Just as discussed by Khan (2012), the occurrences of expressions like‘true and correct’ or what scholars refer to as ‘true and fair’ date back from 1844. It was the time when the Joint Stock Companies Act in the UK indicated that the principals of companies would balance the companies’ books in full and fair balance sheets. However, in 1956, this clause was excluded from the bill. The directors who adopted the regulations were therefore expected to come up with actual accounts which were to be filed using the double entry concept. Companies became more complicated and involved in the society as they grew, and so were the managers expected to remain answerable for the increasing number of concerns within their respective companies (Lee & Azham 2012, p. 12). He points out that since the financial report was moving from stewardship to decision usefulness function, evaluation of performance, it was paramount to have the auditor’s opinion because it was from the accountability report that the management of an organization could make investment reports. He says that this is where TFV principle came in; a term that auditors have been using more often to express their opinion.
This manuscript sets the pace to provide a framework from which to evaluate the notion of TFV; it makes analyses of what the term means in the business world and of course, ways in which the idea can be applied by various countries around the globe to improve financial reporting by their respective organizations significantly. The major focus of this paper will, therefore, be to try to unearth the history of TFV, its origin, and what has been its historical purpose. Moreover, the second section of this article will also look at the extent to which the Australian regulatory environment for financial reporting supports the concept of TFV.
According to Holman (2013), until in the 19th C, managers were expected to show accountability reports for auditing but since there was a need to improve transparency regarding the financial reports in the organizations, the term ‘true and fair view’ was coined in 1848 by the UK Joint Companies Act. Since then the term has acquired legality especially in the 20th C and further achieved a new definition concerning corporate accountability. Bachert (2012) explains this further by pointing out that organizations always entrusted their resources to their managers who were expected to produce both qualitative and quantitative reports regarding resource utilization. The decision making authority which had got the duty of accountability had to prove beyond any reasonable doubt how efficiently it managed the funds entrusted to it. This need for accountability arose in both the public and private sectors whenever stewards got the duty of managing the resources of others.
As a result of lack of trust, the principal had to hire a professional to assess the reports tabled by the managers; therefore to verify the efficiency of the steward, the quality of accounts produced was verified. It is because of this that a mechanism to accomplish such task in a more transparent manner was thought of to be necessary; an act that must have started a thousand years ago thereby making TFV only but an improvement on the traditional auditing procedures. It was evident that legit papers and practices depended heavily on antecedents; therefore it was possible that there could be an equal use of terms like 'true,' 'fair' and ‘correct’ in the 19th C(Lee & Azham 2012, p. 12). Before they could act on the evidence, one or two words in the overall setting, the continued interpersonal conduct relations had to be found on mutual understanding. For example, the first clauses of the agreements in partnership showed 'casual friendship between partners; confidence that they placed in the integrity and fidelity of each other.
Escaffre (2013) notes that the concept of TFV had been major requirements for the companies’ law since 1947 in the UK. The British accountants, therefore, found it to be very central in accounting hence a fundamental characteristic in auditing. Since then, the idea spread to most former colonies of Britain notably Australia and New Zealand and recently, across the countries under the European Communities. In spite of all these, the TFV concept has received any legal definition from neither a court nor a body of accounting. On the other hand, the real message has been that those countries that have embraced the idea continue selling the idea not just because of its practicality but also because of the portrayal of fairness in its presentation. With the rise of ‘creative accounting’ in the recent past; where managers use accounting to mislead in the financial reports rather than help the principal, many more countries and organizations are likely to adopt the TFV system (Veron 2013, p. ). The author says that there could be times when one of the partners more knowledgeable and powerful, thereby placing him in a more favorable position than his associates to influence the activities of the association and even discard the union’s property. The partners would, therefore, come to terms with keeping records and accounts in forms available to the members. A periodic auditing and settlement of personal interests amongst the members of the union. The fundamental reason behind this wasn’t just to earn the trustworthiness of partners for the execution of powers of the association, but also to cement the confidence and good intentions that the union survived. At a level more transient, the regulations which governed the quality standards and those that forgery was among the most visible host of laws derived from securing promising and continued business amongst partners mightier and those whose influence is relatively less (Lee & Azham 2012, p. 12). The statute then made and authorized the arrangements and the partners bound by the nonpublic agreement that illustrated the measures and understandings by which delicate dealings with each one of them was to be secured.
With the continued infiltration of evil in accountancy, in the 19thC, leading UK practitioners advocated for the implementation of TFV concept to put to a halt such creative devices like off-balance sheet financing. Salehi (2012) points out that TFV overtook the Substance Over Form approach which used to be the most popular concept in the late 18thC and early 19thC. An institution of chartered accounts England and Wales argued that it was ‘vague,' ‘personalized,' ‘jeopardizing’ and obverse to the regulations. TFV has however received commendable acknowledgment since then because unlike the Substance Over Form Approach; it does not only comply with the companies’ law and standards but also make sure that their financial reports reflect the TFV of the audit reports. Veron (2013) notes that TFV being a philosophical concept isn’t prone to definition by a compilation of laws thereby giving it some essential features, moreover, TFV possess all the required ethics and morality. We can, therefore, make an assumption that those using the financial reports always have a universal objective hence alternative accounting procedures which the managers present have to go through the auditors and finally through the shareholders for matters of consensus as to what is fair.
