Revenue Recognition in a Multiperiod Agency Setting
44 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2000
Date Written: June 2000
The principles that govern the recognition of revenues (and expenses) are the key determinants of the properties of accrual accounting information. This paper studies the revenue recognition question from a stewardship perspective. Our results show that it is optimal to carry products at their historical costs until revenues are realized. Revenues are considered realized when the amount of associated cash flows can be measured in an objective and verifiable fashion. In contrast, we demonstrate that mark-to-market accounting, although sensible from an equity valuation perspective, generally does not provide efficient aggregation of raw information to solve the stewardship problems. In particular, mark-to-market accounting based on anticipated performance of the manager does not necessarily induce the manager to actually deliver such performance. Our analysis also identifies situations where the realization principle needs to be modified with the asset valuation rule of lower-of-cost-or-market. Such results highlight that conservatism may be a desirable feature of accounting measurements for managerial performance evaluation purposes.
JEL Classification: M41, D82, J33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation