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The convergence of National Accounting Standards with International Financial Reporting Standards: the Italian Case

This paper investigates one method for measuring the convergence/divergence between Italian accounting standards and International Financial Reporting Standards. The analysis is based on 38 accounting items examined over the period 1989-2015 as illustrative example. The results show an high level of convergence between Italian accounting standards and International Financial Reporting Standards in the last period 2010-2015. However, the single accounting standards exhibits a different level of similarity with IFRS.

Key-Words: Bilancio e principi contabili, Italian Accounting Standards, International Financial Reporting Standards, Formal Harmonization, Euclidean Distance

Appendix – Tables 1-2-3-4

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The volatility of comprehensive income as performance measure: evidence from European banks

The issue of the IAS 1 revised has introduced in the financial statement a new measure of the firm performance: the comprehensive income. This kind of measure should be a more volatile index than the net income and all the ratios built with it should suffer the short term variation of its components, often dependents on the fluctuation of the market. For these reasons, in this study we try to understand if there is a real higher volatility of comprehensive income, compared to the simple net income, using the standard deviation of the two measures during the period examined in the sample. The sample analyzed includes financial statements of Italian, German, French, Spanish and British financial institutions for the years 2008-2015.

Key-Words: Bilancio e principi contabili

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Presentation of Other Comprehensive Income: is there a relationship with the total amount, the sign and the volatility of such accounting items?

The paper analyzes the ways of reporting other comprehensive income (OCI) and their relationships with three different variables, i.e. the volatility, the sign and the total amount of such accounting items. In order to investigate the reasons of such relationships, the study considers the final annual financial statements approved for the accounting periods from 2009 (i.e. the first year in which the 2007 revision of IAS 1 was applied) to 2012 by Italian companies which are required to apply the International Financial Reporting Standards and to follow their updates since 2005. The choice of this specific sample is due to the willingness of verifying the ways of departing from a strong Italian accounting traditional culture which does not consider other comprehensive income (OCI items have never been mentioned by Italian civil code and have not been included in Italian financial reporting). Some preliminary results emphasize the relevance of OCI items. In each accounting period, the majority of the analyzed financial statements show a significant impact of OCI on net income (each amount in absolute value) over a materiality threshold of 10%. In some years also the difference between ROE measured with net income (NI) and ROE measured with comprehensive income (CI) is statistically significant. It demonstrates that the prominence of OCI in evaluating firms’ performance potentially should not be ignored. Moreover, the median of changes in OCI is greater than the one of changes in net income, showing that OCI is more volatile than NI. After such preliminary analysis, a logistic analysis has been implemented by considering the abovementioned variables. Such study brings some important results confirming the significance of the relations between the ways of reporting other comprehensive income and both the sign and the total amount of such accounting items. The analysis has been implemented by using also different versions of the dependent variable in order to investigate the impact of the OCI presentation in two statements which are positioned in two different (i.e. following) pages. So, while the predominance in the use of two statements for OCI presentation shows the willingness to emphasize the traditional profit or loss section and may be related to the influence of a strong Italian accounting traditional culture, the reasons of the use of two different pages for such presentation may represent the signal of “accounts management”.

Key-Words: Bilancio e principi contabili, other comprehensive income, financial statement presentation, volatility

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Earnings management and government elections: evidence fromMunicipalities Owned Firms

Purpose –The purpose of this paper is to investigate if, when a firm is politically connected, the perspective of an incoming election has the ability to affect the magnitude of earnings management in its financial statements. Design/methodology/approach – We identify Municipalities Owned Enterprises (MSOEs) as a typical example of politically connected firms and we measure the magnitude of Earnings management over a 6 years period including two rounds of elections held in the controlling Municipality. The methodology used to measure Earnings Management is the one developed by (Stubben, 2010) who develops a model of changes in accounts receivable to measure earnings management through revenues instead of earnings. We also use the frequency distribution approach as in Burgstahler and Dichev (1997), as a check method. Findings – We found evidence of an increase in earnings management activity in the last financial statements published before the election held in the controlling municipalities. Originality/Limitations – As reported by previous research (Ramanna & Roychowdhury, 2010), “use of accounting discretion to manage political costs is potentially more evolved than currently discussed in the literature”. As to the specific topic of this paper, this study is the first to examine the relation between election and earnings management for a sample of European politically connected firms, namely Italian firms. Nonetheless, it suffers from the limitations that it may derive from the peculiarity of a single national environment. Practical implications – This study fills a gap in the literature by contributing to the development of knowledge by responding to the call of Ramanna and Roychowdhury (2010). Therefore, our paper contributes to (i) improving the integrity of elections; (ii) reducing corruption and inappropriate use of SOEs (IFAC, 2015); (iii) increasing the level of control in «election years» , especially in the perspective of consolidation with the controlling public sector entity. It sheds light on the reliability of the financial statements of an extremely peculiar kind of entities that have nowadays a significant role in the economic life of many countries (OECD, 2014). Keywords – Earnings management, Local Election, Politically connected firms, Municipalities Owned Enterprises.

