UK: IFRS For SMEs In Your Pocket – UK Edition

Last Updated: 23 March 2010
Article by Deloitte Audit Group

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017


In its transition report of December 2000 to the newly formed IASB, the outgoing Board of the International Accounting Standards Committee said "A demand exists for a special version of International Accounting Standards for Small Enterprises".

The IFRS for SMEs, issued by the IASB in July 2009, responds to this demand. It is self-contained, tailored for the needs and capabilities of smaller businesses and is understandable across borders. Compared with full IFRSs (and many national GAAPs), the IFRS for SMEs is written in clear, easily understandable and translatable language and is less complex in a number of ways, including the limitation of accounting policy choices, omitting topics that are not relevant to SMEs, simplifying the principles for recognition and measurement and requiring fewer disclosures.

In the UK, the Accounting Standards Board (ASB) established the principle of a shorter, simpler accounting regime for smaller entities when it issued the Financial Reporting Standard for Small Entities (FRSSE) in 1997. Over the years, that standard has been updated to include all relevant legal provisions so that it provides a 'one-stop shop' for small entities.

The ASB declared in 2002 that "There can be no case for the use in the UK of two sets of wholly different accounting standards in the medium term". That policy led to the partial conversion of some, but not all, UK standards based on IFRS equivalents, with the consequences of added complexity and the need to update those standards as IFRSs changed.

With the issue of IFRS for SMEs, ASB has an opportunity to replace a partially converted set of UK standards with a shorter, simpler, IFRS-based standard. Before that happens, there are a number of reasonably contentious issues for the UK to debate and ASB to resolve. Firstly, which entities should qualify for the simplified regime and which should be required to apply full IFRS? Secondly, should subsidiaries of listed groups be permitted a hybrid regime comprising full IFRS recognition and measurement but reduced disclosure? Thirdly, how should the UK approach not-for-profit entities? Fourthly, is there a continued role for Statements of Recommended Practice?

While it is right that the ASB must debate and resolve these issues, the process so far has been lengthy. Meanwhile, the demand from business to resolve the current uncertainty increases. It is hoped that ASB will move as swiftly as practicable to allow eligible UK companies to choose to move to the IFRS for SMEs.

About this publication

This pocket guide is based on an international version prepared by the Deloitte IFRS global team. It takes each section of the IFRS for SMEs, summarises its requirements and highlights key additional recognition and measurement requirements of full IFRSs issued by the IASB up to 31 December 2009 (with the exception of IFRS 9: Financial Instruments as the IASB's project to replace IAS 39: Financial Instruments: Recognition and Measurement is, at the time of writing, incomplete).

Additional guidance describing the application of the IFRS for SMEs in the UK is added in shaded text.

Deloitte's website provides comprehensive information about international financial reporting in general and IASB activities in particular.

Deloitte UK resources, including an earlier publication 'Choosing your GAAP', may be found at .

Obtaining the IFRS for SMEs

The complete IFRS for SMEs (together with basis for conclusions, illustrative financial statements, and presentation and disclosure checklist) can be downloaded free from .

In addition, the IASCF is in the process of publishing training materials for each section in the IFRS for SMEs which can be downloaded free of charge from .

Obtaining the ASB Policy Proposal

Copies of ASB's 'Policy Proposal: The future of UK GAAP' and other materials related to this project can be downloaded from ASB's website at

Introduction to the IFRS for SMEs

The IFRS for SMEs is a self-contained set of accounting principles that is based on full IFRSs, but that has been simplified for SMEs. The IFRS for SMEs has been organised by topic to make it more like a reference manual – the IASB considers this more user-friendly for SME preparers and users of SME financial statements.

The IFRS for SMEs and full IFRSs are separate and distinct frameworks. Entities that are eligible to apply the IFRS for SMEs, and that choose to do so, must apply the IFRS for SMEs in full (i.e. they are not permitted to 'mix and match' the requirements of the IFRS for SMEs and full IFRSs apart from applying the IFRS for SMEs option to use IAS 39 in respect of the recognition and measurement of financial instruments).

The IFRS for SMEs includes requirements for the development and application of accounting policies in the absence of specific guidance on a particular subject. An entity may, but is not required to, consider the requirements and guidance in full IFRSs dealing with similar and related issues. The following are the key types of simplifications made:

  • some topics in IFRSs are omitted because they are not relevant to typical SMEs;
  • some accounting policy treatments in full IFRSs are not allowed because a simplified method is available to SMEs;
  • simplification of many of the recognition and measurement principles that are in full IFRSs;
  • substantially fewer disclosures; and
  • simplified language and explanations throughout.

