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Procedia Economics and Finance 32 (2015) 580 – 587

Emerging Markets Queries in Finance and Business

Measuring the effects of IFRS adoption on accounting quality: a


review
Irina-Doina Păúcana,*
a
Petru Maior University of Tîrgu-Mureú, Nicolae Iorga Street 1, Tîrgu-Mureú 540088, România

Abstract

The wide application of IFRS around the word, boosted in the context of the IAS Regulation in 2002, opened the field for
many empirical studies that analyzed different perspectives on the voluntary or mandatory IFRS adoption. In order to
achieve the intended benefits of IFRS adoption, related to increased comparability and transparency of financial reporting,
IFRS application should result in improved quality of accounting information. The main objective of our paper is to analyze
the effect of the transition from the national accounting standards to IFRS on accounting quality in Europe, based on the
research literature. Our study presents the metrics used by researchers in order to measure accounting quality and
summarizes the determinants of accounting quality.

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in Finante local organization.
Corporatiste

Keywords: IFRS adoption, accounting quality, Europe, literature review, financial reporting, stakeholders

1. Introduction

Researchers provide evidences on the advantages of IFRS adoption, but also document the limits of this
process, highlight the effects of IFRS on earnings, book value of equity or other items from the financial
statements. According to Hung and Subramanyan (2004), “[e]xamining financial statement implications is
important because, while IAS adoption might lead to indirect economic consequences such as higher market

* Corresponding author: Tel.: +40-265-219-034; fax: +40-265-219-034.


E-mail address: irina.pascan@ea.upm.ro.

2212-5671 © 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
(http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Asociatia Grupul Roman de Cercetari in Finante Corporatiste
doi:10.1016/S2212-5671(15)01435-5
Irina-Doina Păşcan / Procedia Economics and Finance 32 (2015) 580 – 587 581

liquidity or lower cost of capital, the only direct effects of adopting IAS are changed financial statements…”. In
order to achieve the intended benefits of IFRS adoption, related to increased comparability and transparency of
financial reporting, IFRS application should result in improved quality of accounting information.
Our paper intends to answer the following research questions:
• What is the definition of accounting quality?
• How can we measure the quality of accounting data presented in the financial statements?
• Since IFRS are considered high-quality accounting standards, does IFRS adoption alone insure the
enhancement of the quality of financial reporting?
We intend to answer these research questions by means of a qualitative research conducted on accounting
literature. Our research is developed based on a number of 30 papers published in journals that are included in
ProQuest Central database. This international database was chosen because it is considered “the largest
aggregated database of periodical content” and we were able to access a large number of full text available
articles. In order to select the analyzed papers, we searched for the words “IFRS” in articles’ abstracts and
“accounting quality” in the content of all full-text available articles. Next, we refined the search results in order
to include only papers published in conference proceedings, scholarly journals and trade journals, written in
English or French. The database query generated a list of 1,590 results, published during 2002-2014. We
reviewed the resulted articles and, since our objective is to analyze the effect of the transition from the national
accounting standards to IFRS on accounting quality in Europe, we excluded papers that addressed the
relationship between particular changes in IFRS and accounting quality or papers that are not focused on the
European setting. From the beginning we can point out the limits of our study, regarding the subjectiveness in
selecting the papers. Also, we are aware of the fact that valuable research papers about the effects of IFRS
adoption on accounting quality can be found in other research databases. However, some of the analyzed papers
can be considered valuable, if we take into account the citation index (for example, at the date of this study, the
paper of Ahmed et al. published in 2013 was cited by 111 researchers).

2. Definition of accounting quality in the research literature

Along with the adoption of IFRS, entities must also follow the Conceptual Framework for Financial
Reporting 2010 approved by IASB (IFRS Framework), as a theoretical foundation of all the other specific
accounting standards. “IFRS Framework states the objective of general purpose financial reporting (by
reference to the primary users), wherefrom certain qualitative characteristics of useful financial information
emerge” (Păúcan and Neag, 2013). In this context, we consider the IFRS Framework as a primary source for
defining accounting quality:The qualitative characteristics of useful financial reporting identify the types of
information are likely to be most useful to users in making decisions about the reporting entity on the basis of
information in its financial report. The qualitative characteristics apply equally to financial information in
general purpose financial reports as well as to financial information provided in other ways. [F QC1, QC3]
Financial information is useful when it is relevant and represents faithfully what it purports to represent. The
usefulness of financial information is enhanced if it is comparable, verifiable, timely and understandable. [F
QC4] Martinez-Ferrero (2014) defines financial reporting quality (FRQ) as “the faithfulness of the information
conveyed by the financial reporting process… FRQ requires companies to voluntarily expand the scope and
quality of the information they report, to ensure that market participants are fully informed in order to make
well-grounded decisions on investment, credit, etc”.
According to Chen et al. (2010), accounting quality represents “the extent to which the financial statement
information reflects the underlying economic situation”. Platikanova and Perramon (2012) argue that “[t]he
quality of information is high if users are able to identify similarities in and differences between two sets of
economic phenomena”, referring to the fact that IFRS “is proposed to eliminate informational externalities
arising from lack of comparability”.
582 Irina-Doina Păşcan / Procedia Economics and Finance 32 (2015) 580 – 587

