IFRS Fundamentals: Enhancing Your Financial Reporting Skills


International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) are a set of accounting rules and principles issued by the IFRS Foundation and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). These standards aim to create a uniform and consistent approach to financial reporting for public companies worldwide. By implementing IFRS, companies can achieve greater transparency, comparability, and understandability in their financial statements across international boundaries.

The IFRS standards encompass a wide range of financial reporting activities and cover various aspects such as asset recognition, measurement, disclosure requirements, and revenue recognition. Although IFRS has been adopted by many countries, the United States primarily follows a different system called the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). Despite this difference, there is an ongoing effort to converge the two systems and create a unified global accounting framework.

Key Takeaways

  • IFRS helps create consistent financial reporting across international borders
  • The standards address various aspects of financial reporting, including asset recognition and disclosure requirements
  • While many countries have adopted IFRS, the U.S. primarily follows GAAP, with ongoing efforts to converge the two systems

Conceptual Framework

The Conceptual Framework is a vital element of the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). It provides a foundation for the development and interpretation of IFRS accounting standards, guiding both the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and financial statement preparers.

Objectives of Financial Reporting

The primary objective of the Conceptual Framework is to facilitate the development of consistent and high-quality financial reporting standards. This is achieved by:

  • Providing guidance to the IASB in the development and revision of IFRS
  • Assisting financial statement preparers in developing accounting policies for areas not covered by a specific standard or where accounting policy choices exist
  • Helping all stakeholders, such as auditors and investors, to better understand and interpret IFRS

Qualitative Characteristics

The Conceptual Framework outlines several qualitative characteristics that financial statements should possess in order to provide useful information to users. These characteristics are grouped into two categories: fundamental and enhancing.

Fundamental Characteristics:

  • Relevance: Financial information must be capable of making a difference in the decisions made by users. Relevant information is timely and has predictive or confirmatory value.
  • Faithful Representation: Financial information should accurately represent the underlying economic events and transactions. To achieve this, the information must be complete, neutral, and free from material errors.

Enhancing Characteristics:

  • Comparability: Financial information should be presented in a way that allows users to compare different entities and analyze trends. This can be achieved by maintaining consistency in accounting policies and presentation formats.
  • Verifiability: Independent parties should be able to verify the financial information by reaching a consensus on whether the information provides an accurate representation of the economic events.
  • Understandability: Financial information should be presented in a clear and concise manner, so that users with a reasonable knowledge of accounting and business can easily interpret and analyze the data.

By ensuring these qualitative characteristics, the Conceptual Framework helps achieve the central purpose of IFRS: promoting transparency, consistency, and efficiency in financial reporting, ultimately benefiting all stakeholders in the financial ecosystem.

Financial Statement Presentation

The International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) sets guidelines for the preparation and presentation of business financial statements. These guidelines ensure a standardized and transparent framework, making it easier for investors, regulators, and other stakeholders to compare and analyze company financial statements. This section outlines four key financial statements under IFRS: Statement of Financial Position, Statement of Comprehensive Income, Statement of Changes in Equity, and Statement of Cash Flows.

Statement of Financial Position

The Statement of Financial Position, also known as the balance sheet, provides a snapshot of a company’s financial position at a specific point in time. It includes:

  • Assets: Items that hold economic value for the company. Assets are divided into:
    • Current assets: Such as cash, accounts receivable, and inventory, typically expected to be converted to cash or used within one year.
    • Non-current assets: Sometimes called long-term assets, include property, plant, equipment, and intangible assets that provide long-term benefits to the company.
  • Liabilities: Obligations the company owes to other parties. Liabilities are categorized as:
    • Current liabilities: Debts and obligations due within one year, such as accounts payable and short-term loans.
    • Non-current liabilities: Long-term obligations like bonds payable and long-term loans.
  • Equity: The residual interest in the assets of the company after deducting liabilities. It usually includes share capital, retained earnings, and other equity items.

Statement of Comprehensive Income

The Statement of Comprehensive Income, sometimes referred to as the income statement or profit and loss statement, reports the company’s financial performance over a specific period. It comprises:

  • Revenue: Income generated through the company’s primary business activities, like sales of goods or services.
  • Expenses: Costs incurred by the company in its pursuit of generating revenue, such as cost of goods sold, wages, and taxes.
  • Profit or loss: The net result after deducting expenses from revenue. If the result is positive, it represents a profit; if negative, it denotes a loss.

