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27 February 2014

IFAC: Developing and reporting supplementary financial measures

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PAIB Committee has issued its International Good Practice Guidance, "Developing and Reporting Supplementary Financial Measures". Comments are requested by May 26, 2014.

This guidance seeks to establish a benchmark for the use of supplementary financial measures, in order to improve understanding of an organisation’s performance among management, investors, and other stakeholders. It provides principles regarding the qualities a measure should have and disclosures that should accompany them if reported externally. Building on the qualitative characteristics of useful financial information, the guidance recommends professional accountants consider a number of attributes when developing and reporting supplementary financial measures. The guidance also provides a number of tips for disclosure of supplementary financial measures.

The guidance is meant for all organisations that want to use supplementary financial measures, regardless of size or structure, private or public. Many such measures are widely used in both internal and external reporting, for example, Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortisation (EBITDA); Underlying Profit; and Free Cash Flow.

There can be several motivations for reporting a supplementary financial measure. It might provide additional insight about current or future performance of an organisation. For example, a company may report a measure that reflects management’s perspective on earnings after eliminating non-recurring items or report sustainable operating cash flow after deducting those capital expenditures necessary to maintain current performance. In other cases, the measure may eliminate some aspect of the jurisdiction’s generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) that the company believes is not useful in representing its performance. For example, the company might not believe that depreciation and amortisation provide a useful representation of the costs of consuming capital assets. On the other hand, some commentators believe that organisations use such measures in their external reporting to obscure a poor performance under GAAP.

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