Accounting has evolved as human beings have evolved and as the concepts of the accounting subject are directly coined out from its most fundamental principle of conservatism, it is not difficult to see why the style of accounting at every point in time has a direct link with the age. As man has developed from a primitive age to a modern interdependence age, living has advanced from being subsistent as a hunter-gatherer to a knowledge driven globalised world concept of ‘effectiveness turning to greatness’ and all along with this evolution, self accounting with the abacus has developed through stewardship accounting to financial accounting and now managerial accounting; which has a focus on decision making.
The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) of the US which generally standardised and strengthened the globally adopted Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) took significant strides in the year 2012 to come together with the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) in a manner termed as ‘International Convergence’. Such a convergence is expected to gradually harmonise the GAAPs and the IFRS until they become one and the same in a bid to stream line corporate/company reports into a uniform process globally.
1.1 Statement of the Problem
There is no absolute certainty as to what the future holds for the Accounting Profession. It thus seems however, that the future age which definitely would be one of scientific advancement, would move man from greatness to something worthier for the time. Spiritualism, Environmentalism and Developmentalism could be key factors in the future age. This paper is to find out if Accounting itself would be more of a reality providing accurate solutions to financial problems where man’s ability to value natural capital fairly would give rise to a significant asset on the balance sheet in contrast to the industrial age when even man himself was regarded as labour and not being considered as important as the machines he operated.
2. LITERATURE REVIEW
This paper was approached from a content analysis view point – both conceptual and relational. A content analysis is “a research technique for the objective, systematic, and quantitative description of manifest content of communications” – (Berelson, 52). The conceptual analysis was simply to examine the presence of the problem, i.e. whether there is a stronger presence of positive or negative words used with respect to the specific argument while the relational analysis built on the conceptual analysis by examining the relationships among concepts. As with other sorts of inquiry, initial choices with regard to what is being studied determined the possibility of this particular paper.
2.1 Evolution of Accounting Theory
According to investopedia.com, Accounting Theory in the light of its evolution can be defined as the review of both historical foundations of accounting practice as well as the way in which accounting practices are verified and added to the study and application of financial principles. Accounting as a discipline is believed to have existed since the 15th Century. From that time to now businesses and economies have continued to evolve greatly. Accounting theory must adapt to new ways of doing business, new technological standards and gaps that are discovered in reporting mechanisms hence, it is a continuously evolving subject. As professional accounting organisations help companies interpret and use accounting standards, so do the Accounting Standards Board help continually create more efficient practical applications of accounting theory. Accounting is the foundation of efficient and effective business management and intelligent managerial decision making, without which businesses and trade world-wide would operate blindly and fatally. It is therefore necessary to link how it has evolved to its future role.
2.2 The Origin of Accounting
Luca Pacioli wrote a Maths book in 1494 (ehow) that consisted of a chapter on the mathematics of business. As this book is thought to be first official book on accounting, Luca Pacioli has severally been regarded as ‘the father of accounting’. In his Maths book, Pacioli explained that the successful merchant needed 3 things: sufficient cash or credit; an accounting system that can tell him how he is doing; and a good book keeper to operate it. Pacioli’s theory still holds today, it included both journals and ledgers and it is believed to have popularised the use of the double entry accounting that had been in place since the late 1300s.
2.2.1 The First Change in Accounting
During the depression of 1772, the Accounting profession went beyond book keeping to cost accounting. The theory and the idea were transformed into a method determining whether a business is operating efficiently or using an excess of labour and resources. The new theory of cost accounting allowed a trained book-keeper or an accountant to use the book kept to extract financial reports to show the efficiency represented by such data. This new idea led to the survival of businesses during the depression; business that would otherwise have failed without an intelligent management decision making informed by a cost accounting breakthrough.
