Accounting for government grants: Standard-setting and accounting choice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Downloads (Pure)


This paper provides evidence on several matters relating to accounting for government grants under International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Focusing on grants related to assets, we trace the development of International Accounting Standard (IAS) 20, outline some of the problems of current accounting practice, and suggest why these have not been addressed by the standard-setter. Then, by hand-collecting data relating to 559 firms from 15 countries, we empirically analyze several issues. We show that asset grants are economically important for some firms and that the frequency of grants is significantly different across the countries. For the non-financial firms in our sample, we identify the grant-related accounting policy choice: a firm can either show the grant as deferred income or net it against the asset. The options are roughly equally popular overall but the firm’s country of domicile is strongly associated with the choice. Further, as a key element of disclosure quality for this topic, we investigate whether or not the balance sheet-related numbers relating to grants are disclosed, finding that many firms do not disclose them. Disclosure quality is better for firms which use the ‘deferred income’ option, and it is also better in countries where a higher proportion of firms has received government grants. International differences and poor disclosure are detrimental to international comparisons, so we conclude that the policy choice should be removed from the accounting standard.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-129
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Accounting and Public Policy
Issue number2
Early online date20 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • government grants, IAS 20, accounting choice, international differences

Cite this