National Accounting Standards in Retail Industry

This paper analyses the international firms under the national accounting standard in retail industry. The study applies two typically firms which are Woolworths from Australia and Walmart from the United States and compare the two firms in 4 perspectives. Firstly, the different in recognition of intangible assets, revenue, tax, inventory under IFRS (Aus) and U. S. GAAP.

Secondly, describe consequence of the different recognition of accounting items and how it affects to financial statement and different regulation under AISC (Aus) and SEC (US). Thirdly, describe the factors that influence the accounting practices of Walmart and Woolworths. In the end, evaluate the theoretical benefits in adopting IFRS standards for both these two companies. Introduction Faced with the pressure of the globalization process and, over the past century, governments set several accounting standards. Countries follow different standard ? ccounting systems and also regulations.

In the U. S. , Generally Accepted Accounting Principles are accounting rules used to prepare, present, and report financial statements for a wide variety of entities, including publicly traded and privately held companies, non-profit organizations, and governments. But in the recent years, Accounting and financial reporting has been undergoing some changes. This change is mainly brought about by the adoption of the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) accounting by companies from more than 100 counties all over the world.

These 100 countries have been previously using the GAAP or the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. (Kotabe and Helsen, 2004) After seeing the many advantages of using the accounting, these countries have abandoned the GAAP and are now using the IFRS. This paper is to examine the international firms under the national accounting standard in retail industry. Woolworths and Walmart are the two of the most famous firms in retail industry. What’s more, Woolworths from Australia follow the IFRS and Walmart of the united state follow the GAAP. Those are the most typical firms and counties to explain the topic.

Thus , we began to compare those two firms in different recognition of accounting items and the how these difference influence the financial report and compare the factors which have been influential in the determination of the accounting practices of the countries within which the firms operate ,also the benefits and drawback of using the IFRS. The variance of specific accounting item between Woolworths limit and Wal-Mart Although the purpose of financial reporting is similar, which is to provide useful information to investors for the prediction of future cash flow?

Some specific accounting items are different, Such as, intangible assets, revenue, tax, inventory and so on. Because the accounting standard which the companies used is not the same, it can be proved by the data which shows in their own annual reporting. The variance performance is the following aspects, the recognition, measurement and the disclosure. As the following context, comparing with the annual report of Wal-Mart and Woolworths limits, much more detail about variance of intangible asset, income tax and revenue will be discussed.

First of all, the recognition and impairment of intangible asset, such as goodwill, research and development cost and so on, is different shown in these two companies’ annual report. It is tight under the US GAAP, in other words, the A-IFRS which Woolworths limit used is more flexible. As known, the intangible asset is likely to property, plant and other equipment, which must be valued at their historical cost, identify their useful lives and amortized over those lives. According to the annual reporting supplied by two companies, they all test the lives of their indefinite goodwill and intangible assets and calculate the impairment loss.

And the company notes: whenever there is an indication that the asset may be impaired. An impairment loss is recognized whenever the carrying amount exceeds the recoverable amount. (Woolworths limit annual report) And then, from the annual report of Wal-Mart, which follow the US GAAP, it shows that goodwill represents the excess of the purchase price over the fair value of net assets acquired in business combinations and is allocated to the appropriate segment when acquired. Wal-Mart annual report)

And moreover, Goodwill and intangible assets which has indefinite lives will not be amortized; but the impairment expenses will still be evaluated at the fourth fiscal quarter or whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the value of the asset may be impaired. (Wal-Mart annual report) Secondly, the recognition of revenues is different. The revenue recognition under A-IFRS, which is similar to the IFRS, it focuses on if the majority risk and reward of ownership is transfer to the buyer.

In the annual report of Woolworths limit, revenue is recognized only when it is probable that the economic benefits comprising the revenue will flow to the entity. (Woolworths limit annual report) And then, to the Wal-Mart, it follow the US GAAP, The recognition of revenue in US GAAP is different from IFRS, it depends on if the revenue is realized or realizable or income is earned and recognized. Hence, from the aspect of the Wal-Mart annual reporting, the Company recognizes sales revenue net of sales taxes and estimated sales returns at the time it sells merchandise to the customer.

And the Company also recognizes revenue from service transactions at the time the service is performed. (Walmart annual report) The last one is income tax. It contains 2 parts: the current tax and deferred tax. It will be affected by tax rate, method used, law and policy. Compare with the two companies, they all count the current tax as one tax payable, it represent as a future liability, so the majority difference focus on the deferred tax. It shows the temporary difference. In the annual report of Woolworth limit.

Deferred tax which using balance sheet method is provided, providing for temporary differences between the carrying amounts of assets and liabilities for financial reporting purposes and the amounts used for taxation purposes. ]Woolworths limit annual report] And according to the information of Wal-Mart’s annual report, it use liability method to measure the deferred tax. The company notes: Deferred tax assets and liabilities are recognized for the estimated future tax consequences attributable to differences between the financial statement carrying amounts of existing assets and liabilities and their respective tax bases.

