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General Purpose Financial Statements: Information provided in Financial Statements aims at Informed Decision Making of Existing and Potential Investors, Lenders and other Creditors. Normally their information need can be summarized as

i). Information as to Economic Resources of Business and Claims against Business – This need is catered by the statement of Affairs/Balance Sheet and

ii). Information as to Efficiency of Management in using these resources normally this information is provided by the Profit and Loss A/c Or Income and Expenditure Account.

Some other stake holders of business may require different – in that case that information can be sought from the business in addition to General Purpose Financial Statements.

Qualitative Characteristics: The financial statement should contain information “sufficient in quantity and quality to satisfy the reasonable expectations of the readers to whom it is addressed”. According to the sentence, it is means that the financial statement should contain useful and meaningful information which included quantity and quality so that the reader who we make the financial statement to the person knows and understand it. How we achieve the quality information? Actually there are four fundamental required qualitative characteristics of financial statements. The four characteristics are understandability, relevance, reliability, and comparability. Besides them there are some more qualitative characteristics which are also need to be observed while preparation of Financial Statements. Further, Conceptual Framework for Financial Reporting under Indian Accounting Standards (Ind AS) may be referred in this respect.

1. Understandability : Understandability is including taking into consideration users’ abilities, and aggregation and classification of information. As Information users are expected to have reasonable knowledge of business, economic activities and accounting and a willingness to study with reasonable diligence the information provided. Understandability is properly addressed if information is Easily, Quickly and Readily understandable.

Normally Formats of Financial Statements and their schedules are designed to make Financial Statements Quickly, Easily and Readily understandable. To aid understandability, financial information is aggregated and classified according to standard disclosure formats which are the income statement and statement of financial position. To provide a list of all the balances would be meaningless to users.

2.Relevance : An information is said to be relevant  – if it’s disclosure helps financial statement users to predict or confirm some decisions based on general purpose statements. The relevance is if the information has the ability to influence the economic decisions of users by helping them to evaluate past, present or future events or confirming, or correcting, their past evaluation. Therefore, information should have predictive value or confirmatory value. Information has predictive value if it helps users to evaluate or assess past, present or future events. To have prediction value, information need not be in the form of an explicit forecast. However, the ability to make predictions form financial statements is enhanced by the manner in which the information on the past is presented. Information has confirmatory value if it helps users to confirm or correct their past evaluations and assessments. Relevant information can be more relevant when it is provided in a timely manner as it is more likely to influence decision-making.

3.Reliability : Information must be free from Errors and Intentional Misrepresentations. Reliance must be placed on reliable information only. Specially in case of estimates, figures should be realistic and reliable. In accounting, information must be presented as per their commercial substance and not as per their legal form. Any outflow from business which bring enduring benefits must be recognized as an asset, Any out from business which has no associated enduring benefits must be recognized as an expense, Any inflow in business which has corresponding responsibility of repayment in future should be recognized as an Liability and finally, Any inflow which has no corresponding liability attached with that inflow must be recognized as an Income (Because in substance they are like this).

Prudence which included in the reliable is the historically one of the fundamental accounting concepts. The crux of prudence is prepares of accounting information should exercise prudent views when making judgments about uncertain items such as provisions for doubtful debts, asset lives or the number of warranty claims that might occur. It is also highlighted as one of the qualitative characteristics of accounting information. Prudence is deeply embedded in accounting and possibly even in the personality of many accountants. It is one of the main reasons why accountants are often described as conservative, prudent, cautious, and pessimistic and so on. Most aof the frauds in accounting result from wrong classification of Asset/Expenditure and Income/Liability. Most heinous fraud in accounting is to make an expenditure an asset or make a liability an Income.

4. Comparability : Financial Statement are said to be in accordance with this qualitative characteristics, if they can be compared with financial statements of previous years of same entity and they must also be comparable with the financial statements of other firms in the same industry. Concept of consistency assure comparability of Financial Statements which says that Accounting Policies must be observed uniformly across period and firms within one industry. Comparability is including consistency and disclosure. Consistency should be compromised if and only if – a. it is because of some Law, b. It is because of some Accounting Standard or c. It will result a better presentation of Financial Statement.

Consistency, it is in the application of accounting policies is vital for producing comparable information. Any changes to the accounting policies and the impact of these changes should be disclosed. Disclosure is included in the accounting policies. It is help to achieve comparability. To assist in the making of comparisons despite inconsistencies, users need to able to identify any differences between the accounting policies adopted by an entity to account for some transactions relative to others, accounting adopted from period by an entity and the accounting policies adopted by different entities. Some academics regard disclosure as a fundamental qualitative characteristics of financial statements.

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I am a Chartered Accountant working with a nationalized bank in middle management. View Full Profile

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