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经济学人:公司账目 真实的头条

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Company accounts

公司账目
Truthful top lines
真实的头条
New global rules aim to make it harder for firms to fib about their revenues
新的国际规则致力于让公司收入造假变得更加艰难
WHEN companies should recognise revenues on their books is one of the most contentious and consequential issues in the staid profession of accounting. For simple sales of goods the timing is usually straightforward, but in the areas of services and long-term contracts it gets murky fast. Companies may manipulate the “top line” of their accounts—their revenues—say, by booking sales they are not yet sure of (to boost their reported profits) or not booking sales that they are certain of.
公司应当认识到其报表上所列载的收入项在有着固定准则的专业会计上是最容易引起争议以及一系列问题内容之一。就简单的商品销售而言,其时间的记录是简单的明了的,但是在服务以及长期合同领域,记录的问题就变得模糊而复杂。公司有可能会巧妙的操纵他们账目上的“头条”—即收入—也就是说,将那些还未最终确定的订单以及那些他们肯定不会有的订单,列为收入项。

In Britain the controversy surfaced again after HP's takeover of Autonomy in 2011. The American firm later took a big write-down on its purchase, blaming it in part on the British software firm having pumped up its reported revenues by counting expected subscription fees as current sales .

在英国,在2011年惠普收购Autonomy之后,争议再一次的浮出水面。美国公司随后将收购的账面价值故意调低,指责英国的软件公司在一定程度上通过将预期的会员费用当成当期销售收入入账以达到通过虚增收入来美化其账目的目的。
Revenue recognition is perhaps the biggest headache for investors trying to compare companies in different countries. The GAAP standard used in the United States is Byzantine, with more than 100 different protocols for various permutations of transactions and industries, whereas the IFRS rules applied in most of the rest of the world offer only broad guidance.
收入确认可能投资者试图比较公司不同的账目时最令他们头疼的事情。在美国,一般公认会计准则是拜占庭式的,这项准则针对各行各业的不同事物的之间的穿插交易制定了100多项的错综复杂的条款,与此同时世界其他地方所用的国际财务报告准则却仅仅是提供了广泛的直到。
Following 12 years of consultation, on May 28th the boards that control the two accounting systems released a new joint standard they hope will put these issues to rest. Scheduled to take effect in 2017, it represents a neat middle ground, adopting the IFRS's principle of one size to fit all industries, but with GAAP-style clarity. It spells out how companies will have to break down sales contracts into their component obligations and allocate the total value among them, estimating the worth of any variable fees they expect, like performance bonuses. Firms will then recognise the revenue assigned to each individual element as it is completed.
经过十二年的协商之后,在5月28日控制两个会计系统的委员会发布出了一个新的联合标准他们希望可以用来解决这些问题。这个标准计划将于2017年生效,它描绘了一个干净的中间地带,采纳了国际财务报告准则的统一标准来适应各行各业,但是会像一般公认会计原则那样清楚明了。它阐述了公司应当怎样将销售合同分解为义务的组成和并且如何将总值分配其间,如何预估他们所期望的各种可变费用诸如绩效奖金等费用的价值。公司也将承认这些已经完成的被分配到每个单元的收入。
The biggest impact will be felt in industries that rely on bundled product-plus-service contracts, such as software and telecoms. In the 1990s Microsoft was accused of “cookie-jar accounting”, holding back revenue so as to recognise it during weak quarters, to smooth its reported earnings. The Securities and Exchange Commission filed an administrative action against the company that was later settled. Some rival software firms took the opposite approach, booking all the proceeds from sales immediately, even if they were required to offer support or upgrades in the future.
这对于那些产品及服务捆绑的行业而言影响似乎是最大的,例如软件以及电信行业。在二十世纪就是年代的时候微软公司曾因“饼干罐会计”而被指控,即隐藏收入以供于在收入较弱的季度确认来美化其账面上的收入。美国证券交易委员会对于这些曾被行政裁定但最终都得以解决的公司留有底案。一些敌对的软件公司则选择了相反的途径,立即将所有的订单转化为收益,即使他们要在将来提供后续的支持或者升级。
Regulators responded by bringing in the highly prescriptive accounting standards that software firms rue to this day, which make it hard to offer customers tailored packages of discounts and upgrades without falling foul of the rules. The abolition of such industry-specific rules should give software firms more flexibility to negotiate contracts. Mobile-phone operators will henceforth book the stand-alone value of handsets upfront, even when they are providing these free as part of a bundled contract. Verizon, America's largest mobile operator, estimates that under the new model its wireless division's reported profit margin would have been six to nine percentage points higher in 2011.
监管机构的反应是将高度规范的会计准则引入这个行业,这使得软件公司至今都追悔莫及,因为这使得公司很难裁定是否打包提供给客户的折扣以及升级是否有触犯规则。特定行业规则的废除能够给予软件公司最大的灵活性来谈判合同。电话运营商自此以后会将手机前期的预付费用入账为一部分独立的价值,即使当他们把这些作为免费的捆绑合同的一部分。威瑞森,美国最大的移动通信公司,估计到在新的模式下其无线业务的利润率的报告将会比2011年时高出六到九个百分点。
For investors in America, the risk of switching from the rigid “rules-based” GAAP method to the IFRS's “principles-based” approach is that unscrupulous companies will enjoy more leeway to mislead them. The new system tries to compensate for this flexibility by beefing up disclosure requirements: footnotes to financial statements will have to give detailed information about sales arrangements, so that readers can assess any questionable judgment calls.
对于在美国的投资者而言,从严格的以“规则为导向”的一般公认会计原则方法而转向国际财务报告准则的“原则为导向”的处理方法便是打开了风险的开关,并且这样做是不道德的,因为公司会有更多发挥的余地来用以误导投资者。新体制试图通过增强披露弥要求来补这种灵活性,财务报表附注必须披露销售安排的细节信息,以便于读者可以评估任何可疑的问题。
The creation of a global rule on revenues is the biggest success yet in a decades-long effort to standardise company accounts worldwide. It may not prevent the next Enron, but it will make it easier for investors to judge companies, while helping multinationals cut compliance costs.
全球收入会计准则的创立是经过数十年的努力将世界范围内的公司账目标准化的最大的成功。这并不能阻止下一个安然公司(财务作家),但这会使得投资者更加容易的评判一个公司,同时也有助于帮助跨国公司减少合规成本。
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questionable ['kwestʃənəbəl]

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adj. 可疑的,可置疑的

 
rue [ru:]

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n. 懊悔,芸香,后悔 v. 后悔,悲伤,懊悔

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principle ['prinsəpl]

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n. 原则,原理,主义,信念

 
simultaneously [saiməl'teiniəsli]

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adv. 同时地(联立地)

 
institutional [.insti'tju:ʃənəl]

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flexibility [.fleksə'biliti]

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n. 交换,兑换,交易所
v. 交换,兑换,交

 
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pump [pʌmp]

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