Impaired translations: IFRS from English and annual reports into English

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Purpose – The authors examine translation in the context of IFRS by taking the example of the English term “impairment” in IAS 36, and following it into 19 translations. They then examine the terms used for impairment in English translations of annual reports provided by firms. Consideration is given to the best approach for translating regulations and whether that is also suitable for the translation of annual reports.
Design/methodology/approach – The two empirical parts of the paper involve: (i) identifying the terms for impairment used in 19 official translations of IAS 36, and (ii) examining English-language translations of reports provided by 393 listed firms from 11 major countries.
Findings – Nearly all the terms used for ‘impairment’ in translations of IAS 36 do not convey the message of damage to assets. In annual reports translated into English, many terms are misleading in that they do not mention impairment, peaking at 39% in German and Italian reports in one year.
Research implications – Researchers should note that the information related to impairment in international databases is likely to contain errors, and we recommend that data should be hand-collected and then carefully checked by experts. We make suggestions for further research.
Practical implications – Translators of regulations should aim to convey the messages of the source documents, but translators of annual reports should not look only at the reports but also consult the terminology in the original regulations. The authors also suggest implications for regulators and analysts.
Originality/value – The paper innovates by separately considering regulations and annual reports. The authors examine a key accounting term systematically into a wide range of official translations. The core section of the paper is a new field of research: an empirical study of the translations of firms’ financial statements.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1981-2005
Number of pages25
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Translation, IFRS, Impairment, International differences

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