as many of the companies with subsidiaries in foreign countries have to follow differential accounting policies. This increases their cost of compliances.

For e.g. - The recent case of Mahindra Satyam is noteworthy. Mahindra Satyam had to delist its ADRs from the US market as it failed to comply with SECs directive to publish its result according to US GAAP. [4] 

Lastly it would open up newer opportunities for financial professionals. It would increase their mobility of work across the globe.

IFRS CHALLENGES

Implementation of IFRS will take time. It is a gradual process. Until then, all the companies will have to do a dual reporting (Indian GAAP & partial IFRS in case of India). This will increase the compliance cost for companies for a considerable amount of time.

In India, accounting framework is guided by many legal regulations. So implementation of IFRS will result in changes in these regulatory bodies i.e. Companies Act 1956, The Income Tax Act 1961, SEBI, and RBI etc.

Successful implementation of IFRS will require extensive training for all stakeholders i.e. tax authorities, employees, auditors etc. so that IFRS is completely understood.

Companies will have to incur additional cost to modify their existing IT systems in order to comply their procedures with the IFRS.

Indian entities are accustomed to the Indian GAAP system of accounting. Converting to IFRS will impact some of its current decisions.

For e.g. - The noteworthy case is of the top 5 NSE companies (by m-cap) which hold treasury stock worth hundreds of crores in their balance sheet. IFRS doesn't recognise treasury stock & thus these companies would have to extinguish these shares or sell these in open market. [5] 

IFRS being newly discussed in the Indian economy, expertise in this field is missing.

IFRS FINANCIAL STATEMENTS - QUALITATIVE CHARACTERISTICS

The four basic characteristics of financial statements under the new IFRS norms are:-

Understandibility:

Any user of IFRS complied financial statement having basic economic knowledge should understand the information shown in the financial statement. However, it doesn't mean that the complex information needed for sound understanding be excluded just because it is complex in nature.

Relevance:

The information available in the IFRS complied financial statement should be relevant so that the user can take an informed decision. Information about the future predictions of a particular business is based on past performance of the company. So the disclosure of the past performances is of prime importance.

Reliability:

Information available in the financial statement is said to be reliable if it is free of errors & bias.

Comparability:

Users must be able to compare the performance of the company for time to time. Also they should be able to compare the performances of different companies.

IFRS FINANCIAL STATEMENT - CONTENTS

IFRS financial statement is composed of the following:-

Balance Sheet - financial position on a particular date.

Income Statement - financial performance over a certain period.

Statement of Equity - change in the equity over a particular period.

Cash flow statement.

Notes - comprises of explanation of significant accounting policies and other information

Financial statement of the earlier period of comparison

INDIAN ACCOUNTING STANDARDS vs. IFRS [6] 

IFRS IN INDIA - SIX MYTHS [7] 

India has a comfortable timeline in hand

The ICAI has issued IFRS guidelines in 2010 asking Indian companies to be IFRS compliant by 2011. IFRS implementation in 95% of Australia & European Union took more than one year & 40% of them took more than 2 years. [8] 

In all other countries, IFRS guidelines were provided 2-3 years in advance of the date of actual rollout. In India, even though there are just 6 months to go, ICAI is yet to finalize the standard which is adding to the confusion regarding the interpretation.

Companies in India have a risk of cost over-runs, restatements, market risk & reputational damage if they do not start preparing for the implementation by dedicating the full-time resource to the IFRS project right away.

IFRS means changes in accounting procedures only

IFRS has an organizational impact that spans all business divisions & units. But in India, most of the companies are viewing this as a Finance project as it relates with the changes in accounting standards.

All the business processes of a company need to be realigned for a successful implementation of IFRS.

Auditors & Consultants can ensure smooth transition

Most of the companies in India believe that auditors are the ones who have to take the load on their shoulders to implement IFRS.

Some other hire consultants in order to escape from the project. The nature of activity is such that most of the work has to be done by the internal Finance team with the consultation of other SBUs.

Internal teams are the solely responsible for successful transition. So training of internal staff should be taken seriously.

External support if needed must be determined at the start of the project itself. Mid-way inclusion of external consultants may lead to confusion & unnecessary spending.

Transition won't be very expensive

An average Indian IFRS transition can cost a company between Rs. 30lacs to Rs. 1 crore depending upon the type of external support taken.

Implementing IFRS requires IT system changes which escalates costs further.

Companies can avoid such cost over-runs through careful planning and systematic dry runs.

Accountants are the only people we need to train

Firm wide training of employees becomes a difficult task when companies do not realise the impact of IFRS on other departments other than finance.

The level of training and understanding one need is different for every department. If a company uses the same module for training all the departments, failure of IFRS is guaranteed.

We'll get it right the first time

Companies should take the IFRS implementation project after extensive planning. Last minute delays could affect the company adversely.

Internal & external reporting dry runs must be conducted to discover system bugs, IT failures & data loss.

IFRS implementation has such a large impact that it should be considered as a project management service rather than a normal activity.

RECOMMENDATION - FOR SUCCESFUL IMPLEMENTATION IN INDIA

Leadership:

Govt. should emphasise on the benefits of IFRS to all the stakeholders & along with other regulators take a lead in drawing a path for successful implementation.

Coordination:

Govt. & regulators need to work hand in hand in order to incorporate the legal & legislative requirement necessary for IFRS.

Preparation:

Companies need to start the transition phase as soon as possible. They have to start assessing the impact of IFRS on their business & start a way to facilitate conversion.

Training:

Companies need to start training their employees with the help of external agencies as soon as possible.

Communication:

Companies have to convey the implementation strategy to its stakeholders at an early stage. Internal stakeholders are their first customers and they need their support first.

Expertise:

Professionals need to specialize in IFRS in order to guide the companies in implementing the same. For e.g. - With more focus on fair value accounting, valuation specialist must be developed. [9] 

Education:

IFRS must be embedded into the syllabus of universities & corporate bodies so as to develop the skill set in the students at the basic level.

Influence: Professional from different business houses need to come together to discuss key issues related to IFRS implementation. Such forums can help in disseminating the knowledge & know-how about IFRS and thus help in faster implementation of the new accounting standard.

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