The world is increasingly adopting an extremely commercial approach to operations (Paulson 99). Every aspect in the economic environment and social systems is increasingly becoming more commercialized as the capitalistic mental has taken over a number of key areas in operations (Paulson 99). The role played by taxation and accounting systems is on the increase due to commercializations and liberalization of operations and markets. Different modes of operations and complexity in modern operations have led to the need for development of different modes of accounting and taxation (Paulson 99).
Original definitions and systems are being replaced by new ones that are deemed to be more relevant to modern day operations. The policies supported by political leaders with regards to these economic factors are seen to be important to the perception that the voters have on them. The overall public, due to improvements in information systems and education levels, have become more aware of the importance of good and relevant policies to not only the development of the economy but to individual development.
It is no longer left for the professionals to understand the complexities and changes in accounting and information systems be it at the policy or implementation level for ordinary citizens are continuously seeking to know more on these concepts (Paulson 73). This paper looks at some of the current trends in accounting and taxation systems in the US. and the impact they have on the development of US. as a nation. The paper looks at a issues in Private and public Company Financial Reporting and their convergence with the international standards.
The other areas that the paper addresses are Cost or Equity Method of Accounting, Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, Importance of Segregation of Duties, Income tax accruals, Deferred Income taxes and McCain’s Vs Obama’s tax plan. Introduction Developed economies and especially America’s are highly reliant on the development of the business sector (Pratt & Niculita 22 ). The business sector in some of these developed economies contributes immensely to their large domestic income levels. Financial reporting is an aspect that is integrated into every business system be it profit or non-profit making.
Financial reporting is a very important aspect in ensuring accountability and developing the confidence that is of high importance in a capitalistic economy that are characterized by high levels of competition. Financial reporting does not in itself guarantee success in business but helps in providing information that is critical in the development and implementation of economic decisions. Company Reporting The standard used in financial reporting in the US is the GAAP standard (Talbott 63).
The main reason behind financial reporting for public entities is to meet the needs of external stake holders who due to their positions lack the ability to get the information. Even though the external users of company financial reporting may have access to information, most private companies still choose to prepare the general financial statement. Even though the GAAP financial accounting standards are aimed at providing the end user with the required information, the management of the company often finds such documents to be of great importance (Talbott 63).
Many private companies implement a system where the financial statement include an independent accountant report which is drafted after the report has been audited, reviewed or compiled. The government is not directly responsible for the formulation of the accounting standards in most developed countries and it was until 2002 that the federal government intervened largely on accounting standards (Talbott 35). This non-interference is common system in most countries under common law where it is believed that the private sector is well informed and has a good resource backing.
It should be noted that the GAAP is not a law that has to be followed though some key financial authorities have made it compulsory for public companies to adhere to standard (Ricardo & Kolthammer 53). It should be noted that the GAAP standards for the private sectors are set by different bodies which operate under different assumptions, principles and constraints from those of the public sector. The basic objective in financial reporting is providing information; this is done by making a number of assumption, application of a series of principle and subjecting a number of constraints.
Assumptions ? The business entities are assumed to be separate from its owners and other related businesses. In preparation of financial records personal expenses are kept separate from company revenues and expenses (Ricardo & Kolthammer 51). ? Another key assumption made is that the business will continue operating indefinitely. This assumption is made to justify the validation of asset capitalization, depreciation and even amortization. This going concern assumption is only overridden when it is certain that the company will be liquefied (Ricardo & Kolthammer 51).
? Since one of the objectives in the preparation of financial records is to ensure ease of evaluation a measure must be used. In the US, a monetary unit that is assumed to be stable is used as the unit of record. It is accepted by the FASB that the nominal value of the dollar unadjusted to take care of the inflation should be used as the main unit of measure (Ricardo & Kolthammer 51). ? A major assumption in the preparation of financial records is that the economic and financial activities of a company can be divided into time units. This is the time period principle (Ricardo & Kolthammer 51).
There are a number of principles that have been adopted by the FASB in preparing financial records. The principles govern how the actual preparation of the records will be handled. Some of these principles include: ? Companies are required to account and report on the basis of acquisition prices rather than current market prices. This principle applies to all recordings be they assets or liabilities (Ricardo & Kolthammer 54). This principles ensures that the information provided is reliable by eliminating bias that would have otherwise been accrued by using the perceived value.
