Retirement Benefit Plans – FAQ | IFRS

Retirement Benefit Plans

The objective of IAS 26 is to specify measurement and disclosure principles for the reports of retirement benefit plans. All plans should include in their reports a statement of changes in net assets available for benefits, a summary of significant accounting policies and a description of the plan and the effect of any changes in the plan during the period.

Retirement benefit plans are normally described as either defined contribution plans or defined benefit plans, each having their own distinctive characteristics. Occasionally plans exist that contain characteristics of both. Such hybrid plans are considered to be defined benefit plans for the purposes of IAS 26.

For defined contribution plans, the objective of reporting is to provide information about the plan and the performance of its investments.

For defined benefit plans, the objective of reporting is to provide information about the financial resources and activities of the plan that will facilitate an assessment of the relationships between the accumulation of resources and plan benefits over time.

Prescribed Accounting Treatment IAS 26 Retirement Benefit Plans

Defined contribution plans IAS 26 Retirement Benefit Plans

The financial statements of a defined contribution plan shall contain a statement of net assets available for benefits and a description of the funding policy.

Under a defined contribution plan, the amount of a participant’s future benefits is determined by the contributions paid by the employer, the participant, or both, and the operating efficiency and investment earnings of the fund. An employer’s obligation is usually discharged by contributions to the fund. An actuary’s advice is not normally required although such advice is sometimes used to estimate future benefits that may be achievable based on present contributions and varying levels of future contributions and investment earnings.

The participants are interested in the activities of the plan because they directly affect the level of their future benefits. Participants are interested in knowing whether contributions have been received and proper control has been exercised to protect the rights of beneficiaries. An employer is interested in the efficient and fair operation of the plan.

The objective of reporting by a defined contribution plan is periodically to provide information about the plan and the performance of its investments. That objective is usually achieved by providing financial statements including the following:

  1. a description of significant activities for the period and the effect of any changes relating to the plan, and its membership and terms and conditions;
  2. statements reporting on the transactions and investment performance for the period and the financial position of the plan at the end of the period; and
  3. a description of the investment policies.

Defined benefit plans IAS 26 Retirement Benefit Plans

The financial statements of a defined benefit plan shall contain either:

  1. a statement that shows:
    1. net assets available for benefits, IAS 26 Retirement Benefit Plans
    2. actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits, distinguishing between vested benefits and non-vested benefits, and
    3. resulting excess or deficit IAS 26 Retirement Benefit Plans
  2. a statement of net assets available for benefits including either
    1. note disclosing actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits, distinguishing between vested benefits and non-vested benefits, or
    2. a reference to this information in an accompanying actuarial report

The actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits shall be based on the benefits promised under the terms of the plan of service rendered to date based on either current salary levels or projected salaries. Disclosure of the basis is necessary. Changes in actuarial assumptions with significant effect on the actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits shall also be disclosed.

The financial statements shall explain the relationship between the actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits and the net assets available for benefits, and the policy for the funding of promised benefits.

Under a defined benefit plan, the payment of promised retirement benefits depends on the financial position of the plan and the ability of contributors to make future contributions to the plan as well as the investment performance and operating efficiency of the plan.

A defined benefit plan needs the periodic advice of an actuary to assess the financial condition of the plan, review the assumptions and recommend future contribution levels.

The objective of reporting by a defined benefit plan is periodically to provide information about the financial resources and activities of the plan that is useful in assessing the relationships between the accumulation of resources and plan benefits over time. This objective is usually achieved by providing financial statements including the following:

  1. a description of significant activities for the period and the effect of any changes relating to the plan, and its membership and terms and conditions;
  2. statements reporting on the transactions and investment performance for the period and the financial position of the plan at the end of the period;
  3. actuarial information either as part of the statements or by way of a separate report; and
  4. a description of the investment policies.

Actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits IAS 26 Retirement Benefit Plans

The present value of the expected payments by a retirement benefit plan may be calculated and reported using current salary levels or projected salary levels up to the time of retirement of participants.

The reasons given for adopting a current salary approach include:

  1. the actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits, being the sum of the amounts presently attributable to each participant in the plan, can be calculated more objectively than with projected salary levels because it involves fewer assumptions;
  2. increases in benefits attributable to a salary increase become an obligation of the plan at the time of the salary increase; and
  3. the amount of the actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits using current salary levels is generally more closely related to the amount payable in the event of termination or discontinuance of the plan.

The reasons given for adopting a projected salary approach include:

  1. financial information should be prepared on a going concern basis, irrespective of the assumptions and estimates that must be made;
  2. under final pay plans, benefits are determined by reference to salaries at or near retirement date; hence salaries, contribution levels and rates of return must be projected; and
  3. failure to incorporate salary projections, when most funding is based on salary projections, may result in the reporting of an apparent over funding when the plan is not overfunded, or in reporting adequate funding when the plan is underfunded.

The actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits based on current salaries is disclosed in the financial statements of a plan to indicate the obligation for benefits earned to the date of the financial statements. The actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits based on projected salaries is disclosed to indicate the magnitude of the potential obligation on a going concern basis which is generally the basis for funding.

In addition to disclosure of the actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits, sufficient explanation may need to be given so as to indicate clearly the context in which the actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits should be read. Such explanation may be in the form of information about the adequacy of the planned future funding and of the funding policy based on salary projections. This may be included in the financial statements or in the actuary’s report.