The result of these simplifications is that the IFRS for SMEs is roughly 10% the size of full IFRSs and contains approximately ten per cent of the disclosure requirements of full IFRSs.

The IFRS for SMEs does not address the following topics that are dealt with in full IFRSs, because these topics are not generally relevant to SMEs:

  • earnings per share;
  • interim financial reporting;
  • segment reporting;
  • insurance (because entities that sell insurance contracts to the public will generally be classed as publicly accountable); and
  • non-current assets held for sale (although holding for sale is cited as a potential impairment indicator).

The IASB expects to undertake a thorough review of the SMEs' experience in applying the IFRS for SMEs when two years of financial statements using the IFRS have been published by a broad range of entities. An IFRS for SMEs Implementation Group has been established that will be responsible for:

  • encouraging jurisdictions to adopt the IFRS for SMEs;
  • ensuring consistent and high quality implementation across and within jurisdictions;
  • addressing the pervasive implementation questions that inevitably will arise on initial adoption of the standard globally; and
  • identifying and fixing lack of clarity, key omissions, and possible errors in the IFRS for SMEs.

After the initial implementation review, the revision of the IFRS for SMEs will be limited to once in approximately three years, and it will consider new and amended IFRSs that have been developed in the previous three years as well as specific issues that have been identified as possible improvements. On occasion, the IASB may identify a matter for which amendment of the IFRS for SMEs may need to be considered earlier than in the normal three-year cycle. Until the IFRS for SMEs is amended, any changes that may be made or proposed with respect to full IFRSs would not apply to the IFRS for SMEs.

ASB's Policy Proposal: The future of UK GAAP

'UK GAAP' presently comprises three tiers:

  • Full IFRSs – applicable to the consolidated financial statements of EU listed entities under an EU regulation, and available as an option for all other entities under UK law.
  • UK FRSs – applicable to EU listed parent entities, all other medium or large entities, and available as an option for small entities. There are effectively two sub-tiers – those entities which have adopted FRS 26 Financial Instruments: Recognition and Measurement and those which have not.
  • FRSSE – available to small entities.

ASB's Policy Proposal: The future of UK GAAP (continued)

As part of its medium-term strategy to converge UK standards to the IASB framework to the fullest extent possible consistent with the needs of UK and Irish entities, ASB issued a consultation paper 'Policy Proposal: The future of UK GAAP' in August 2009 proposing a new three tier model for UK GAAP:

  • Full IFRS – applicable to all 'publicly accountable' entities.
  • A new single UK FRS based on the IFRS for SMEs – applicable to all large and medium-sized non-publicly accountable entities (including subsidiaries of listed parents), and an option for small entities.
  • FRSSE – available to small entities.

Large entities. The key part of ASB's proposal is the replacement of UK FRSs, SSAPs and UITF statements with a single UK standard, issued by ASB, based on the IFRS for SMEs. Unlike the IFRS for SMEs, which is aimed at SMEs (although it does not contain any size criteria), ASB would extend the scope of the UK equivalent standard expressly to include all large and medium-sized entities who fell outside the definition of 'publicly accountable'. This would therefore include large unlisted entities provided they were not financial institutions which take deposits, or hold assets in a fiduciary capacity, as a primary business (see Section 1 on page 9).

EU directives. Since the standard would be issued as a UK/Irish standard by ASB, it follows that it would need to comply with the EU 4th and 7th Company Law Directives. Where it is established that requirements within the Directives conflict with the IFRS for SMEs, ASB would need to amend the UK/Irish standard to comply with the Directives. In other respects, ASB are understood to favour retaining the IFRS for SMEs without amendment as far as possible.

A fourth tier for subsidiaries? Recognising that accounting policy options under full IFRSs may differ from those under the IFRS for SMEs, some commentators have called for a fourth tier for subsidiaries of listed entities which combines the recognition and measurement features of full IFRS (on which their group policies would be based) and the reduced disclosure requirements of the IFRS for SMEs. To date, ASB has not shown any appetite for such a fourth tier since it would require ASB to introduce and maintain its own schedule of disclosure requirements. The IFRS for SMEs already includes an option to adopt full IFRS recognition and measurement for financial instruments and benefit from reduced disclosures, which is likely to be the area of most frequent mis-match.