2.2.2 The American Revolution/ British Courts Influence
The end of the American Revolution saw the first United States (US) governmental accounting system being created in 1789 and it was established to account for and manage the treasury of the US. The double entry practice and theory were adopted. The British courts ruled that they needed professional accountants to make financial information in relation to court cases. Chartered accounting bodies/ concepts were introduced in Britain (and in the US in particular, the Certified Public Accountant – CPA). In 1887, the first standardised exam emerged with Frank Broaker becoming US’s first CPA.
2.3 Modern Cost Accounting
This was first established by General Motors (GM) Company in 1923 and it developed methods that helped cut its costs and streamlined operations and this remained relevant for over 50 years. The new accounting techniques developed included return on investment, return on equity and GM’s flexible/adjustable budget concept.
2.4 Accounting Concepts and Conventions
This was established in US between 1936 and 1938 by the Committee on Accounting Procedure (CAP) thereby standardising Accounting practices for all companies throughout the US. In 1953, the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) was updated to new standards, CAP became Accounting Principles Board (APB) in 1959 and later in 1973, APB (having suffered from poor management) was replaced by Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) with greater powers and opinion for its professional stance.
2.5 International Financial Reporting Standards
FASB issued almost 200 pronouncements between 1973 and 2009 thereby establishing the foundation of Accounting Standards in use presently and is now making current moves to harmonise all accounting principles of GAAP with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). It is widely believed that development of accounting profession in any nation and around the globe is a mixed effort of both accounting theoreticians and practicing accountants. Thus, the framework of accounting is a harmony of efforts whereby professional accounting bodies are usually in the lead of a path to regulation and standardisation of issues relating to accounting.
2.6 The Nigerian Scenario
In Nigeria, the case is not different from what has already been discussed. Most of the country’s accounting standards (concepts and conventions) were inherited from the British colonial masters. And because the world has indeed become a large global village with globalised accounting bodies supervising and making sure that all member countries are abreast with current Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, Nigeria has also tagged along making several public sector and private sector reforms the most recent and famous of which include the approval by the Federal Government in July 2010 to adopt International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) for the public sector and the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) for the private sector as a conscious effort to ensure a uniform chart of reporting system throughout the country by both the public sector and private sector.
2.7 International Convergence of Accounting Standards
This concept is both a goal and a path taken to reach such a goal. The FASB believed that the ultimate goal of convergence is a single set of high-quality, international accounting standards that, companies world-wide would use for both domestic and cross-border financial reporting. To this end, conscious efforts are being made by the FASB and the IASB to jointly eliminate the differences between the ‘GAAP’ and the ‘IFRS’. One such conscious effort was made on the April 5th 2012 when an update report was submitted to the Financial Stability Board Plenary on Accounting Convergence. The ever increasing demand by global capital markets driven by investors’ desire for high-quality internationally comparable financial information is as a result of the usefulness it is expected to immediately provide for decision making and thereafter accurate solutions to problem solving. The IASB was established 1st April 2001 as successor to International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC) and on March 1st 2001 the IASB, which is an independent accounting standard-setter based in London, England assumed the responsibilities for Accounting Standardisation. The IASB is responsible for issuing many accounting standards and pronouncements known as the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).
