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Saturday, 1 August 2009

The Market Monkey and the Real Value Accountant

Market Monkey said:

Sorry NS but I'm kinda in the other camp.

I don't believe historic cost accounting destroys any real world value.

The people using the accounts to either [a] determine the company's market value, [b] determine the dividend or [c] determine next years salaries all adjust the figures to take inflation into account.

For me the accounts are just records and I much prefer them to be historic cost because then I know what I'm dealing with and I can make my own adjustments. I use accounts on a daily basis and I am 100% sure which method I prefer ... and constant purchasing power accounting ain't it.

Best luck with ya crusade though.

MM.

The Real Value Accountant said:

Hi Market Monkey,

First of all: you use constant ITEM purchasing power accounting – not constant purchasing power accounting - every day and you do not even know it. We’ll come to that later.

You are 100% correct in (a) that inflation is taken into account by investors on the JSE in determining the real value of a company’s market value - a variable real value non-monetary item. The function of financial accounting as presented in the financial statements is not to value the business as a whole, but to convey value information about the economic resources of a business. This distinction recognizes the need to segregate the accounting function from the investor function. Thus, a company’s market value can be higher or lower than the company’s net book value.

You are also 100% correct that inflation is taken into account to determine next year´s salaries. Salaries are constant real value non-monetary items. Salaries, wages, rentals and many other Income Statement constant real value non-monetary items are valued in terms of units of constant purchasing power by all companies in all economies world wide – generally speaking. You do not seem to realize that measurement in units of constant purchasing power has been used for this purpose for ages.

You are 100% wrong as far as (b) is concerned in the non-hyperinflationary world: the fact that inflation destroys the real value of the Rand is not taken into account by anyone in SA for determining the dividend. They simply use what is in the Retained Earnings account. They value Retained Earnings as you agree they should value it: at historical cost although the IASB authorized them 20 years ago to value it in real value maintaining units of constant purchasing power. You and SA accountants refuse to do that.

You will agree with me that R100 000 kept at home for a year in brand new notes will have lost 6.9% of their real value one year from now – ceteris paribus. You will agree with me that not accounting but inflation destroys the real value of the Rand.

You will also agree with me that if you close your company’s accounts today and you have R100 000 in net after tax profits and you decide not to declare the R100 000 in dividend to yourself as sole-owner of the company but rather keep it in the company as retained earnings and you then pay that dividend to yourself in a year’s time you will receive R100 000 in nominal value but 6.9% less in real value – all else being equal. You will agree with me that your decision to use historical cost accounting – more exactly the stable measuring unit assumption whereby you do not update retained earnings in your books – resulted in historical cost accounting – and not inflation - destroying 6.9% of the real value of your retained earnings over the next year – as it is doing to all companies´ retained earnings in SA.

Why? Because you could have chosen in terms of the IASB´s Framework, Par. 104 (a) – approved 20 years ago – to measure your financial capital maintenance in units of constant purchasing power. Par. 104 (a) states: “Financial capital maintenance can be measured in either nominal monetary units or in units of constant purchasing power.”

You can inflation-adjust all constant items in your business – no matter what the rate of inflation. So, it is not inflation that is destroying the real value of your retained earnings. It is your selection of the historical cost accounting model. When you choose constant ITEM purchasing power accounting you maintain the real value of your retained earnings forever – ceteris paribus.

This is not 1970-style Constant Purchasing Power INFLATION accounting whereby ALL non-monetary items are inflation adjusted.

This is Constant ITEM Purchasing Power BASIC accounting whereby ONLY constant items are inflation adjusted – as approved by the IASB 20 year ago and which is compliant with IFRS.

So, there you have it Market Monkey: you agree with me that historical cost accounting destroys value. Easy, isn’t it?

Btw: the total real value destroyed in this fashion by SA accountants implementing historical cost accounting for SA as a whole is conservatively estimated at about R200 billion PER ANNUM.

When they switch over to constant ITEM purchasing power accounting they will maintain R200 billion PER ANNUM in the SA real economy FOREVER – ceteris paribus.

I am sure you will agree with me that maintaining existing R200 billion PER ANNUM instead of each and every year destroying that value - as SA accountant are unknowingly doing right now - will make quite a difference to the SA real economy.

So, now I have proved to you - without any doubt - that

"historic cost accounting destroys real world value."

We all live and learn.

I´m sure you will be able to teach me many things about the market that I previously did not understand.

Kindest regards

Nicolaas Smith