Key-Word: Issues in International Accounting 

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Beyond firm-level determinants: the effect of M&A features on the extent of M&A disclosure

Accounting literature has mainly focused on country- and firm-related factors driving the extent of financial report disclosure, also when studying disclosure on specific transactions or events. We contend that in the latter case transaction-specific features cannot be neglected, as they may offer significant incentives to deliver or withhold information. This study examines, in an IFRS context, how M&A-specific features influence the extent of related disclosure on the acquirer’s financial statement. Moreover, since literature has traditionally investigated the drivers of voluntary disclosure, but recent studies argue that mandatory disclosure cannot be taken for granted, we examine the influence of M&A features on mandatory and voluntary disclosure separately, as well as on the overall M&A extent of disclosure. We thus disentangle the influence of BC-specific characteristics on different kinds of disclosure. The study provides evidence that including M&A-specific features in addition to firm characteristics strongly improves the explanatory power of the regression models. Our findings signal that the purchase price magnitude is positively associated with mandatory, voluntary and overall disclosure, while the timeline of the M&A accomplished is negatively associated only with voluntarily disclosure, and the nationality of the acquiree is neutral to disclosure. Furthermore, we show that an increasing level of goodwill arising from a M&A represents a strong incentive to reduce the level of voluntary disclosure, and even mandatory disclosure is reduced when goodwill reaches its highest points, signaling that the acquirer becomes more and more reticent. Additional analyses explore disclosure compliance, abnormal goodwill and the effect of goodwill impairment losses on disclosure, while robustness tests corroborate the main findings.

Key-Word: Issues in International Accounting 

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Team Play for Stretching IFRS in the European Enforcement System

There is a consensus that the quality of IFRS enforcement mechanisms in scrutinizing financial reporting varies across European member countries (Ball, 2016). Against this background, this paper investigates whether the IFRS enforcement system at a supra-national level can prevent opportunistic behaviors at a national level that conflict with the objectives of accounting harmonization. Through the theoretical lens of new institutional accounting (Wysocki, 2011), the paper presents the case study of the Bank of Italy share revaluation within the European enforcement system. The case illustrates how the complex interactions among key actors – at company, industry, national and supra-national level – can lead to a failure of the enforcement system. Findings indicate that opportunistic behaviors can occur in interstices between formal institutions under given circumstances, such as interpretation uncertainties of IFRS, cooperation between formal and informal institutions (at a national level), and weaknesses of accounting enforcement (at a supra-national level). The paper analyses those opportunistic behaviors identifying a new type of earnings management, new institutional earnings management, based on inter-firm cooperation arising in the interstices between formal institutions’ scopes. As a result, it stresses the need of a vigorous enforcement at a supra-national level, with relevant policy implications for European institutions.

Key-Words: Politiche di bilancio, IFRS, enforcement, new institutional accounting, earnings management

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When accruals exchange their predicting role: the case of write-ups and write-downs

This study investigates whether upward (write-ups) and downward revaluations (write-offs) of non-financial fixed assets predict future performance of private firms. We show that upward asset revaluations are related to future operating performance depending on the changing net tax benefits they bring to firms. When tax benefits in the form of future tax shields are expected to exceed current tax costs in the form of “substitute tax” payable at the time of revaluation, firms revalue assets upward if they forecast positive future taxable income to exploit the net tax benefit. This results in a positive relation between revaluations and future cash flows. The financial reporting process appears as if it is consistent with reporting true firm performance. When current tax costs are low or zero, firms exploit the discretion in revaluations more loosely to achieve also other objectives of financial reporting. This results in a negative relation between upward revaluations and future cash flows. Writeoffs are never significantly negatively related to future operating performance. Indeed, they become significantly positively related to future performance during the general economic downturn. Though these findings contrast the expected outcome according to accounting standards, they are consistent with the high alignment/tax rate and the non-tax cost and benefits that characterise the setting in which private firms typically operate.

