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FAIR VALUE ACCOUNTING AND SUB-PRIME Michael r. Young INTRODUCTION A proposition creeping its way into the discussion about the financial market dislocations arising from sub-prime loans is that it’s really our accounting system that is to blame. The argument is that new accounting rules are requiring writedowns that actually exaggerate losses and that financial markets are thereby being driven to levels that are artificially low. A consequence, as summarized by The Wall Street Journal, is a ―rebellion‖ by those who are ―blaming accounting rules‖ for exaggerated losses and calling for new rules that would, in essence, dampen financial market volatility. That is certainly one way of looking at it. And, no doubt, the billions in writedowns of mortgage-backed instruments and accompanying volatility in financial markets since this past summer have been no fun. Still, we should be slow to blame the accountants or new accounting standards for the sub-prime meltdown. To the contrary, some may be expected to point out that the aftermath of the sub-prime difficulties has put to the test a financial reporting system that has responded as it should. BEHIND THE SCENES: FAS 157 For those inclined to blame the accounting, the real culprit in the sub-prime mess is a fairly new standard, ―Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 157‖ or ―FAS 157.‖ Issued in September 2006 and scheduled to take effect this past November, GAS 157 speaks to the valuation of certain kinds of assets, namely assets that should be recorded at fair value. Applicable to, among other things, financial instruments of the sort relevant to sub-prime loans, the standard specifies that such assets are to be recorded at the price for which they could be sold, that is, ―the price that would be received to sell an asset or paid to transfer a liability in an orderly transaction between market participants at the measurement date.‖ Among accountants, this concept is referred to in shorthand as the ―exit price.‖ In speaking to the proper valuation of assets, FAS 157 is the latest contribution to one of the oldest debates in accounting. That is whether assets are better recorded at ―cost‖ or at their ―fair‖(or market) value. The issue is one that has been vigorously debated for years, one of the reasons being that each side has had excellent arguments to support its position. Advocates of the ―cost‖ approach assert that cost is the best, most reliable, and most objective indication of ―fair value‖ at the time a transaction takes place. The existence of an invoice or a contract typically makes the evidence supporting the asset value all but irrefutable. Making the valuation even more reliable, such concrete evidence can be independently examined by an outside auditor of the financial statements. Accordingly, under the cost approach, there is comparatively little need for judgment and, therefore, little opportunity for blunders or the manipulation of financial results. But that is only one side of the argument. The other is that historical cost, while objectively reliable at the moment a transaction takes place, can become outdated fairly quickly. That is particularly so for assets
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that are traded in active markets – such as financial instruments. What is the logic, the fair value adherents assert, of keeping a share of stock on the books at its purchase price when the price has increased or decreased in market trading thereafter? More broadly, insistence upon cost as the ultimate measure of asset value can lead to reported results that make no sense. A FASB member made the point at one meeting through the example of an office building. Under GAAP, the building would be recorded at cost and then, over the succeeding quarters and years, depreciated. The result would be that, for financial reporting purposes, its reported value would go down. At the same time, the economic reality may be that its value was actually increasing. Hence, the ―cost‖ approach would have two results. The first is that the information would be objectively reliable. The second is that it would be completely wrong. The present dé tente in this debate is an approach to accounting that seeks to acknowledge the good points made by each side. The approach is to require certain assets to be recorded at fair value and other assets generally to be recorded at cost. Among those assets to be recorded at fair value are certain kinds of financial instruments, the thinking being that financial instruments are often traded in active markets with an observable price. It is hardly an insurmountable challenge, the logic goes, to look up the price each time the financial statements are updated. While that may be true in many or most cases, though, it is not true all the time, and then things start to get a little tricky. FAS 157 acknowledges that there may be instances in which assets will have to be recorded at fair value but in which an observable market price in an active market does not exist. FAS 157 deals with this through the adoption of an approach that focuses attention on the methods used to estimate fair value. Basically, FAS 157 puts in place a ―fair value hierarchy‖ that prioritizes the inputs to valuation techniques according to their objectivity and observability. At the top are ―Level 1 inputs,‖ which are defined as ―quoted prices (unadjusted) in active markets for identical assets or liabilities that the reporting entity has the ability to access at the measurement date.