Why both  ‘true and fair’?

In the opinion of auditors the world over, financial statements are declared to be true and fair or they give a true and fair view of the company’s affairs.  True and fair has become such a common expression in accounting that no-one thinks about it anymore. They have become a natural expression similar to ‘fair and square’.

Why do auditors go out of their way to state that financial statements are both true and fair?

True on its own would be fine.  True is strong: in accordance with reality, and there are so many affirmative adjectives associated with it: authentic, correct, genuine and others.  Fair has a connotation of honesty and being in accordance with the rules. Even on its own it would be acceptable, even though it is weaker than true.

It must be important that they should be both fair and true at the same time. Is it possible for instance that some financial statements could be true but not fair and vica versa?  If they are true, who cares if they might also be unfair! How could they be unfair anyway, if they are true.

It might be possible, in theory, because of degree, that they be fair but not true. But what intellectual contortions would be necessary for an accountant to prepare three sets of financial statements, one set that is true and another that is fair, and yet another that is both true and fair? What change in the numbers would be necessary? I suspect none at all. All three are all exactly the same.

What then is the silly trick accountants and auditors are playing on us by stressing that their financial statements are both true and fair? I am certain they can’t explain it to us. 

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