3. Measures of accounting quality – classification based on research literature

Since accounting quality is appreciated in relation to the informational value of accounting information for
investors, lenders and other creditors, the quality metrics developed in the research literature are also tailored in
order to assess the usefulness of accounting to all relevant stakeholders. Our study identified a typology of
metrics used by researchers for measuring the quality of data published in the financial statements:

3.1. The value relevance approach

Value relevance is being defined as the ability of information disclosed by financial statements to capture
and summarize firm value. Value relevance can be measured through the statistical relations between
information presented by financial statements and stock market values or returns (Kar÷ın, 2013). Great number
of empirical papers used the value relevance to measure the effects of IFRS adoption on the quality of
accounting data. A possible explanation for this choice could be the emphasis on investors, as primary user of
financial reporting. The value relevance methodology provide the opportunity to analyze to what extent
information in accordance with IFRS are more representative of events incorporated in market values (share
price or returns), thus used and valorized by investors (Lenormand and Touchais, 2009). Fourteen of the
analyzed papers user the value relevance models in order to measure the effect of IFRS adoption on accounting
quality.

3.2. The credit relevance approach

Since there is “a variety of demands for financial reporting from parties other than stock market investors”
(Soderstrom and Sun, 2007), researchers developed other metrics for accounting quality, in order to address the
specific needs for useful accounting information expressed by other stakeholders. For the specific needs of
lenders and other creditors, researchers have developed the credit relevance concept, used to investigate
whether IFRS adoption provides more useful financial statements. Credit relevance is defined as “the relative
ability of accounting risk measures to explain default probability captured by S&P's issuer credit ratings” (Kosi,
2010). More precisely, the author tested whether credit ratings are more sensitive to profitability, leverage and
interest coverage ratio reported under mandatory IFRS reporting regime. More informative financial statements
following mandatory IFRS adoption should contribute to an increase in the credit relevance of accounting
information. As a consequence of improved accounting data after IFRS adoption, Skerratt and Pizzo (2014)
analyzed the effect of the mandatory adoption of IFRS within the EU on the cost of corporate debt. The authors
explain the relationship between IFRS adoption and the cost of corporate debt, since the latter is influenced by
the risk associated to inadequate information about the company. “This situation arises because information is
costly to acquire and/or the disclosures of the company may lack credibility. The lender compensates for this
risk by choosing an interest rate (or another aspect of the debt contract) which reflects the information risk as
well as the economic risk associated with the borrower” (Skerratt and Pizzo, 2014: 65).

3.3. The extent of earnings management practices

IFRS adoption contributes to the improvement of accounting quality if it reduces earnings management
practices. The relationship between IFRS adoption and earnings management is explained by Barth et al. (2008)
referring to the fact that IFRS eliminate certain accounting alternatives thereby reducing managerial discretion;
this could reduce the extent of opportunistic earnings management and thus improve accounting quality. We
identified the following proxies used in the analyzed research literature to capture earnings management
practices:
Irina-Doina Păşcan / Procedia Economics and Finance 32 (2015) 580 – 587 583

• income smoothing (Zeghal et al., 2012; Ahmed et al., 2013; Paanamen and Lin, 2009; Christensen et al.,
2008; Chen et al., 2010; Hellman, 2011; Uyar, 2013);
• earnings management to meet or beat a target (Ahmed et al., 2013; Chen et al., 2010);
• managing toward small positive earnings (Zeghal et al., 2012; Christensen et al., 2008; Uyar, 2013);
• accruals quality (Zeghal et al., 2012; Martinez-Ferrero, 2014; Chen et al. 2010);
• absolute discretionary accruals (Zeghal et al., 2012; Bouchareb et al., 2014; Boumediene et al., 2014; Chen
et al., 2010; Uyar, 2013);
• absolute value of abnormal accruals (Lopes et al., 2010).

3.4. Timeliness of loss recognition was investigated by Ahmed et al. (2013), Zeghal et al. (2012), Paanamen
and Lin (2009), Christensen et al. (2008), Chen et al. (2010) and Uyar, (2013).

3.5. Accounting quality and accounting conservatism was studied in only two of the analyzed papers, by
Zeghal et al. (2012) and Martinez-Ferrero, (2014).

