The performance of a company is reported in the statement of profit or loss and other comprehensive income. IAS® 1, Presentation of Financial Statements, defines profit or loss as ‘the total of income less expenses, excluding the components of other comprehensive income’. Other comprehensive income (OCI) is defined as comprising ‘items of income and expense (including reclassification adjustments) that are not recognised in profit or loss as required or permitted by other International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS®). Total comprehensive income is defined as ‘the change in equity during a period resulting from transactions and other events, other than those changes resulting from transactions with owners in their capacity as owners’.

It is a myth, and simply incorrect, to state that only realised gains are included in the statement of profit or loss (SOPL) and that only unrealised gains and losses are included in the OCI. For example, gains on the revaluation of land and buildings accounted for in accordance with IAS 16, Property Plant and Equipment (IAS 16 PPE), are recognised in OCI and accumulate in equity in Other Components of Equity (OCE). On the other hand, gains on the revaluation of land and buildings accounted for in accordance with IAS 40, Investment Properties, are recognised in SOPL and are part of the Retained Earnings (RE). Both such gains are unrealised. The same point could be made with regard to the gains and losses on the financial asset of equity investments. If such financial assets are designated in accordance with IFRS 9, Financial Instruments (IFRS 9), at inception as Fair Value Through Other Comprehensive Income (FVTOCI) then the gains and losses are recognised in OCI and accumulated in OCE. Whereas if management decides not to make this election, then the investment will by default be designated and accounted for as Fair Value Through Profit or Loss (FVTP&L) and the gains and losses are recognised in SOPL and become part of RE.

There is at present no overarching accounting theory that justifies or explains in which part of the statement gains and losses should be reported. So rather than have a clear principles based approach what we currently have is a rules based approach to this issue. It is down to individual accounting standards to direct when gains and losses are to be reported in OCI. This is clearly an unsatisfactory approach. It is confusing for users.

In March 2018 the Board published its Conceptual Framework for Financial Reporting. This addressed the issue of where to recognise gains and losses. It suggests that the SOPL should provide the primary source of information about the entity’s financial performance for the reporting period. Accordingly the SOPL should recognise all income and expense. However, the Board may also provide exceptional circumstances where income or expenses arising from the change in the carrying amount of an asset or liability should be included in OCI. This will usually occur to allow the SOPL to provide more relevant information or provide a more faithful representation of an entity’s performance. Whilst this may be an improvement on the absence of general principles, it might be argued that it does not provide the clarity and certainty users crave.

Recycling (the reclassification from equity to P&L)

Recycling is the process where gains or losses are reclassified from equity to SOPL as an accounting adjustment. In other words gains or losses are first recognised in the OCI and then in a later accounting period also recognised in the SOPL. In this way the gain or loss is reported in the total comprehensive income of two accounting periods and in colloquial terms is said to be recycled as it is recognised twice. At present it is down to individual accounting standards to direct when gains and losses are to be reclassified from equity to SOPL as a reclassification adjustment. So rather than have a clear principles based approach on recycling what we currently have is a rules based approach to this issue.

For example, IAS 21 The Effects of Changes in Foreign Exchange Rates (IAS 21), is one example of a standard that requires gains and losses to be reclassified from equity to SOPL as a reclassification adjustment. When a group has an overseas subsidiary a group exchange difference will arise on the re-translation of the subsidiary’s goodwill and net assets. In accordance with IAS 21 such exchange differences are recognised in OCI and so accumulate in OCE. On the disposal of the subsidiary, IAS 21 requires that the net cumulative balance of group exchange differences be reclassified from equity to P&L as a reclassification adjustment – ie the balance of the group exchange differences in OCE is transferred to SOPL to form part of the profit on disposal.

Alternatively, IAS 16 PPE is an example of a standard that prohibits gains and losses to be reclassified from equity to SOPL as a reclassification adjustment. If we consider land that cost $10m which is treated in accordance with IAS 16 PPE. If the land is subsequently revalued to $12m, then the gain of $2m is recognised in a revaluation reserve and will be taken to OCE. When in a later period the asset is sold for $13m, IAS 16 PPE specifically requires that the profit on disposal recognised in the SOPL is $1m – ie the difference between the sale proceeds of $13m and the carrying amount of $12m. The previously recognised gain of $2m is not recycled/reclassified back to SOPL as part of the gain on disposal. However the $2m balance in the revaluation surplus is now redundant as the asset has been sold and the profit is realised. Accordingly, there will be a transfer in the Statement of Changes in Equity, from the OCE of $2m into RE.

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Double entry

The purchase, the revaluation, the disposal and the transfer to RE is accounted for in this way.

