International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and the Institutional Environment: Their Joint Impact on Accounting Comparability
Neel, Michael J.
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Comparability is a desirable qualitative characteristic of financial information and critical for financial statement users' ability to identify and understand similarities and differences in financial results among reporting entities. Yet, little research explicitly considers either the determinants or benefits of comparability because of difficulty in identifying and measuring the theoretical construct of comparability. Further, the widespread global adoption of IFRS, a relatively homogenous set of accounting standards, is expected to increase comparability among companies that operate in different national jurisdictions. However, prior studies that examine the average impact of mandatory IFRS adoption on comparability find mixed results. I hypothesized that the impact of mandatory IFRS adoption on comparability varies with managers' reporting incentives and differences between countries' domestic standards and IFRS. Using listed firms from 34 countries, I documented that comparability under non-IFRS domestic standards is higher in countries that provide strong reporting incentives (i.e. countries with strict enforcement regimes or high earnings transparency). Additionally, I found an increase in comparability following IFRS adoption (relative to a control sample of non-adopters) in countries that provide strong reporting incentives or with large domestic GAAP-IFRS differences. In contrast, I found evidence of a decrease following IFRS adoption (relative to a control sample of non-adopters) in countries with weak reporting incentives or with small domestic GAAP-IFRS differences. Finally, I showed that changes in comparability surrounding adoption are positively associated with changes in the quality of firms' information environments.