Recognition And Derecognition – FAQ | IFRS

Recognition and derecognition

The recognition process

5.1 Recognition is the process of capturing for inclusion in the statement of financial position or the statement(s) of financial performance an item that meets the definition of one of the elements of financial statements—an asset, a liability, equity, income or expenses. Recognition involves depicting the item in one of those statements—either alone or in aggregation with other items—in words and by a monetary amount, and including that amount in one or more totals in that statement. The amount at which an asset, a liability or equity is recognised in the statement of financial position is referred to as its ‘carrying amount’.

5.2 The statement of financial position and statement(s) of financial performance depict an entity’s recognised assets, liabilities, equity, income and expenses in structured summaries that are designed to make financial information comparable and understandable. An important feature of the structures of those summaries is that the amounts recognised in a statement are included in the totals and, if applicable, subtotals that link the items recognised in the statement.

5.3 Recognition links the elements, the statement of financial position and the statement(s) of financial performance as follows (see Diagram 5.1):

  1. in the statement of financial position at the beginning and end of the reporting period, total assets minus total liabilities equal total equity; and
  2. recognised changes in equity during the reporting period comprise:
    1. income minus expenses recognised in the statement(s) of financial performance; plus
    2. contributions from holders of equity claims, minus distributions to holders of equity claims.

5.4 The statements are linked because the recognition of one item (or a change in its carrying amount) requires the recognition or derecognition of one or more other items (or changes in the carrying amount of one or more other items). For example:

  1. the recognition of income occurs at the same time as:
    1. the initial recognition of an asset, or an increase in the carrying amount of an asset; or
    2. the derecognition of a liability, or a decrease in the carrying amount of a liability.
  2. the recognition of expenses occurs at the same time as:
    1. the initial recognition of a liability, or an increase in the carrying amount of a liability; or
    2. the derecognition of an asset, or a decrease in the carrying amount of an asset.

Diagram 5.1: How recognition links the elements of financial statements

5.5 The initial recognition of assets or liabilities arising from transactions or other events may result in the simultaneous recognition of both income and related expenses. For example, the sale of goods for cash results in the recognition of both income (from the recognition of one asset—the cash) and an expense (from the derecognition of another asset—the goods sold). The simultaneous recognition of income and related expenses is sometimes referred to as the matching of costs with income. Application of the concepts in the Conceptual Framework leads to such matching when it arises from the recognition of changes in assets and liabilities. However, matching of costs with income is not an objective of the Conceptual Framework. The Conceptual Framework does not allow the recognition in the statement of financial position of items that do not meet the definition of an asset, a liability or equity.

Recognition criteria

5.6 Only items that meet the definition of an asset, a liability or equity are recognised in the statement of financial position. Similarly, only items that meet the definition of income or expenses are recognised in the statement(s) of financial performance. However, not all items that meet the definition of one of those elements are recognised.

5.7 Not recognising an item that meets the definition of one of the elements makes the statement of financial position and the statement(s) of financial performance less complete and can exclude useful information from financial statements. On the other hand, in some circumstances, recognising some items that meet the definition of one of the elements would not provide useful information. An asset or liability is recognised only if recognition of that asset or liability and of any resulting income, expenses or changes in equity provides users of financial statements with information that is useful, ie with:

  1. relevant information about the asset or liability and about any resulting income, expenses or changes in equity (see paragraphs 5.12–5.17); and
  2. a faithful representation of the asset or liability and of any resulting income, expenses or changes in equity (see paragraphs 5.18–5.25).

5.8 Just as cost constrains other financial reporting decisions, it also constrains recognition decisions. There is a cost to recognising an asset or liability. Preparers of financial statements incur costs in obtaining a relevant measure of an asset or liability. Users of financial statements also incur costs in analysing and interpreting the information provided. An asset or liability is recognised if the benefits of the information provided to users of financial statements by recognition are likely to justify the costs of providing and using that information. In some cases, the costs of recognition may outweigh its benefits.