However, there are changes in this system as a number of debts and securities are being reported on the basis of their fair price or market values. ? Principle number two is referred to as the revenue principle and it requires companies to record revenues either when they are realizable and earned or when they are realized. This accrual approach to accounting eliminates recording at receip (Ricardo & Kolthammer 54)t. ? The matching principle dictates that the expenses and the revenues have to be matched as long as there is sufficient ground for pairing.
Expenses are only recognized when the product or service that they have help create earns some revenue (Ricardo & Kolthammer 54) The principle further states that if a situation should arise where no connection can be established between an expense and a revenue then the expenses can be charged on the existing period. This system is useful in ensuring accuracy and robustness in evaluating actual performance and profitability levels because the principle clearly shows how much was spent in earning a given revenue.
? The disclosure principle is one that governs the amount of information that can be disclosed. According to this principle, the amount of information that can be disclosed should be based on a trade off analysis (Ricardo & Kolthammer 54). Disclosure of large information is often associated with increased cost in the preparation and use of the financial records. Therefore, the information disclosed should be enough for judgment while ensuring that the costs are kept low. Information in the financial records are either presented in the main body of the statement, notes or as supplementary material.
A number of constraints have also been placed in coming up with financial records and reports. The constraints are aimed at reducing errors and ensuring reliability. They include: ? The objectivity principle which states that the financial records should be based on objective evidence (Ricardo & Kolthammer 54). ? The significance of an item is only considered when it has been reported. The materiality principles therefore considers information to be of significance if it can in one way or the other affect the decisions made by a reasonable human person (Ricardo & Kolthammer 55).
? There is also need for consistency in the accounting principles used by a company. The companies should ensure that they use the same principles year in year out. ? When choosing between two alternatives the prudent principle states that the solution that is likely to understate the income and assets should be given first priority (Ricardo & Kolthammer 55). Comparison Even though the differences may not be clear a key differences arises in the aspect of stakeholders. The investors will always want to be informed on how their investments are fairing on.
In a private company, systems may be developed where the investors who are often few and closely related can access financial records and the performance of their investments at particular times (Einhorn 23). Furthermore, the private nature of such businesses exempt them from mandatory disclosure and there are no restriction on the materials they can disclose. However, the story is quite different in public companies where disclosure is a must. Public companies are of national interest and therefore issues regarding their financial status affect a considerable proportion of the general public (Lewis & Pendrill 32).
Development in financial systems are aimed at protecting the investors from the failure of such financial institutions. The law therefore dictates that such companies must disclose their financial records and in so doing the materials disclosed should be such that they provide enough information as per the investors’ requirements (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development 35). Therefore, while a private company financial records may only be a page the public companies often develop booklets and mountains of documents as their financial records.
In general, preparation of financial records in public companies is more resource intensive relative to private company due to the time and financial resources that have to be channeled to the preparation of the rather comprehensive records. The similarities are countless. The principles employed, assumptions made and constraints are generally within the GAAP principles (Haber 24). The principles are within the stated framework and therefore bears a lot of similarities.
Disclosure is stressed on by both private and public companies for the sake of their investors. In either case, the importance of financial reports to the management of the companies and to creditors who may require the company’s financial information is of equal importance. Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 The area of financial disclosure and development of financial reports is of key concern to the entire economy. The government and the legislative system is often concerned with the overall wellbeing of the people; at least that is what they have made people believe.
Disclosure and financial reporting is an area that is of key importance to the overall development of not only the company whose records and transactions are being disclosed but also to other companies that may be related to the said company in one way or the other. The federal system broke its liberalization of the accounting systems when in 2002 it enacted the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (Hamilton & Trautmann 44 ). The act was aimed at protecting the investors and was enacted into federal law in 2002.
Previously issues regarding financial disclosure and preparation of financial records were governed by standards rather than law. The move was aimed at dealing with the increase in the levels scandals that hit a number of major corporations namely Tyco and Worldcom among others (Shanley 21). These scandals were very costly on investors and had a major bearing in the capital markets as share prices dropped considerably. The effects of the scandals were felt by both participants and non-participants as the confidence in the stock markets suffered and irrecoverable blow.
The reforms that were brought by this act are considered the most far reaching changes in the business environment in decades. These new legislations did not affect the private sector and were aimed at developing enhanced standards for the public sector players including public accounting firms (Shanley 49). Its adoption was a controversial step and led to major divisions on its perceived benefits. A number of people who were and still are for its implementation state that it has led to an increase in investor confidence on the stock market while ensuring better standards and controls for corporate accounting standards.