Veron (2013) justifies all these by using an analogy of a magic formula stored in a container and has to be removed under some particular conditions, not only to retain the memory but also to help in handling the prevailing situation. He makes an observation that TFV is just like inquiring from a motorist how frequent he/she drives and applies the traffic rules. To him, TFV is a concept that is ingrained in accountancy and therefore it is something that all accountants and auditors must always hold in common but not make it a matter of discussion. Salisu (2013) also observes that TFV should only mean total compliance to the principles of accounting that are acceptable and provided in the UK accounting methods regulation. It is in line with the USA situation whereby the auditing reports have to conform to the guidelines that are accepted, no wonder; the suggestion by the American Institute of Public Accountancy to erase the term somewhat was rebuked, debated and finally withdrawn in 1982.
Hasyudeen (2013) also points out that the relevance of the financial statements tabled by the managers is not just on the company’s structure buts also on the composition of the shareholdings. Therefore as much as different companies may have different methods of interpreting compliance, the composition of the shareholders and of course the size of the company might be of great importance in this connection. Thus, it is very clear that this concept only began as a theory but has since been embraced from all corners of the world. It has been possible because it’s of practicality and applicability in the ever-growing business community.
The Australian Regulatory Environment for Financial Reporting (AREFR) has been seen to support the TFV. It is according to Lee (2013) which argues that from the period of 1993-2009, the Australian Regulatory Environment for financial reporting became more conservative. However, he points out that this kind conservatism in the Australian financial reporting has been inconsistent as opposed to the situation in the USA and other European countries. Its support for TFV has dwindled without an apparent reason over the past two decades. In his book, he argues that with the adoption of the International Financial Reporting Standards (IRFS), the enactment of TFV has decreased. This paper, therefore, exemplifies the extent to which the AREFR has embraced TFV.
Salehi (2013) in his work tries to make a distinction between the common-law and code-law countries with the difference being in the manner of resolving information between managers, investors, suppliers, and customers. Corporate governance is often conducted by appointed agents whereas, in the common-law countries, there is a shareholder’ form of corporate governance. The shareholder, therefore, appoints professionals to monitor the activities of the corporate managers on their behalf. Many scholarly works have suggested that every era which requires conformity to TFV tends to interpret and address the concept about some particular political, historical, economic roots plus environments thus; the concept has been defined as transnational formulae of disharmony (Lee & Azham 2012, p. 12). However, this kind of discord should not be restricted to the cultures of particular races, ethnicities, and nationalities therefore if terminologies like TFV have different meanings for varied partakers in financial auditing, there may be an occurrence of an expectation vacuum. He defines the gap as the distinctness between the anticipation that users of the financial audit have concerning the financial auditing personnel who prepare the reports. Bachert (2012) gives a vivid description of the notion as a breach between what accounts audit statements mean and that which many non-auditors think is true. He states that most financial reports in the USA give the financial position of countries and the liabilities noted in the income. Contrary to this, the Australian Generally Accepted Accounting Principle (AGAAP) requires less frequently, a clean surplus. This distinction is said to have been more evident before Australia adopted the IRFS.
Hasyudeen (2013) notes that around 10% of the top 500 companies in Australia combines the roles of the Chief Executive Officers with those of Board chairpersons. In addition to this, the shareholders’ influence in the Australian market is greater than in the USA in various aspects. For instance, the Australian shareholders appoint their directors and most interestingly, hold annual voting forums in their companies’ remuneration reports. According to Willison (2012), this has provided an avenue for shareholders’ activism thereby fostering more active, efficient and productive engagement between the shareholders and the board members. Khan (2012) on the other hand notes that the statutory tax rates for companies in both the USA and Australia stand at 39% and 30% respectively whereas those multinational corporations are 22% for Australia and 28% for the USA. These statistics hence warrant an investigation into the extent at which AREFR applies the idea of TFV.
Magnan (2012) argues that the regulation of corporate governance and financial reporting since 2000 is likely to change the need for TFV in Australia thereby even altering the degree of conservatism in future. He says a lot of studies show that the application of TFV is more prevalent in the Australian financial reporting landscape where they use it in the Loss firms. However, the companies that have adopted the system approve of it; reduces the managerial ex-ante to take on the negative net value projects hence improving the ex-post monitoring of the companies’ investments. Since TFV has no legislative definition, the task of determining the legal meaning and its application is therefore for the jury to decide. However, the stance of many critiques is that TFV is such a nebulous concept for the court to give a thereof. It is because the jury will likely determine its meaning according to its practice which in any case, will be decided by expert accountants.
Creative accounting being a growing issue of interest in the business arena, it though that the concept of TFV depending on its interpretation can limit it. In Australia for example, creative accounting is considered one of the major concerns in the accounting profession. From the literature analysis above, it is evident that their work signals a warning that TFV might not be an absolute recommendation to the Australian’s problems depending on its interpretation. It is hence worth arguing that TFV boosts the opportunity for accounting policy choice and relaxes the traditional rigidity of accounting profession; moreover, it gives companies the right to claim to apply their discretion than accept authority from professional accounting organizations. Therefore the choice of how to interpret and implement this idea is crucial for the future credibility of the accounting profession in Australia.
List of References
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Hasyudeen, N, 2013, Audit profession-Global Development and Key issues. Retrieved from on 11/04/2016
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