Preface to the IFRS for SMEs

The IFRS for SMEs is organised by topic, each presented in a separate section. All of the paragraphs in the Standard have equal authority.

The Standard is appropriate for general purpose financial statements and other financial reporting of SMEs (as defined in Section 1). General purpose financial statements are directed towards the common information needs of a wide range of users, for example, shareholders, creditors, employees and the public at large.

The IASB expects to undertake a thorough review of SMEs' experience in applying the IFRS for SMEs when two years of financial statements using the IFRS have been published by a broad range of entities. The IASB then expects to address issues identified, and also, if appropriate, incorporate recent changes to full IFRSs. Thereafter, a single omnibus proposal of amendments will be issued, if necessary, approximately once every three years.

Implications for the UK

The IFRS for SMEs was issued in July 2009, and was available to IFRS preparers outside the EU immediately. As the IFRS for SMEs has not been endorsed for use in Europe, UK companies are currently unable to apply the Standard. There is no immediate plan for the European Commission to recognise IFRS for SMEs as part of the IAS Regulation.

Timing of UK standard and its update

The ASB's proposal is to adopt the IFRS for SMEs as a replacement for current UK GAAP. Since this proposal is subject to comment and further decision, we cannot be definitive on the timing of issue of a standard in the UK. However, once issued, the UK standard would be expected to be updated on the same three-yearly cycle as its IFRS equivalent. The first review of the content of the IFRS for SMEs and operation by IASB may thus be expected in 2012 based on the experience of preparers applying it in 2010 and 2011.

Section 1. Scope and application

The IFRS for SMEs is for use by entities that have no public accountability and that are required, or choose, to publish general purpose financial statements for external users. Essentially, an entity is considered to have public accountability if:

1. its debt or equity instruments are publicly traded; or

2. it is a financial institution or other entity that, as part of its primary business, holds assets in a fiduciary capacity for a broad group of outsiders. If assets are held in a fiduciary capacity for reasons that are incidental to the entity's primary business, it will not cause the entity to have public accountability, for example, public utilities, travel and real estate agents and not-for-profit entities.

Ultimately, the decision regarding which entities should use the IFRS for SMEs rests with national regulatory authorities and standard-setters – and those bodies may choose to specify more detailed eligibility criteria, including quantified criteria based on revenue, assets etc.

Implications for the UK

The definition of 'SME' in the IFRS for SMEs is very different from the familiar meaning in UK law as it makes no reference to the size of the entity in terms of revenue, assets, or employee numbers. Despite the title the Standard is applicable not only to SMEs but to all entities which do not have public accountability. ASB proposes to retain the IASB definition of 'publicly accountable', but amend it to include 'a deposit-taking entity'. According to ASB's analysis this results in the following publicly accountable entities being required to follow full IFRSs rather than UK standards as currently permitted:

  • Companies and groups traded in 'over-the-counter' markets that are not currently required to follow full IFRSs.
  • Parent entities of listed groups.
  • Banking and insurance subsidiaries meeting the 'deposit-taking' or 'fiduciary capacity' criteria.
  • Investment trusts.
  • Building societies.
  • Co-operatives.
  • Credit Unions.
  • Friendly Societies.

UK law.

ASB's proposal to include large non-publicly accountable entities within the scope of the new UK standard is also subject to there being no changes to UK law on this point, for example extending the meaning of 'publicly accountable' to include all large entities.

Section 2. Concepts and pervasive principles


  • Describes the objective of financial statements, which is to provide information about the financial position, performance and cash flows of SMEs that is useful to a broad range of users.

Summary of IFRS for SMEs

  • Identifies the qualitative characteristics underlying the financial statements.
  • Requires financial statements, excluding cash flow information, to be prepared using the accrual basis of accounting.
  • Describes financial position as the relationship between assets, liabilities and equity.
  • Describes performance as the relationship between income and expenses. Income encompasses both revenue and gains, whereas expenses include both expenses and losses.
  • Defines basic elements of financial statements as well as the concepts for recognition and measurement.
  • Identifies the limited circumstances in which assets and liabilities, or income and expenses can be offset.
  • Specifies certain pervasive principles that an entity should consider in choosing an accounting policy in the absence of specific guidance in the IFRS for SMEs.

Full IFRS requirements

  • Contain concepts of capital and capital maintenance.

