The mysterious past events

Why do accountants define an asset using a past event?  What does it mean?  

“As a result of past events” also appears in the definition of a liability and an obligation.  I am writing rubbish, you might say, but the International Accounting Standards Board defines an asset as follows:

“An asset is a present economic resource controlled by the entity as a result of past events.” [1]

Not only are we not told what happens at the event, they announce events in the plural. One asset needs more than one event. It is clear. They do not state ‘as a result of A past event’. Most peculiar!

I tried to find out if anyone had discovered the its meaning. One source claims an asset can only be created when the event to control it has taken place. [2] But they only meantion ONE event not more, and they don’t explain what the event is, so I find this unsatisfactory.  No-one anywhere explains what these events are.

The International Accounting Standards Board are not alone either, the Financial Accounting Standards Board in the USA used a similar phrase in their definitions of asset and liability: 

‘… as a result of past transactions or events’.

They are more precise adding: ‘transactions’. An accountant can assume that a past transaction must be made between two companies for an asset to be placed in the financial statements. This seems logical. But then they spoil it by adding ‘or events’.  Why is there no explanation of what an event might be? And again why more than one?

Did they collaborate together or copy each other. I don’t know who decided first and who copied whom, or perhaps the two accounting boards had a meeting to decide the importance of these past events and to include them in their respective definitions. They must have decided together not to explain them either.

Then in December 2021, the Financial Accounting Standards Board in the USA had a change of heart. They eliminated past events from their definition of an asset and a liability. [3]

One can reasonably assume, they state, that a present right was obtained from some past transaction or event.  Not only did they wrong their fellow accountants with the plural transactions and events, they clearly state here, there was ever only ONE alone, never more.

Then they concluded, with unusual force, that the phrase : ‘… as a result of past transactions or events’, is redundant.

The International Accounting Standards Board have not yet changed their minds. They believe that accountants cannot assume that a present right was obtained from past events and continue to claim the plural, without attempting to explain what they are.

[1] International Accounting Standards Board, The Conceptual Framework for Financial Reporting, Paragraph 4.3.

[2] Chartered Education, Chicago, Elements of Financial Statements Part 1: Assets, Liabilities and Equity, March 2015.,asset%20on%20the%20financial%20statements.

[3] FASB Statement of Financial Accounting Concepts No. 8 Conceptual Framework for Financial Reporting , Chapter 4, Elements of Financial Statements, December 2021, Appendix B: Basis for Conclusions, Assets and Liabilities, BC4.13.

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