‖ Next down in the hierarchy are ―Level 2 inputs,‖ which are inputs ―other than quoted prices included within Level 1 that are observable for the asset or liability‖ such as quoted prices for similar assets or liabilities in markets that are not active. Lowest on the list are ―Level 3 inputs‖ which are simply ―unobservable,‖ i.e., there really are no active markets. Under Level 3, inputs are to be ―developed based on the best information available in the circumstances.‖ Often that will mean that, in the absence of an active market, resort will be had to models that seek to figure out what the price to be received in a hypothetical sale of the asset would be. When a draft of FAS 157 was circulated to the financial community for public comment, not everyone was enthusiastic about its three-level approach, and thoughtful commentators were understandably concerned about the reliability of hypothetical values that would result from the use of Level 3 inputs. Still, the standard seemed to be the best available resolution to a knotty problem. Some large financial institutions even adopted FAS 157 earlier than required. As they implemented its approach, overall things seemed to go okay. Among those areas where FAS 157 seemed to be working satisfactorily was financial
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instruments related to subprime loans. MARKET DISLOCATIONS That changed this past summer. We’re all too familiar with what happened. Two Bear Stearns funds ran into problems, and the result was increasing financial community uncertainty about the value of mortgage-backed financial instruments, particularly collateralized debt obligations or ―CDOs.‖ As investors tried to delve into the details of the value of CDO assets and the reliability of their cash flows, the extraordinary complexity of the instruments provided a significant impediment to insight into the underlying financial data. Financial markets can deal with bad news, but an information vacuum is another thing altogether. The problem with CDOs was not disappointing value. The problem was that the value of the underlying assets could not be figured out. As a result, the markets seized. In other words, everyone got so nervous that active trading of many instruments all but stopped. Largely unnoticed behind the scenes was the fact that, with the disappearance of active markets, much CDO valuation was no longer eligible for ―Level 1‖ treatment under FAS 157. For that matter, often there was not even sufficient analogous market activity so that CDOs could be valued under Level 2. So financial officers and accountants quickly found themselves needing to cope with Level 3. That meant they were faced with the need to resort to financial models that would somehow recreate what the price received in a hypothetical sale would be. But they quickly encountered a problem. Because CDOs to that point had been valued based on Level 1, established models for valuing the instruments at Level 3 were not in place. Just as all this was happening, moreover, another well intended aspect of our financial reporting system kicked in: the desire to report fast-breaking financial developments to investors quickly. For those with financial reporting responsibility, therefore, the circumstances were exceedingly uncharitable. To their credit, they wanted to get updated value information on their sub-prime instruments to financial markets fast. But historical approaches to valuation were suddenly unavailable. What to do? Come up with the best possible models under Level 3 as the circumstances would allow. But that was no easy feat. Models valuing sub-prime investments might conceivably want to take into account such imponderables as the future of housing prices, the future of interest rates, and how homeowners could be expected to react to such things. One way or another, well meaning preparers found a way to come up with their best estimates and report them to investors. Not all investors seemed to appreciate, though, the extent to which the reported declines in value, presented numerically and thereby suggesting a level of precision that numerical presentation often implies, were necessarily based upon financial models that relied upon predictions about an inherently unknowable future. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that in some instances asset values had to be revised either because models were being adjusted or because predictions were being updated as things seemed to get worse. To some, particularly to those who never liked fair value accounting to begin with, this was all evidence that
