In drawing up accounting statements, whether they are external "financial accounts" or internally-focused "management accounts", a clear objective has to be that the accounts fairly reflect the true "substance" of the business and the results of its operation. The theory of accounting has, therefore, developed the concept of a "true and fair view". The true and fair view is applied in ensuring and assessing whether accounts do indeed portray accurately the business' activities. To support the application of the "true and fair view", accounting has adopted certain concepts and conventions which help to ensure that accounting information is presented accurately and consistently.
The most commonly encountered convention is the "historical cost convention". This requires transactions to be recorded at the price ruling at the time, and for assets to be valued at their original cost .Under the "historical cost convention", therefore, no account is taken of changing prices in the economy. The other conventions you will encounter in a set of accounts can be summarised as follows: Monetary measurement Accountants do not account for items unless they can be quantified in monetary terms. Items that are not accounted for (unless someone is prepared to pay something for them) include things like workforce skill, morale, market leadership, brand recognition, quality of management etc. Separate Entity This convention seeks to ensure that private transactions and matters relating to the owners of a business are segregated from transactions that relate to the business. Realisation With this convention, accounts recognise transactions (and any profits arising from them) at the point of sale or transfer of legal ownership - rather than just when cash actually changes hands. For example, a company that makes a sale to a customer can recognise that sale when the transaction is legal - at the point of contract. The actual payment due from the customer may not arise until several weeks (or months) later - if the customer has been granted some credit terms. .
Materiality An important convention. As we can see from the application of accounting standards and accounting policies, the preparation of accounts involves a high degree of judgement. Where decisions are required about the appropriateness of a particular accounting judgement, the "materiality" convention suggests that this should only be an issue if the judgement is "significant" or "material" to a user of the accounts. The concept of "materiality" is an important issue for auditors of financial accounts. Accounting Concepts
Four important accounting concepts underpin the preparation of any set of accounts: Going Concern Accountants assume, unless there is evidence to the contrary, that a company is not going broke. This has important implications for the valuation of assets and liabilities. Criteria What it means for the preparation of accounting information Understandability This implies the expression, with clarity, of accounting information in such a way that it will be understandable to users - who are generally assumed to have a reasonable knowledge of business and economic activities Relevance This implies that, to be useful, accounting information must assist a user to form, confirm or maybe revise a view - usually in the context of making a decision (e.g. should I invest, should I lend money to this business? Should I work for this business?) Consistency This implies consistent treatment of similar items and application of accounting policies Comparability This implies the ability for users to be able to compare similar companies in the same industry group and to make comparisons of performance over time. Much of the work that goes into setting accounting standards is based around the need for comparability. Reliability This implies that the accounting information that is presented is truthful, accurate,...