ABSTRACT:

This case addresses the “gray” area associated with the use of accounting discretion as it relates to expense line item reclassifications. Such a context allows for an examination of the pressures that influence accounting decisions, and provides a glimpse into how managers might manage reported expenses. The reader meets analyst David Johnson when, as a result of both internal and external pressure to keep research and development (R&D) costs within budget, he is asked to find ways to reclassify R&D costs into other expense areas. As a result of the request, David immerses himself in the task in order to identify, within generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), opportunities to reclassify R&D expenses to cost of goods sold. He ultimately proposes three separate reclassification entries that, although technically within GAAP guidelines, involve the use of accounting discretion. All three entries are approved by the accounting team. Financial accounting, managerial accounting, and M.B.A. students report that the case enhanced their knowledge of financial reporting and helped them understand ethical considerations associated with the preparation of financial statements. Accounting professionals report the case realistically depicts what accountants face in the workplace. A case extension using International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) is also provided.

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