Investigating accounting practices and systems in Sweden


Accounting profession

In Sweden, the requirement for qualification as an authorized public accountant or an approved public accountant includes both academic studies and a period of practical training. The Supervisory Board of Public Accountants, Revisorsnämnden (RN), is the Government Office responsible for the examination of applicants to the profession and for the supervision of members of the profession. In addition, FAR SRS is the professional institute for authorized public accountants (auktoriserade revisorer), approved public accountants (godkända revisorer) and other highly qualified professionals in the accountancy sector in Sweden. It plays a leading role in the development of professional standards, education and information for the audit profession in Sweden. [1] 

Legal system and accounting regulation

Sweden has a parliamentary system of government. However, it distinguishes from other similar systems on the sense that, the main government is divided into a number of government agencies at the central, regional and local levels. Furthermore, the nature and extent of these agencies ranges over such complex areas as social insurance, labor market policy, taxation, and the environment [2] . All in all, about 330 government agencies are responsible for their own accounting and prepare their own annual accounts, which means that government has been divided into 'profit centers'.

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Sweden is an EU Member State, consequently, Swedish companies listed in an EU/EEA securities market has to follow IFRS's (International Financial Reporting standards) rules. Nevertheless, it is also the responsibility of the BFN (the Swedish accounting standards board) and the CFN (Swedish Accounting standards Council) to stipulate the general accepted accounting principles rules with respect to accounting and financial management.

The most important requirements regarding day-today accounting and annual accounts are to be found in a special accounting ordinance [3] . This ordinance, defines the agencies' statutory obligation to keep accounting records, to record transactions continuously, to prepare annual accounts, and to value assets and liabilities. Additions to it are made by the Swedish National Audit Bureau (RRV) by supplying agencies with methods and systems in these areas. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the head of each agency to ensure that accounting and financial management are carried out according to existing rules.

Providers of finance

The Swedish National Tax Board (NTB) is responsible for collecting the mains source of the government income: Tax [4] . It compromises a complex system of 23 county tax authorities and 23 county enforcement authorities. The Government income can be subdivided into the following categories:

Direct and indirect taxes

Operating and investment income (from public and private buyers)

Refunds (percentage grants)

General grants and special grants, net interest income

Loans [5] 

Direct and indirect taxes constitute the biggest single source of income of the government and account for about 49.1% of total income. It is a complex system of tax, subdivided into personal income tax (national and local tax on earned income) which account for about 60% of total taxes, social security contributions, corporate income tax, real state tax, and many more. Tax being the main source of finance is explained by a welfare system, where government supply good health care and education and a fair wealth distribution [6] .

Accounting focus and the influence of culture

Traditionally Sweden has been influenced by a so called 'continental tradition', which is mostly based on written laws and the corporate law is included in the civil legislation. A consequence of this tradition is that accounting is largely regulated by corporate law, and because of the connection between the legislation of accounting and the tax legislation, accounting is very influenced by tax regulations. Therefore, accounting has been regulated by law and the main interest of the legislation has been to satisfy the needs of creditors and the state. These regulations result in a higher focus on the information needs of creditors, government and specially tax authorities [7] .

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However, this traditional approach has changed in recent years, as Sweden has been increasingly influenced by Anglo-Saxon tradition, especially after 1995, when Sweden joined the European Union (EU). As a result, accounting is not only regulated by law, but also by the accounting profession. Sweden was, since then, required to follow any regulations decided by the Union. Since 2005, all companies quoted on the exchange must do the same consolidated accounting which should be in accordance with the international accounting regulation approved by the EU, the International Accounting Standards (IAS) and the International Financial Reports Standards (IFRS). In accordance with these rules, there is a disconnection between accounting and taxation [8] . However, companies that are not listed on the exchange and companies that are judicial persons still have the formal connection between accounting and taxation. The reason why that is so, is because today, the annual report is the foundation, upon which the taxation is based.