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fair value accounting is a folly. According to one managing director at a risk research firm, ―All this volatility we now have in reporting and disclosure, it’s just absolute madness.‖ The frustration is understandable. But defenders of fair value accounting would point out that keeping financial assets on the books at levels well above that for which they could be sold is not exactly a model of transparency in financial reporting. The point is that it is a function of financial reporting to tell people what is going on. And while the news has not been particularly pleasant for anyone, one benefit to fair value accounting – and FAS 157 in particular – is that it has given outside investors real-time insight into market gyrations of the sort that, under old accounting regimes, only insiders could see. True, trying to deal with those gyrations can be difficult and the consequences are not always desirable. But that is just another way of saying that ignorance is bliss. BUT WHAT ABOUT LITIGATION ? Whatever one thinks of fair value accounting, though, one feature of the sub-prime aftermath has the potential to be completely counterproductive. It is the extent to which our system of litigation and regulatory oversight results in unjustified assertions of ―fraud‖ against those who were doing their best under circumstances that were exceedingly difficult. In this regard, the aftermath of the sub-prime mess may be a harbinger of things to come. For the very aspects of fair value accounting that make it susceptible to second guessing – the absence of concrete data, the need for judgment, the importance of predictions – are likely to increasingly become more prominent features of financial reporting generally. That is particularly so as the United States seeks to evolve beyond a preoccupation with detailed rules into a more principles-based system. At issue in the aftermath of the sub-preime valuation challenges, therefore, is going to be the extent to which our system of litigation and regulatory oversight puts in place legal penalties in situations where there is no practical alternative to making tough judgments. If it does turn out that financial statement preparers and auditors are to be penalized where good faith judgment calls turned out to be wrong, then continued progress in financial reporting – at least in the highly litigious environment of the United States – will foreseeably be frozen in its tracks. No responsible accountant or auditor will want to make difficult judgment calls when doing so is almost necessarily a career-terminating event. The sub-prime crisis, therefore, may present the opportunity for us to come to grips with a much bigger question. That is the extent to which we are to permit our present system of litigation and regulatory second-guessing to impede continued evolution in financial reporting. March 7, 2008

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公允价值会计和次贷
导言 一个关于由次级贷款产生的金融市场混乱的命题逐渐进入我们的讨论, 这确实应该由我们的会计制 度负责。该论点是,新的会计规则要求划减,这实际上夸大了损失,这样金融市场推动的水平,是人为 地压低的。以华尔街日报来归纳,结论是那些为了夸大损失而“指责会计规则”的人是“叛乱”,另外 呼吁制定新的规则,这将在本质上,抑制金融市场波动。 这当然是从一个角度来看待它。 毫无疑问, 由于数十亿的住房抵押贷款文书的划减以及伴随金融市 场的波动,致使今年夏天以来一直不景气。尽管如此,我们应该为了解决次级而稍后责怪会计师或要求 新的会计标准。与此相反,一些可以被指出在次优困难考验财务报告制度之后,作为它应该的来回答。 幕后:FAS 157 对于那些倾向于责怪会计来说, 真正致使次优混乱的罪魁祸首是一个公允的新标准, 也就是在 2006 年 9 月发布的美国财务会计准则第 157 条又称 FAS 157 以及预定在今年十一月生效、 针对某类资产估值 的 GAS 157,即资产应当按公允价值记录。适用于除其他外,金融工具的排序有关次级贷款的标准规定, 这些资产将被以他们可以出售的价格来记录,也就是“价格将在测量日,在一个有秩序的交易市场中以 市场参与者之间出售资产或转移支付的赔偿责任来确认。 ”在会计师中,这一概念作为“出口价格”被 称为速记。 在谈到对资产的合适估价,FAS 157 是对在会计中最古老的争论之一的最新贡献者。那就是资产是 否以“成本”记录或以它们的“公允” (或市场)价值记录会更好。这个问题已经激烈讨论了很多年, 原因之一是每一方都进行了很好的论据来支持其立场。那些倡导“成本法”计算资产的认为成本在交易 发生时能最好、最合理、最能客观反应“公允价值”。一张发票或者一合同的存在典型地使支持资产价 值的证据变得几乎不能反驳。 为了使估值更加可靠, 这种具体的证据可以由外部的审计员对财务报表独 立审查。因此,在成本计算法下,相对来说很少需要去判断,所以,失误或操纵财务财务结果的机会也 就很少。 但是,这只是争论的一个方面而已。在另一方面,虽然历史成本在交易发生时是客观上合理的,但 它很快就变成过时的。尤其是那些在活跃的市场上交易的资产-如金融工具。公允价值拥护者主张的逻 辑是以它的购买价格来拥有一份股票的话,之后当价格在市场中上涨或下降时交易。一 FASB 的成员在 一次会议上通过办公楼的例子指出了这点。根据 GAAP 原则,建筑以它的成本记录,并在以后的季度和 年度中计提折旧。对于财务报告的目的而言,结果将是其报告价值将大大下降。同时,经济现实可能是 它的价值实际上在增加。因此, “成本”法有两个结果。第一是信息将客观可靠。第二,这将是完全的 错误。 目前缓和这争论的方法是寻求由每一方提出的好观点并得到大家的公认的。 方法是要求将某些资产 按公允价值记录而其他资产仍然是按成本记录。 在这些以公允价值记录资产中应该是某些种类的金融工 具,原因是,金融工具通常是在活跃市场以一个可观察到的价格交易。这是一个几乎无法克服的挑战, 以一般逻辑去考虑,每次查看价格,财务报表都要被更新。 然而这在许多或大多数情况下是真实的, 虽然并不是在所有的时候都是真实的, 然后接下来的事情开始 有点棘手了。FAS 157 承认有这样的例子存在:某些资产必须以公允价值来记录但却不存在一个活跃市 场及一个可观察到的市场价格。FAS 157 通过使用以下方法来处理这一问题:通过观察以前曾使用的方 法来估计公允价值。FAS 157 基本上已建立了一个“公允价值层级” ,把所输入的估计方法通过它们的 客观性和可观性区分优先次序。顶部是“一级输入” ,它被定义为“在活跃的市场中有相同的资产或负 债的报价(调整),报告主体在测量日有权利使用。 ”下一层是“二级输入” ,这是输入“除了包含在一级 中可见的资产或负债以外的报价” ,比如在市场有相似的资产或负债但并不活跃的报价。在这个列表中 最低的“三级输入” ,就是最简单的“不可观察”,也就是说,这些真的不存在活跃市场。根据第 3 级, 要输入的是“在这样的情况下基于最有效的信息” 通常这将意味着,如果没有一个活跃的市场,不得 。