Key UK GAAP conversion issues

  • Concepts and principles in line with ASB's Statement of Principles.
  • IFRS term 'valuation allowance' is used for amounts written off assets, e.g. provision for bad debts.

Section 3. Financial statement presentation


  • Explains fair presentation, what a complete set of financial statements is and what compliance with the IFRS for SMEs requires.

Summary of IFRS for SMEs

  • Principles essential for fair presentation of financial statements include:
    • the going concern assumption;
    • consistency of presentation;
    • comparability; and
    • materiality.
  • Financial statements that comply with the IFRS for SMEs should include an explicit and unreserved statement of compliance. In extremely rare circumstances when departure is required to maintain fair presentation, additional disclosures have to be provided.
  • Financial statements are prepared at least annually. When the end of the reporting period changes so that financial statements are presented for a period other than a year, additional disclosures are required.
  • A complete set of financial statements includes each of the following for the current period and the previous comparable period:
    • a statement of financial position;
    • either a single statement of comprehensive income or a separate income statement and a separate statement of comprehensive income;
    • a statement of changes in equity;
    • a statement of cash flows; and
    • notes.
  • A combined statement of income and retained earnings can be presented instead of the separate statements of comprehensive income and changes in equity, if the only changes to equity arise from profit or loss, dividend payments, corrections of errors, and changes in accounting policies.
  • Each financial statement should be presented with equal prominence to the others.
  • Entities may use titles and formats for the individual financial statements other than those specified in the IFRS for SMEs.
  • The financial statements and notes should be clearly identified and distinguished from any other accompanying information.
  • When information not required by the IFRS for SMEs is presented, the basis for preparing and presenting such information should be disclosed.

Full IFRS requirements

  • Require the presentation of a statement of financial position at the beginning of the earliest comparative period when an accounting policy is applied retrospectively or a retrospective restatement or reclassification of items is made in the financial statements.
  • Do not allow the combination of the statement of comprehensive income and statement of changes in equity under any circumstances.

Key UK GAAP conversion issues

" Statement of changes in equity is presented as a primary statement, compared to the reconciliation of movements in shareholders' funds in the notes under UK GAAP.

Section 4. Statement of financial position (Balance sheet)


  • Sets out the information that is to be presented in the statement of financial position.

Summary of IFRS for SMEs

  • Specifies minimum line items to be presented in the statement of financial position and includes guidance for including additional line items, headings and subtotals.
  • Requires a current/non-current distinction for assets and liabilities unless presentation based on liquidity provides more relevant and reliable information.
  • Specifies additional information that can be presented either in the statement of financial position or in the notes.

Full IFRS requirements

  • Require the separate presentation of assets classified as held for sale or assets and liabilities included in a disposal group held for sale.

Key UK GAAP conversion issues

  • Limited change to familiar UK format and in any event would still need to comply with company law formats based on the 4th directive.
  • Option to use new term 'Statement of financial position' rather than 'Balance sheet'.

Section 5. Statement of comprehensive income and income statement


  • Sets out the information that is to be presented in the statement of comprehensive income and income statement.

Summary of IFRS for SMEs

  • Requires the presentation of total comprehensive income either in:
    • a single statement of comprehensive income; or
    • a separate income statement (presenting all items of income and expense) and a separate statement of comprehensive income (presenting all items recognised outside of profit or loss).
  • The only types of other comprehensive income recognised outside of profit or loss are:
    • foreign exchange gains and losses arising on translating the financial statement of a foreign operation;
    • some actuarial gains and losses; and
    • some fair value changes of hedging instruments.
  • Specifies minimum line items to be presented and includes guidance for including additional line items, headings and subtotals.
  • No item of income or expense may be described as 'extraordinary', but unusual items can be presented separately.
  • Analysis of expenses recognised in profit or loss may be presented by nature (such as depreciation, salaries, purchases of materials) or function (such as cost of goods sold, selling expenses, administrative expenses).

Full IFRS requirements

  • More items of comprehensive income recognised outside of profit or loss can arise (e.g. changes in the fair value of available-forsale financial assets and gains on the revaluation of property, plant and equipment and intangible assets).

Key UK GAAP conversion issues

  • New terminology, but similar to P&L account and STRGL, with option to present as two statements or one combined statement.
  • Additional option to show retained profits brought/carried forward where 'STRGL'/equity items are limited to dividends and prior-year adjustments.
  • Discontinued operations presented as a single net item below continuing operations rather than a separate column.
  • No requirement for a note of historical cost profits and losses.

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