Qualitative Characteristics of Accounting Information

These add a great deal of credibility to the accounting information

David Bickerton

Reviewed by

David Bickerton

Expertise: Asset Management | Financial Analysis


September 4, 2023

What are the Qualitative Characteristics of Accounting Information?

The accounting information present in the financial statements is primarily quantitative terms—numbers matter. And with these currency amounts and numbers, investors can make informed and profitable decisions.

However, along with the quantitative features, accounting information also has qualitative characteristics and data. These characteristics also add a great deal of credibility to the accounting information.

For surveying purposes, the features are classified into two categories:

1. Fundamental qualitative characteristics.

2. Enhancing qualitative aspects.

According to ACCA Global, Financial reports comprise financial information. Therefore, it is essential to consider the kind of data that would likely be most helpful to current and potential investors, lenders, and other creditors in making choices about the reporting company drafting these reports.

If financial data is meaningful, it must be timely and accurately reflect the reported information. In addition, if this information is comparable, verified, convenient, and conveniently intelligible, its usefulness will be increased.

According to Prabhjot Kaur, "Qualitative characteristics or qualities necessary for information serve a significant supporting role in the decision usefulness, decision model approach to accounting theory.". 

These characteristics are the tributes that make the information provided in financial statements applicable to users."

As stated by Prabhjot Kaur, "Accounting information that is reported to facilitate economic decisions should possess certain characteristics or normative standards known as qualitative characteristics of accounting information."

Companies must stick to these characteristics while preparing financial reports and statements. It helps the stakeholders to build or enhance trust with the management as they provide informed and timely reports without concealing any facts and information. 

Fundamental (Primary) Qualitative Characteristics

The characteristics are necessary to make valuable information for the users to make decisions are defined as fundamental characteristics. The two essential features are: 

1. Relevance:

Relevance describes how valuable is the accounting information to the users for making decisions. The relevant information must be made accessible on time, predict and provide feedback, and positively impact the users' findings. 

For information to be relevant, it requires: 

  • Confirmatory value - It must include information regarding past financial events and validate past predictions. 
  • Predictive value - It must predict future events by the users. 

The information would be relevant if both the requirements were met and followed.

2. Reliability

To ensure the reliability of financial information, the users must be able to rely on the news. The

information provided should be free from bias and faithfully portray what it is meant to represent. It is also known as a faithful representation of financial information. 

For achieving faithful representation, the information must follow the following characteristics: 

  • Completeness - All transactions must be presented and follow entirely disclosure accounting principles. 
  • Neutrality - All information should be free from any bias and manipulation. 
  • Free from any error - The report is free from any errors and mistakes. 

Enhancing (Secondary) Qualitative Characteristics

The attributes which influence the usefulness of the information by the users and distinguish between more practical and less helpful information are defined as Enhancing qualitative characteristics. 

These characteristics include:

A. Verifiability

The organization must ensure that the financial information is verifiable for accurate predictions. This involves validating the financial information using several measures and assumptions to produce the same results. 

Verifiability does not influence the sincerity of the information and does not provide any assurance on the premises or the methods used.

B. Timeliness

The timeliness determines how fast the information is available to the users. Who must report the information within time as the information could be obsolete and useless with time? 

This attribute determines if the information is timely reported to the company, making the users' decisions faster. 

C. Understandability

This characteristic states that the information should be presented in a way that people readily understand. A message is believed to be communicated effectively when the receiver perceives and understands the news the same way the sender has sent it. 

The information should be presented in a way understandable to potential users and the general public. 

D. Comparability

Comparability refers to easy comparison within different financial periods in the company or with other companies in the same sector. The comparison is based on the assumptions, methods, accounting standards, and policies used in financial information.

It refers to the ability of the company to compare financial information with its competitors and make changes to facilitate decision-making by the users. 

Qualitative Characteristics Importance and Usage

Like the quantitative characteristics of accounting, these aspects have also developed their importance and helped enhance the accounting information and financial reports. 

Both the quantitative and qualitative go hand-in-hand for the smooth functioning of the business as they have equal importance and requirement. Moreover, these characteristics assist the users of financial information in forming predictive and informed decisions on time. 

These factors are essential for the following reasons:

a. It helps to understand and analyze financial information.

b. It helps in comparison between several companies or within several economic periods.

c. Understand and predict future events in the business.

d. Introduces trends in the market.

e. Offers insights into the company to the users.

f. It helps the company users use the information and make well-informed and timely decisions.

The following steps should be followed to assist in using these characteristics: 

  1. First, derive relevant information from the financial statements of the company. 
  2. Ensure the information is complete, neutral, and free from error. 
  3. Ensure the information is verifiable, free from bias, and presents an unrealistic picture of the business.
  4. Ensure the understandability of the data by users and the general public. 
  5. Finally, compare the data with different periods and competitors. 

Qualitative Characteristics Example

The following are some examples of the use of such characteristics of accounting information in the real business world. 

1. If a company wants to invest in a new asset or improve its sales, it will first need to extract relevant information from the past years, facilitating timely and well-informed decision-making in achieving the goals. 

2. The company will also ensure the information is reliable, i.e., complete, neutral, and free from errors or misrepresentation. Then, the company will ensure that the data is verifiable with the help of some professionals and their expertise.

3. The company will always ensure that professionals understand the information provided and that the general public is unknown to the specific sector. 

4. While comparing the financial information between different companies or different economic periods of the same company, the qualitative factors assist in understanding and analyzing the data. The interpreted data is used for further comparing and making decisions. 

5. The investors and creditors are waiting for the company's financial reports to come out, but the messages have been delayed by a few months due to unforeseen circumstances. Then the decisions taken by the investors and creditors to whether invest or not in the business will be difficult as the information is not up to date and does not provide timely results. 

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Researched and authored by Vanshika Nakul | LinkedIn

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