Deferred tax assets and liabilities are measured using enacted tax rates in effect for the year in which those temporary differences are expected to be recovered or settled. The effect on deferred tax assets and liabilities of a change in tax rate is recognized in income in the period that includes the enactment date. Valuation allowances are established when necessary to reduce deferred tax assets to the amounts more likely than not to be realized. (Wal-Mart annual report) All of these have influence the financial statement. The difference in financial report and regulatory environment

International financial reporting standard (IFRS) is the most publicly framework used in the world today to report their financial results. Woolworths limited in Australia followed this standard. As for US. , they followed the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles(U. S. GAAP) which is a accounting rules used to prepare, present, and report financial statements for a wide variety of entities, including publicly traded and privately held companies, non-profit organizations, and governments. The term is usually confined to the United States. Roberts, C. 2008), so Walmart limited followed it. As we mentioned before, there are some difference in accounting recognition, measurement and disclosure practices. These all affect to the financial reports. However, under IFRS, WOOLWORTHS use the FIFO costing method contrasts with the first in, first out inventory method, so the remaining inventory valued at FIFO more closely represents current or replacement cost. Meanwhile, Walmart values inventories using LIFO(last in first out) method which is the lower cost in retail of accounting.

Company administrators who have selected to use the LIFO method generally believe that costs will either remain stable or increase. It affects the financial statement. Walmart use LIFO accounting for inventory under LIFO. And it can affect less favorable financial results owing to earnings reductions and negative effects on the balance sheet as a company reports its financial position. In the balance sheet, there is the gross profit differential between the Walmart and Woolworths.

The difference can be attributed to the increased cost of sales, resulting in illusory inventory profits when FIFO is used to value ending inventory. As the result, Woolworths would not be available for stockholder distribution. Meanwhile, Walmart’s current costs are matched against sales, and therefore inventory profits are not recorded. All the above discussion affects the balance sheet between two companies. For the cash flow statement, Walmart use LIFO, it can obtain a cash flow advantage.

When inventory costs are rising, Walmart’s tax payments decrease. As a result, owing to less taxes payment under the LIFO method of Walmart , greater cash flow results. With lower taxes, Walmart has increased amounts of cash for operations. And for Woolworths, it uses FIFO approach which with higher taxes and also less cash flow results. For the regulatory environment perspective, Woolworths from Australia follow the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), meanwhile Walmart in the U. S. follow the U. S.

Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) is an independent Australian government body and is Australia’s corporate, markets and financial services regulator. ASIC’s role is to enforce and regulate company and financial services laws to protect Australian consumers, investors and creditors and also contribute to Australian economic reputation and wellbeing by ensuring that Australian financial markets are fair and transparent, supported by confident and informed investors and consumers. “The laws ASIC administers”2005. ) The U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is a federal agency which holds primary responsibility for enforcing the federal securities laws and regulating the securities industry, the nation’s stock and options exchanges, and other electronic securities markets in the United States. Currently, the SEC is responsible for administering seven major laws that govern the securities industry.

The enforcement authority given by Congress allows the SEC to bring civil enforcement actions against individuals or companies alleged to have committed accounting fraud, provided false information, or engaged in insider trading or other violations of the securities law. To achieve its mandate, the SEC enforces the statutory requirement that public companies submit quarterly and annual reports, as well as other periodic reports.

In addition to annual financial reports, company executives must provide a narrative account, called the “management discussion and analysis” (MD;A) that outlines the previous year of operations and explains how the company fared in that time period. Mandatory disclosure of financial and other information about the issuer and the security itself gives private individuals as well as large institutions the same basic facts about the public companies they invest in, thereby increasing public scrutiny while reducing insider trading and fraud. (Securities Act of 1933)

The factors influence the accounting practices of Walmart and Woolworths There’re not obvious major international differences for accounting practices, however some factors still have been influential in the determination of the accounting practices of the countries. That the General Environment which affect the accounting practices of Walmart and Woolworths can be summarized as follows several factors: Economic environment factors, Socio-cultural factors, Political and Legal, Technological, and some other external influences.

Economic environment factors n the world economy is appear general weakness and the uncertain environment, Walmart still had reported sales growth between 4% and 6%, amounting to $419 billion. The company’s associates are around the world, like United Kingdom, Germany, China, and South Korea. The Walmart had grown from its rural Arkansas roots to become the one of the largest company in the world, and quite possibly the most powerful retailer. On the other hand, comparing to other nations, Australia and New Zealand have a high level standard of living. Thus, Woolworth operates in an economically sound environment.

Also the purchasing power parity of GDP per capita in Australia is $39,699 which is ranked number 10 based on the 2011 estimates by the International Monetary Fund. (Wikipedia, n. d. ) Socio-cultural Walmart stores were toward the customers that stand in low-income segment; headquarters were reflective of the company’s tendency to be tightfisted as they were housed in warehouse style buildings with minimalist decor. So, the central tenet of Walmart was Frugality, and every partner was expected to fully adopt this value in all its manifestations.