5.9 It is not possible to define precisely when recognition of an asset or liability will provide useful information to users of financial statements, at a cost that does not outweigh its benefits. What is useful to users depends on the item and the facts and circumstances. Consequently, judgement is required when deciding whether to recognise an item, and thus recognition requirements may need to vary between and within Standards.

5.10 It is important when making decisions about recognition to consider the information that would be given if an asset or liability were not recognised. For example, if no asset is recognised when expenditure is incurred, an expense is recognised. Over time, recognising the expense may, in some cases, provide useful information, for example, information that enables users of financial statements to identify trends.

5.11 Even if an item meeting the definition of an asset or liability is not recognised, an entity may need to provide information about that item in the notes. It is important to consider how to make such information sufficiently visible to compensate for the item’s absence from the structured summary provided by the statement of financial position and, if applicable, the statement(s) of financial performance.

Relevance

5.12 Information about assets, liabilities, equity, income and expenses is relevant to users of financial statements. However, recognition of a particular asset or liability and any resulting income, expenses or changes in equity may not always provide relevant information. That may be the case if, for example:

  1. it is uncertain whether an asset or liability exists (see paragraph 5.14); or
  2. an asset or liability exists, but the probability of an inflow or outflow of economic benefits is low (see paragraphs 5.15–5.17).

5.13 The presence of one or both of the factors described in paragraph 5.12 does not lead automatically to a conclusion that the information provided by recognition lacks relevance. Moreover, factors other than those described in paragraph 5.12 may also affect the conclusion. It may be a combination of factors and not any single factor that determines whether recognition provides relevant information.

Existence uncertainty

5.14 Paragraphs 4.13 and 4.35 discuss cases in which it is uncertain whether an asset or liability exists. In some cases, that uncertainty, possibly combined with a low probability of inflows or outflows of economic benefits and an exceptionally wide range of possible outcomes, may mean that the recognition of an asset or liability, necessarily measured at a single amount, would not provide relevant information. Whether or not the asset or liability is recognised, explanatory information about the uncertainties associated with it may need to be provided in the financial statements.

Low probability of an inflow or outflow of economic benefits

5.15 An asset or liability can exist even if the probability of an inflow or outflow of economic benefits is low (see paragraphs 4.15 and 4.38).

5.16 If the probability of an inflow or outflow of economic benefits is low, the most relevant information about the asset or liability may be information about the magnitude of the possible inflows or outflows, their possible timing and the factors affecting the probability of their occurrence. The typical location for such information is in the notes.

5.17 Even if the probability of an inflow or outflow of economic benefits is low, recognition of the asset or liability may provide relevant information beyond the information described in paragraph 5.16. Whether that is the case may depend on a variety of factors. For example:

  1. if an asset is acquired or a liability is incurred in an exchange transaction on market terms, its cost generally reflects the probability of an inflow or outflow of economic benefits. Thus, that cost may be relevant information, and is generally readily available. Furthermore, not recognising the asset or liability would result in the recognition of expenses or income at the time of the exchange, which might not be a faithful representation of the transaction (see paragraph 5.25(a)).
  2. if an asset or liability arises from an event that is not an exchange transaction, recognition of the asset or liability typically results in recognition of income or expenses. If there is only a low probability that the asset or liability will result in an inflow or outflow of economic benefits, users of financial statements might not regard the recognition of the asset and income, or the liability and expenses, as providing relevant information.

Faithful representation

5.18 Recognition of a particular asset or liability is appropriate if it provides not only relevant information, but also a faithful representation of that asset or liability and of any resulting income, expenses or changes in equity. Whether a faithful representation can be provided may be affected by the level of measurement uncertainty associated with the asset or liability or by other factors.

Measurement uncertainty

5.19 For an asset or liability to be recognised, it must be measured. In many cases, such measures must be estimated and are therefore subject to measurement uncertainty. As noted in paragraph 2.19, the use of reasonable estimates is an essential part of the preparation of financial information and does not undermine the usefulness of the information if the estimates are clearly and accurately described and explained. Even a high level of measurement uncertainty does not necessarily prevent such an estimate from providing useful information.