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不采用这样的手段模式:设法找出在假象销售该资产的情况下,该资产将是什么样的价格,并以该价格 记录。 为了征求社会公众的意见,FAS 157 的草案分发给了金融各界,当时不是每个人都热衷于它的三个 级别的做法,那些深思熟虑的评论家非常担心由于使用三级输入而假设出来的价值的可靠性。仍然,该 标准似乎是这一棘手的问题的最佳解决方法。一些大型金融机构,甚至早于规定地采用了 FAS 157。因 为他们采用了该方法,总体事情似乎往好的地方发展着。那些 FAS 157 似乎运作的另人满意的领域就是 与次级抵押贷款有关的金融工具。 市场混乱 这改变了今年夏天。我们都太熟悉了发生了什么。两个贝尔斯登基金相继出现运营问题,这结果就 是增加了金融界对于金融工具抵押支持债券的价值的不确定性,特别是债务抵押债券,又成为“CDOs” 。 由于投资者试图深入地研究 CDO 资产的价值和他们现金流量的可靠性, 工具的复杂性对洞察潜在的财务 数据造成了重大障碍。金融市场能够处理那些坏消息,而信息的真空是另一回事了。CDOs 的问题并没 有令人失望的价值。问题在于相关资产的价值无法被计算出。 因此,市场开始动荡了。换句话说,每个人都开始紧张,把许多本来积极交易的工具全部停止了。 在很大程度上忽视幕后的事实是: 随着活跃市场的消失,许多 CDOs 的估值在 FAS 157 的规则下用 “一级” 方法不再合格。就因为这样,那些通常甚至没有足够类似的市场活动的 CDOs 以二级规则来作为价值。 所以财务人员和会计师很快发现自己有需要去应付三级。 这意味着他们所面临的是不得不依赖于财务模 型去设法再创造一个假象销售情况下的价格并以此作为记录。 但他们很快就遇到了一个问题。因为 CDOs 已经在一级基础上被确认其价值,建立一个模型去以三 级的标准来估计一个工具的价值是不适当的了。正如所有正发生的一切,再者,我们财务报告系统上的 另一个良好方面开始起显现:希望报告能跟着金融投资者的速度迅速发展。因此,对于那些在财务报告 上带有责任的人,当时的情况是极其无情的。对他们而言,他们希望能得到关于他们次级工具在价值方 面的最新信息以应对金融市场的迅速走势。但以前用过的评估方法却突然不再适用。 该怎么办?现在的情况将允许在三级的规则下提出最有可能的模式。 但这不是一件容易的事。 对次 级投资估价的模型很有可能因为未来房价的走势、 利率以及房主能够如何应对这些东西而无法估计。 一 种或另一种方式,以及含义编制找到一种方法,可以拿出他们的最佳估计并报告给投资者。似乎并不是 所有的投资者十分欣赏,尽管报告的程度下降提出了数值模拟和价值,从而暗示了水平的精度,数值表现 往往意味着,是基于财务模型的必要依赖一种固有的不可知的未来预测。 这不足为奇,所以,在某些情况下,资产价值已经被修改,可能是因为模型被调整又或是因为预言 被更新,事情似乎变得更糟。对有些人来说,特别是对那些从来都不喜欢公允价值会计的人而言,现在所 有的证据表明公允价值会计是一个愚蠢的东西。据一位风险研究公司的主管所说,“所有这一切波动, 我们都写入报告并进行披露,这绝对是疯狂的。” 沮丧是可以理解的。 但是捍卫公允价值的人会指出, 把财务资产以高于它们出售价值这一水平记录 于账簿上在财务报告中不是完全透明的模式。关键在于,它是一个财务报告上的功能,用来告诉人们正 在发生的事情。 而这个消息一点也没有使任何人感到愉快,公允价值会计的好处之一——特别是 FAS 157 ——它已经给外来投资者实时洞察市场的机会,而在旧会计制度下,只有业内人士才可以看见。 的确, 试 图去处理这些波动是十分困难的,而结果也总不是人们想要的。但那只是另一种说法,幸福的无知。 但是何谓诉讼? 不管人们关于公允价值的想法如何,次级余波后的特征之一就是有变得完全适得其反的潜在可能。 这很大程度上是我们诉讼和监管系统的失败导致那些 “骗子” 用他们那未被证实的断言来反对那些在当 时情况下非常艰辛地尽自己可能做事的人。 在这点上,次级混乱的余波可能是将来即将发生的一个预兆。对于公允价值会计的众多方面,使它 容易二次猜测——缺乏具体数据,需要进行判断,预测的重要性——可能日益成为一般财务报告越来越 突出的特点。尤其是美国为了寻求发展,以详细的规则摆脱偏见并融入一个更以原则为基础的系统。
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次级估值挑战的余波在争论中, 所以, 这在很大程度上取决于我们的诉讼和监管系统在没有任何实际办 法去做出艰难的判决的情况下把法律处罚放在什么位置上。 如果财务报表的编制者和审计人员自以为是 诚信的判断被证实是错误时要受到惩罚被普遍认可, 那么在财务报表上接下去的进展——至少在美国的 高级法院上——可以预料在程序上将被冻结。没有一个负责的会计师或审计人员会希望作出艰难的判 断,当一旦这样做将几乎成为终结其职业生涯的事件。因此,次贷危机也是为我们呈现一个面对更大问 题的机会。这在一定程度上取决于我们认可目前的诉讼和监管系统对阻碍财务报告持续发展的反省。

Accounting Horizons Vol. 20, No. 3 September 2006 pp. 271–285

Including Estimates of the Future in Today’s Financial Statements
Mary E. Barth SYNOPSIS: This paper explains why the question is how, not if, today’s financial statements should include estimates of the future. Including such estimates is not new, but their use is increasing. This increase results primarily because standard-setters believe asset and liability measures that reflect current economic conditions and up-to-date expectations of the future will result in more useful information for making economic decisions, which is the objective of financial reporting. This is why standard-setters seem focused on fair value accounting. How estimates of the future are incorporated in financial statements depends on the asset and liability measurement attribute, and on financial reporting definitions of assets and liabilities. The present definitions depend on identifying past transactions or events that give rise to expected inflows or outflows of economic benefits and, for inflows, control over the expected benefits. Thus, not all expected inflows or outflows of economic benefits are recognized. Disclosures in the notes can help users understand recognized estimates and can provide information about unrecognized estimates. Including more estimates of the future in today’s financial statements would result in an income measure that differs from today’s income, but such a measure arguably provides better information for making economic decisions. Keywords: financial statements; fair value; financial reporting. INTRODUCTION The purpose of this paper is to explain why the question is how, not if, today’s financial statements should include estimates of the future. Many who oppose the use of fair value measurements in financial statements do so because they believe using fair value measurements introduces expectations of the future into today’s financial statements. However, under current accounting standards, almost all amounts recognized in financial statements today reflect some estimates of the future. This is not surprising because, by definition, assets and liabilities embody expected future inflows and outflows of economic benefits. Thus, this paper seeks to move the debate forward by discussing different ways in which estimates of the future can be incorporated into today’s financial statements, and identifying the resulting implications for the characteristics of accounting amounts, such as net income. Regarding asset and liability measurement, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) require many financial instruments to be measured at fair value and permit fair value measurement for most others. Even though the use of fair values for measuring nonfinancial assets and liabilities is limited, the use of other
