Accounting Board to Weigh Impact of Technological Advances

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By Denise Lugo

Dec. 6 — The Financial Accounting Standards Board will focus over the next few years on figuring out how financial reporting can keep pace with advances in technology, FASB Chairman Russell Golden said.

With better technology, investors get more relevant information, he said.

Guiding Standard-Setting Decisions

“While working through the technical areas of our foundational projects we’ll also consider how technology is influencing both the delivery and consumption of financial information,” Golden told the American Institute of CPAs conference on Current Securities and Exchange Commission and Public Company Accounting Oversight Board Developments Dec. 6.

FASB’s foundational projects are the conceptual framework of financial reporting and its disclosure framework, two non-authoritative internal documents that guide the board’s standard-setting decisions. “Technology gives us the greatest opportunity to improve financial reporting,” Golden said. “We’ve already seen the possibilities of XBRL,” he said, referring to the electronic tagging of financial report items that make reports more comparable to each other.

Golden’s comments are in line with comments by SEC staff accountants Dec. 5 about increasing the use of technology in financial reporting. Investors are increasingly using electronic means to quickly consume financial information and to get it in digital format that can easily fit into their models.

Asked by Bloomberg BNA during a press session how far the board plans to go with its technology focus, Golden said it was a good question but difficult to answer “because I’m not sure at this time. ”But I do believe that we should be considering the types of advances in technology as we consider future standards,” he said.

Weigh Projects Against Change

Golden also told reporters the board must weigh the projects it might tackle in the future against the degree of financial reporting changes companies currently confront.

His comments addressed concerns some companies have about implementing new rules on revenue, leases and credit losses of financial instruments, and the potential for more rules to come from an agenda consultation paper it issued earlier this year.

“What I think is most important is we stand ready to help companies, auditors and users understand these changes that we completed in 2016—that’s why I focus a lot of the comments on implementation,” Golden said .

Issued May 2014, rules on Revenue from Contracts with Customers (ASC 606) are effective in 2018, but can be applied next year. Rules for both Leases (ASC 842) and Financial Instruments—Credit Losses (ASC 326) were issued earlier this year and take effect 2019 and 2020, respectively.

The three far-reaching standards represent the most extensive overhaul in decades in financial reporting in the U.S. They will have widespread impacts that vary across sectors.

FASB also plans to issue standards on hedge accounting and long-duration insurance contracts focused on life insurance and annuities, as well as finalize other proposals.

Toward the end of 2017, before the mandatory effective date of the new revenue standard, FASB will be providing investors with more educational information about the new standards, Golden said.

“There’s a clear desire that we finish hedging, and so what we need to do is determine ‘what is the type of projects we’re working on in the future and what is the pace of those projects.’” Golden said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Denise Lugo in Washington at dlugo@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: S. Ali Sartipzadeh at asartipzadeh@bna.com

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