Useful and meaningful disclosures and a focus on the reporting of asset values in light of COVID-19 will be crucial for year-end financial reports, says the corporate regulator.
ASIC flags COVID-19 financial reporting focus
ASIC has now provided further information on focus areas for financial reporting in the COVID-19 environment for years ended 30 June 2020.
Directors, preparers and auditors have been urged to focus on asset values, provisions, solvency and going concern assessments, events occurring after year-end and before completing the financial report, and disclosures in the financial report and operating and financial review (OFR).
ASIC has called for a focus on a host of factors affecting asset values, provisions and assessments of solvency and going concern, including the impact on short-term operating cash flows, industry-specific factors, and short-term versus long-term conditions.
Impairment of non-financial assets, values of property assets, and expected credit losses on loans and receivables have also been flagged as examples of matters that may require the focus of directors, preparers and auditors in relation to asset values in the current environment.
The corporate regulator has also pushed for useful and meaningful disclosures about uncertainties, key assumptions and sensitivity analysis.
“In the current environment, the quality of financial reports and related disclosures is more important than ever for investors and to maintain confident and informed markets,” ASIC chair James Shipton said.
“Entities with businesses adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic should focus on the reporting of asset values and financial position.
“Investors will expect clear disclosure about the impacts on an entity’s businesses, any risks and uncertainties, key assumptions, management strategies and future prospects.”
Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand’s reporting and assurance leader, Amir Ghandar, has backed Mr Shipton’s sentiments, noting that its latest investor confidence survey has shown that investors were not ignoring risk.
Just over half of respondents are expecting “a great deal” or “quite a bit” of additional disclosure in financial statements in the COVID-19 environment, focusing on the impact on operations and results now and in the future.
“Investors are also interested in the impact on liquidity and business outlook, changes in demand for products and services, and impact on supply chain and distribution,” Mr Ghandar said.
“A reality check may be due later in 2020, with almost half of investors saying companies and auditors flagging ‘material uncertainty’ will have a possibly significant impact on their confidence.”
Mr Ghandar believes the COVID-19 environment will see shareholders focus on financial reports more than ever this year, giving them a new prominence.
“As we kick off company reporting season, these results show us that while shareholders will still be looking at explanations from chairs and CEOs, they will also be probing whether what they are hearing aligns with the financials in terms of going concern uncertainties, asset carrying values and other assumptions,” he said.