In the last few years the financial accounting model has been attacked on a number of fronts. Some argue that the model reports irrelevant information in today's knowledge‐based economy, while others argue that the model's reporting discretion makes the results unreliable. Accruals allow the model to report wealth creation or depletion in a more timely manner, yet they also allow abuse when the underlying estimates are intentionally distorted. But surprisingly, the accuracy of the estimates underlying the accruals is never examined; rather current accruals are mixed together with the reversals of prior accruals. I propose that the financial reporting model be amended to report on the ex post accuracy of a firm's prior estimates. Doing so will identify firms that have abused their reporting discretion in the past and provide valuable information about the expected credibility of the firm's disclosures in the present. Firms will also have a greater incentive to make accurate estimates and accruals if they know that opportunistic estimates will be explicitly revealed in the future. Finally, accounting regulators might be more inclined to recognize nontraditional assets in the financial statements if a system is in place that gives firms an incentive to accurately estimate the value of these assets. In this paper I give an example of the type of disclosure I am proposing, discuss the benefits it offers to investors, and address some practical implementation issues.
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Research Article| December 01 1999
Reporting on the Past: A New Approach to Improving Accounting Today
Accounting Horizons (1999) 13 (4): 315–322.
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Russell J. Lundholm; Reporting on the Past: A New Approach to Improving Accounting Today. Accounting Horizons 1 December 1999; 13 (4): 315–322. doi: https://doi.org/10.2308/acch.1922.214.171.1245
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