It was also said that the company is homogenizing the marketplace by letting smaller towns dictate popular culture. For Woolworth is following the “sustainability strategy 2007-15” trend for sustainable corporate practices and green lifestyle. The Investors and customers who are understand of the environmental impacts of their investing and consuming behavior could choose Woolworth, because with a green-tag and patronize products that are organic. Also for their convenient and efficient services, the company addresses the needs of customers with time for shopping.

Policy / Law In the policy and law factors, America and Australia are both following commonwealth law. So, Walmart and Woolworth only have a very slight difference in this respect. There are some policies for Woolworth benefits during the Australia-New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement (ANZCERTA). This trading cooperation leads Woolworth is operating between two countries brings into a single economy. Woolworth and its shareholders are also secure in the political stability of both countries.

In “IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook”, Australia ranked 3rd and New Zealand 5th in 2011. Women were not allowing sitting in supervisory and managerial levels. There are said to be pending lawsuits waiting for Walmart’s notions as the company has allegedly went against the labor laws. This maybe affect accounting practices of Walmart. Technological For Walmart and Woolworth use technology to maximize operational efficiency could decrease operating costs, and Walmart was a leader in this part.

Very early on, the company realized the value of technology for investments, so the firm deployed a private satellite network. Through distribution centers and a central hub-and-spoke system of warehouses Walmart also managed much of its own logistics and the corporate logistics handled over million loads each year. Woolworth uses the information communication technology to improve the efficiency of their service and meet their customers. In 2008 it introduced the self-checkout machines that enable the customer to “scan, weigh and pay for their groceries via cash, credit or debit cards”. Palmer, 2008) the company also used the Service Oriented Architecture software to monitor their business activity, identify bottlenecks of their service in real time and reduce costs. Recently they introduced the Visa’s payWave to reduce waiting time of customers spent in checkout queues. (Budmar, 2011) Taxation Taxation is also an important part which could affect accounting practices of Walmart and Woolworth. US and Australia both are commonwealth country. US products implement a sales tax levied at the retail model, and retail enterprises engaged in business shall be according to the states tax rate on its sales place.

In Australia, businesses provide goods and services, unified collection of 10% GST. Thus, Walmart has high cost to Calculate tax. The theoretical benefits of using IFRS A coordinated worldwide financial reporting could improve investor confidence in the decision making and risk assessment information they used. Conversely, if the same thing under different financial reporting systems and information published figures are different, apparently, in the thinking of investors who do not have professional skills accounting will be to lose credibility.

So, this part will critically evaluate the theoretical benefits if Walmart and Woolworth which operating in US and Australia follow the IFRS standards There are not significant differences between USGAAP and IFRS, the following is Walmart using IFRS may produce benefits: 1. Uniform financial reporting for listed companies to increase data reliability and transparency, thereby reduces the investment costs, including lower interest rates and stock price. 2. For company, to prepare statements of expenditure and cost will be significantly reduced. Cancel the current USGAAP requirements cumbersome reconciliations, and savings for the enterprise. .

In the case of the convergence of accounting standards, the professional development of accountants with professional qualifications will be subject to geographical restrictions. Movement of professionals is always a good thing. In general, the higher similarity of the Australian Accounting Standards and IFRS, and its formulation has a certain influence, so if the use of IFRS in Australia, less difficult. The treatment of AIFRS may lead to the results of its listed companies’ financial reports are different with the financial report prepared under IFRS.

If the merger leads to the fair value increase or generate goodwill, Using IFRS, treatment will affect the future economic benefits due to lower depreciation and amortization expense and possible increase of assets. Comparing with the appropriate international body of the report, the body of the report of Australia’s non-publicly traded is under more disclosure requirements. In addition to compliance costs, the Australian reporting entities also disclose the sensitive and secret information, if Woolworth follow IFRS, the report of non-publicly traded does not need the disclosure of such information.

In addition, using IFRS is not only from the consolidated financial statements, not require the preparation of a separate parent company financial statements. Also, increase the company from using the equity method. This could reduce the possibility of leakage of confidential and maintain a competitive advantage, and reduce the cost of financial reports. The Australia reported the main body must be to determine the fair value of subsidy by the non-monetary governmental, while the international body of the report can be notional amount of record such a government subsidy.

Thus using IFRS is reducing the fair value of the donation of non-monetary assets, thus resulting in lower net asset value, but it will also result in lower depreciation expense. In conclusion the aim of Accounting standards internationally coordinated is to eliminate or reduce the differences between national accounting standards and accounting system, an increase in common with each other, so that gradually converge, and the financial information provided by internationally comparable and equivalents.

With the international economic cooperation, the growing number of mutual investment, international capital markets continue to grow and develop, which makes the Internationalization of Accounting, more precisely, the internationalization of accounting standards become an irreversible trend.