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measurement attributes that reflect estimates of the future is pervasive. A review of recent activities at the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) reveals that the use of estimates is likely to increase. The sources of the increase are new requirements to use current information when applying modified historical cost and broader use of fair value. The IASB’s deliberations often focus on which of these estimates should be included in financial statements. Some constituents express concerns about how including more estimates will affect financial statements. The IASB’s apparent focus on measuring assets and liabilities using more estimates of the future stems from its commitment to achieving its stated objective of financial reporting. In particular, the IASB Framework for the Preparation and Presentation of Financial Statements (IASCB 1989) (hereafter, the Framework) states that the objective of financial reporting is to provide information useful to financial statement users in making economic decisions. It seems self-evident that financial statement amounts that reflect current economic conditions and up-to-date expectations of the future will be more useful in making those decisions, which are made in the current economic environment. However, it also seems self-evident that not all expectations of the future should be recognized in financial statements today, particularly those that do not arise from events or transactions that have occurred. The definitions of assets and liabilities play a critical role in determining what types of expectations of the future are candidates for recognition in financial statements. One must identify precisely which asset or liability is being considered for recognition; different assets are associated with different expectations of the future. The present definitions depend critically on the identification of the past transaction or event that gives rise to the expected inflow or outflow of future economic benefits. The asset definition also requires that the entity control the resource. Thus, only estimates of future economic benefits associated with past transactions or events and, in the case of assets, under the control of the entity are to be considered under current definitions. Income is the difference between net assets recognized at the beginning of the period and net assets recognized at the end of the period, other than changes arising from equity transactions. Thus, how estimates of the future are incorporated into financial statements today affects the characteristics of income and its interpretation. For example, with more estimates of the future incorporated into today’s measures of assets and liabilities, income will be less predictable. However, predictability of income itself is not an objective of financial reporting. Rather, income’s ability to predict future cash flows is important. Including more current estimates of the future likely enhances income’s predictive ability. The next section explains why the question is how to incorporate estimates of the future in today’s financial statements, not if. The third section explains why selection of the measurement attribute for assets and liabilities affects how estimates of the future are incorporated into recognized amounts. That section also explains why the IASB is focused on fair value as a measurement attribute. The fourth section describes how the Framework definitions of assets and liabilities circumscribe the expected inflows and outflows of economic benefits that are candidates for financial statement recognition. These definitions play a critical role in limiting the types of future expectations that are included in financial statements. The fifth section discusses the effects on income of incorporating more estimates of the future into today’s financial statements. The final section offers some concluding remarks. THE QUESTION IS HOW, NOT IF Including estimates of the future in today’s financial statements is not new. With few exceptions, such as cash in the entity’s domestic currency, amounts in today’s financial statements all reflect estimates of the future. Most understand that amounts recognized at fair value reflect estimates of the future. However, accountants use accruals to adjust cash flows to reflect expectations of the future. For example, loans receivable reflects the amount that a bank expects to receive from its borrowers. The amount is determined by aggregating the contractually promised amounts and adjusting them for the time value of money and any
