|عنوان فارسی مقاله:||عدم افشای اطلاعات مبتنی برسرمایه انسانی: جنبه های نظری|
|عنوان انگلیسی مقاله:||Non-disclosure of human capital-based information: theoretical perspectives|
|رشته های مرتبط:||حسابداری، حسابداری مالی و حسابدرای مدیریت|
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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to discuss a framework of accounting theoretical bases that could promote research into little understood areas of human capital accounting. Design/methodology/approach – The possible forces that hinder greater disclosure of human capital-based information are analyzed by reviewing several theoretical viewpoints that offer a framework of different possible reasons for the low frequency of human capital-based disclosures. Findings – The paper explores several possible reasons for the reluctance of firms to disclose greater amounts of human capital-based information, from the perspective of relevant theoretical bases. The predominant reasons may differ in different circumstances, industries and environments. Research limitations/implications – The paper explores theoretical bases that explain the barriers to widespread reporting of human capital-based information. The theoretical bases discussed are not empirically validated. Practical implications – The validation of the theoretical bases explored in this study, and the possible uncovering of new bases in the future through empirical studies, will enable academics, policy makers and accounting standard setters to better understand the reasons for the limited disclosures of human capital-based information by listed firms to capital markets. This will help in the promulgation of widely accepted accounting standards for the disclosure of human capital-based information, which address and overcome the forces that currently hinder the reporting of human capital-based information. Originality/value – This is the first paper that explores a framework of several pertinent theoretical viewpoints that specifically address the non-disclosures of human capital-based information to capital markets.
A nation’s intangible assets reflect the competencies and capabilities needed for national economic growth (Malhotra, 2003). It has been acknowledged that intangible assets are important for wealth creation and increasing national incomes ((The) World Bank, 1998). In corporate entities, intangible assets are important for ensuring growth and stability, which in turn enables meaningful employment and career growth opportunities that boost the economic growth and stability of nations. Despite the increasing recognition given to corporate intangible assets in the literature, there has been limited progress in accounting for these assets in corporate reports (International Federation of Accountants, 1998; Lev, 2001; Kannan and Aulbur, 2004; Guthrie and Yongvanich, 2004; Andreou et al., 2007; Choong, 2008). The market to book values of US firms rose from 0.81 in 1973 to 1.69 in 1992 (Lev and Zarowin, 1999), indicating that substantial portions of assets that contribute to the market values of listed firms are absent from their balance sheets. Eckstein (2004) posits that the lack of internationally accepted accounting standards for the disclosure of intangibles undermines the credibility of corporate accounting reports. Studies of classification and accounting for intangible assets, including reasons for the non-disclosure of intangibles in corporate reports, are important for addressing this shortcoming in accounting standards. The urgent need to understand these intangibles, and formulate approaches for identifying, measuring and reporting them, has caught the attention of corporations, researchers and governments worldwide (Canibano et al., 2000; Upton, 2001; Johanson et al., 2006). Some innovative reporting approaches by private firms, such as intellectual capital statements, have also become well known, indicating the great importance placed by the international business and research community on effective reporting of intellectual capital. In this context, Upton (2001, p. 18) mentions that the intellectual capital statements of the Swedish insurance company, Skandia, are the “best known” of the new intellectual capital reports. Other researchers have studied Skandia’s efforts in detail, and have also considered similar intellectual capital reports in other nations. For example, Mouritsen et al. (2001) consider Skandia’s intellectual capital reports and Mouritsen et al. (2002) study intellectual capital statements of Danish firms. Choong (2008) mentions that intangible assets studies have converged toward a three element framework covering human, organizational and relational capital. Human capital refers to the capabilities and skills possessed by the employees, organizational capital pertains to internal intangible assets (e.g. proprietary computer software) and relational capital that pertains to intangible assets that are external to the organization (e.g. a loyal base of customers). Abhayawansa and Abeysekera (2008) employ a variant of this framework in an analysis of extant intellectual capital research. These authors subdivide intellectual capital into human capital, internal capital and external capital. Studies of intellectual capital disclosures (Table I) indicate that human capital is generally the least disclosed amongst these intellectual capital categories (Abhayawansa and Abeysekera, 2008). In Finland, human capital-based external reporting has been attributed to about only 20 per cent of private companies (Ahonen, 2009; Ahonen and Grojer, 2005), again reflecting the relatively low levels of human