Why Do Firms Write Off Their Goodwill? A Comparison of Different Accounting Systems


Increased comparability of financial statements across adopting countries is one of the main objectives of IFRS adoption. The level of achievement of this objective, however, is still debatable. While some studies have documented that crosscountry comparability of financial statements has increased after IFRS adoption, other studies have found that comparability has actually decreased since 2005. We contribute to this debate by studying whether the motivations for goodwill writeoff are the same or vary across countries with different accounting systems. Although a good deal of research has investigated the motivations for goodwill writeoff, our study is the first to analyze whether these motivations vary across countries with different accounting systems. We find that firms that expect low cash flows in the future are more likely to report goodwill write-offs if they are located in countries with an Anglo-Saxon accounting system than if they are located in countries with a Continental accounting system. These results suggest that IFRS are “interpreted” differently in different countries and that harmonization of financial statements has not been fully achieved yet.


Keywords: Goodwill, impairment, IFRS, accounting systems

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