Tesco’s accounting problems: Not so funny

IT IS too soon to say whether the accounting misstatement at Tesco was cock-up or conspiracy. The source of the discrepancy is already clear, however, and it is as old as book-keeping itself: the premature recognition of revenue.Suppliers make payments to supermarkets that meet certain sales targets for their products, run promotions or place the goods in eye-catching places, such as at the end of aisles. Tesco managers appear to have been too ambitious in forecasting these “rebates”. They may also have underreported the costs of stolen and out-of-date produce.In a study of accounting scandals at American companies by the Committee of Sponsoring Organisations, a business-ethics body, the misrecording of revenues was to blame in 60% of cases. Manipulation generally falls into one of two categories. In the first, involving “timing differences”, the revenue is genuine but, say, sales at the start of a quarter are booked as having been struck in the previous one. The flipside of this is “cookie jar” accounting: pushing today’s revenue into tomorrow so it can be dipped into to shore up weak quarters.In the second, more serious category, the sales are fake: often, a related party poses as a customer to generate phoney invoices. Examples include Gowex, a Spanish technology firm that folded earlier this year, and Satyam Computer of India, whose boss compared the escalation of the $…

Link to article: www.economist.com/news/business/21620227-booking-revenues-comedy-all-about-timing-not-so-funny?fsrc=rss|bus

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