The four sets of accounting standards in Japan are the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Japanese Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (J-GAAP), Japan’s Modified International Standards (JMIS) and the United States Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (US GAAP). In this article, we explain why IFRS and J-GAAP are the most prominent accounting standards in Japan. Whereas J-GAAP is mostly used for Japanese small-medium enterprises (SMEs), more and more Japanese companies apply to IFRS every year. As a Japanese company, with or without (foreign) subsidiaries, what should you keep in mind when applying these standards? Is it more convenient to use J-GAAP since it is well implemented? Or is it perhaps more desirable to choose IFRS since this method makes comparing per country more convenient?
IFRS in Japan
IFRS is principle-based, emphasizes balance sheets, and has global standards, with a flexible implementation convenient to use and easy to understand. Both Japan and the US implement GAAP but have adopted IFRS as a bylaw principle. This is a set of detailed rules regarding accounting standards, interpretation guidelines, practical guidelines and more. However, the rules are roughly sketched compared to J-GAAP. Many notes need to be taken with efficient substantiation for a sufficient interpretation of details per company and country. Unlike J-GAAP, IFRS includes non-operating income as ‘other operating income’ and ‘other operating expenses.’
In Japan, the income statement is emphasized as information for evaluating the asset value required for investors and creditors and the profit and loss statement for a certain period. Japanese accounting standards implement ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary’ profit and loss. Non-operating income – such as dividends and stock interests, deposits and savings – and operating income – such as main business profit – are included. After deducting non-operating expenses (e.g., loss on sales of interest payments and loans), ordinary income is an essential indicator of corporate profitability under the Japanese accounting standards.
IFRS versus J-GAAP
For companies with a subsidiary or subsidiaries overseas, the implementation of IFRS can unify the accounting indicators: Accounting management becomes convenient by comparing everyone’s performance efficiently. Japanese companies without subsidiaries can apply to IFRS as well if they have a capital of 2 billion yen or more, or are newly registered to the stock market. The application is voluntary, as a de facto national policy. At this moment (March 2021), no conclusion has been reached by the Japanese government regarding compulsory applications.
As stated by the Companies Act, disclosure under J-GAAP is still required, so companies have to prepare multiple reports for both IFRS and the Japanese accounting standards. As IFRS is based on principles, a significant amount of information is necessary, which increases the amount of clerical work involved and the burden on the person in charge.
‘Goodwill’ is the difference between a company’s acquisition price and its book value. Under J-GAAP, a fixed amount is amortized and expensed every year, so profits in the account settlements will inevitably decrease. Goodwill must be amortized within every 20 year acquisition period, but in IFRS, this is not the case. In the IFRS case, goodwill is amortized unless the corporate value drops significantly, resulting in not being recorded as an expense. The value decreases after each period, registered as an impairment loss without amortization.
It will cost a certain amount of money to switch from J-GAAP to IFRS. Changing standards, systems, and audits costs time and money, making companies think twice before switching systems, especially if they choose to do business in Japan only.
Companies that are active in mergers and acquisitions (M&A) can profit in their financial results with IFRS. Since IFRS is a globally used method, many foreign investors understand IFRS better than J-GAAP. Examples of companies applying IFRS that are active in M&A are Rakuten and Softbank.
In December 2018, Japan erased the variances between IFRS and J-GAAP, by bridging the gaps. However, IFRS is different from Japanese conventional accounting standards, which can make application challenging. IFRS is frequently revised, so companies have to consider this as well. As mentioned before, Japanese companies adopting IFRS are increasing but compared to the world, the number of applications is still small, making referred information scarce.
In Japan, J-GAAP still mostly applied standard; however, with global IFRS support and more Japanese companies applying this standard, IFRS is most likely the accounting future for Japan. IFRS is frequently revised and has different rules than J-GAAP, so you need to keep up to-to-date with the latest information and knowledge, which is both rewarding yet time and cost-consuming. This track of data can be quite challenging, so many companies leave this part to an expert. If you are looking for an expert to help you with this, feel free to contact us. Global Connect Admin (GCA) already helps multinationals with subsidiaries with IFRS standards, accounting and financial management, and fiscal reports. While they focus on their core business, we assist them with their financial business. Feel free to ask us questions or read other GCA articles.
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