5.20 In some cases, the level of uncertainty involved in estimating a measure of an asset or liability may be so high that it may be questionable whether the estimate would provide a sufficiently faithful representation of that asset or liability and of any resulting income, expenses or changes in equity. The level of measurement uncertainty may be so high if, for example, the only way of estimating that measure of the asset or liability is by using cash-flow-based measurement techniques and, in addition, one or more of the following circumstances exists:

  1. the range of possible outcomes is exceptionally wide and the probability of each outcome is exceptionally difficult to estimate.
  2. the measure is exceptionally sensitive to small changes in estimates of the probability of different outcomes—for example, if the probability of future cash inflows or outflows occurring is exceptionally low, but the magnitude of those cash inflows or outflows will be exceptionally high if they occur.
  3. measuring the asset or liability requires exceptionally difficult or exceptionally subjective allocations of cash flows that do not relate solely to the asset or liability being measured.

5.21 In some of the cases described in paragraph 5.20, the most useful information may be the measure that relies on the highly uncertain estimate, accompanied by a description of the estimate and an explanation of the uncertainties that affect it. This is especially likely to be the case if that measure is the most relevant measure of the asset or liability. In other cases, if that information would not provide a sufficiently faithful representation of the asset or liability and of any resulting income, expenses or changes in equity, the most useful information may be a different measure (accompanied by any necessary descriptions and explanations) that is slightly less relevant but is subject to lower measurement uncertainty.

5.22 In limited circumstances, all relevant measures of an asset or liability that are available (or can be obtained) may be subject to such high measurement uncertainty that none would provide useful information about the asset or liability (and any resulting income, expenses or changes in equity), even if the measure were accompanied by a description of the estimates made in producing it and an explanation of the uncertainties that affect those estimates. In those limited circumstances, the asset or liability would not be recognised.

5.23 Whether or not an asset or liability is recognised, a faithful representation of the asset or liability may need to include explanatory information about the uncertainties associated with the asset or liability’s existence or measurement, or with its outcome—the amount or timing of any inflow or outflow of economic benefits that will ultimately result from it (see paragraphs 6.60–6.62).

Other factors

5.24 Faithful representation of a recognised asset, liability, equity, income or expenses involves not only recognition of that item, but also its measurement as well as presentation and disclosure of information about it (see Chapters 6–7).

5.25 Hence, when assessing whether the recognition of an asset or liability can provide a faithful representation of the asset or liability, it is necessary to consider not merely its description and measurement in the statement of financial position, but also:

  1. the depiction of resulting income, expenses and changes in equity. For example, if an entity acquires an asset in exchange for consideration, not recognising the asset would result in recognising expenses and would reduce the entity’s profit and equity. In some cases, for example, if the entity does not consume the asset immediately, that result could provide a misleading representation that the entity’s financial position has deteriorated.
  2. whether related assets and liabilities are recognised. If they are not recognised, recognition may create a recognition inconsistency (accounting mismatch). That may not provide an understandable or faithful representation of the overall effect of the transaction or other event giving rise to the asset or liability, even if explanatory information is provided in the notes.
  3. presentation and disclosure of information about the asset or liability, and resulting income, expenses or changes in equity. A complete depiction includes all information necessary for a user of financial statements to understand the economic phenomenon depicted, including all necessary descriptions and explanations.

Hence, presentation and disclosure of related information can enable a recognised amount to form part of a faithful representation of an asset, a liability, equity, income or expenses.

Derecognition

5.26 Derecognition is the removal of all or part of a recognised asset or liability from an entity’s statement of financial position. Derecognition normally occurs when that item no longer meets the definition of an asset or of a liability:

  1. for an asset, derecognition normally occurs when the entity loses control of all or part of the recognised asset; and
  2. for a liability, derecognition normally occurs when the entity no longer has a present obligation for all or part of the recognised liability.

5.27 Accounting requirements for derecognition aim to faithfully represent both:

  1. any assets and liabilities retained after the transaction or other event that led to the derecognition (including any asset or liability acquired, incurred or created as part of the transaction or other event); and
  2. the change in the entity’s assets and liabilities as a result of that transaction or other event.