The act led to the developments and enaction of PCAOB which is charged with regulating, inspecting and ensuring relevant disciplinary measures are taken against accounting firms that are ascertained to have flawed some of the principles and standards set by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (Pratt & Niculita 85 ). Some of the key features of Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 include: ? The first title establishes the PCAOB as a board that will provide the required oversight for accounting firms that provide audit services.
This first title also creates a central board that is tasked with ensuring procedure compliance by the boards, registration of auditors, definition of processes and procedures for compliance, quality control and management and enforcing compliance as per its mandate that are provided for in the act (Einhorn 19). ? The second title establishes the standards that will ensure the independence of external auditors so as to minimize the risk of conflict of interest. This title also puts up new auditors approval qualifications, partner rotation and reporting requirements.
One of the notable features of this second title is that it bars audit firms from providing non-audit services for same clients (Einhorn 19). ? The responsibility for accuracy and completeness of financial records is placed on senior executives. This third title further defines how the external auditors will be expected to interact with the audit committees. A quarterly certification of the integrity of the financial reports by the corporate executives is required by this title (Einhorn 19). ? The fourth sections requires the inclusion of off balance sheet transactions and transactions of corporate officers.
This is to ensure enhanced financial reporting and ensure accountability at the highest levels of corporate leadership. The fourth title further requires the placement of internal controls that will ensure the accuracy of the financial reports. Timely reporting in case of change in financial conditions which must also be accompanied by a review of SEC or its agents, is advocated for by this title. ? The fifth section includes measures that are aimed at restoring the confidence of the investors on the reports brought forward by securities analysts (Einhorn 77).
The code of behavior for the security analysts are defined in this section and they are further required to disclose any conflict of interest that may be in their knowledge. ? The sixth section is closely related to the fifth as it defines practices that will help in the restoration of investor confidence. The SEC’s authority is also defined in this chapter and their power to bar securities professionals from dealing is brought into proper perspectives by definition of cases where their power is applicable (Einhorn 22).
? The seventh section places more emphasis on the manner in which research that is aimed at enforcing actions against violators will be conducted. The reports and reasons that have been identified as being of importance in the research include the effects of consolidation on accounting firms, securities violation, role of credit rating agencies and enforcement actions. This chapter further suggested investigations on whether the investment banks played a role in obfuscating the financial positions of some of the corporations that failed.
? The eighth title describes the specific penalties for fraud by either manipulating, destroying or altering financial records. This title further defines the penalties associated with interfering with the course of investigation while providing a considerable level of protection for whistle blowers. ? The ninth title increase the penalties associated with white collar crimes and conspiracies to commit financial crimes. One of the key recommendations of the title is that stronger punishments should be provided for financial crime offenders.
A key addition is that failure to certify corporate records is declared a criminal offense (Einhorn 19). ? The chief executive officer or the senior most corporate officer is required to certify and sign the company’s tax returns in the tenth title. ? The definition of corporate fraud as a crime within the law is found in the eleventh title. Record tampering is also included as a criminal offense and the specific penalties are also defined in this section. Sentencing guidelines are revised in this chapter and the penalties are made harsher.
SEC is also given the power to freeze large or suspect payments (Einhorn 18). There are a number of factors that led to the adoption of the rather controversial measures towards ensuring disclosure and accuracy of financial records. Prior to the implementation of the SOX the auditing firms were self regulated (McAlevey 45). There was considerable levels of conflict interest as they were involved with companies in more than one way. They were therefore not in a position to challenge the companies on financial matters for it may have led to poor work relations in other areas they were involved in.
Audit committees were also blamed for the crisis that led to the development of the SOX as they did not perform their responsibility as investor representatives with maximum efficiency (McAlevey 56). A number of causes for failure and collapse of some of the corporations were in the line of negligence of duty and lack of the required expertise in handling business complexities. Management also had a considerable degree on audit committees and thus the integrity of their reports was questionable even before they were presented. The SEC was underfunded before the American public realized its importance to the overall development of the economy.
The federal allocations to this programs have since doubled as a way of ensuring that they effectively deal with issues and threats to the financial stability of public corporations. Securities analysts had multiple roles that presented a conflict of interest (Niskanen 123). The security analysts could make recommendations on whether to sell or buy and at the same time provide financial assistance for companies who are in need of financial assistance. There is the possibility that the analysts could make decisions and recommendations that will ensure that he unfairly gains from the deals.
