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What differentiates profit or loss from other comprehensive

Reclassification: for and against
There are several arguments for and against reclassification. If reclassification ceased, then there would be no need to define profit or loss, or any other total or subtotal in profit or loss, and any presentation decisions can be left to specific IFRSs. It is argued that reclassification protects the integrity of profit or loss and provides users with relevant information about a transaction that occurred in the period. Additionally, it can improve comparability where IFRS permits similar items to be recognised in either profit or loss or OCI.
Those against reclassification argue that the recycled amounts add to the complexity of financial reporting, may lead to earnings management and the reclassification adjustments may not meet the definitions of income or expense in the period as the change in the asset or liability may have occurred in a previous period.
The original logic for OCI was that it kept income-relevant items that possessed low reliability from contaminating the earnings number. Markets rely on profit or loss and it is widely used. The OCI figure is crucial because it can distort common valuation techniques used by investors, such as the price/earnings ratio. Thus, profit or loss needs to contain all information relevant to investors. Misuse of OCI would undermine the credibility of net income. The use of OCI as a temporary holding for cash flow hedging instruments and foreign currency translation is non-controversial.
However, other treatments such the policy of IFRS 9 to allow value changes in equity investments to go through OCI, are not accepted universally.
US GAAP will require value changes in all equity investments to go through profit or loss. Accounting for actuarial gains and losses on defined benefit schemes are presented through OCI and certain large US corporations have been hit hard with the losses incurred on these schemes. The presentation of these items in OCI would have made no difference to the ultimate settled liability but if they had been presented in profit or loss, the problem may have been dealt with earlier. An assumption that an unrealised loss has little effect on the business is an incorrect one.
The Discussion Paper on the Conceptual Framework considers three approaches to profit or loss and reclassification. The first approach prohibits reclassification. The other approaches, the narrow and broad approaches, require or permit reclassification. The narrow approach allows recognition in OCI for bridging items or mismatched remeasurements. While the broad approach has an additional category of ‘transitory measurements’ (for example, remeasurement of a defined benefit obligation) which would allow the IASB greater flexibility. The narrow approach significantly restricts the types of items that would be eligible to be presented in OCI and gives the IASB little discretion when developing or amending IFRSs.
A bridging item arises where the IASB determines that the statement of comprehensive income would communicate more relevant information about financial performance if profit or loss reflected a different measurement basis from that reflected in the statement of financial position For example, if a debt instrument is measured at fair value in the statement of financial position, but is recognised in profit or loss using amortised cost, then amounts previously reported in OCI should be reclassified into profit or loss on impairment or disposal of the debt instrument. The IASB argues that this is consistent with the amounts that would be recognised in profit or loss if the debt instrument were to be measured at amortised cost.
A mismatched remeasurement arises where an item of income or expense represents an economic phenomenon so incompletely that, in the opinion of the IASB, presenting that item in profit or loss would provide information that has little relevance in assessing the entity’s financial performance. An example of this is when a derivative is used to hedge a forecast transaction; changes in the fair value of the derivative may arise before the income or expense resulting from the forecast transaction. The argument is that before the results of the derivative and the hedged item can be matched together, any gains or losses resulting from the remeasurement of the derivative, to the extent that the hedge is effective and qualifies for hedge accounting, should be reported in OCI. Subsequently, those gains or losses are reclassified into profit or loss when the forecast transaction affects profit or loss. This allows users to see the results of the hedging relationship.
The IASB’s preliminary view is that any requirement to present a profit or loss total or subtotal could also result in some items being reclassified. The commonly suggested attributes for differentiation between profit or loss and OCI (realised/unrealised, frequency of occurrence, operating/non-operating, measurement certainty/uncertainty, realisation in the short/long-term or outside management control) are difficult to distil into a set of principles.
Therefore, the IASB is suggesting two broad principles, namely:
(a) Profit or loss provides the primary source of information about the return an entity has made on its economic resources in a period.
(b) To support profit or loss, OCI should only be used if it makes profit or loss more relevant.
The IASB feels that changes in cost-based measures and gains or losses resulting from initial recognition should not be presented in OCI and that the results of transactions, consumption and impairments of assets and fulfilment of liabilities should be recognised in profit or loss in the period in which they occur. As a performance measure, profit or loss is more used although there are a number of other performance measures derived from the statement of profit or loss and OCI.

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