The statement also includes items of other comprehensive income that are not recognized in profit or loss.

Statement of Changes in Equity

The Statement of Changes in Equity presents a summary of changes in the company’s equity during a specific reporting period. It includes:

  • Opening balance: Equity at the beginning of the period.
  • Comprehensive income: The net of profit or loss and other comprehensive income for the period.
  • Transactions with owners: Records changes in equity resulting from share issuance, buybacks, and dividend payments.
  • Closing balance: Equity at the end of the period.

Statement of Cash Flows

The Statement of Cash Flows reports cash inflows and outflows during a specific period, classified into three categories:

  1. Operating activities: Cash generated from core business operations, such as cash receipts from customers and cash paid to suppliers.
  2. Investing activities: Cash transactions related to investments in property, plant, equipment, and other long-term assets or divestments.
  3. Financing activities: Transactions involving the company’s sources of capital like issuing shares, repaying loans, or paying dividends.

The statement provides insight into the company’s liquidity and solvency by showing changes in cash and cash equivalents over time.

Asset Recognition and Measurement

Property, Plant, and Equipment

Property, plant, and equipment (PPE) are tangible assets used in the production or supply of goods or services. Under IFRS, PPE is initially measured at cost, which includes purchase price, any directly attributable costs, and the cost of dismantling and removing the item. Subsequently, PPE can be measured using either the cost model or the revaluation model.

  • Cost model: PPE is carried at cost minus accumulated depreciation and any accumulated impairment losses.
  • Revaluation model: PPE is carried at a revalued amount, reflecting fair value at the date of revaluation, less subsequent depreciation and impairment losses.

Revaluations must be done regularly to ensure that the carrying amount does not differ materially from fair value.


Inventory comprises assets held for sale in the ordinary course of business, work in progress, and raw materials. Under IFRS, inventory is measured at the lower of cost and net realizable value. The cost of inventories includes costs of purchase, costs of conversion, and other costs incurred to bring the inventory to its present location and condition. Several methods for assigning costs to inventory are allowed, including:

  • First in, first out (FIFO)
  • Weighted average cost
  • Specific identification

Intangible Assets

Intangible assets are non-monetary assets without physical substance, such as patents, copyrights, and trademarks. IFRS requires intangible assets to be initially recognized at cost. After initial recognition, intangible assets can be measured using either the cost model or the revaluation model.

  • Cost model: Intangible assets are carried at cost less accumulated amortization and any accumulated impairment losses.
  • Revaluation model: Intangible assets are carried at a revalued amount, reflecting fair value at the date of revaluation, less subsequent amortization and impairment losses.

However, the revaluation model is only allowed if there is an active market for the intangible asset.

In addition, IFRS has specific requirements for recognizing and measuring non-current assets held for sale and discontinued operations. These assets should be measured at the lower of carrying amount and fair value less costs to sell and should not be depreciated or amortized while classified as held for sale.

Liabilities and Equity

Financial Instruments

Under IFRS, financial instruments are classified as either liabilities or equity, depending on their contractual terms and the economic substance of the arrangement. IAS 32 provides the main guidance on distinguishing between the two classifications. A key factor in determining the classification is whether an instrument will be settled in cash or through the issuance of equity shares. Financial instruments that require cash settlement or have a contractual obligation to deliver cash are generally classified as liabilities, while those that can be settled by issuing equity shares are typically classified as equity.

It is important to note that some financial instruments, known as compound financial instruments, have both liability and equity components. In these cases, the instrument is separated into individual components, and each component is accounted for separately under IFRS. Examples of compound financial instruments include convertible bonds and options.


IFRS 16 is the main standard that outlines the accounting treatment for leases. Under IFRS 16, there are two types of leases: finance leases and operating leases. Finance leases transfer substantially all the risks and rewards of ownership of the leased asset to the lessee, while operating leases do not.