3. PRESENTATION OF FINDINGS
To give a pictorial view to this paper, two (2) illustrations are used to make presentations (interpretations) of the findings. Illustration.1 traces the Evolution of Accounting; its principles, roles, concepts, professionalism, standardisation and internationalisation. Illustration.2 on the one hand relates Accounting evolution with Human evolution and on the other hand it broadens the understanding of the reader with regards to the subject matter. The reader (user) of this paper easily discovers a past-present-future view of the Role of Accounting and it purports to postulate finally what the future of Accounting could (or should) be. Self Accounting is not a terminology found in the literature of Accounting but is used here to depict any primitive Accounting system which was maintained by traders long before double-entry. Self Accounting, thus, was the past of Accounting when the role of Accounting was merely to have records of Incomes and Expenses, show Liabilities and not necessarily showing Assets and profits as distinguished from the personal or private earnings/estates of a trader. Assets at times might have been recorded as expenses. These are assumable because most businesses operated (and still operate) as sole-ownerships. The Present role of Accounting encompasses; stewardship, financial reporting and managerial decision making. These three provide the nexus of what Accounting is today. The stewardship aspect is so referred to because rich merchants in Europe and the Americas at that time trained their slaves to render book-keeping services. So the merchants themselves did not have to do the tasks. Financial Accounting was developed to give standard to financial reporting especially for the users of such reports who are largely to the businesses concerned. Managerial Accounting evolved to provide records that would aid the decision making process of the managers and owners of businesses. Generally all three roles of accounting as at present assist stakeholders to make good judgments regarding their dealings with businesses. These stakeholders may or ‘may not’ have rights to receive the reports so discussed. The stakeholders include; creditors and government (having rights to receive only financial reports); the shareholders, investors and management (who make use of both the financial reports and the managerial reports); the employee and the management team (who are the users of all the reports: book-keeping, financial reports and managerial reports); and the competitors, resident community and customers – who do not have rights to receive such reports but are able to retrieve financial reports (annual reports) to aid their decisions with regards any business of interest to them.
Having accurate records (reports) support good decision making but sometimes bad interpretation and judgment of the reports and their recorded results may lead to bad decisions taken. The three roles of accounting presently have been the bed-rock with which accounting standardisation of principles and procedures have evolved to date. The Emerging Role (Future) of Accounting then must be anticipated with keen readiness with regards to what should be probable. Illustration.2 would do justice to this concept.
Illustration.1- The Evolution of Accounting in the US (1300 – 2014)
Stewardship (prior 1300)
-Slaves trained to render basic book-keeping
Double Entry (1300)
-Introduction of Double Entry principles
Book-keeping improved (1494)
-Financial Reporting begins
Cost Accounting (1772)
-Managerial Accounting for Decision Making begins
Double Entry (1789)
-Principle of Conservatism fully adopted
-Concepts/Chartered bodies introduced
AICPA formed in US (1887)
-Providing standards and operational guidelines
-Certification process begins
Qualifying Exams (1897)
-First standardised exams introduced
Cost Accounting Revamped (1923)
-Modern cost accounting methods developed by General Motors Company and remained relevant beyond 1973
Concepts and Conventions (1936)
-Conservatism expanded into other concepts and conventions
-US Committee on Accounting Procedure (CAP) establishes standard accounting practices
CAP Evolves (1953)
-New standards of GAAP fully established
CAP further evolves (1959)
-CAP becomes APB (Accounting Principles Board)
APB evolves (1973)
-Due to poor management and inability to Accounting theory as desired, APB is replaced by FASB
FASB established (1973)
-Financial Accounting Standards Board replaces APB and makes over 200 pronouncements up to 2009
-The foundation of accounting Standards all over the world further strengthened
Influence from the England (2001)
-IASB established as an independent ‘International Accounting Standards-Setter’ based in London, England
-IASB assumes responsibilities from IASC on March 1st 2001
FASB and the International Convergence (2012-2014)
-GAAP (established by the FASB) is being considered for merger into the IFRS (established by the IASB)
3.1 Reality Accounting versus the Future Role of Accounting?
What is Reality Accounting and what then should Reality Accounting encompass? Wikipedia.com defines reality as the totality of all things, structures (actual and conceptual), events (past or present) and phenomena whether observable or not. Reality is thus seen as a term that links ideologies to world views or part of them (conceptual frameworks). Reality Accounting is close to ‘Fair Value Accounting’, which is both a basis and theory of accounting. And it seems to be transforming into the Future Role of Accounting. In Financial Accounting, it is easily seen that accounting reflects corporate and economic realities as they are, though it is common sense to know that accounting cannot adequately reflect reality particularly in relation to the technical limitation of double-entry bookkeeping and Fair Value Accounting. As part of the changes emanating from Reality Accounting, a new concept of ‘Natural Capital’ has surfaced. At the Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development organised by the United Nations Conference for Sustainable Development (UNCSD), which took place in Brazil on 20-22 June 2012. At the Conference, a Natural Capital declaration was made such that Natural capital is now understood to be comprising of all Earth’s natural assets (soil, air, water, flora and fauna) and the ecosystem services resulting from them, which make human life possible. It estimated that ecosystem goods and services from natural capital are worth trillions of US dollars per year and constitute food, fibre, water, health, energy, climate security and other essential services for everyone.
