The bearer plant

Accountants don’t use the word plant in the sense of a flower or a bush. They use it in the phrase property, plant and equipment. There is even a standard IAS 16, International Accounting Standard 16 Property, Plant and Equipment to explain what it is all about. Plant for an accountant is a generic word for, for instance, a computer, a forklift truck, a vehicle or general machinery used in a factory.

The word bearer for an accountant means something that is in one’s possession as in bearer shares or bearer bonds and is not officially registered. If you have it in your hand you own it.

So logically, one would assume that the expression ‘bearer plant’ would be a piece of machinery that a person could carry around with them, as opposed to plant which is too heavy or fixed in place.


A bearer plant, for an accountant, is a living plant [1]

Why did the International Accounting Standard Board not just call their bearer plant a living plant and move on. Are they intentionally being misleading? Or is it just bizarre?

Now of course the bearer plant is not just any plant, it has the same characteristics as a fixed asset. It has to bear fruit for more than one year and is not for sale. It is the fruit which is sold or used to make something else. A walnut tree for instance is a bearer plant. But then an ordinary person doesn’t call a tree a plant, they call it a tree. Only accountants call it a plant.

[1] Paragraph 6 of International Accounting Standard 16 Property, Plant and Equipment, (IAS 16): “A bearer plant is a living plant …”

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