On Creative Accounting

Encountering new people, places, and cultures exposes you to different ways of doing things, both personally and professionally. When traveling, “you step outside your routine, your comfort zone, and open your mind to new ideas and potential innovations,” Watkins said. “You also work your creative muscle because traveling rarely goes exactly as planned, so you have to be flexible and willing to adapt given ever-changing circumstances.”

They are characterized by excessive complication and the use of novel ways of characterizing income, assets, or liabilities and the intent to influence readers towards the interpretations desired by the authors. The terms “innovative” or “aggressive” are also sometimes used.

Offshoring And Tax Avoidance

It must be developed and strengthened with time and intentionality. When you find yourself on a project or task that isn’t progressing because you have lost motivation and interest, seek help from a colleague or performance manager. Recruit others or delegate a task to get the added push you need to complete a pending project.

Creative accounting is characterized by excessive complication. Creative accountants commonly use novel and bizarre ways of characterizing assets, liabilities, or income. However, some management teams are willing to run that risk, condoning the use of creative accounting because failure to meet short-term expectations of Wall Street or year-end financial targets can have a hugely adverse impact on share prices. Besides alteration in accounting regulations, ethical standards and governance codes must be properly executed to avoid individuals from performing creative accounting. Other motivations are to manipulate profit in order to match the reported income to profit forecasts and to distract attention from negative news by boosting company’s profit figure though change in accounting policies.

  • “Creative accounting” has been at the root of a number of accounting scandals, and many proposals for accounting reform—usually centering on an updated analysis of capital and factors of production that would correctly reflect how value is added.
  • Although creative accounting practices are legal, the loopholes they exploit are often reformed to prevent such behaviors.
  • However, that does not mean that investors should sit back and do nothing.
  • In 2014, the Bermuda deal with Dutch authorities expired, and Nike shifted the profits to another offshore subsidiary, a Netherlands-based Limited Liability Partnership .
  • In the accounting world, the general rule is that accounts should give a true and fair view.

Often an accountant or auditor will not want to go as far as to say that a matter is “correct” or “accurate” so they use the phrase “appears satisfactory”. This would include the Profit and Loss statement , the Balance Sheet, and the notes that support them. It may also include other statutory sections; plus, any optional information the management decide to include. Bonus is only payable if a certain level of profits are achieved. Reduction in failures may result in loss of employment and other social implications.

Creative accountants commonly manipulate their company’s assets and liabilities. They often do this to conceal problems, and also perhaps to remain within limits. Creative accounting refers to imaginative ways to present accounts. The aim in creative accounting is to make the company appear financially healthier than it really is.

Ways Companies Cook The Books

Fifthly, to manipulate balance sheet amounts by using artificial transaction. Last but not least, by reclassification and presentation of financial amounts through balance sheet manipulation in order to smooth financial ratios and also based on cognitive reference point in financial numbers’ presentation. Lehman Brothers utilized repurchase agreements to bolster profitability reports with their Repo 105 scheme under the watch of the accounting firm Ernst & Young. Creative accounting behaviors can be identified by having thoughtful analysis of financial statement or observed by reasonably well- informed user of financial statement.

Wait to provide advice and comment until after they have fully explained their situation and you understand the problem. ” to solicit more information and the opportunity for greater understanding, and don’t be afraid of moments of silence. If you aren’t failing regularly, you probably aren’t stretching yourself far enough to reach your full potential. Failure must be viewed as an integral part of the learning and creating process.

Trying to process information in a different way, though, can lead you to creative insights. The company might lend money to somebody connected to the business.

Creative Accounting Not Illegal

It also means that you need to know more than just the accounting and finance portion of the organization so that you can understand various organizational perspectives. Empathy is also a critical tool for managers as they work to develop their accounting and finance staff members’ careers. Creative accounting can, in one simple journal, increase the value of assets and increase profitability. Most typically the objective is increased profits, inflated asset values, understated liabilities, and overstated shareholder value.

What are the objective of creative accounting?

The aim in creative accounting is to make the company look better than it is. The creative accountant manipulates the positioning of assets, liabilities, etc. A creative accountant does not provide a ‘true and fair’ view of a company. That is what honest and ethical accountants should do.