For lessees, the distinction between finance and operating leases has been removed under IFRS 16. Lessees are now required to recognize a right-of-use asset and a lease liability for both types of leases, with a few exceptions such as short-term leases and low-value assets. The right-of-use asset is initially measured at cost, and subsequently at cost less accumulated depreciation and impairment losses. Lease liabilities are initially measured at the present value of the lease payments.

For lessors, the accounting treatment remains largely unchanged. Lessors continue to classify leases as finance or operating leases and recognize lease income accordingly.

Provisions and Contingencies

Under IAS 37, provisions and contingent liabilities are recognized and measured based on the best estimate of the expenditure required to settle the present obligation. Provisions are recognized when there is a present obligation arising from a past event, it is probable that an outflow of resources will be required to settle the obligation, and the amount can be reliably estimated.

Contingent liabilities, on the other hand, are possible obligations whose outcome is uncertain and dependent on future events. They are not recognized as liabilities on the balance sheet but are disclosed in the notes to the financial statements unless the possibility of an outflow of resources is considered remote.

In summary, this section covered the classification and accounting treatment of various types of liabilities and equity under IFRS. These include financial instruments, leases, provisions, and contingencies. Understanding the proper application of these classifications is crucial for the accurate presentation of an entity’s financial position and performance in line with IFRS standards.

Revenue and Expense Recognition

Revenue from Contracts with Customers

IFRS 15 establishes the principles for recognizing revenue from contracts with customers. The standard’s objective is to ensure entities report accurate and useful information about the nature, amount, timing, and uncertainty of revenue and cash flows arising from customer contracts. Key steps in applying IFRS 15 include identifying the contract with a customer, recognizing separate performance obligations, determining the transaction price, allocating the price among performance obligations, and ultimately acknowledging the revenue when or as the performance obligations are fulfilled.

To enhance consistency and comparability for revenue recognition across sectors and markets, IFRS 15 provides guidelines for specific areas like sales- or usage-based royalties and contractual restrictions tied to licenses.

Expense Recognition Principles

In IFRS, expense recognition follows a set of principles to report accurate and consistent information on financial statements. Entities follow the accrual accounting method, wherein expenses are recognized when they occur, not necessarily when cash payments are made. The key aspects of expense recognition include:

  1. Identifying when a resource has been consumed
  2. Determining the amount of expense to be recognized
  3. Recognizing the expense in the financial statements

In addition to these principles, IFRS highlights the matching principle, where expenses are matched to the period in which related revenues are generated. This principle is essential for correctly associating expenses with their corresponding income.

Construction Contracts

For the specific case of construction contracts, IAS 11 Construction Contracts provides guidelines on revenue and expense recognition. The standard states that when the outcome of a construction contract can be reliably measured, revenue and related expenses should be recognized based on the percentage of completion method. Under this method, the extent of contract completion is determined by comparing the costs incurred to the estimated total contract costs.

However, if the outcome of a construction contract cannot be reliably measured, the cost recovery method is applied, where the contract revenue is recognized only to the extent of the contract costs incurred, and the profit is recognized once the total costs can be determined.

Following these subsections on revenue and expense recognition in IFRS ensures that entities present reliable and consistent information in their financial statements, aiding users in assessing the financial performance and position of the entities.

Disclosure and Reporting Requirements

Under IFRS, entities are required to comply with certain disclosure and reporting requirements to ensure transparency and comparability in financial reporting. This section discusses some key requirements, including notes to the financial statements, segment reporting, and related party disclosures.

Notes to the Financial Statements

The financial statements should be accompanied by notes that provide additional information to help users understand the financial position and performance of the entity. Key areas covered in these notes include:

  • Significant accounting policies: The entity must describe its accounting policies, such as revenue recognition, depreciation methods, and inventory valuation techniques.
  • Judgements and estimates: Entities should disclose the judgements and key sources of estimation uncertainty that have the most significant effect on the amounts recognized in the financial statements.
  • Financial instruments: Disclosures related to financial instruments (IFRS 7) require information about the nature and extent of risks arising from financial instruments and how the entity manages those risks. This may involve qualitative and quantitative data, such as credit risk, liquidity risk, and market risk.
  • Operating segments: Information about individual operating segments (IFRS 8) should be provided, including segment revenues, profit or loss, assets, and liabilities.
  • Disclosure of interests in other entities: Entities must disclose information about their relationships with and interests in subsidiaries, associates, joint ventures, and unconsolidated structured entities (IFRS 12).