capital-based information reported in Table I. Four categories of intangible asset measurement models are found in published literature, namely: scorecards, direct intellectual capital estimates, market capitalization and return on assets-based measures (Malhotra, 2002; Sveiby, 2007). Scorecards measure and report different components of intellectual capital through a variety of financial and non-financial metrics. Direct intellectual capital estimates provide monetary values for each component of the intellectual capital, and these values may be aggregated to provide a total intellectual capital value. Market capitalisation methods are based on the difference between the market and book values of a firm’s assets. Return on assets-based measures divide the above average earnings of a company with the firm’s cost of capital, including applicable interest rates, to derive a value for the intangible assets. Some recent work has explored valuation of specific intangible assets components, in contrast to the idea of either finding aggregate values (such as market values less book values of firms) or valuing individual components and then aggregating them. For example, Samudhram et al. (2008) consider the valuation of a component of intangible assets, namely: human capital, specifically. In essence, these authors consider a human capital valuation framework, which may also be extended to other specific categories of intellectual capital. Published studies indicate that human capital is generally the least frequently disclosed category of intellectual capital (Abhayawansa and Abeysekera, 2008). This paper explores the reasons for such non-disclosure, with the idea that an understanding of these reasons will help in the formulation of regulations that could promote widespread human capital-based reporting. Disclosure of human capital-based information is important for the capital markets to work efficiently. Capital market funds flow from individuals and households to business firms, through financial intermediaries, overseen by regulatory bodies, including legislative bodies (Figure 1). Ideally, the providers of the funds would choose to invest in firms that perform well and shun firms that perform poorly. Investors require high quality, reliable information to be able to choose the better firms, including information regarding the firm’s human capital. The managers and directors of firms have better access to information regarding the firm because they are closely involved with the running of the day-to-day business. Outsiders, including investors, would need to spend enormous amounts of time and effort to get this information regarding the performance of the firm, to make informed judgements. This information asymmetry, where managers of businesses have better information than investors, creates two problems (Healy and Palepu, 2001; Scott, 2003). First, it allows managers to garner wealth at the expense of shareholders (Jensen and Meckling, 1976), by covering up business problems, which only come to light when the firm eventually collapses. Second, it creates inefficiencies in resource allocation decisions of external stakeholders, where investors, misled by false reports, invest in poor performers at the expense of healthy firms. This misallocation of resources deprives healthy firms of vital funding (Healy and Palepu, 2001; Scott, 2003). Both of these problems can be overcome by the provision of the requisite information to investors. The non-disclosure of human capital-based information contributes to the information asymmetry problem, which in turn leads to issues arising from inefficient resource allocation. Such inefficient resource allocation leads to the proliferation of poorly performing firms at the expense of good-quality firms, eventually retarding national economic growth and performance. On the other hand, widespread reporting of pertinent human capital-based information will help to overcome the problems that result from information asymmetry. As such, it is important to understand and overcome the barriers to widespread human capital reporting. While some studies have explored the content of human capital disclosures and the reasons for such disclosures (Abeysekera and Guthrie, 2004; Abeysekera, 2008), there are virtually no published studies in international accounting journals that explicitly consider the reasons for the non-disclosure of human capital-based information (Guthrie and Murthy, 2009), particularly from the perspective of pertinent theories. This paper addresses this gap in the literature. It discusses relevant theoretical bases for the non-disclosure of human capital-based information. This discussion helps to extend human capital accounting research in this specific area. It also provides an impetus for further research in this little explored area, and seeks to inform policy makers and regulators of the potential underlying motivations that hinder greater disclosures of human capital-based information. By understanding the reasons for non-disclosure of human capital-based information, it might be possible to formulate regulations that address the concerns of corporations, and thereby promote widespread human capital-based reporting. The remainder of the paper is organised as follows. The next section reviews the human capital accounting literature. This literature review is followed by a discussion of several theoretical perspectives that consider why firms do not disclose much human capital-based information. This section is followed by a discussion of the limitations of this paper and future research. The final section concludes this discussion.