Timeliness and conservatism are argued to be desirable attributes of earnings and together capture much of the
commonly used concept of financial statement transparency. Timeliness is defined as the ability of earnings to
reflect good news and bad news incorporated in returns. Conservatism is viewed as the differential ability of
accounting earnings to reflect economic losses versus economic gains (Zeghal et al., 2012). Masca and Neag
(2014) provide a literature review on the impact of IFRS adoption on accounting conservatism and show that
“following the adoption of IFRS, the level of conservatism decreased in countries whose local GAAP was
closer to IFRS, but that now, big companies manifest a demand for conservatism”.

4. Determinants of accounting quality

Based on the study of the selected research papers, we ascertain that, using the same accounting quality
metrics, researchers provided mixed results on the ability of the transition towards IFRS to improve the quality
of accounting data. One of the possible explanations could be the circumstances of adopting the IFRS:
voluntary or mandatory. Christensen et al. (2008) show that “improvements are confined to firms with
incentives to adopt” and “incentives dominate accounting standards in determining accounting quality”. Also,
authors are referring to different determinants of accounting quality, which, along with IFRS adoption,
emphasize the quality of financial reporting. Table 1 summarizes the findings of the empirical research
regarding the positive or negative effect of IFRS adoption in different European countries or groups of
European countries.
Data presented in the table above show mixed results regarding the effect of IFRS adoption on accounting
quality in Europe. Different factors are used in accounting literature to explain the results obtained for the tests
of IFRS impact on accounting quality.
An exhaustive depiction for such factors is presented by Soderstrom and Sun (2007); the authors argue that
accounting quality after IFRS adoption depends on three factors:
• the quality of the standards;
• a country’s legal and political system; and
• financial reporting incentives, regarding financial market development, capital structure, ownership structure
and tax system.

Table no. 1 Evidences on the effects of IFRS adoption on accounting quality


584 Irina-Doina Păşcan / Procedia Economics and Finance 32 (2015) 580 – 587

Study European countries included Metrics used Findings


in the sample
Christensen et al. (2008) Germany earnings management No evidence of accounting
(income smoothing; quality improvements for firms
managing towards small that are forced to adopt IFRS.
positive earnings); timely Voluntary adoption of IFRS is
loss recognition associated with decreased
earnings management and more
timely loss recognition.
Karampinis and Hevas (2009) Greece value relevance The adoption of IFRS positively
affected the value relevance of
consolidated net income and book
value although it had no effect on
their unconsolidated counterparts.
Lenormand and Touchais (2009) France value relevance Positive financial impact on
earnings and equity.
Paanamen and Lin (2009) Germany earnings management Decrease in accounting quality.
(income smoothing), Accounting quality improved for
timely loss recognition, voluntary adoption of IFRS.
value relevance
Chen et al. (2010) Austria, Belgium, Denmark, earnings management After IFRS adoption: less of
Finland, France, Germany, (income smoothing, managing earnings towards a
Greece, Ireland, Italy, managing earnings toward target, lower magnitude of
Luxembourg, Netherlands, targets, absolute absolute discretionary accruals
Portugal, Spain, Sweden, discretionary accruals, and higher accruals quality; but
UK accruals quality), timely more earnings smoothing and
loss recognition large losses in a less timely
manner.
Kosi (2010) Austria, Finland, France, credit relevance Increased credit relevance of the
Germany, Greece, Ireland, interest coverage ratio;
Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Increased credit relevance of
Portugal, Spain, Sweden, profitability for mandatory
Switzerland, UK adopters from countries with
strong creditor protection;
Increased credit relevance of
interest coverage exists in
countries with strong and weak
creditor protection, financial risk
and law enforcement.
Lopes et al. (2010) Austria, Belgium, Denmark, earnings management For firms in EU, IFRS produce a
Finland, France, Germany, (absolute value of negative effect on accounting
Greece, Ireland, Italy, abnormal accruals) quality;
Luxembourg, Netherlands, For European firms which are not
Portugal, Spain, Sweden, EU members the IFRS adoption
UK, Norway, Switzerland increases accounting quality;
Accounting quality does not
improve just because the adoption
of IFRS is mandatory.
Kousenidis et al. (2010) Greece value relevance IFRS reduced the incremental
information content of book
values of equity for stock prices;
earnings’ incremental information
content increased for the post-
IFRS period.
Maggina and Tsaklanganos (2011) Greece value relevance No effect of IFRS on stock prices
and returns.
Hellman (2011) Sweden earnings management Voluntary IFRS adoption gave
(income smoothing) firms discretion used for earnings
management purposes.
Klimczak (2011) Poland value relevance The average impact of IFRS
adoption is relatively small.
Irina-Doina Păşcan / Procedia Economics and Finance 32 (2015) 580 – 587 585