Segment Reporting

IFRS 8, Operating Segments, requires entities to provide information about their operating segments, products, and services, as well as geographic areas in which they operate. This information helps users to assess the performance of an entity and its exposures to risks and returns. Key aspects of segment reporting include:

  1. Identification of segments: Entities should identify their operating segments based on the internal reports reviewed by the chief operating decision maker (CODM) for allocating resources and assessing performance.
  2. Measurement of segment information: Segment information should be measured and reported consistently with the entity’s internal reporting.
  3. Disclosure requirements: Entities must disclose information about segment revenues, profit or loss, assets, and liabilities, as well as reconciliations to the corresponding consolidated amounts.

Related Party Disclosures

Related party disclosures (IAS 24) require entities to disclose information about transactions and balances with related parties, such as subsidiaries, joint ventures, key management personnel, and significant shareholders. These disclosures enhance the transparency of financial statements and help users evaluate the effects of related party relationships on the entity’s financial position and performance. Key aspects of related party disclosures include:

  • Identification of related parties: Entities should identify and disclose the nature of their relationships with related parties.
  • Disclosure of transactions and balances: The entity must provide information about the nature, amount, and terms of significant related party transactions, as well as outstanding balances at the end of the reporting period.
  • Key management personnel compensation: Information about the total compensation of key management personnel should be disclosed, including salaries, bonuses, and share-based payments.

By adhering to these disclosure and reporting requirements, entities ensure compliance with IFRS, enhance the transparency of their financial statements, and provide valuable information to users for decision-making purposes.

IFRS Compliance and First-time Adoption

Transition to IFRS

Entities transitioning to IFRS for the first time must follow a set of procedures specified in the standard IFRS 1: First-time Adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards. The purpose of IFRS 1 is to provide a practical approach for companies to effectively prepare their first IFRS-based financial statements by addressing disclosure and accounting issues. It offers the necessary guidance to achieve transparent, consistent, and comparable accounting methods, as well as ensuring efficient cost management during the transition process.

To initiate the transition, an entity must:

  • Set a date of transition to IFRS, which marks the beginning of its previous reporting period
  • Prepare a complete set of financial statements covering its first IFRS reporting period and the preceding year
  • Establish consistent accounting policies throughout all periods presented in the first IFRS financial statements

First-time Adoption Provisions

IFRS 1 provides a range of exemptions and exceptions to assist companies in adopting the standards for the first time. These provisions aim to minimize costs and improve the overall efficiency of the transition process. Some of the key provisions include:

  1. Exemptions from retrospective application: Certain exemptions allow first-time adopters to avoid retrospectively applying some standard requirements, which can be time-consuming and complex. For example, a company may choose to measure its property, plant, and equipment at fair value at the date of transition, and use that value as deemed cost going forward.
  2. Mandatory exceptions: Some requirements are mandatory, meaning that an entity must not apply them retrospectively. For instance, a company must not apply the hedge accounting requirements in IFRS 9 retrospectively, as relationships and designations must be maintained from the date of transition.
  3. Disclosure requirements: The primary objective of the disclosure requirements in IFRS 1 is to provide users of financial statements ample context to understand the effect of the transition to IFRS. This necessitates disclosing the key differences in accounting policies and reconciliations between previous GAAP and IFRS financial statements.

By complying with IFRS 1 and utilizing its provisions, companies can efficiently and cost-effectively transition to IFRS, thus fostering comparability and consistency in financial reporting across international borders.

Special Topics in IFRS

Business Combinations

Business combinations under IFRS are accounted for using the acquisition method. The acquirer recognizes the identifiable assets acquired, liabilities assumed, and any non-controlling interest in the acquiree. The cost of the combination is measured as the aggregate of the fair values, at the acquisition date, of assets given, equity instruments issued, and liabilities incurred or assumed. Any excess of the cost of the combination over the acquirer’s interest in the net fair value of the identifiable assets and liabilities is recognized as goodwill. If the cost of the combination is less than the acquirer’s interest in the net fair value of the identifiable assets and liabilities, the acquirer must reassess the identification and valuation of assets, liabilities, and any non-controlling interest. If a negatigive balance remains after the reassessment, it is recognized as a gain in profit or loss.