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defaults expected based on current facts and circumstances. All of these estimates must be based on events that have occurred by the time the estimates are made. However, they all are estimates of the future arising from those events. Thus, the question is not whether today’s financial statements should incorporate estimates of the future. The question is how they should do so. MEASUREMENT ATTRIBUTE AND ESTIMATES OF THE FUTURE How estimates of the future are incorporated in today’s financial statements depends on the attribute selected for asset and liability measurement. Each measurement attribute requires incorporating expectations with different characteristics. For example, fair value requires including expectations of future cash flows that market participants would include, discounted at the rate that market participants would use to discount them. In contrast, entity-specific value requires including expectations of future cash flows that the entity expects to receive, discounted at a rate that reflects the entity’s cost of capital, even if these differ from those of other entities. Thus, entity-specific value differs from fair value in that entity-specific value includes cash inflows or outflows expected by the entity that wouldnot be expected by other market participants, such as expected inflows related to superior management talent. Multiple Measurement Attributes Presently, financial statement amounts are based on a variety of measurement attributes. In International Accounting Standards (IAS), these include historical cost (used for cash and held-to-maturity liabilities), modified historical cost (used for property, plant, and equipment, and loans receivable), fair value (used for derivatives and asset revaluations), and entity-specific value (used for impaired inventories and impaired property, plant, and equipment). These differences in measurement attribute do not result from differences specified in the Framework. Rather, they result from conventions and differences in practice that have evolved over time. Thus, when viewed in terms of the Framework, these differences generate financial statements that are internally inconsistent. Use of multiple measurement attributes not only is conceptually unappealing, but also creates difficulties for financial statement users. The amounts recognized in financial statements are combinations of amounts measured in various ways. This complicates the interpretation of accounting summary amounts, such as net income. This difficulty is not limited to aggregated financial statement line item amounts. Some individual elements within a particular financial statement line item are recognized based on different measurement attributes, which are not disclosed. For example, an entity may state that it recognizes inventories at the lower of cost or net realizable value. However, it states this regardless of whether any inventory has been written down. Another example is an entity that recognizes an upward revaluation of property, plant, and equipment. Once the revaluation is recognized, determining which items of property, plant, and equipment and related depreciation are measured at cost and which are measured at fair value becomes difficult. Using different measurement attributes also means that similar economic events could receive quite different accounting treatments. For example, contracts are presently recognized in financial statements differently, depending on the type of contract. If the contract is a lease, then either it is not recognized on the balance sheet, if it is classified as an operating lease, or is capitalized, if it is classified as a financing lease. If the contract is a forward contract, then it is not recognized unless it is classified as a derivative, in which case it is recognized at fair value. Yet, the economics of the two lease contracts or the two forward contracts are similar. Another example is if an entity asserts that it has the ability and intent to hold debt instruments to maturity, the instruments are recognized at historical cost. If the entity does not make the assertion, they are recognized at fair value. This, too, creates difficulties for users to understand financial statements that purport to reflect the economic activities of an entity. Why the Increasing Focus on Fair Value? Using a single measurement attribute could alleviate many of the difficulties associated with the present use of multiple measurement attributes. Among the measurement attributes that have been considered for financial
