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Accounting Conventions:

Learning Objectives:

  1. What are accounting conventions? Explain important accounting conventions.

The term "conventions" includes those customs or traditions which guide the accountants while preparing the accounting statements. The following are the important accounting conventions.

  1. Convention of Disclosure

  2. Convention of Materiality

  3. Convention of Consistency

  4. Convention of Conservatism

Convention of Disclosure:

The disclosure of all significant information is one of the important accounting conventions. It implies that accounts should be prepared in such a way that all material information is clearly disclosed to the reader. The term disclosure does not imply that all information that any one could desire is to be included in accounting statements. The term only implies that there is to a sufficient disclosure of information which is of material in trust to proprietors, present and potential creditors and investors. The idea behind this convention is that any body who want to study the financial statements should not be mislead. He should be able to make a free judgment. The disclosures can be in the way of foot notes. Within the body of financial statements, in the minutes of meeting of directors etc.

Convention of Materiality:

It refers to the relative importance of an item or even. According to this convention only those events or items should be recorded which have a significant bearing and insignificant things should be ignored. This is because otherwise accounting will be unnecessarily over burden with minute details. There is no formula in making a distinction between material and immaterial events. It is a matter of judgment and it is left to the accountant for taking a decision. It should be noted that an item material for one concern may be immaterial for another. Similarly, an item material in one year may not be material in the next year.

Convention of Consistency:

This convention means that accounting practices should remain uncharged from one period to another. For example, if stock is valued at cost or market price whichever is less; this principle should be followed year after year. Similarly, if depreciation is charged on fixed assets according to diminishing balance method, it should be done year after year. This is necessary for the purpose of comparison. However, consistency does not mean inflexibility. It does not forbid introduction of improved accounting techniques. If a change becomes necessary, the change and its effect should be stated clearly.

Convention of Conservatism:

This convention means a caution approach or policy of "play safe". This convention ensures that uncertainties and risks inherent in business transactions should be given a proper consideration. If there is a possibility of loss, it should be taken into account at the earliest. On the other hand, a prospect of profit should be ignored up to the time it does not materialise. On account of this reason, the accountants follow the rule 'anticipate no profit but provide for all possible losses'. On account of this convention, the inventory is valued 'at cost or market price whichever is less.' The effect of the above is that in case market price has gone down then provide for the 'anticipated loss' but if the market price has gone up then ignore the 'anticipated profits.' Similarly a provision is made for possible bad and doubtful debt out of current year's profits.

Critics point out that conservatism to an excess degree will result in the creation of secrets reserves. This will be quite contrary to the doctrine of disclosure.

You may also be interested in other articles from "accounting principles and accounting equation" chapter:

  1. Accounting Concepts

  2. Accounting Conventions

  3. Accounting Equation


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