Insurance Contracts

IFRS 17 governs the accounting for insurance contracts. It aims to provide a more transparent and consistent financial reporting for insurance contracts across different entities. Under IFRS 17, insurance contracts are measured using a building block approach which includes the following components:

  1. Expected present value of future cash flows: This represents the estimates of future cash flows, adjusted for the time value of money and the effect of financial risk.
  2. Risk adjustment: It captures the uncertainty related to the amount and timing of the future cash flows arising from the non-financial risks.
  3. Contractual service margin (CSM): The CSM represents the unearned profit that the insurer recognizes over the coverage period.

These components are adjusted to reflect any changes in estimates or assumptions as they occur, providing an up-to-date picture of the insurance contracts’ financial performance.

Exploration for and Evaluation of Mineral Resources

IFRS 6 addresses the recognition and measurement of assets, liabilities, income and expense related to the exploration and evaluation of mineral resources. The standard allows for flexibility in accounting policies, as long as they meet the requirements of the IASB Framework. Some key provisions of IFRS 6 include:

  • Exploration and evaluation expenditures: These can be recognized as either an asset or an expense, depending on the entity’s accounting policy choice.
  • Impairment testing: Exploration and evaluation assets are assessed for impairment when facts and circumstances suggest they may be impaired. Recoverable amounts are determined based on fair value less costs to sell or value-in-use, whichever is higher.
  • Presentation and disclosure: Entities are required to present exploration and evaluation assets separately from other assets and disclose policies and significant judgments made in applying those policies.

The application of these special topics in IFRS aims to address the unique characteristics of the relevant industries and promote consistent and transparent financial reporting.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the principles that underpin the IFRS framework?

The International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) are based on a principles-based approach to accounting and financial reporting. This approach emphasizes the use of professional judgment to ensure that the financial statements provide relevant, reliable, and comparable information. The IFRS framework is intended to meet the information needs of investors, creditors, and other users by providing a clear and accurate representation of an entity’s financial position and performance.

How does IFRS differ from US GAAP in financial reporting?

IFRS and US GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) are two prominent accounting frameworks that have significant differences in areas such as revenue recognition, accounting for financial instruments, and inventory valuation. Despite these differences, both frameworks aim to improve financial transparency and comparability. The IASB (International Accounting Standards Board) and US standard-setters continue to work together to narrow the gaps between IFRS and US GAAP with the intention of further converging the two standards in the future.

Can you list the main standards included in the IFRS?

The IFRS comprises several standards known as International Accounting Standards (IAS) and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Some key standards within the framework include:

  • IAS 1: Presentation of Financial Statements
  • IAS 2: Inventories
  • IAS 16: Property, Plant and Equipment
  • IAS 36: Impairment of Assets
  • IAS 37: Provisions, Contingent Liabilities and Contingent Assets
  • IFRS 9: Financial Instruments
  • IFRS 15: Revenue from Contracts with Customers
  • IFRS 16: Leases

What are the essential elements that constitute the IFRS financial statements?

IFRS financial statements consist of several elements:

  1. Statement of Financial Position (Balance Sheet)
  2. Statement of Comprehensive Income (Income Statement)
  3. Statement of Changes in Equity
  4. Statement of Cash Flows
  5. Notes to the Financial Statements

These elements are designed to provide users with a comprehensive understanding of the entity’s financial position, performance, and cash flows.

In which countries is IFRS adoption mandatory for financial reporting?

IFRS is currently adopted by over 140 countries globally, including all European Union member states. Companies in these jurisdictions are required to prepare their financial statements in accordance with the IFRS framework to enhance comparability and transparency for investors and stakeholders.

What are the latest updates to the IFRS 16 Leasing Standard?

IFRS 16, effective from January 1, 2019, introduces a single lessee accounting model that requires lessees to recognize assets and liabilities for all leases with a term of more than 12 months, unless the underlying asset is of low value. It significantly changes the way lessees account for leases, as it eliminates the previous distinction between operating and finance leases under IAS 17. The updated standard aims to improve transparency and comparability in financial reporting by providing a more accurate representation of a company’s leasing activities.