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statements, the IASB seems focused on fair value. This is largely because fair value accounting is the only comprehensive and internally consistent approach the IASB has identified. Using fair values to measure assets and liabilities is attractive because it meets many of the Framework’s qualitative characteristics of useful financial statement information. These criteria are to be applied in the context of the primary objective of financial reporting, which is to aid investors and other users of financial statements in making economic decisions. The criteria include relevance, comparability, consistency, and timeliness. Fair values are relevant because they reflect present economic conditions, i.e., the conditions under which the users will make their decisions. Fair values are comparable because the fair value of any particular asset or liability depends only on the characteristics of the asset or liability, not the characteristics of the entity that holds the asset or liability or when it was acquired. Fair values enhance consistency because they reflect the same type of information in every period. Fair values are timely because they reflect changes in economic conditions when those conditions change. In addition, fair values can be viewed as fulfilling a stewardship role for financial reporting because the financial statements reflect the values of assets at the entity’s disposal. Such values are essential for determining performance ratios such as return on capital employed. The hierarchy for estimating fair value in International Accounting Standard No. 39, Financial Instruments: Recognition and Measurement (IAS No. 39, IASB 2004c), states that a market price for the identical asset or liability is the best estimate of fair value. This is because a market price meets the definition of fair value. That is, it is the price that would obtain in an arm’s length transaction between willing buyers and sellers. A market price does not include any entity-specific value that differs from the amount that other entities can realize. However, one must ensure that the asset or liability traded in the market is the same asset or liability whose fair value one seeks to obtain. If it is not, then adjustments need to be made. For example, in the case of a portfolio of bank deposits, as discussed below, one needs to take into account that the price reflects two components—the deposit liability and the value of expected future transactions. If the objective is to determine the fair value of the deposit liability alone, then the observed price for a portfolio of deposit liabilities needs to be adjusted. Finally, if the market is reasonably deep and liquid, then the market price is a reliable measure.10 WHICH ESTIMATES BELONG IN FINANCIAL STATEMENTS? Definitions of Assets and Liabilities The extent to which today’s financial statements incorporate estimates of the future also depends on which assets and liabilities are recognized. This issue is broader than identifying the measurement attribute—none of the attributes, including fair value, specifies what is being measured. The IASB relies on the definitions of financial statement elements in its Framework to determine the entity’s assets and liabilities:
An asset is a resource controlled by the entity as a result of past transactions and events and from which future economic benefits are expected to flow to the entity. A liability is a present obligation of the entity arising from past events, the settlement of which is expected to result in an outflow from the entity of resources embodying economic benefits.

These definitions require a past event or transaction that gives rise to a present right to future economic benefits controlled by the entity, or to a present obligation of the entity to transfer future economic benefits. Importantly, these definitions identify the assets and liabilities of the entity and, thus, what expected future inflows or outflows of economic benefits are potential candidates for recognition in the entity’s financial statements. Determining whether an asset or a liability is recognized depends on other criteria. The Framework definitions of assets and liabilities clearly state that assets and liabilities embody expectations of the future. Thus, sensible measures of assets and liabilities should include such expectations. However, whether the entity has assets or liabilities depends on whether the expected future flows arise from present rights or obligations. For assets, the definition also requires that the entity control the right. Thus, only estimates of future inflows of benefits that are associated with past transactions or events under the present control of the entity are recognized as assets. Perhaps standard-setters should change the definition.1However,
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even with the present definitions, identifying the past transaction or event can require judgment and is open to debate, as is whether the asset control criterion is met. …… …… …… 后略

将对未来的估计包含在今天的财务报表中
玛丽·E·巴斯(Mary E1Barth) 【摘要】 本文阐释了将对未来的估计包含在今天财务报表中的方式, 而不是为什么应当将对未来的估计 包含在今天财务报表中的问题。 在今天的财务报表中包含对未来的估计并不是一个新概念, 但用处却日 益增加。 这主要是因为会计准则制定机构认为, 反映当前经济状况、 并根据对未来的预期更新的对资产 和负债的计量方式, 将产生有利于做出经济决策的更为有用的信息, 这正是财务报告的目标所在。 这也 是会计准则制定机构关注公允价值会计的原因。 如何将对未来的估计包含在财务报表中, 取决于资产和 负债的计量属性, 以及从财务报告角度对资产和负债的定义。 现行资产和负债的定义取决于确定产生预 期经济利益流入或流出的过去交易或事项,对于预期经济利益流入, 还需要关注对预期的控制。因此, 并不是所有预期经济利益的流入或流出都予以确认。 附注披露能够帮助财务报表使用者理解已经在财务 报表中确认的估计, 并提供尚未确认估计的相关信息。 将对未来的估计更多地包含在今天的财务报表中, 将会产生与目前反映的收益有所不同的收益计量方式, 但值得讨论的是, 这种计量能够对经济决策提 供更好的信息。
