Accounting Concepts for Preparing Financial Statements

Accounting concepts and conventions as used in accountancy are the rules and principles applied when recording economic events and in the preparation of financial statements, that all accountants abide by. Some of the fundamental accounting concepts that will be discussed are the accruals, matching, prudence, going concern and consistency concepts.

  1. Money measurement concept – Accounting normally deals with only those items that are capable of being expressed in monetary terms. Money has the advantage that it is a useful common denominator with which to express the wide variety of recourse’s held by a business. However, not all such resources are capable of being measured in monetary terms and so will be excluded from a balance sheet. The money measurement concept, thus, limits the scope of accounting reports.
  2. Historic cost concept – Assets are shown on the balance at a value that is based on their historic cost (that is, acquisition cost). This method of measuring asset value has been adopted by accountants in preference to methods based on some form of current value. Many commentators find this particular convection difficult to support as outdated historic cost are unlikely to help in the assessment of current financial position. It is often argued that recording assets at their current value would provide a more realistic view of financial position and would be relevant for a wide range of decisions. However, a system of measurement based on current values can present a number of problems.
  3. Going concern concept – The going concern concept holds that a business will continue operations for the foreseeable future. In other words, there is no intention or need to sell off the assets of the business. Such a sale may arise when the business is in financial difficulties and it needs cash to the creditors. This convention is important because the value of fixed assets on sale is often low in relation to the recorded values, and an expectation of having to sell off the assets would mean that anticipated losses on sale should be fully recorded. However, where there is no expectation of the need to sell off the assets, the value of fixed assets can continue to be shown at their recorded values (that is, based on historic cost). This concept, therefore, provides support for the historic cost concept under normal circumstances.
  4. Business entity concept – For accounting purposes, the business and its owner(s) are treated as quite separate and distinct. This is why owners are treated as being claimants against their own business in respect of their investment in the business. In the business entity concept must be distinguished from the legal position that may exist between businesses and their owners. For sole proprietorship and partnerships, the law does not make any distinction between the business and its owner(s). For limited companies, on the other hand, there is a clear legal distinction the business and its owners. For accounting purposes, these legal distinctions are irrelevant and the business entity convention applies to all businesses.
  5. Dual aspect concept – Each transaction has two aspects, both of which will affect the balance sheet. Thus, the purchase of a motor car for cash results in an increase in one asset (motor car) and a decrease in another (cash). The repayment of a loan results in the decrease in liability (loan) and the decrease in asset (cash/bank)
  6. Prudence – The prudence concept holds that financial statements should err on the side of caution. The concept evolved to counteract the excessive optimism of some managers and owners, which resulted, in the past, in an overstatement of financial position. Operation of the prudence concept results in the recording of both actual and anticipated losses in full, whereas profits are not recognized until they are realized (that is, there is reasonable certainty that the profit will be received). When the prudence concept conflicts with another concept, it is prudence concept that will normally prevail.
  7. Stable monetary unit concept – The stable monetary unit concept or consistency concept holds that money, which is the unit of measurement in accounting, will not change in value over time. The consistency is concept is also of vital importance for businesses. The consistency concept dictates that there should be ‘consistency of accounting treatment of like items within each accounting period and from one period to the next’. For example deprecation should be calculated the same way for every financial year and the purchase of certain tools and equipment should also be treated as fixed assets in subsequent years. This is to ensure meaningful comparisons can be made between different accounting periods and limit the possibility of misrepresentation.
  8. Objectivity concept – The objectivity concept seeks to reduce personal bias in financial statements. As far as possible, financial statements should be based on objective, verifiable evidence rather than matters of opinion.
  9. Separate determination concept – The separate determination concept refers to in determining the aggregate amount of each asset or liability, the amount of each individual asset or a liability should be determined separately from all other assets and liabilities.
  10. Substance concept – The substance over form holds if legal form of the transaction differs from its real substance, accounting should show the transaction in accordance with its real substance, i.e., how the transaction affects the economic situation of the business.

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