The term ‘innovative’ or ‘aggressive’ are also sometimes used. Italian dairy giant Parmalat employed a number of creative accounting and wire fraud schemes before 2003 that lead to the largest bankruptcy in European history. It sold itself Credit-linked notes with the help of Merrill Lynch through a Cayman Islands special-purpose entity and over-accounted for their value on the balance sheet. The publicly listed company stated to investors that it had about $2Bn in liabilities , but once audited more vigorously during the bankruptcy proceedings, it was discovered that the company’s debt turned out to actually be $14.5Bn. This massive debt was largely caused by failed operations in Latin America and increasingly complex financial instruments used to mask debt—such as Parmalat “billing itself” through a subsidiary called Epicurum. It was also discovered that its CEO Calisto Tanzi had ordered the creation of shell accounts and diverted 900M Euros worth into his private travel company. The WorldCom scandal is another high profile example of creative accounting leading to fraud.

Rarely can a system, even the most advanced accounting system, create profits and assets out of thin air. Creative accounting can be caused by human error, but statistically, some of these errors would have a positive effect on profits, others would have negative effects. In the accounting world, the general rule is that accounts should give a true and fair view. Generally, an accountant has a professional responsibility to comply, a corporation has a legal responsibility to comply, auditors have a legal responsibility to give some sort of opinion on compliance, yet frequently this all goes out of the window. Frequently, accountant and businesses are motivated to produce accounts that don’t show a true and fair view.

Examples Of Creative Accounting

Being mindful means clearing your brain of noise and distraction so that you can focus completely on what you’re doing at the moment. In this way, you’ll gain greater clarity of thought and remove biases and filters that could impede creative thinking. Bosch, Google, SAP, and Aetna are some of the many companies to have recently implemented mindfulness programs. After more than 13,000 employees completed Aetna’s mindfulness training, the company saw a 28% reduction in employee stress levels and $3,000 in productivity improvements per employee. Towards the end of this report, there should be a figure for the profit or loss for the period. This is the most vague word used to describe the work that an accountant may prepare. There are many different accounts that this word could refer to the most common are financial accounts and management accounts.

The presumed bane for the failure of these reports to live up to expectation has been creative accounting. Most studies view this practice as unethical and should be stopped; others admit that although it contributes to enterprise failures, loss of investments and economic crisis, it as a necessary and legitimate practice. This paper aims to evaluate the extent to which this creativity has contributed to the failures of enterprises, identifies motivations for this practices and the challenges to true and fair reporting and transparent disclosures. There are several motivations have been identified in stimulating the behavior of creative accounting in the organization. Firstly, the significant motivator for creative accounting is to report a decrease in business income to lower the tax paid. Second, to enable the company’s performance appear better in future, company will maximize the reported loss to make bad loss in that year. This is called ‘big bath’ accounting for the purpose in smoothing the income.

  • Pick a new skill you’d like to develop and focus on it for a period of time while giving yourself permission to fail.
  • This is a low-risk opportunity given that it’s with your immediate team with whom you most likely have a good rapport and confidence.
  • However, they deviate from what the makers of those laws intended.
  • International Accounting Standards also tends to value item at fair value rather than historical cost.
  • Managers motivations in managing earning aim to report a stable growth in profit not only to reduce the perception of variability toward organisation’s earnings, but also are in relation to income measurement.
  • Having some “skin in the game” brings buy-in to the process and a greater sense of accomplishment.

Sometimes the accountant may wish to show a healthy balance sheet (e.g. to get a bank loan), at other times an unhealthy balance sheet (e.g. before a management buy-out to get a bargain). Creative accounting often fools auditors and regulators, e.g. The extent to which accounting reports and disclosures provide shareholders and other interested parties with reliable information to permit informed investment decisions and true valuation of firms, has remained in doubts.

