By comparing the treatments for similar business activities in two companies as described in scenario 1, some differences can be found in these treatments. This essay will check out whether or not these treatments are following the existing accounting principles and regulations based on International Accounting Standards. As the same time, this essay would evaluate the quality of the information made from the different treatments, such as whether or not the information has faithfully and fairly represented the business transactions, would it be possible that the treatments will communicate biased information to users, or has the comparability been eliminated or diminished by these different treatments. Finally, this essay would try to search for the reasons why one company chose this kind of treatment and the other chose another one.
With the aims mentioned above, this essay is constructed in five basic parts. The first part is the introduction which involves the main objectives and the basic structure of this essay. The second part is legality assessment in which the treatments in the two companies would be carefully analyzed and the legality of these treatments would be discussed according to the relevant accounting principles and regulations in International Accounting Standards. The third part is evaluation of information’s quality which would discuss whether or not the business transactions have been represented faithfully and fairly by the treatments or the comparability of financial information has been diminished. The forth part is rationality analysis which involves the intendance to search for the possible reasons for the different treatments in the two companies. And the fifth part is to summarize the main viewpoints and findings achieved in the essay.
- Legality Assessment of the Treatments
On the issue of revenue recognition treatments in the two companies of Thomas Cook and Tui Group, the revenue treatments from the tours are the same except the treatments for the revenue of the travel agency commissions. According to Thomas Cook 2010 Annual Report, the revenue relating to travel agency commissions is recognized on holiday departure, no matter the revenue is relating to inclusive tours arranged by the Group’s leisure travel providers or is on third-party leisure products. According to Tui Group 2010 Annual Report, the revenue of travel agency commission is recognized upon the payment by the customers.
By comparing the two treatments described above, it can be seen that the distinct differences between the treatments in the two companies are the time differences in the revenue recognition. In Thomas Cook, the revenue of the travel agency commissions is taken to the income statement on holiday departure, while in Tui Group it is taken to the income statement on the payment by the customers. In other words, Thomas Cook recognizes the revenue after the holiday, and Tui Group recognizes the revenue mainly before the holiday.
On the holiday departure, the revenue of the travel agency commissions can be measured reliably, the economic benefits associated with the travel agency will probably flow to Thomas Cook, and the cost related to the travel agency commissions can be measured reliably. According to the revenue recognition principles of rendering of services in IAS 18, Thomas Cook has satisfied all of these conditions to recognize the revenue of the travel agency commissions. For Thomas Cook, the revenue of the travel agency commissions is taken legally to the income statement on the holiday departure.
On the payment by the customers, under the conditions that the customers show a strong and clear intention to take the inclusive tours in the future, Tui Group has satisfied all the conditions for the recognition of the revenue of the travel agency commissions, because the revenue can be measured reliably, the benefits relating the travel agency will probably flow to Tui Group and the cost associated with the travel agency commissions can be measured reliably. However, sometimes customers do not show a clear and strong intention to take the tours, and Tui Group actually has not delivered its services to the customers. Under this condition, Tui Group cannot recognize the revenue of the travel agency commissions upon the payment by the customers. The revenue has to wait to be recognized until the services are accepted. In fact, this is what Tui Group Company does. According to Tui Group 2010 Annual Report, the revenue of the travel agency commissions would be recognized upon the payment by the customers or at the latest, the date of departure depending on different conditions. According to the relevant accounting principles and regulations, Tui Group has also recognized the revenue of the travel agency commissions legally.
- Evaluation of Information’s Quality
On similar business transactions, Thomas Cook and Tui Group take two different but both legal treatments to recognize the revenue of the travel agency commissions, and both companies provide relatively faithful and fair revenue information to users. However, by closer investigation and assessment, it can be seen there are still some slight differences in revenue pictures provided by the two companies for information users. Thomas Cook would bring information users a more faithful revenue statement about the previous period, because the revenue of the travel agency commissions is recognized on the holiday departure and the future business activities would probably not affect the current revenue recognition. While with guaranteeing considerable truthfulness in the revenue statement, Tui Group would bring the users fairer revenue information, because the revenue information has fully brought both the happened business transactions in the previous period and the reasonable expected outcomes of the future activities into consideration.
Although current accounting principles and regulations have allowed that a single business transaction or an economic phenomenon can be represented in multiple ways as long as the representation is not against with these principles or communicate unfaithful information to the information users, some precious and valuable qualities of accounting and financial information would be sacrificed and eliminated. In the example in this essay, the quality of comparability is diminished and undermined to some extent in the two companies. According to the framework for the preparation and presentation of financial statements, comparability not only requires the informations of different periods in one entity comparable, but also requires the informations of different companies in one period comparable. If Thomas Cook and Tui Group have always used their respective treatments for the recognition of the revenue of the travel agency commissions, the revenue informaiton of different periods in one entity would be reasonably comparable. However, if Thomas Cook and Tui Group keep using their respective treatment for the revenue, the comparability between the item of the revenue of the travel agency commissions in the two companies wold not be improved. Thomas Cook represents the business transactions into the report only when the transactions have been accomplished and all the outcomes have been settled, while Tui Group represents in the report the outcomes of business transacions both happened in the previous time and expected to happen in the future time. These unbalanced considerations in the revenue treatments in the two companies would diminish the comparability between their revenue informaiton.
- Rationality Analysis of the Treatments
As it has been proved that the accounting policies have economic consequences, and the management would choose carefully among the available accounting policies. In the scenario applied in this essay, for one specific travel agency business activity, Thomas Cook would represent the business transaction and recognize the revenue in only one specific period in which the holiday related to the travel agency comes to the end. While for the similar business activity, Tui Group could represent it and recognize its revenue in the period when Tui Group gets the payment from the customers or in the period when the holiday related to the travel agency is accomplished. The accounting policy applied by Tui Group provides a legal way for shifting its revenue among different periods. This kind of shifting would reduce the fluctuation of the company’s revenue. As it has been stated in existing literature, a stable revenue statement would decrease the future financing costs and improve the managers’ reputation and remuneration, which would be the possible reasons for the application of the revenue treatments for the travel agency commissions in Tui Group.
To sum up, by analyzing the different treatments for travel agency commissions revenue applied by Thomas Cook and Tui Group respectively from the aspects of legality, quality of the information and rationality, the essay gets to three basic viewpoints. The first one is that the treatments for the revenue recognition of the travel agency commissions applied by Thomas Cook and Tui Group respectively are both legal according to the existing accounting principles and regulations in IAS 18 and framework for the preparation and presentation of financial statements. Both treatments can truthfully and fairly represent the revenue conditions of the travel agency commissions in the two companies. The second one is that the revenue treatments can reasonably guarantee the comparability of the revenue information of different periods in one entity but the comparability of the revenue informaiton of the two companies in one period. The third viewpoint is that the possible reason for the treatments of the revenue in Tui Group is to shift the revenue of the travel agency commissions in different periods so as to reduce the fluctuation of the revenue.
Thomas Cook Group Annual Report (2010) downloaded from
http://ara2010.thomascookgroup.com/downloads/full_version.pdf on 9/8/2011
Tui Group Annual Report (2010) downloaded from
http://www.tui-group.com/dms/ir/20_annual_report_2009-10/pdfs/TUI_AR_2009-10_en/TUI_AR_2009-10_en.pdf on 9/8/2011
IASC (International Accounting Standards Committee). (1989). Frame for Preparation and Presentation of Financial Statements.
International Accounting Standards. (1993). Revenue. (NO. 18)