Definitions of Creative Accounting: The term ‘creative accounting’ can define in several ways. Initially, we will offer this definition; “A process whereby accountants use their knowledge of accounting rules to manipulate the figures reported in the accounts of a business”. The concept of Creative Accounting study: Methods of Creative Accounting, Techniques of Creative Accounting, and Prevention of Creative Accounting! Also learned, Definition, Motivation, and Ethical Considerations.
Learn, Explain Creative Accounting: Methods, Techniques, and Prevention!
They characterize by excessive complications and the use of novel ways of characterizing income, assets, or liabilities. This results in financial reports that are not at all dull; but have all the complications of a novel by James Joyce, hence the appellation “creative”. Sometimes the words “innovative” or “aggressive” use.
Creative accounting, which generally involves the preparation of financial statements with the intention of misleading readers of those statements, is prima facie a form of lying. Creative accounting is a euphemism referring to accounting practices that may follow the letter of the rules of standard accounting practices but deviate from the spirit of those rules.
It examines and rejects the arguments for considering creative accounting, despite its deceptive intent, as not being a form of lying. It then examines the ethical issues raised by creative accounting, in the light of the literature on the ethics of lying.
This literature includes the evaluation of various excuses and justifications for lying and this examines here about creative accounting. It concludes that even in circumstances in which creative accounting would arguably serve a worthy purpose; that purpose would be at least as well served by honest communication.
Creative accounting also called aggressive accounting, is the manipulation of financial numbers; usually within the letter of the law and accounting standards; but very much against their spirit and certainly not providing the “true and fair” view of a company that accounts suppose to:
- A typical aim of creative accounting will be to inflate profit figures. Some companies may also reduce reported profits in good years to smooth results. Assets and liabilities may also manipulate, either to remain within limits such as debt covenant or to hide problems.
- Typical creative accounting tricks include off-balance-sheet financing, over-optimistic revenue recognition, and the use of exaggerated non-recurring items.
- Window Dressing has a similar meaning when applied to accounts; but is a broader term that can apply to other areas. In the US it is often used to describe the manipulation of investment portfolio performance numbers. In the context of accounts, “window dressing” is more likely than “creative accounting” to imply illegal or fraudulent practices, but it needs to do so.
- The techniques of creative accounting change over time. As accounting standards change, the techniques that will work change. Many changes in accounting standards are meant to block particular ways of manipulating accounts; which means that intent on creative accounting needs to find new ways of doing things. At the same time, other, well-intentioned, changes in accounting standards open up new opportunities for creative accounting, and in the use of fair value is a good example of this.
- Many creative accounting techniques change the main numbers shown in the financial statements but make themselves evident elsewhere, most often in the notes to the accounts. The market has been surprised before by bad news hidden in the notes, so a diligent approach can give you an edge.
Methods of Creative Accounting:
The following methods below are;
1] First Methods:
Although not technically wrong, many annual and quarterly reports and presentations dive heavily into theoretical scenarios where one-time “charges” to earnings are excluded. What this means is, for example, a lawsuit settlement amount would take out of the reported profit in one big chunk, even if its payout little by little over time.
This practice call reserves. Often, when explaining the quarterly results, a CEO might say; “Well if we didn’t take this charge for the lawsuit, we would have made this much money”. Very often, the hypothetical situations proposed to get even more complicated. The main “creative” aspect to this is when a “one time” “exceptional” charge is very common to the business.
2] Second Methods:
Banks can lend out most of the money they receive in the deposit. The banks can also lend money they borrow from other banks. However, to protect against bad loans, banks must keep aside a stash of money called a “reserve”. The bank, within general guidelines, gets to set the size of this reserve to what it feels prudent compare to how risky its outstanding loans are. However, when the bank wants to make it look like it made more money this quarter than last; one way to do that is to make money from the reserve and call it is profit with the excuse that the loans are safer now than before and that amount was no longer needed.
3] Third Methods:
One of the main genres of “creative accounting” know as slush fund accounting; whereby some earnings from this quarter hideaway just in case the profit from next quarter is not enough for the management to make their bonuses. This happened most famously at Freddie Mac. As of 2004, there is a large investigation underway to see if retroactive insurance policies from insurers such as General Re of Berkshire Hathaway were used for slush fund accounting. The question is if these insurance policies truly transferred some risk or were merely a slush fund.
Techniques of Creative Accounting:
Creative accounting actively applies in six areas. The first area is regulatory flexibility, whereby changes in accounting policy permit by accounting regulation. For example, IAS permit carrying non-current assets can recover at either revalued amount or depreciated historical cost in asset valuation. Secondly, the dearth of regulation by which some accounting treatment might not be fully regulated as there are few mandatory requirements. The third area is management has a large extent of estimation in discretionary areas, such as assumption in bad debts provision. Fourthly, some transactions can time to show the desired appearance in accounts.
For example, the manager is free to choose the timing to sell the investment just to increase earning in the accounts. Fifthly, to manipulate balance sheet amounts by using artificial transactions. Last but not least, by reclassification and presentation of financial amounts through balance sheet manipulation to smooth financial ratios; and, also based on the cognitive reference point in financial numbers’ presentation.
Prevention of Creative Accounting:
Those companies most at risk for fraudulent financial reporting tend to be those that have one or more of the following attributes: weak internal control; no audit committee; a family relationship among directors and/or officers; assets and revenue less than $ 100 million; and/or a board of directors dominated by individuals with significant equity ownership; and, little experience serving as directors of other companies.
To prevent creative accounting, the experts opine that accountants and managers should divide the duties of an internal control checklist. Furthermore, an independent audit committee should always have someone with a strong accounting background; and, audit experience who deals directly with outside auditors. The investors should diversify their investment portfolio to circumvent the problems related to creative accounting by a few unscrupulous companies.
The company has to adhere strictly to the ethical values it has set itself in the long-run and the short-run of the life of the company. The accounting and accounting practices have to be consistent; and, show to the investors that it is following the ethical practices in all its financial dealing as well as reporting.
How Enron Played the Game of Creative Accounting:
According to Mulford, the expert in the field, the most common creative accounting practices include improper revenue recognition and misreporting expenses. However, Enron’s game, explains Mulford, involved special-purpose entities.
“Enron conducted much of its business in these entities that they controlled. They transacted with themselves. That kind of self-dealing allowed them to report profits when they weren’t traditionally making a profit.”
Though Mulford wrote the book before and published shortly after Enron’s dealings became public, the authors included a special note in the preface regarding the company’s accounting practices, noting that Enron’s “investors and creditors had not fully discounted the risk associated with the firm’s trading activities, its off-balance sheet liabilities, and its related-party transactions.” The authors add they believe careful attention to steps outlined in The Financial Numbers Game “would have provided an early alert to the possibility of developing problems.”