Even though standard setters have now embraced cash flow statements there remains ambivalence as to the best format (i.e. direct or indirect method) for disclosing cash flow from operations. In 1987 the FASB asserted that information about the gross amounts of cash receipts and cash payments is more relevant than information about the net amounts of cash receipts and payments. Yet apart from Australia and New Zealand, most standard setting bodies, including the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), permit a choice between the direct and indirect methods. When given this choice, the vast majority of companies have opted for the indirect method of reporting operating cash flows (OCFs). This difference in OCF presentation between jurisdictions is relevant in this era of harmonisation of accounting standards: both the European Union parliament and the Australian Financial Reporting Council have decided to set 2005 as the target date for the adoption of standards produced by the IASB. Underlying this policy of verbatim adoption of international accounting standards, presumably is the belief that that adoption of standards issued by the IASB would lead to an improvement in financial reporting. Such a view was presented recently when current Australian accounting standards were criticised as being "deplorable" by the Chairman of the IASB, David Tweedie (Australian Financial Review, 5 August 2003, p.1). Yet by reviewing the literature on cash flow statements, this paper argues that not all Australian standards would be improved by adopting international standards. In the case of cash flow reporting, maybe the IASB should review its standard and accept the lead of Australia and New Zealand, by not permitting choice of method and mandate the direct method: surely an intended consequence of harmonisation is to narrow areas of indifference and variety in accounting practice.
International Business and Economics Research Journal Vol. 3, Issue 3, p. 67-80