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WHAT DIFFERENTIATES PROFIT OR LOSS FROM OTHER COMPREHENSIVE INCOME?

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  The purpose of the statement of profit or loss and other comprehensive income (OCI) is to show an entity’s financial performance in a way that is useful to a wide range of users so that they may attempt to assess the future net cash inflows of an entity. The statement should be classified and aggregated in a manner that makes it understandable and comparable. IFRS currently requires that the statement be presented as either one statement, being a combined statement of profit or loss and other comprehensive income or two statements, being the statement of profit or loss and the statement of profit or loss and other comprehensive income. An entity has to show separately in OCI, those items which would be reclassified (recycled) to profit or loss and those items which would never be reclassified (recycled) to profit or loss. The related tax effects have to be allocated to these sections.

  Profit or loss includes all items of income or expense (including reclassification adjustments) except those items of income or expense that are recognised in OCI as required or permitted by IFRS. Reclassification adjustments are amounts recycled to profit or loss in the current period that were recognised in OCI in the current or previous periods. An example of items recognised in OCI that may be reclassified to profit or loss are foreign currency gains on the disposal of a foreign operation and realised gains or losses on cash flow hedges. Those items that may not be reclassified are changes in a revaluation surplus under IAS 16, Property, Plant and Equipment, and actuarial gains and losses on a defined benefit plan under IAS 19,Employee Benefits.

  However, there is a general lack of agreement about which items should be presented in profit or loss and in OCI. The interaction between profit or loss and OCI is unclear, especially the notion of reclassification and when or which OCI items should be reclassified. A common misunderstanding is that the distinction is based upon realised versus unrealised gains. This lack of a consistent basis for determining how items should be presented has led to an inconsistent use of OCI in IFRS. It may be difficult to deal with OCI on a conceptual level since the IASB are finding it difficult to find a sound conceptual basis. However, there is urgent need for some guidance around this issue.

  Opinions vary but there is a feeling that OCI has become a ‘dumping ground’ for anything controversial because of a lack of clear definition of what should be included in the statement. Many users are thought to ignore OCI as the changes reported are not caused by the operating flows used for predictive purposes. Financial performance is not defined in the Conceptual Framework but could be viewed as reflecting the value the entity has generated in the period and this can be assessed from other elements of the financial statements and not just the statement of profit or loss and other comprehensive income. Examples would be the statement of cash flows and disclosures relating to operating segments. The presentation in profit or loss and OCI should allow a user to depict financial performance including the amount, timing and uncertainty of the entity’s future net cash inflows and how efficiently and effectively the entity’s management have discharged their duties regarding the resources of the entity.

  RECLASSIFICATION: FOR AND AGAINST

  There are several arguments for and against reclassification. If reclassification ceased, then there would be no need to define profit or loss, or any other total or subtotal in profit or loss, and any presentation decisions can be left to specific IFRSs. It is argued that reclassification protects the integrity of profit or loss and provides users with relevant information about a transaction that occurred in the period. Additionally, it can improve comparability where IFRS permits similar items to be recognised in either profit or loss or OCI.

  Those against reclassification argue that the recycled amounts add to the complexity of financial reporting, may lead to earnings management and the reclassification adjustments may not meet the definitions of income or expense in the period as the change in the asset or liability may have occurred in a previous period.

  The original logic for OCI was that it kept income-relevant items that possessed low reliability from contaminating the earnings number. Markets rely on profit or loss and it is widely used. The OCI figure is crucial because it can distort common valuation techniques used by investors, such as the price/earnings ratio. Thus, profit or loss needs to contain all information relevant to investors. Misuse of OCI would undermine the credibility of net income. The use of OCI as a temporary holding for cash flow hedging instruments and foreign currency translation is non-controversial.

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