The Effect of IAS/IFRS Adoption on Earnings Management (Smoothing): A Closer Look at Competing Explanations


Journal of Accounting and Public Policy

July-August 2016, vol. 35, n°4, pp.352–394

Departments: Accounting & Management Control, GREGHEC (CNRS)

Keywords: IFRS, Earnings management, Smoothing

Prior research provides mixed evidence on whether the transition to IAS/IFRS deters or contributes to greater earnings management (smoothing). The dominant explanation for the conflicting results is self-selection. Early voluntary adopters had incentives to increase the transparency of their reporting in order to attract outside capital, while those firms that waited until IFRS adoption became mandatory in EU countries lacked incentives for transparent reporting leading to increases in earnings management (smoothing) after IFRS adoption. We maintain that the IFRS standards that went into effect in 2005 provide greater flexibility of accounting choices because of vague criteria, overt and covert options, and subjective estimates. This greater flexibility coupled with the lack of clear guidance on how to implement these new standards has led to greater earnings management (smoothing). Consistent with this view, we find an increase in earnings management (smoothing) from pre-2005 to post-2005 for firms in countries that allowed early IAS/IFRS adoption, as well as for firms in countries that did not allow early IFRS adoption. We find no evidence of changes in incentives that can explain these results.