Biggest Accounting Changes in Almost a Decade Set to Hit Canadian Businesses

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Within the next five years, most Canadian companies across all sectors will be required to comply with the biggest accounting changes in almost a decade. Management teams, boards and audit committees will be held responsible for ensuring compliance with these unprecedented changes.

A new report

A new report, “Ready. 0r Not.The next phase of the International Financial Reporting Standards,” outlines the major impacts of the changes made by the International Accounting Standards Board, an independent not-for-profit organization that regulates global accounting standards. While the long project timelines of the new International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) have caused many companies to postpone implementation deadlines, the current phase of IFRS implementation may be more challenging than the initial Canadian IFRS implementation in 2011. For this reason, it is critical for companies to start preparing now as they may be required to implement all four standards over a relatively short period of time.

“The current phase of IFRS implementation introduces an unprecedented level of change,” says Kristy Carscallen, Canadian Managing Partner, Audit, KPMG in Canada. “Each of these four standards will need to have a significant lead time in terms of implementation because they’re so complex and the changes required are fundamental. Regardless of resources, it’s going to be a long journey for companies to get where they need to be so everybody should be thinking about this now.”

New IFRS standards to have dramatically different implications and requirements across industries Click To Tweet

The complexity of the four new standards means there is no way to truly know the impact on results without some form of analysis:

IFRS 9 – Financial Instruments (banking, mining, transportation, oil and gas)

  • IFRS 9 will have an enormous impact on the banking industry, as it requires an adjustment to the classification of financial instruments. Banks, which typically hold the largest number of financial instruments, will be required to assess if and how classification has changed for each of their instruments. In addition, the introduction of the expected loss model to replace the traditional incurred loss model will require continuous re-assessment to the level of risk of loans throughout the life span of the loan, as opposed to the previous model wherein loans were assessed at one stage in absolute terms. This standard also has an impact on companies that have a hedging program, potentially allowing accounting hedge treatment to be more available.

IFRS 15 – Revenue from Contracts with Customers (technology and telecommunications)

  • IFRS 15 impacts any company with revenue, but particularly telecommunications firms and any company party to long-term contracts with customers, since it requires a different way of thinking about revenue that could impact both the amount and timing of revenue recognition. Since this changes how revenue is recognized by disconnecting revenue from cash flows, some key metrics may be affected.

IFRS 16 – Leases (retail, power and utilities, banks, telecommunications and transportation)

  • IFRS 16 will ensure companies are recognizing operating leases on balance sheets, which is a major change to a data and calculation-heavy standard, and may require robust IT systems to ensure effective implementation.

IFRS 17 – Insurance Contracts

  • Earmarked for 2021, IFRS 17 will mark a wholesale change for insurance companies of all sizes as it will radically alter the way they report their performance. It changes financial statements (how profit is recognized, key financial metrics and disclosures), data management, IT systems, processes, level of analysis and projections. These changes are more robust than in the adoption of IFRS in 2011 since IFRS 4 grandfathered existing Canadian accounting methods for insurance contracts.
IFRS' organizational impacts go well beyond financial reporting to form overall solution Click To Tweet

While the impact on financial reporting as a result of the new standards is the most obvious of the relevant impacts, the report showcases five areas beyond financial reporting that should not be overlooked, including information technology, tax, HR and compensation, covenant renegotiation and investor relations.

Management, boards, audit committees ultimately responsible for overseeing and facilitating implementation and compliance as well as minimizing shareholder risk.

To help executive management, boards and audit committees prepare for these significant implementations, the report provides a list of key questions that addresses everything from transition planning and resource allocation to key risk identification and ensuring the right people are at the project table to achieve success in this phase of implementation.

“The audit committee has a role to play in IFRS, starting with fully understanding the standards and asking hard questions of management about their impact. Do we have the right resources? How does the timeframe look? What are some of our peers doing?” says Todd Buchanan, National Leader, Accounting Advisory Services, KPMG in Canada. “The board needs to be on top of the process as well, as they will wear some of the pain if there’s a restatement after the fact. Start asking questions to management now; simply saying ‘this doesn’t apply to us’ isn’t sufficient.”

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