On purchase $m $m
Dr     Land PPE 10  
Cr     Cash   10
On revaluation    
Dr     Land PPE 2  
Cr     Revaluation surplus and recognised in OCI   2
On disposal    
Dr     Cash 13  
Cr     Land PPE   12
Cr     SOPL   1
On transfer      
Dr     Revaluation surplus/OCE 2  
Cr     Retained earnings   2

If IAS 16 PPE allowed the reclassification from equity to SOPL as a reclassification adjustment, the profit on disposal recognised in SOPL would be $3m including the $2m reclassified from equity to SOPL and the last two double entries above replaced with the following.

On reclassification from equity to SOPL  $m  $m  
     
Dr     Cash 13  
Cr     Land PPE   12
Cr     SOPL   3
Dr     Revaluation surplus/OCE 2  

IFRS 9 also prohibits the recycling of the gains and losses on FVTOCI investments to SOPL on disposal. The no reclassification rule in both IAS 16 PPE and IFRS 9 means that such gains on those assets are only ever reported once in the statement of profit or loss and other comprehensive income – ie are only included once in total comprehensive income. However many users, it appears, rather ignore the total comprehensive income and the OCI and just base their evaluation of a company’s performance on the SOPL. These users then find it strange that gains that have become realised from transactions in the accounting period are not fully reported in the SOPL of the accounting period. As such we can see the argument in favour of reclassification. With no reclassification the earnings per share will never fully include the gains on the sale of PPE and FVTOCI investments.

The following extract from the statement of comprehensive income summarises the current accounting treatment for which gains and losses are required to be included in OCI and, as required, discloses which gains and losses can and cannot be reclassified back to profit and loss.


Extract from the statement of profit or loss and other comprehensive income

  $m
Profit for the year XX
Other comprehensive income  
Gains and losses that cannot be reclassified back to profit or loss  
Changes in revaluation surplus where the revaluation method is used in accordance with IAS 16 XX / (XX)
Remeasurements of a net defined benefit liability or asset recognised in accordance with  IAS 19 XX / (XX)
Gains and losses on remeasuring FVTOCI financial assets in accordance with IFRS 9 XX / (XX)
Gains and losses that can be reclassified back to profit or loss  
Group exchange differences from translating functional currencies into presentation currency in accordance with IAS 21 XX / (XX)
The effective portion of gains and losses on hedging instruments in a cash flow hedge under IFRS 9 XX / (XX)
Total comprehensive income XX / (XX)

Different approaches to reclassification

There are three different approaches to reclassification: ignore all possible reclassifications; permit only a few reclassifications (narrow approach) or permit all reclassifications if they provide useful information (broad approach).

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No OCI and no reclassification

It can be argued that reclassification should simply be prohibited. This would free the statement of profit or loss and other comprehensive income from the need to formally to classify gains and losses between SOPL and OCI. This would reduce complexity and gains and losses could only ever be recognised once. However, there would still remain the issue of how to define the earnings in earnings per share, a very important ratio for investors,  as clearly total comprehensive income would contain too many gains and losses that were non-operational, unrealised, outside the control of management and not relating to the accounting period.

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Narrow approach to the OCI

Another suggestion is that the OCI should be restricted, should adopt a narrow approach. On this basis only bridging and mismatch gains and losses should be included in OCI and be reclassified from equity to SOPL.

A revaluation surplus on a financial asset classified as FVTOCI is a good example of a bridging gain. The asset is accounted for at fair value on the statement of financial position but effectively at cost in SOPL. As such, by recognising the revaluation surplus in OCI, the OCI is acting as a bridge between the statement of financial position and the SOPL. On disposal reclassification ensures that the amount recognised in SOPL will be consistent with the amounts that would be recognised in SOPL if the financial asset had been measured at amortised cost.

The effective gain or loss on a cash flow hedge of a future transaction is an example of a mismatch gain or loss as it relates to a transaction in a future accounting period so needs to be carried forward so that it can be matched in the SOPL of a future accounting period. Only by recognising the effective gain or loss in OCI and allowing it to be reclassified from equity to SOPL can users to see the results of the hedging relationship.

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Broad approach to the OCI

A third proposition is for the OCI to adopt a broad approach, by also including transitory gains and losses. The Board would decide in each IFRS whether a transitory remeasurement should be subsequently recycled.

Examples of transitory gains and losses are those that arise on the remeasurement of defined benefit pension funds and revaluation surpluses on PPE.

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Conclusion

The Board has adopted the latter approach in its March 2018 Conceptual Framework stating that reclassifications from OCI to SOPL are permitted '…in a future period when doing so results in the [SOPL] providing more relevant information, or providing a more faithful representation of the entity’s financial performance for that future period'. However, if there is no clear basis to identify the period or the amount that should be reclassified, the Board, when developing IFRS standards, may decide that no classification should occur.

Originally written by Tom Clendon, a lecturer at FTMS based in Singapore. Subsequently updated by a member of the SBR examining team

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