Key-Words: Earning Management, private firms, upward asset revaluations, write-offs, earnings quality

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Do private firms engage in earnings management practices to get capital grants?

Capital subsidies in favour of disadvantaged European regions dramatically dropped during the 2007-2013 European Union (EU) programming period due to relevant changes in the EU membership and rules. These changes have implied for beneficiary firms a greater effort both to compete for a lower slide of public resources and to demonstrate their ability to integrate the residual unsubsidised stake of their investments either through their own internal resources or by external financing. Assessing firms’ operating and financial performance becomes thus central for granting authorities that have to select the beneficiaries. In turn, these stricter conditions to gain a non-tax benefit in the form of capital subsidies are expected to influence the financial reporting process of private firms. Using a large sample of beneficiary and non-beneficiary firms, this study aims to investigate whether private firms manipulate their financial accounts in order to benefit from capital subsidies after the EU changed its aid policy. Results show that Italian private firms manage earnings upward, by exercising accounting discretion on specific revenues and expenses, in order to receive capital grants, with a more intense manipulative behaviour for Southern firms and at growing levels of subsidisation.

Key-Words: Earning Management, Capital subsidies, private firms, EU regional aid policy

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The relationship between provional and definitive goodwill: empirical evidence from the European context

Considering that there are not previous studies that empirically examine issues related to provisional goodwill arising from business combinations, this exploratory study aims at examining the determinants of the managerial decision to recognise goodwill amount on a provisional basis, also in the light of its relationship with the subsequent definitive goodwill amount recognised at the end of the measurement period. In pursuit of these objectives, I analyse a sample of business combinations concluded in the European context over a four-year period (2010-2013). Main findings suggest that goodwill recognised on a provisional basis is overstated in comparison with definitive goodwill amount. Additionally, the decision to account for goodwill on a provisional basis is due to a particular relationship with stock market prices of the acquirer. This study contributes to the goodwill accounting literature as well as the current debate on accounting for goodwill since it highlights the relevance to consider specific issues affecting the initial determination of goodwill amount. In this regard, findings have also practical importance since they could improve standard setter’s activity.

Key-Words: Earning Management, goodwill, business combinations, IFRS 3, measurement period

 

La valutazione delle aziende in crisi

Copertina_crisi

Varie ricerche effettuate su società quotate hanno evidenziato come le stime di valore ottenute dall’applicazione di una molteplicità di metodi conducano ad esiti particolarmente instabili, in quanto il valore del capitale economico può variare, rispetto al suo valore di mercato, da un quinto fino a cinque volte. Le cause di tale instabilità sono molteplici e possono derivare da problemi pratici di applicazione dei metodi valutativi, dall’incertezza legata a fattori strategici e strutturali e, infine, dall’orientamento psicologico degli analisti finanziari. Tale volatilità potrebbe accentuarsi nel caso di valutazioni di piccole e medie imprese, soprattutto per la minore qualità informativa delle informazioni di supporto. Tuttavia, in questi casi la valutazione è effettuata da professionisti che operano con l’appoggio della proprietà e la collaborazione dell’intera struttura amministrativa. In condizioni di normale funzionamento queste condizioni dovrebbero apportare qualità al processo valutativo che resta legato comunque alla corretta analisi dei fondamentali dell’azienda, alla scelta dell’approccio valutativo più consono alla fattispecie e alla declinazione corretta delle ipotesi nello sviluppo della perizia. Nel caso di aziende in crisi alcuni autori hanno indagato le tipicità – quali il valore delle attività patrimoniali, i tassi di sconto, il terminal value – che possono ostacolare l’ottenimento di risultati significativi mediante il metodo finanziario. Anche nel caso in cui si ricorra all’applicazione di tecniche relative come, ad esempio, i multipli di mercato, si hanno problemi da affrontare, a partire dalla scelta dei multipli da utilizzare – non potendo fare riferimento ad alcune grandezze, come ad esempio gli utili – o nell’aggiustamento dei multipli delle aziende comparabili.