The purpose of this paper is to examine how the convergence of private and public sector accounting standards is affecting conceptual and practical issues relating to heritage. More specifically, the paper is intended to provide a better understanding of the state of the art in national and international accounting standards on heritage assets, and of the views influencing such standards.
A qualitative documentary analysis is carried out to explore the variety of existing positions and views on heritage, ranging from the scholarly literature, through potential stakeholders and users, to international and national standard setters.
The analysis shows that the path of convergence between public and private sector standards and practices is still problematic. After more than two decades of debate around the nature, definition, measurement, and reporting of heritage, these issues are far from settled.
In the light of calls for increased measurement and reporting of public sector “assets”, and specifically for the definition of standards to recognise heritage, the paper suggests the need to strongly reconsider whether the convergence between public and private sector standards is desirable, feasible and effective. As such, the risks of embracing simplified or hybrid forms of accounting and reporting for heritage should be more seriously assessed. While reporting on heritage is important, it is fundamental to keep it distinct from reporting on government’s regular operations, in order to appreciate its specific value, nature and features.
Looking at European national standards for heritage, the IPSASB’s proposals, and the reactions to the latter by relevant stakeholders, the paper provides a pluralistic view on the positions and experiences about heritage, contributing to the debate on the convergence between private and public sector accounting standards.
Anessi-Pessina, E., Caruana, J., Sicilia, M. and Steccolini, I. (2019), "Heritage: the priceless hostage of accrual accounting", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 33 No. 2/3, pp. 285-306. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPSM-12-2018-0263Download as .RIS
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