The logic of pension accounting

Image of Royal Holloway School of Management working papers cover
Document type
Working Paper
Napier, Christopher
Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of publication
1 December 2008
School of Management Working paper series
Trends: economic, social and technology trends affecting business
Business and management
Material type

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Accounting for pensions has been a problem for standard setters for over 30 years. Early attempts to develop accounting standards were based on a cost orientation and reflected funding considerations. More recently, a balance sheet focus has led to issues over identification and measurement of pension liabilities and assets. Accounting standards that permit enterprises to ignore, spread or segregate elements of pension cost, or to create artificial cost measures, are open to criticism and are gradually disappearing. The aim of a principle-based pension accounting will be to ‘tell it as it is’, fairly reflecting the rights and obligations of employers, employees and funding vehicles. Moreover, complex pension arrangements cannot be reported simplistically – if users wish to minimise surprises relating to pensions, then enterprises must disclose a rich set of information.

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