Gov’t considering postponement of application of IAS to 2006

The already delayed and much-awaited application of International Accounting Standards (IAS) in listed firms, scheduled for next year, looks like being further delayed due to the many problems faced by firms – especially banks, which are among the biggest – and their inability to meet deadlines. Chartered auditors declare they are ready for the new standards but complain of inadequate translation of European Union directives, which may lead to terms being interpreted in more than one way. According to sources, the Economy and Finance Ministry is now considering a further postponement by one year, with the optional application of IAS as of 2005 and its obligatory application as of 2006. However, such a postponement is not particularly easy, given the directives, and Greece is expected to ask for help from the bigger member states, such as Germany and France, to press the Commission in this direction. These two countries had originally asked for the obligatory application to be postponed until 2007, but this had been rejected. As things stand at the moment, the financial statements for fiscal 2005 have to be reported under IAS in 2006. However, given a requirement for comparability, the first-quarter results of 2005 will have to be compared with those of the first quarter of 2004, which means that accounting methods have to be converted immediately. The previous economy minister, Nikos Christodoulakis, appeared certain of the readiness of the government and firms to adopt IAS and was pressing both Athens and Brussels for their immediate application. However, this readiness has now been seriously challenged with the quality of the translations of the IAS directives, which is considered so bad as to cause confusion and deadlock. Further, articles 32 and 39 of IAS have still not been finalized, this being expected later this year. Practically, the adaptation of all listed firms’ financial data and accounting methods to IAS is seen as next to impossible. Moreover, the process is bound to significantly alter the overall picture of results, as IAS require the direct accounting for all future liabilities and an equal reduction of their equity capital. A characteristic example of the difficulties is the problem with the currency differences of exporting companies, due to the recent sharp fall in the value of the US dollar. According to recent legislation, they have to be booked within three years. Nevertheless, the application of IAS does not permit the expense allocation of the debit currency difference beyond the current fiscal year, as this is considered to distort the real picture of firms’ financial results. To this must be added the issue of the high cost of the overhaul of firms’ computerized infrastructure, which has still not been carried out in most cases. Beyond the European Commission, which aims at improving the reporting of the results of 7,000 listed firms in the Union, interest in the speedy adoption of IAS is also being expressed by American firms and agencies.