【关键词】财务报表 公允价值 财务报告

一、引言 本文的目的是阐释如何将对未来的估计包含在今天的财务报表中 , 而不是为什么应当将对未来的 估计包含在今天的财务报表中。 许多反对在财务报表中使用公允价值计量的人们关注的正是为什么要将 对未来的估计包含在今天的财务报表中 , 因为他们认为使用公允价值就是将对未来的预期引入了今天 的财务报表。 但是, 根据现在的会计准则, 今天在财务报表中确认的几乎所有金额都不同程度地反映了 对未来的估计。 这并不令人惊奇, 因为, 根据资产和负债的定义, 资产和负债均体现了预期未来经济利 益的流入和流出。 因此, 本文试图将争论的焦点转向讨论将对未来的估计反映在今天财务报表中的不同 方式问题, 确定对诸如净收益①这样会计上确认金额的特征产生的影响。 关于资产和负债的计量, 国际财务报告准则要求以公允价值计量许多金融工具, 并允许对大多数其 他资产采用公允价值计量②。尽管以公允价值计量非金融资产和负债是有限的情况, 但采用的反映了对 未来估计的其他计量属性却非常普遍。 回顾国际会计准则理事会( IASB) 近期的活动揭示了对估计的运用 可能会增加。这一增加来源于使用修正的历史成本和更广泛地使用公允价值时 , 利用当前信息的新要 求。 国际会计准则理事会考量的焦点往往是哪一种估计应当包含在财务报表中。 某些利益相关者对在今 天的财务报表中包含更多的估计成分表示担忧。 国际会计准则理事会明显关注于运用更多对未来的估计来计量资产和负债 , 植根于其对实现自身 设定的财务报告目标的承诺。尤其是国际会计准则理事会(国际会计准则委员会理事会, 1989 ,框架) 《编 报财务报表的框架》(以下称《框架》) 指出, 财务报告的目的是为财务报表使用者提供进行经济决策的
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有用信息。 财务报表中确认的金额反映当前经济状况和对未来预期的最新更新, 将对在当前经济环境下 做出经济决策更为有用, 这看起来是不言而喻的。 但是, 同样也不言自明的是,并不是对未来的所有预期 都应当在今天的财务报表中予以确认, 特别是那些对尚未发生的交易或事项的预期。 在确定对未来的哪些预期符合在财务报表中确认的标准时, 资产和负债的定义起着关键作用。 你须 准确地界定哪类资产或负债是正在考虑应确认的; 不同的资产与对未来的不同预期相关联。 根据资产负 债的现行定义, 关键取决于对产生预期未来经济利益流入或流出的过去交易或事项的认定。 资产的定还 要求主体能够控制(产生未来经济利益的) 资源。所以, 以资产为例, 根据现行的定义, 只有对与过去交 易或事项相关的、 且能被主体所控制的未来经济利益的估计才会被考虑。 收益是期初和期末确认的净资 产之间的差额(权益性交易产生的变动除外) 。因此, 对未来的估计包含在今天财务报表中的方式, 影响 收益的特征及其对收益的解释。 例如, 如果在今天的财务报表中计量资产和负债时增加更多对未来的估 计, 收益将会更不具可预测性。但是, 对收益本身的可预测程度并不是财务报告的目标。收益对预计未 来现金流量的贡献程度反而更加重要。包括当前对未来的更多估计将可能提高收益数据的预测价值。 下一节阐述为什么问题的关键是如何将对未来的估计包含在今天的财务报表中 , 而不是如果包含 这样的估计将会如何。 第三节阐述对资产和负债计量属性的选择, 影响如何将对未来的估计包含在财务 报表中确认的金额的方式。第四节描述了《框架》中对资产和负债的定义, 如何回避了符合财务报表确 认标准的预期未来经济利益流入和流出。 这些定义对限定能包含在财务报表中对未来预期的类型, 扮演 了相当关键的角色。 第五节讨论了在今天的财务报表中包含对未来的更多估计对收益的影响。 最后一节 提出一些结论。 二、问题是如何包含而不是是否应当包含 在今天的财务报表中包含对未来的估计这一观念并非全新。 除少数例外情况外, 诸如以主体本国货 币反映的现金等, 在今天的财务报表中确认的金额都反映了对未来的估计。 大多数人能够理解以公允价 值计量就是反映了对未来的估计。但是, 会计师运用权责发生制来调整现金流量以反映对未来的估计。 例如,应收贷款反映了一家银行预期从借款人处收到的金额。该项金额应当综合考虑合同承诺金额, 并 对货币时间价值和根据当前事实和情形预计的违约情况调整后确定。 所有估计都必须基于截至做出估计 时已经发生的事项。但是, 都应当是产生于这些过去事项的对未来的估计。所以, 问题不是今天的财务 报表是否包含对未来的估计。问题是应当如何包含。 三、计量属性和对未来的估计 对未来的估计包含在今天财务报表中的方式, 取决于对资产和负债选择的计量属性。 每种计量属性 都要求包含具有不同特征的预期。 例如, 公允价值要求包含市场参与者将会包含的对未来现金流量的预 期, 以市场参与者折现这些现金流量将会使用的折现率加以折现③。反之, 主体特定价值则要求包含主 体本身对预期流入的未来现金流量的预期, 以反映主体资金成本的折现率加以折现, 即便这些估计不同 于其他主体。 因此, 主体特定价值与公允价值的不同之处在于, 主体特定价值包括由主体本身(而非其他 市场参与者) 预计的现金流入或流出, 比如与卓越的管理能力相关的预期流入。 (一) 多种计量属性 目前财务报表中确认的金额是基于多种计量属性。 在国际会计准则中, 这些计量属性包括历史成本 (用于计量现金和持有至到期负债) 、修正的历史成本(用于计量不动产、厂场和设备、应收贷款) 、公 允价值(用于计量衍生工具和资产重估) 以及主体特定价值(用于计量发生减值的存货及不动产、厂场和 设备) 。这些计量属性的差异并不都是源于框架中规定的差异。更多地是随着时间的推移处理惯例和实 务的差异。因此, 从框架的角度来看, 这些差异产生了内在不一致的财务报表。 运用多种计量属性不仅从概念上不令人满意, 同时也给财务报表使用者带来了困难。 财务报表中确 认的金额是以不同方式计量金额的混合物。这就使得对会计上诸如净收益这样概括性金额的解释复杂 化。 这种困难不仅限于加总后的财务报表项目金额。 在特定的财务报表项目金额中某些单独组成部分也 是基于不同的计量属性予以确认的, 且也未进行披露。例如, 主体可能陈述其以成本和可变现净值孰低 确认其存货。 但是, 不论存货是否已经减值, 该主体都作这样的陈述。 另外一个例子就是确认了不动产、 厂场和设备升值的主体。一旦确认了对这些资产的重估, 确定其中哪些不动产、厂场和设备项目和相关 折旧是以成本计量, 哪些项目是以公允价值计量就变得十分困难。
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运用不同的计量属性还意味着类似的经济事项可能会有相当不同的会计处理。 例如, 目前各种合同 在财务报表中确认的方式相当不同, 取决于合同的类型。 假定合同是一项租赁, 如果被划分为经营租赁, 这项合同就不在资产负债表中确认; 如果被划分为融资租赁, 则就被资本化处理。如果合同是一项远期 合同, 除非其被归类为衍生工具, 否则不予以确认, 归类为衍生工具的合同要求按公允价值确认。但是 两项租赁合同或远期合同的经济内涵是相类似的。 另外一个例子是, 如果主体宣称其有能力和意愿将债 务工具持有至到期, 该项工具即按历史成本确认。 如果主体没有作出这种陈述, 就以公允价值计量这些 工具。这同样给财务报表使用者理解宣称反映了主体经济活动的财务报表创造了困难。 (二) 为什么对公允价值的关注日益增加? 运用一种单一的计量属性能够减轻由目前运用多种计量属性所带来的许多困难。 在财务报表中被运 用过的计量属性之中, 国际会计准则理事会似更关注公允价值。 这很大程度上是由于公允价值会计是国 际会计准则理事会所认为的唯一具有综合性和内在一致的方法。 运用公允价值计量资产和负债很具吸收力, 因为这种方式满足 《框架》 关于财务报表信息有用性质 量特征的许多方面。 这些标准应当结合财务报告的主要目标运用, 即帮助投资者和财务报表其他使用者 做出经济决策。这些标准有相关性、可比性、一致性和及时性。公允价值是相关的, 因为它反映了现时 经济状况, 也即使用者将做出其决策所处的状况⑦。公允价值是可比的, 因为某一特定资产或负债的公 允价值只依赖于该项资产或负债的特征, 而不是持有该项资产或负债的主体的特征或者资产是何时取 得的。 公允价值能够提高一致性, 因为它能够在经济状况发生变化时反映经济状况的改变。 此外, 公允 价值亦能被看作实现了财务报告反映受托责任的作用, 因为财务报表反映了能由主体支配的资产的价 值。这种价值对确定诸如投入资本回报率的业绩比率指标至关重要。 《国际会计准则第39号——金融工具: 确认和计量》 (国际会计准则理事会, 2004c, 国际会计准则 第39号) 中估计公允价值的级次指出, 同类资产或负债的市场价格是对公允价值的最佳估计。 这是因为 市场价格符合公允价值的定义, 即在公平交易中自愿买方和卖方能够获得的价格。 市场价格不包括与其 他主体能够实现的金额存在差异的主体特定价值。 但是, 必须确保在市场交易的资产或负债与要获得公 允价值的资产或负债是相同的。 例如, 在下面讨论的银行存款组合中, 需要考虑价格应反映两个组成部 分——存款负债和预期未来交易的价值。 如果目标是确定存款负债本身的公允价值, 需要对存款负债组 合的可观察价格进行调整。最后, 如果市场相当地成熟并具有流动性, 市场价格是一种可靠的计量方 式。 四、哪些估计属于应当包含在财务报表中的估计? (一) 资产和负债的定义 对未来的估计究竟在多大程度上被包含在今天的财务报表中, 取决于哪些资产和负债被确认了。 这 个问题远比明确计量属性要广泛———没有哪一种计量属性(包括公允价值) 明确过什么正被计量。国 际会计准则理事会依赖《框架》中财务报表要素的定义来确定主体的资产和负债。 资产是指主体由于过去事项而由主体控制的、预期会导致未来经济利益流入主体的资源。 负债是指主体由于过去事项而承担的现时义务, 该义务的履行预期会导致含有经济利益的资源流 出主体。 这些定义要求过去事项或交易形成对主体控制的未来经济利益的现时权利, 或者主体转移未来经 济利益的现时义务。 重要的是, 这些定义明确了主体的资产和负债, 并因此明确了哪些预期未来经济利 益的流入或流出潜在地符合在财务报表中确认的标准。 确定一项资产或负债是否予以确认取决于其他标 准。 《框架》 对于资产和负债的定义明确指出资产和负债包含对未来的预期。 因此, 对资产和负债合理 的计量应当包括这种预期。 但是, 主体是否拥有资产或承担负债取决于预期未来流量是否产生于现时权 利或具有现时义务。 对资产来说, 其定义本身也要求主体控制这种权利。 因此, 只有对当前在主体控制 下、 与过去交易或事项相关的未来利益流入的估计才能确认为资产。 准则制定机构可能应当修改这一定 义。 但是, 即使根据现行定义, 确定过去交易或事项需要作出判断, 而且也有值得讨论之处, 如同资产 的控制标准是否满足一样。 ??
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