Misleading bank practices may also lead to confusion by other investors. For instance, when a number of banks lend money to a corporation other investors may assume that the financial position of such a company is guaranteed (Griffin & Walton 10). When such companies collapse as it was the case in Enron, investors in the bank and those who had invested in the corporation suffer losses. Moreover, stock volatility coupled with the bonus and stock option practices increased the pressure on companies to manage their earnings. Segregation of Duties
One of the major recommendation of the SOX was the need to segregate duties (Griffin & Walton 29). The need for segregation is often seen to be associated with increased accountability as the overlaps associated with non-segregation are eliminated. Furthermore, the risk of inappropriate action on individuals or groups is minimized since each and everyone has clearly defined roles and failure in their part can be traced to them. The first step in ensuring accountability is adopting a segregation approach. The segregation of jobs must be adopted by the entire organizations and documentation of its adoption ensured.
Segregation of duties is not all about the physical implementation of tasks since the flow of finances has to be described fully, clarifications made and assurances that no one person has overall control over all aspects in any financial transaction made. The process of formulating such a diverse and rather complex system of operations requires time and expertise if the systems is to achieve any success. It is worth noting that though the implementation of the system may be near perfect, if the initial formulation is done ineffectively the whole systems will lack in aspects that may prove to be critical in ensuring its success.
The organization has to be studied and analyzed before any changes are proposed. Since these are changes that are per the requirement of the law for public institutions there is little that organizations can do to avoid implementing this law (Griffin & Walton 92). The organizations must analyze their processes and their outcomes including their behavior. The qualifications of the available human resource has to be ascertained and the organization’s ability in implementing a segregated approach ascertained.
A thorough analysis of the collected information will ensure the development of teams and allocation of responsibilities for each and every member of the organization who will then be answerable on all issues relating to these responsibilities they have been assigned. The implementation of such a system is as important as the formulation phase. The application of relevant controls and milestones to be met will ensure that the developments achieved as a result of the implementation of such systems is quantified and relevant corrections or improvements made to ensure continued success.
The controls should ensure that whistle blowers and those that are unwilling in promoting illegal activities are protected from the wrath of ‘criminals ‘(Griffin & Walton 24). Therefore, the adoption of systems that will ensure whistle blowers are protected should go in line with the formulation and implementation of the segregation approach. Convergence to International Standards The implementation of the SOX led to improvement in laws and policies regarding financial disclosure that made them more similar to international standards.
Furthermore, there is increased effort by the FASB, which develops accounting standards for local use to converge the standards to the IASB (Eisen 42). It should be noted that even though the IASB standards are increasingly being adopted by a number of countries the FASB has significant control on their standards. One notable difference in the standards is that the LIFO systems is not used in the international standards while they are allowed by the US. Standards, thus reporting of income statements takes on different format which may affect the analysis of financial statement by investors and stakeholders (Eisen 42).
Moreover, the international systems is more principle based when compared to the US systems which can be considered to be rule based. The FASB bases their approach on the fact that the real accounting world has infinitely many exceptions and a principle based system will never be able to give a full description of actions that may be employed in all situations (Eisen 43). Equity Method of Accounting Accounting is a diverse area of study that is continuously changing as per operations requirements (Eisen 34).
Financial irregularities and fraud has taken on a new dimension and thus the accounting principles and procedures have also been forced to change in order to address the change in financial trends. Investment in common stock is one of the fastest growing areas, many investors are channeling their resources to acquiring common stock and IPOs have become national events while the capital markets is one of the most highly traded market there is. The equity method of accounting is used for investments in common stock if the investor possesses over one fifth of the outstanding voicing stock of another company in which he has significant influence.
Generally accepted accounting principles require that reporting using the equity method when an investor corporation has significant control over the operations and finances of an investee corporation. Significant influence is determined by representation on the board of directors, active participation in formulation of policies, intercompany transactions, interchange of managerial personnel and dependence on technology. It is generally assumed that an investor has significant control if over 20% of the outstanding common stocks of the entity are in his possession.
This holds true unless there is sufficient evidence to prove otherwise (Eisen 100). The equity approach to accounting reflect more on the economic aspects than the legal aspects involved in investing in legal stocks of other companies. When the equity approach to accounting is employed, the initial records of the stock investments is done at cost. The investments accounts will then have to be adjusted to ensure that the investor share of income and losses after the date of acquisition are up to date. This investor share is used in coming up with the net income of the investor in the period as reported by the investee (Eisen 51).
