Standard-Setters Propose to Align Balance Sheet Netting Requirements

The International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and the US-based Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) have published a proposal to establish a common approach to offsetting financial assets and financial liabilities on the statement of financial position (balance sheet).


Offsetting, otherwise known as netting, takes place when entities present their rights and obligations to each other as a net amount in their statement of financial position.


At present, the circumstances when financial assets and financial liabilities may be presented in an entity’s statement of financial position as a single net amount, or as two gross amounts, differs depending on whether the entity reports using International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRSs) or US generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).


The accounting differences result in the single largest quantitative difference in reported numbers in statements of financial position prepared in accordance with IFRSs or US GAAP. This reduces the comparability of financial statements, and is especially prominent in the presentation of derivative assets and derivative liabilities by financial institutions. As a result, users and preparers of financial statements have asked the boards to find a common solution for offsetting those items. Proposing a common solution is also consistent with requests from the G20 and the Financial Stability Board (FSB).


The boards are proposing that offsetting should apply only when the right of set-off is enforceable at all times, including in default and bankruptcy, and the ability to exercise this right is unconditional, that is, it does not depend on a future event. The entities involved must intend to settle the amounts due with a single payment or simultaneously. Provided all of these requirements are met, offsetting would be required. The proposals would amend IFRSs and US GAAP and eliminate several industry-specific netting practices.





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