Frequency of actuarial valuations IAS 26 Retirement Benefit Plans

In many countries, actuarial valuations are not obtained more frequently than every three years. Where actuarial valuation has not been prepared at the date of the financial statements, the most recent valuation shall be used as a base and the date of the valuation shall be disclosed.

Financial statement content IAS 26 Retirement Benefit Plans

For defined benefit plans, information is presented in one of the following formats which reflect different practices in the disclosure and presentation of actuarial information:

  1. a statement is included in the financial statements that shows the net assets available for benefits, the actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits, and the resulting excess or deficit. The financial statements of the plan also contain statements of changes in net assets available for benefits and changes in the actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits. The financial statements may be accompanied by a separate actuary’s report supporting the actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits;
  2. financial statements that include a statement of net assets available for benefits and a statement of changes in net assets available for benefits. The actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits is disclosed in a note to the statements. The financial statements may also be accompanied by a report from an actuary supporting the actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits; and
  3. financial statements that include a statement of net assets available for benefits and a statement of changes in net assets available for benefits with the actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits contained in a separate actuarial report. In each format, a trustees’ report in the nature of a management or directors’ report and an investment report may also accompany the financial statements.

Those in favour of the formats described in (a) and (b) believe that the quantification of promised retirement benefits and other information provided under those approaches help users to assess the current status of the plan and the likelihood of the plan’s obligations being met. They also believe that financial statements should be complete in themselves and not rely on accompanying statements. However, some believe that the format described in (a) could give the impression that a liability exists, whereas the actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits does not in their opinion have all the characteristics of a liability.

Those who favour the format described in (c) believe that the actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits should not be included in a statement of net assets available for benefits as in the format described in (a) or even be disclosed in a note as in (b), because it will be compared directly with plan assets and such a comparison may not be valid. They contend that actuaries do not necessarily compare actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits with market values of investments but may instead assess the present value of cash flows expected from the investments. Therefore, those in favour of this format believe that such a comparison is unlikely to reflect the actuary’s overall assessment of the plan and that it may be misunderstood. Also, some believe that, regardless of whether quantified, the information about promised retirement benefits should be contained solely in the separate actuarial report where a proper explanation can be provided.

IAS 26 accepts the views in favour of permitting disclosure of the information concerning promised retirement benefits in a separate actuarial report. It rejects arguments against the quantification of the actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits. Accordingly, the formats described in (a) and (b) are considered acceptable under IAS 26, as is the format described in (c) so long as the financial statements contain a reference to, and are accompanied by, an actuarial report that includes the actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits.

Valuation of plan assets IAS 26 Retirement Benefit Plans

Retirement benefit plan investments shall be carried at fair value. For marketable securities, the fair value is the market value. Where plan investments are held for which an estimate of fair value is not possible (e.g. reliable measurement cannot be achieved), a disclosure explaining the reason for not using fair value is required. Where some investments are carried at amounts other than market value or fair value (e.g. market value obtained from a thinly traded market), fair value (e.g. valuation technique) is generally disclosed, if not carried in the books.

Prescribed Disclosures IAS 26 Retirement Benefit Plans

Financial statements of a retirement benefit plan (either defined benefit or defined contribution) shall contain the following information:

  1. a statement of changes in net assets available for benefits
  2. a summary of significant accounting policies
  3. a description of the plan and the effect of any changes in the plan during the period

Financial statements provided by retirement benefit plans include the following, if applicable:

  1. a statement of net assets available for benefits disclosing:
    1. assets at the end of the period suitably classified;
    2. the basis of valuation of assets;
    3. details of any single investment exceeding either 5% of the net assets available for benefits or 5% of any class or type of security;
    4. details of any investment in the employer; and
    5. liabilities other than the actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits;
  2. a statement of changes in net assets available for benefits showing the following:
    1. employer contributions;
    2. employee contributions;
    3. investment income such as interest and dividends;
    4. other income;
    5. benefits paid or payable (analysed, for example, as retirement, death and disability benefits, and lump sum payments);
    6. administrative expenses;
    7. other expenses; IAS 26 Retirement Benefit Plans
    8. taxes on income;
    9. profits and losses on disposal of investments and changes in value of investments; and
    10. transfers from and to other plans; IAS 26 Retirement Benefit Plans
  3. a description of the funding policy;
  4. for defined benefit plans, the actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits (which may distinguish between vested benefits and non-vested benefits) based on the benefits promised under the terms of the plan, on service rendered to date and using either current salary levels or projected salary levels; this information may be included in an accompanying actuarial report to be read in conjunction with the related financial statements; and
  5. for defined benefit plans, a description of the significant actuarial assumptions made and the method used to calculate the actuarial present value of promised retirement benefits.

The report of a retirement benefit plan contains a description of the plan, either as part of the financial statements or in a separate report. It may contain the following:

  1. the names of the employers and the employee groups covered;
  2. the number of participants receiving benefits and the number of other participants, classified as appropriate;
  3. the type of plan—defined contribution or defined benefit; IAS 26 Retirement Benefit Plans
  4. a note as to whether participants contribute to the plan; IAS 26 Retirement Benefit Plans
  5. a description of the retirement benefits promised to participants;
  6. a description of any plan termination terms; and
  7. changes in items (a) to (f) during the period covered by the report.

It is not uncommon to refer to other documents that are readily available to users and in which the plan is described, and to include only information on subsequent changes.

Notwithstanding the items which are listed above, any information that supports the objective of reporting or is relevant to all participants as a group shall be disclosed.

IAS 26 Retirement Benefit Plans

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