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Debating Accounting Principles and Policies: the Case of Goodwill, 1880-1921

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Debate surrounding the publication of FRS 10 (ASB, 1997) in the UK displayed support for a variety of accounting policies for goodwill, advocated for a variety of practical and conceptual reasons. An analysis of papers written on goodwill between 1884 and 1921 explores whether this lack of unanimity is a recent phenomenon or not. The paper concludes that during this earlier period there were a number of areas of agreement regarding goodwill but, although a majority of authorities favoured a capitalise/amortise policy, there was a significant difference of opinion relating to its treatment once recorded in the accounts. Analysis also suggests that advocated policies were derived from a desire to promote and operationalise the principle of prudence.

Keywords: Goodwill; profit measurement; prudence

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09585200701376568

Affiliations: Department of Management, School of Business, University of Reading, UK

Publication date: July 1, 2007

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