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Accounting for financial instruments: an investigation of preparer and user preference for fair value accounting

Tan, Chyi Woan (Rebecca) (2005) Accounting for financial instruments: an investigation of preparer and user preference for fair value accounting. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This research study, motivated by the difference in opinion between the Joint Working Group of Standard Setters (JWGSS) and the Joint Working Group of Banking Associations (JWGBA), generates empirical evidence on preparer and user preferences for fair value accounting for all financial instruments. Australian and Singaporean respondents' perceptions on the measurement of financial instruments at fair value and the recognition of changes in fair value as gains or losses in the Income Statement are obtained. This study provides better understanding of the perceptions on the international proposals for change by examining possible explanatory factors for respondents' views.

There is ongoing controversy regarding the appropriate accounting for financial instruments. Perceived shortcomings of the mixed measurement model resulted in an all inclusive fair value accounting standard proposed by the JWGSS (2000). This was met with strong criticism from the JWGBA, established in response to this proposal (1999a). An understanding of actual preparer and user views is thus important for standard-setters to determine the most appropriate and acceptable accounting standard for financial instruments, particularly for the complex financial institutions industry in these two prominent financial markets of the Asian Pacific region.

A positivist-objectivist approach is chosen as the theoretical perspective of this research study because of its ability to help explain real world phenomena. Both qualitative (interviews) and quantitative (surveys) methods are used in tandem to derive evidence on user and preparer perceptions. This integration of methods is important to achieve a better understanding of the issues at hand. Evidence collected from the interviews and the preparer and user surveys are analysed with univariate and multivariate statistical tools to determine the level of support (or opposition) for fair value accounting for all financial instruments and to identify factors that explain user and preparer views.

Results show that on average, preparers neither strongly support nor strongly oppose the fair value accounting proposal, while users are slightly more supportive. However, respondent users and preparers tend to have similar perceptions on most of the contentious issues raised in this international debate, sometimes giving credence to the JWGBA position while other times agreeing with the JWGSS. On average, users and preparer responses are similar but there is substantial variation within each group. Findings indicate higher support for fair value accounting when the trading and banking books are perceived to be not different, fair values for non-traded financial instruments are reliable and when there is comparability across entities.

This thesis generates empirical evidence on the highly topical issue of accounting for financial instruments in the midst of international accounting standard setting movements toward fair value accounting. The lack of variation between users and preparers affirms the robustness of the qualitative characteristics espoused by the IASB framework for financial reporting. Results show that achieving these qualitative characteristics is far more important than trying to fulfill the different needs of various groups. This slight support for fair value accounting is part of a bigger tapestry of a slow but steady movement towards fair value measurement in financial accounting and reporting.

Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: Murdoch Business School
Supervisor: Taplin, Ross
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