Vol. 2 No. 20; November 2011
Fair Value Accounting: Its Impacts on Financial Reporting and How It Can Be Enhanced to Provide More Clarity and Reliability of Information for Users of Financial Statements Ashford C. Chea School of Business, Kentucky Wesleyan College 4721 Covert Avenue, Evansville IN 47714 USA Abstract The author begins the paper with a brief historical development of the Statement of Financial Accounting Standards (FAS 157) and its impact on fair value accounting. This is followed by the methodology employed in the research. Next, he reviews the literature on major issues in fair value accounting and financial reporting, and presents his findings from the study. The researcher ends the paper with recommendations to enhance the usefulness of fair value accounting and draws implications for financial reporting and users of financial statements.
Keywords: Fair Value, Measurement, Financial Instruments, Market 1. INTRODUCTION
In December of 2001, accounting standard-setters around the world published a consultation paper (Financial instruments and similar items) that proposes fundamental changes to the way financial instruments are reported in the accounts of companies. In particular, the paper proposes, inter alia, that all financial instruments should be measured at fair value. The banking sector has long argued that such an approach is not appropriate for banks and that, to the extent that there are weaknesses in the way that banks currently account for their financial instruments, those ills are better addressed through incremental, than fundamental , change (Ebling, 2001). The Financial Instruments Joint Working Party of standard setters (JWP) main proposal are that: (a) all types of entity should measure all their financial instruments at fair value, and should recognize all changes in those fair values immediately in the profit and loss account; (b) the fair value of an instrument should be its estimated market exit price; (c) no exceptions should be made for financial instruments used in hedging arrangements (i.e. there should be no hedge accounting for financial instruments( Bies, 2005)). In other words, a financial asset for which an active market exists should be carried in the balance sheet at its market bid price and changes in that bid price should be recognized immediately in the profit and loss account. This would be the case regardless of the reason why the instrument is being held –for example, even if it is being held as a hedging instrument or being held until it matures—and regardless of the cause or nature of the market price change involved (Ebling, 2001). FAS 157 – Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 157, Fair Value Measurements—defines fair value and establishes a frame work for measuring fair value in generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). While previous pronouncements involving valuation focused on what to measure at fair value, FAS 157—issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) on September 15, 2006—focuses on how to measure fair value (Sinnett, 2007). What is fair value? FAS 157 are quite prescriptive, defining it as the price that would be received to sell an asset or paid to transfer a liability in an orderly transaction between participants at the measurement dates (Chambers, 2008). FAS 157 put in place a framework for fair value measurement and disclosure. Perhaps the most important feature in FAS 157 is the requirement to set out financial statements in three levels that describe the reliability of the inputs used to establish fair value. Fitch describes it as the fair value hierarchy. So Level 1 is quite straightforward, as the price used are identical to the input and discovered in something like a public exchange. It gets quite complicated for Level 2 assets and liabilities, because the prices used might be inferred from an index or another security with similar attributes to...