5.28 The aims described in paragraph 5.27 are normally achieved by:

  1. derecognising any assets or liabilities that have expired or have been consumed, collected, fulfilled or transferred, and recognising any resulting income and expenses. In the rest of this chapter, the term ‘transferred component’ refers to all those assets and liabilities;
  2. continuing to recognise the assets or liabilities retained, referred to as the ‘retained component’, if any. That retained component becomes a unit of account separate from the transferred component. Accordingly, no income or expenses are recognised on the retained component as a result of the derecognition of the transferred component, unless the derecognition results in a change in the measurement requirements applicable to the retained component; and
  3. applying one or more of the following procedures, if that is necessary to achieve one or both of the aims described in paragraph 5.27:
    1. presenting any retained component separately in the statement of financial position;
    2. presenting separately in the statement(s) of financial performance any income and expenses recognised as a result of the derecognition of the transferred component; or
    3. providing explanatory information.

5.29 In some cases, an entity might appear to transfer an asset or liability, but that asset or liability might nevertheless remain an asset or liability of the entity. For example:

  1. if an entity has apparently transferred an asset but retains exposure to significant positive or negative variations in the amount of economic benefits that may be produced by the asset, this sometimes indicates that the entity might continue to control that asset (see paragraph 4.24); or
  2. if an entity has transferred an asset to another party that holds the asset as an agent for the entity, the transferor still controls the asset (see paragraph 4.25).

5.30 In the cases described in paragraph 5.29, derecognition of that asset or liability is not appropriate because it would not achieve either of the two aims described in paragraph 5.27.

5.31 When an entity no longer has a transferred component, derecognition of the transferred component faithfully represents that fact. However, in some of those cases, derecognition may not faithfully represent how much a transaction or other event changed the entity’s assets or liabilities, even when supported by one or more of the procedures described in paragraph 5.28(c). In those cases, derecognition of the transferred component might imply that the entity’s financial position has changed more significantly than it has. This might occur, for example:

  1. if an entity has transferred an asset and, at the same time, entered into another transaction that results in a present right or present obligation to reacquire the asset. Such present rights or present obligations may arise from, for example, a forward contract, a written put option, or a purchased call option.
  2. if an entity has retained exposure to significant positive or negative variations in the amount of economic benefits that may be produced by a transferred component that the entity no longer controls.

5.32 If derecognition is not sufficient to achieve both aims described in paragraph 5.27, even when supported by one or more of the procedures described in paragraph 5.28(c), those two aims might sometimes be achieved by continuing to recognise the transferred component. This has the following consequences:

  1. no income or expenses are recognised on either the retained component or the transferred component as a result of the transaction or other event;
  2. the proceeds received (or paid) upon transfer of the asset (or liability) are treated as a loan received (or given); and
  3. separate presentation of the transferred component in the statement of financial position, or provision of explanatory information, is needed to depict the fact that the entity no longer has any rights or obligations arising from the transferred component.Similarly, it may be necessary to provide information about income or expenses arising from the transferred component after the transfer.

5.33 One case in which questions about derecognition arise is when a contract is modified in a way that reduces or eliminates existing rights or obligations. In deciding how to account for contract modifications, it is necessary to consider which unit of account provides users of financial statements with the most useful information about the assets and liabilities retained after the modification, and about how the modification changed the entity’s assets and liabilities:

  1. if a contract modification only eliminates existing rights or obligations, the discussion in paragraphs 5.26–5.32 is considered in deciding whether to derecognise those rights or obligations;
  2. if a contract modification only adds new rights or obligations, it is necessary to decide whether to treat the added rights or obligations as a separate asset or liability, or as part of the same unit of account as the existing rights and obligations (see paragraphs 4.48–4.55); and
  3. if a contract modification both eliminates existing rights or obligations and adds new rights or obligations, it is necessary to consider both the separate and the combined effect of those modifications. In some such cases, the contract has been modified to such an extent that, in substance, the modification replaces the old asset or liability with a new asset or liability. In cases of such extensive modification, the entity may need to derecognise the original asset or liability, and recognise the new asset or liability.