Purpose - To provide a framework of accounting policy choice associated with the timing of adoption of the UK Statement of Standard Accounting Practice (SSAP) No. 20, "Foreign Currency Translation". The conceptual framework describes the accounting policy choices that firms face in a setting that is influenced by: their financial characteristics; the flexible foreign exchange rates; and the stock market response to accounting decisions. Design/methodology/approach - Following the positive accounting theory context, this paper puts into a framework the motives and choices of UK firms with regard to the adoption or deferment of the adoption of SSAP 20. The paper utilises the theoretical and empirical findings of previous studies to form and substantiate the conceptual framework. Given the UK foreign exchange setting, the framework identifies the initial stage: lack of regulation and flexibility in financial reporting; the intermediate stage: accounting policy choice; and the final stage: accounting choice and policy review. Findings - There are situations where accounting regulation contrasts with the needs and business objectives of firms and vice-versa. Thus, firms may delay the adoption up to the point where the increase in political costs can just be tolerated. Overall, the study infers that firms might have chosen to defer the adoption of SSAP 20 until they reach a certain corporate goal, or the adverse impact (if any) of the accounting change on firms' financial numbers is minimal. Thus, the determination of the timing of the adoption is a matter which is subject to the objectives of the managers in association with the market and economic conditions. The paper suggests that the flexibility in financial reporting, which may enhance the scope for income-smoothing, can be mitigated by the appropriate standardisation of accounting practice. Research limitations/implications - First, the study encompassed a period when firms and investors were less sophisticated users of financial information. Second, it is difficult to ascertain the decisions that firms would have taken, had the pound appreciated over the period of adoption and had the firms incurred translation losses rather than translation gains. Originality/value - This paper is useful to accounting standards setters, professional accountants, academics and investors. The study can give the accounting standard-setting bodies useful information when they prepare a change in the accounting regulation or set an appropriate date for the implementation of an accounting standard. The paper provides significant insight about the behaviour of firms and the associated impacts of financial markets and regulation on the decision-making process of firms. The framework aims to assist the market and other authorities to reduce information asymmetry and to reinforce the efficiency of the market. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
- accounting policy
- accounting standards