Relevance in Accounting

Updated on January 3, 2024
Article byPritha Banerjee
Edited byAshish Kumar Srivastav
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What is Relevance in Accounting?

Relevance in accounting means the information we get from the accounting system will help the end-users to make important decisions. End users can be either internal or external stakeholders. Internal stakeholders include managers, employees, and business owners. By external stakeholders, we mean investors, lenders, etc. Therefore relevance in accounting indicates the capacity to influence the end-users of the financial statement in their decision-making process.

Explained

As per GAAP, the information should be useful, understandable, timely, and pertinent for end-users to make important decisions.

A ten-year-old income statement doesn’t hold much significance to an investor. The financial informationFinancial InformationFinancial Information refers to the summarized data of monetary transactions that is helpful to investors in understanding company’s profitability, their assets, and growth prospects. Financial Data about individuals like past Months Bank Statement, Tax return receipts helps banks to understand customer’s credit quality, repayment capacity etc.read more must be timely to be relevant to the investors.

Finally, relevance in accounting also means that it should be useful for the decision-making process for the end-users. For example, companies could report the employees’ current salary in an understandable and timely manner, but this doesn’t make this information relevant to an investor.

Relevance in Accounting

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Relevance in Accounting for Whom?

The next thing we should understand is which information would be relevant for whom?

Every stakeholder needs useful information. It is why the relevance principle is of prime importance to financial accounting.

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Examples

Example #1

If a company wants to take a loan from a bank, then the bank will want to know first whether the company will be able to pay them back the loan with interest. Therefore, the company’s financial statements should be relevant for the bank in making its decision regarding granting a loan to the company.

Financial statements like balance sheets, income statements, and cash flowCash FlowCash Flow is the amount of cash or cash equivalent generated & consumed by a Company over a given period. It proves to be a prerequisite for analyzing the business’s strength, profitability, & scope for betterment. read more present important information to the banker in making decisions. It should also be noted that the information should be timely. The banker will not consider the financial statements which are more than ten years old.

The information should be understandable. In addition, the financial statement should be in proper accounting format. Lastly, the information should be useful for the banker in deciding whether to grant a loan to the company or not.

Relevance in Accounting Example

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Example #2

A company, ABC, announces that its earning per shareEarning Per ShareEarnings Per Share (EPS) is a key financial metric that investors use to assess a company's performance and profitability before investing. It is calculated by dividing total earnings or total net income by the total number of outstanding shares. The higher the earnings per share (EPS), the more profitable the company is.read more have increased from $40 to $45. It is important and relevant information for the investors in making their decision as growing earnings provide a good return for the investors.

Example #3

In mergers and acquisitionsMergers And AcquisitionsMergers and acquisitions (M&A) are collaborations between two or more firms. In a merger, two or more companies functioning at the same level combine to create a new business entity. In an acquisition, a larger organization buys a smaller business entity for expansion.read more, the acquirer will be willing to pay the premium as it will expect the synergies (expected increase in revenue, cost savings) generated by the acquisitions. The acquirer can estimate the synergies from the enterprise value of the firmEnterprise Value Of The FirmEnterprise value (EV) is the corporate valuation of a company, determined by using market capitalization and total debt.read more, which again will be calculated from the balance sheet of the Target Company, and EBITDA, which could be taken from the financial report of the target company.

It is a piece of important and relevant information for the acquirer as it will influence its decision, whether paying a premium for the target company is worthwhile or not. If timely and accurate information is not provided, the acquirer might underestimate or overestimate the company, which will be a great loss for the acquirer.

Final Thoughts

A financial statementFinancial StatementFinancial statements are written reports prepared by a company's management to present the company's financial affairs over a given period (quarter, six monthly or yearly). These statements, which include the Balance Sheet, Income Statement, Cash Flows, and Shareholders Equity Statement, must be prepared in accordance with prescribed and standardized accounting standards to ensure uniformity in reporting at all levels.read more is relevant when it has data that is valuable enough to make predictions /estimations about future events like calculating the future cash flows, which will be important to the investors in making decisions.

Many stakeholders also use past financial statements to analyze the company’s future performance regarding profitability. It should be accurate data following accounting standards. Any inaccurate information may be misleading. Therefore any such false data doesn’t come under the definition of accounting relevance. This kind of information cannot be of any use to the company in making decisions.

In short, accounting relevance should contain accurate and orderly information. The relevance of accounting numbers depends on the person using them. And it will hold more meaning if it has been used over some time and is more useful if one understands the generally accepted accounting principlesThe Generally Accepted Accounting PrinciplesGAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) are standardized guidelines for accounting and financial reporting.read more based on which the financial report has been prepared.

This article is a guide on Relevance in Accounting. Here we discuss examples of relevance in accounting and how it is useful to managers, small shareholders, and large shareholders. You can learn more about accounting from the following articles –