3.2 The Concept of Natural Capital
Neither the services, nor the stock of Natural Capital that provides them, are adequately valued compared to social and financial capital despite being fundamental to all that exists. The daily use of Natural Capital remains grossly undetected within our financial system. There is therefore the need to use Natural Capital in a manner that is sustainable. All stakeholders, including the private sector and governments must begin to appreciate and account for the use of Natural Capital and recognise the true cost of its economic growth as well as sustaining human wellbeing now and in the future.
3.3 Natural Capital Framework
Natural Capital though treated as a free good but must be seen as part of a global pool of wealth for which governments must act now and wisely to create a framework that shall regulate, reward or tax the private sector for its use. Reliable policy frameworks that can report the value, use and depletion of natural capital must be the intent of any government desirous of making a good start with this new accounting phenomenon. Deeper economic influence is given to accounting under Reality Accounting since all that are regarded as real are only truly real in their consequence and not in their physical. Therefore the value of Natural Capital for instance would be the value ascertained after considering various factors that give rise to such valuation. These factors include the size, presence of mineral resources, location, other natural resources, presence of plant and animal life etc.
Illustration.2- The Emerging Role (Future) of Accounting
HUMAN AGE………….HUMAN EVOLUTION…………………………….ACCOUNTING EVOLUTION
Primitive age………..Hunter – gatherer……………………………..Self Accounting
Colonial age…………Colonialisation…………………………………Stewardship Accounting
(Dependent age)…..(Being efficient)……………………………….(Book-keeping)
Modern Age………….Technology driven by Industrialisation…….Financial Accounting
(Independence)…….(Being effective)………………………………(Financial Reporting)
Modern Age………….Technology driven by Knowledge…………..Management Accounting
(Interdependence)…(From effectiveness to greatness)…………(Decision making)
The Future Age………Technology driven by advancements……..Reality Accounting?
(Efficiency…………….Environmentalism?…………………………..(Not as a tool for decision
based on……………..Developmentalism?………………………….making but providing
Interdependence……Spiritualism?…………………………………..accurate solutions to
…………………………(From greatness to what?)………………….financial problems)
As man seeks greater heights in a modern world full of scientific and research discoveries, Accountants must ponder what the emerging role of their profession must be. From merely providing information on the wellbeing of a business to financial reporting as a corporate responsibility and now decision making managerial approach for future forecasts, what then does that future hold for accounting or how is accounting expected to remain professional and relevant in that future which seems would be molded by environmental and developmental challenges all over the globe. As accurate records and reports have supported good decision making though sometimes bad interpretation and judgment of the reports and their recorded results have led to bad decisions taken, the present roles of accounting, which have formed the bed-rock with which accounting standardisation of principles and procedures have evolved are now facing evident changes.
Under the scope of Reality Accounting, it is clearly observed that concepts such as International Convergence, Natural Capital, Environmentalism, Developmentalism and Fair Value Accounting will sooner than latter set the path for the future of accounting.
This paper is to stimulate academic arguments for or against the subject matter in order to bring to the awareness of accountants about a subconscious change that is already taking place. It is recommended therefore that seasoned researchers should come forth with further ideas, summaries and reviews that can boost a clear pathway for the future of accounting.
3. Berelson, Bernard. Content Analysis in Communication Research. New York: Free Press, 1952