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Relevance in Accounting

Updated on June 27, 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 information 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?

  • The company’s annual report, which the company managers prepare, is important to the shareholders. Now there may be different kinds of shareholders in a company. The shareholders who hold some shares in the company are more interested in the share price per day. The share price will never be mentioned in a balance sheet or the income statement. The balance sheet and the income statement show the ability to generate future cash flows. In this way, the shareholders will find meaning in it, and it will be useful for their decision making the purpose of investment.
  • A manager who is an insider of the company will be in charge of making strategic or operational decisions based on the situation. Like the manager has to estimate the price/profitability of a product. This information will directly not be available in the annual report. The annual report, which the managers generally prepare, will help the manager with the pricing of a product. So by taking the annual report, keeping in mind the accounting principles and going backward in a calculation, the manager can calculate the price/profitability of a product.
  • The shareholder who holds a large number of shares in the company will be more interested in knowing the profit generated and distributed by the company. But it must also be understood that the shareholders should not jump to a conclusion by only seeing the current financial report. It should also understand the assumptions and policies followed in making the accounting report. Then by using the numbers for some time, it will be able to understand the profit generated and profit distributed, which the annual reports will also throw light on. In this way, the information will be relevant for the shareholders in making a decision.

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 flow

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 share 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 acquisitions, 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 firm, 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 statement 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 principles 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 –