Statement of Recommended Practice will bring clarity, but lobbying of DWP is important in achieving this.
A proposed new Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP) for pensions accounting in the UK and Ireland has been welcomed by ACCA and its Pensions Technical Advisory Group.
ACCA says that the SORP needs to be implemented as soon as possible due to a new accounting standard – FRS 102 – coming into being in January 2015, to replace existing UK GAAP.
In its official response to the Pensions Research Action Group’s (PRAG) exposure draft about the recommended practice for financial reports of pension schemes, ACCA agrees with much of PRAG’s objectives, including that of not extending reporting requirements beyond those of the Financial Reporting Standard (FRS) 102. The proposed SORP offers a greater level of guidance for preparers of pension scheme accounts under FRS 102, which is already a standard that offers conciseness.
However, ACCA has responded to the 127 page consultation with detailed specific concerns, including that confusion could arise unless there is a change to existing, and now outdated, statutory reporting requirements for investment disclosures. PRAG is currently liaising with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) with the aim of overhauling the prescriptive disclosures in the Audited Accounts Regulations and ACCA supports wholeheartedly the lobbying of the DWP to tackle changes at the earliest opportunity.
In a couple of respects, ACCA has also called for greater precision in the content of the SORP, in order to achieve consistent, compliant reporting. The concept of ‘significant’ in one area needs to be more fully explained, and an indication provided of the level of materiality applied to disclosures in the example financial statements.
Paul Cooper, corporate reporting manager at ACCA, says: ‘The ultimate aim with pensions reporting must be clarity and transparency. The pensions industry has gone through great change, for example with the introduction of auto enrolment. And as a whole, it has also come in for criticism for being opaque, even for individual investors.
‘ACCA believes that for the accountant preparing accounts about pensions, a standard that offers brevity and precision will help to meet the needs of investors and business, reporting with clarity on assets, liabilities and risks.’
Paul Cooper concludes: ‘For ACCA, the accounting standard FRS 102 and the SORP need to offer a realistic approach to reporting on pensions for the benefit of trustees, employers, investors and pension holders themselves. We are nearly there – the proposed SORP helps to meet these aims, but there is work to be done in practice. The SORP needs to be implemented as smoothly as possibly by preparers.’
(article by ACCA)