The methods is in line with the accrual method of accounting for its implementation ensures the recognition of revenues when they are earned and losses when incurred. Dividends received by the investors are not reported as dividend income but are a reduction on the carrying amount associated with investment. Therefore, the application of equity methods of accounting ensures that investments accounts give a reflection of the investors equity relative to investee net assets. An exception to this rule of revenue recognition is the recognition of revenue without change in working capital (Eisen 34).
In the investors statement of income, the proportion of the share of the net income of the investee is reported as a single line entry except inn situations where the investee possesses extraordinary materials that would affect the investor’s net income statement. Such materials would be reflected as extraordinary materials in the investor’s income statement. The method therefore eliminates intercompany profits and losses (Eisen 43). Any excess paid for shares over their book value of the purchased subsidiary must be identified and if need be amortized or depreciated (Eisen 90).
In cases where the investor owns over half of the investee’s outstanding stock a consolidated financial statement for the group is presented (Eisen 110). The relationship is considered an affiliation as the investee can exercise control over the operations of the investee (Eisen 111). The equity method is used in the presentation of financial reports for unconsolidated subsidiaries in a consolidated financial report. If the parent company is preparing unconsolidated reports then the investments in the subsidiaries are reported through the use of equity accounting.
The application of equity accounting methods is continuously being adopted in accounting circles due to an increase in corporate ownership. Capitalism is characterized by increased investments in joint ventures and therefore it is becoming common place for major corporations and private investors to have stake in more than one company. Multinational companies may have considerable influence on local companies whose stock they posses and therefore the application of equity accounting finds relevance in such cases. Income tax accruals and Deferred Income taxes
One of the most important decisions that has to be made by businesses before they start operations regards the basis of their bookkeeping which can either be on an accrual or cash basis. The accrual system is where the income is recorded as when it is earned without considerations on whether it will be received or not. The expenses are also recorded as per when they were accrued without considerations on whether they will be paid. Taxpayers are not necessarily required to use a specific method by the Internal revenue service (IRS) (Eisen 32).
However, the stock markets and other bodies may require public companies to strictly use the accrual basis in stating their incomes (Eisen 60). The IRS requires that the method used when a taxpayer first files his tax returns should be used consistently thereafter and any changes in the system must be approved by the IRS. If an investor own more than one business the use of different methods of accounting is allowed, though they must be kept separate from each other as each business is treated as separate entity.
Even though the use of any method is allowed there are restriction to the use of the cash method in that corporations with a gross receipt of over $5 million excluding the S corporations, partnerships that partners with such corporations and tax shelters are all excluded from the use of cash system of accounting (Eisen 22). When using the accrual method, incomes must be reported in the tax year they were earned and expense deducted in the same manner. The time of payment is disregarded in either case and has no bearing on the nature of the results.
For taxation purposes, income is reported when earned, due or payment is received depending on which one comes first. Therefore, recording of income is done when events that lead to their reception have occurred and the amount associated with the revenue or expense can be determined with pinpoint accuracy. Advance payments for services that will be received later are charged in the same years that they are received. This scheme changes if there is an agreement that the completion of the service will be in the next fiscal years thereby the recognition of the income is included in the next years records.
The postponement of advance payments cannot go beyond one year. If any part of the service will go beyond the next year, all advance payments will have to be recorded in the year the receipt will be made and none of it would appear in the next year’s records. Advance rent income can only be recorded in the years that they are received and can never be postponed. If a business provides a business agreement for a property that it owns, advance income associated with such property can be postponed.
However, this is only applicable in cases where the business also earns income from properties that do no have service agreements in their course of operations. There are a few special rules that have been formulated with regards to handling advance payments regarding agreement for future sales. Under normal considerations the payments are recorded when they are received but this is not so in this alternative system. Under the alternate system the advance payments in earlier years and the recordings include payments in gross receipt according to the rules of the method used.
Furthermore, it is advisable to record the advance payments in the years that any part of the advance payments has been included. Under the accrual system expense are reported when liability has been fixed, the amount involved has been determined clearly and economic performance has occurred. If expense is incurred in receiving a service, economic performance is considered to have been incurred when the service is provided. When property has been delivered, economic performance is said to have been incurred (Pratt & Niculita 102 ).
For expenses that are related to interest, the passage of time marks economic performance. In areas of compensation of services, economic performance is said to have occurred when the contractors are rendering their services. Moreover, under the accrual system expenses are only deductible in the years they apply though they can still be charged on the years they are paid if the benefits they generate are applicable for a time of over one year. If business expenses or interest are owed to persons related as per the definition of related in income tax, and the related person handle
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