Definition Of  Creative Accounting

Creative accounting, while not the same as ‘cooking the books,’is seen in a similar light. Cooking the books refers to falsifying a company’s their financial statements. In order to avoid taxes on profits, multinational corporations often make use of offshore subsidiaries in order to employ a creative accounting technique known as “Minimum-Profit Accounting”. The subsidiary is created in a tax haven—often just as a shell company—then charges large fees to the primary corporation, effectively minimizing or wholly wiping out the profit of the main corporation. Within most parts of the European Union and the United States, this practice is perfectly legal and often executed in plain sight or with explicit approval of tax regulators. The term as generally understood refers to systematic misrepresentation of the true income and assets of corporations or other organizations. “Creative accounting” has been at the root of a number of accounting scandals, and many proposals for accounting reform—usually centering on an updated analysis of capital and factors of production that would correctly reflect how value is added.

The findings were different from findings of previous studies. It was discovered that accounting creativity is euphemism and contributes 90% to the unfair reporting of firms operations. The creativity in those practices is motivated by greed and intended to deceive the public, potential investors and shareholders and increases the rate of enterprise failures at a decreasing rate. However, the study revealed that the many regulations without adequate checks, punishments and rewards complement creative accounting in providing the foundation for make-believe, cosmetic and unfair reporting. This eHow video explains that creative accounting is all about coming up with different ways to position assets. Creative accountants aim to ‘puff up the picture.’In other words, they want to make the company appear financially healthier than it really is. Ethical accountants see creative accountants in a bad light because they are trying to give a false impression.

The chief accountant argues that the above costs represent an addition to the fixed assets of the company . Creative accounting is the use of unorthodox message parlour techniques which, while following provisions of GAAP, paint a desired picture of a firm’s finances. For example, selling an asset to create non-operating profit that offsets operating loss. Unlike cooking the books, creating accounting is generally legal. Creative accounting is a term referring to accounting practices that may follow the letter of the rules of standard accounting practices but certainly deviate from the spirit of those rules. It is characterised by excessive complication and the use of novel ways of characterising income, assets or liabilities and the intent to influence readers towards the interpretations desired by the authors.

Aggressive accounting refers to accounting practices designed to overstate a company’s financial performance, whether legally or illegally. Creative accountants will always find bizarre and novel ways to tweak figures to a company’s advantage.

One way is to set things up so that the borrower repaid the loan just before the end of the period. Then, a new loan appears at the beginning of the next period. Let’s suppose the accountant posts the amount the company charges the customers in the first quarter of the year. However, he records the work taking place in the second quarter. The secret for both accountants and regulators is to try to be one step ahead.

Creative Accounting

The accountant can distort the company’s apparent financial health by being ‘over-optimistic’ with the property’s revaluation. What happens if you only see the accounts for the first quarter? You will get an unrealistic view of how the company is doing. Some people refer to it as innovative accounting, aggressive accounting, or window dressing. Cost of goods sold is defined as the direct costs attributable to the production of the goods sold in a company.


A company may send its client an invoice before the end of the accounting period but deliver after that period. That first period will subsequently get a boost in sales and profit. The terms accounting and accountancy refer to the process of keeping financial records. The SEC filed charges and convicted multiple Merrill Lynch executives of aiding the fraud. Newspaper and television journalists have hypothesized that the stock market downturn of 2002 was precipitated by reports of “accounting irregularities” at Enron, Worldcom, and other firms in the United States. Enron was a U.S. energy company that perpetrated one of the biggest accounting frauds in history.

D) The managers are involved in a management buyout or significant share purchase and seek to minimise the price they will pay for the business or shares. Normally, governments tax profits, so the more profits, the more tax is paid. Looking for less technical conferences or learning programs is a good place to start. Watkins attended AICPA’s Leadership Academy this fall, and left energized and in a creative mindset. The program encourages peer sharing to help attendees discover different solutions to problems they had faced.

Spotting Creative Accounting On The Balance Sheet

As you improve your presentation skills, seek opportunities to present to larger audiences such as your entire division. Prepare by rehearsing your presentation, anticipating questions, planning your responses, and making a checklist of critical points you want to communicate. Over time your courage will grow while your fear of presenting shrinks. As operations moved out of the confines of the physical office during COVID-19, financial services leaders showed courage in dealing with sensitive issues such as maintaining data security while operating in a remote environment. Physicians and mental health professionals moved from office visits to telehealth appointments. In all these cases, decisions that most executives previously weren’t willing to champion suddenly became necessary moves.

There may be some attempt to hide the transaction from people who read the accounts. Creative accountants exploit loopholes in the rules and regulations.