Annual report IC disclosures in The Netherlands, France and Germany

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Purpose ‐ This paper replicates and extends the Bontis research on intellectual capital (IC) disclosures in Canadian companies and also elaborates on the Beaulieu et al. research on disclosures by Swedish firms. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper studies IC disclosures by French CAC-40, Dutch AEX and German XETRA-DAX publicly-listed companies for the years 2000 and 2001. The paper also discusses country-specific arguments in favour of and against voluntary disclosure by such companies and searches both the annual reports and financial statements for IC hits. Findings ‐ Applying the Gray-scale to categorise countries, the paper finds not only that voluntary IC disclosure significantly differs between these countries, but also that this difference can be explained by country-specific regulation and auditor conservatism. Research limitations/implications ‐ The paper only studies Dutch, French and German IC disclosures in annual reports and financial statements. These three countries are European Union member states but "differ" significantly from one another. The differences discussed in this paper, however, are by no means exhaustive, nor do they picture the "European situation" in full. Practical implications ‐ The paper recognises that the intangible nature of IC creates tension with current country-specific legislation and strongly calls for convergence of applicable accounting standards and practices because of the increasing importance of IC and because of the improvement of corporate governance and policy making. Originality/value ‐ The paper not only extends (or fine-tunes) previous research, but also links with the literature that discusses the consequences of country-specific characteristics for accounting standards and practices.
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