IASB clarifies definition of ‘material’

By Ken Tysiac

In an effort to make it easier for companies to make materiality judgments, the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) on Wednesday issued a clarified definition of “material.”

The definition of materiality is a crucial element in accounting because it helps companies decide whether information is important enough to be included in their financial statements. To clarify the definition, the IASB amended IAS 1, Presentation of Financial Statements, and IAS 8, Accounting Policies, Changes in Accounting Estimates and Errors.

Under the new definition, information is material if omitting, misstating, or obscuring it could reasonably be expected to influence the decisions that the primary users of general-purpose financial statements make on the basis of those financial statements, which provide financial information about a specific entity.

The old definition stated that omissions or misstatements of items are material if they could, individually or collectively, influence the economic decisions that users make on the basis of the financial statements.

The IASB updated the definition because some companies had difficulty using the old definition. The amendments are intended to clarify both the definition of material and how the definition should be applied. The explanations that accompany the definition have been changed with the intent of providing more clarity, and the amendments are intended to ensure that the definition of material is consistent across all IFRS.

The changes take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, but early application is permitted.

Ken Tysiac (Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com) is the JofA’s editorial director.

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