Study European countries included Metrics used Findings


in the sample
Narktabtee and Patpanichchot (2011, a) Austria, Belgium, Denmark, value relevance The adoption of IFRS leads to
Finland, France, Germany, improvement in value relevance;
Greece, Ireland, Italy, The countries which apparently
Luxembourg, Netherlands, benefit from adopting IFRS are
Norway, Poland, Portugal, those with high deviation of local
Spain, Sweden, UK accounting standards from IFRS
and high investor protection.
Takacs (2012) Romania value relevance IFRS adoption had a negative
effect on accounting information
from the market perspective.
Zeghal et al.(2012) Austria, Belgium, Denmark, earnings management Some improvement in accounting
Finland, France, Germany, (income smoothing, quality;
Greece, Ireland, Italy, managing toward small Firms exhibit an increase in the
Luxembourg, Netherlands, positive earnings, accruals accounting-based attributes, but a
Portugal, Spain, Sweden, quality, absolute decrease in the market-based after
UK discretionary accruals), the adoption of IFRS in 2005;
conditional conservatism, Findings are more pronounced for
value relevance the firms in countries where the
distance between the pre-existing
national GAAP and IFRS is
important.
Ahmed et al. (2013) Greece, Italy, Portugal, earnings management Increase in income smoothing;
Spain, Austria, Belgium, (income smoothing, Significant reduction in
Denmark, Finland, France, earnings management to timeliness of loss recognition;
Germany, Ireland, meet or beat a target); Do not find evidence consistent
Netherlands, Norway, timely loss recognition with meeting or beating earnings
Sweden, Switzerland, UK targets;
Accounting quality decreased;
These effects hold mainly for
IFRS adopters in strong
enforcement countries.
Nafti et al. (2013) France value relevance The application of IFRS increases
the information content of
accounting numbers.
Kar÷ın (2013) Turkey value relevance Value relevance of accounting
information has improved in the
post-IFRS period considering
book values, while improvements
have not been observed in value
relevance of earnings.
Uyar (2013) Turkey earnings management The quality of accounting was
(discretionary accruals, improved and the market became
small positive earnings, more active.
income smoothing), timely
loss recognition, value
relevance
Martinez-Ferrero (2014) United Kingdom, Ireland, earnings management Firms located in areas with a
Germany, Netherlands, (accruals quality); lower corruption perception, in
Luxemburg, Austria, accounting conservatism countries that have adopted IFRS
Denmark, Norway, Finland, and in business cycle expansion,
Sweden, Switzerland, information quality has a positive
France, Italy, Spain, influence on financial
Belgium, Portugal, Greece performance.
Boumediene et al. (2014) France earnings management The degree of earnings
(discretionary accruals) management decreases.
Bouchareb et al. (2014) France earnings management The level of discretionary
(discretionary accruals) accruals decreases significantly
after the application of IFRS.
586 Irina-Doina Păşcan / Procedia Economics and Finance 32 (2015) 580 – 587

The quality of the standards chosen is often referred in the literature in terms of the “distance” between
previously used GAAP and the IFRSs. According to Ahmed et al. (2013), “[i]f IFRS are of higher quality than
domestic GAAP, and they are appropriately enforced, then mandatory adoption of IFRS is expected to improve
accounting quality”. The authors define a higher quality standard as “a standard that either reduces managerial
discretion over accounting choices or inherently disallows smoothing or overstatement of earnings”.
Narktabtee and Patpanichchot (2011, b) explain how the improvement of the quality of accounting
information depends on both country and firm characteristics, which influence reporting incentives: “the firms
which operate in a weak investor protection environment and have firm characteristics which induce or allow
the managers to use high managerial discretion (i.e., small size, high cash flow volatility, high sales volatility,
and frequent incidences of loss) do not experience significant improvement in value relevance from IFRS
adoption”.

5. Conclusions

Accounting standards, legal and political systems, incentives of financial reporting all affect accounting
quality. Results obtained from empirical research regarding the effects of IFRS adoption on accounting quality
should be interpreted in relation with the country-specific factors and firm-specific factors. Testing the effects
of IFRS adoption on the quality of accounting data is necessary, but not enough; knowing whether IFRS
contributed to enhanced accounting quality is not the end of the road. Further research needs to be done in
order to investigate the consequences of the increased quality of the information presented in the financial
statements.

Acknowledgements

This work was cofinanced from the European Social Fund through Sectoral Operational Programme Human
Resources Development 2007-2013, project number POSDRU/159/1.5/S/142115 „Performance and excellence
in doctoral and postdoctoral research in Romanian economics science domain”.

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