In the complex world of financial reporting, tax effect accounting plays a crucial role in accurately representing a company's financial position.  

I aim to shed light on this intricate topic, providing insights and anecdotes to make it more relatable to readers.

So, let's dive deep in find out what is tax effect accounting?

Accountant What is Tax Effect Accounting

What is Tax Effect Accounting?

At its core, tax effect accounting is a method used to reconcile the differences between accounting income and taxable income. These discrepancies arise due to various factors, such as temporary differences in the recognition of revenue and expenses and permanent differences resulting from items that are treated differently for tax purposes.

Imagine you're a small business owner, diligently recording your financial transactions. You might be surprised to learn that the income you report on your financial statements sometimes aligns differently from the income you report to the tax authorities.

It is where tax effect accounting comes into play, ensuring that your financial statements accurately reflect the tax implications of your business activities.

Key Components of Tax Effect Accounting:

Deferred Tax Assets

Deferred tax assets arise from temporary differences that will result in deductible amounts in future periods when determining taxable profit or loss. Common examples include:

  • Expenses recognised in the financial statements before they are deductible for tax purposes, such as accrued employee bonuses or warranty provisions
  • Carry-forward of unused tax losses or credits

The recognition of deferred tax assets is subject to a "probable profits" test - there must be sufficient future taxable profit available against which the deductible temporary differences can be utilised. Deferred tax assets are measured at the tax rates expected to apply when the asset is realised.

Deferred Tax Liabilities

Deferred tax liabilities represent income taxes payable in future periods regarding taxable temporary differences. Taxable temporary differences arise when the carrying amount of an asset or liability in the financial statements is recovered or settled for tax purposes in future periods. Common examples include:

  • Revenue recognised for accounting purposes before it is taxable, such as instalment sales or contracts accounted for under the percentage-of-completion method
  • Use of accelerated depreciation for tax purposes

With limited exceptions, deferred tax liabilities are recognised for all taxable temporary differences. They are measured at the tax rates expected to apply when the liability is settled.

Current Tax Expense

The current tax expense is the income tax payable on the taxable profit for the current period, determined using tax rates enacted or substantively enacted at the reporting date. It may include adjustments to tax payable concerning previous periods.

Deferred Tax Expense

The deferred tax expense (or income) is the change during the period in deferred tax liabilities and assets, excluding amounts recognised outside profit or loss - either in other comprehensive income or directly in equity. It reflects the tax consequences of changes in temporary differences between the carrying amounts of assets and liabilities for financial reporting purposes and their tax bases.

In summary, the current tax expense represents the tax impact of items included in pre-tax accounting profit, while the deferred tax expense captures the tax effects of temporary differences. Together, they provide a comprehensive picture of the total income tax expense related to the period's activities.

Comprehensive income, including net and other comprehensive income, provides a holistic view of an entity's financial performance. The tax effects of items included in other comprehensive income, such as gains and losses on cash flow hedges or remeasurements of defined benefit pension plans, are recognised in OCI along with the underlying items.

The Importance of Tax Effect Accounting

Accurate Financial Reporting

One of the primary objectives of tax effect accounting is to accurately represent a company's financial position by properly accounting for transactions' tax implications. This involves recognising deferred tax assets and liabilities arising from temporary differences between the carrying amounts of assets and liabilities in the financial statements and their respective tax bases.

By incorporating the tax effects of these temporary differences, companies can present a more comprehensive picture of their financial health. It enables investors, creditors, and other users of financial statements to assess the company's performance, liquidity, and prospects more accurately. Failure to apply tax effect accounting principles can lead to misstatements in financial statements, potentially misleading stakeholders and impacting their decision-making process.

For example, if a company fails to recognise deferred tax liabilities related to accelerated depreciation for tax purposes, it may overstate its net income and understate its liabilities. It can give a false impression of the company's profitability and financial position, leading to misinformed investment or lending decisions.

Compliance with Accounting Standards

Adhering to tax effect accounting principles is a matter of best practice and a mandatory requirement under various accounting standards. The International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) mandate the application of tax effect accounting in financial reporting.

These standards provide guidelines on recognising, measuring, presenting, and disclosing tax-related items in financial statements. Non-compliance with these standards can result in misstatements, leading to potential legal and reputational consequences for companies.

For instance, IAS 12 (Income Taxes) under IFRS requires companies to recognise deferred tax assets and liabilities for all taxable temporary differences, with certain exceptions. It also prescribes the accounting treatment for tax losses, tax credits, and changes in tax rates. Adherence to these requirements can avoid non-compliance with IFRS, which may attract regulatory scrutiny and penalties.

Navigating the Complexities

Implementing tax effect accounting can be complex, especially for companies with intricate tax structures and cross-border operations. It requires a thorough understanding of tax laws and accounting principles and the ability to navigate the ever-changing regulatory landscape. One of the challenges companies face is determining the appropriate tax rate to use in calculating deferred tax assets and liabilities.

The tax rate should reflect the expected manner of recovery or settlement of the carrying amount of assets and liabilities. It can be particularly tricky in jurisdictions with multiple tax rates or where the tax rate is expected to change.

For example, a company operating in a country with progressive tax rates must carefully assess which tax rate to apply based on its projected future taxable income. Using an incorrect tax rate can lead to over or understatement of deferred tax balances, impacting the accuracy of financial statements.

Another complexity arises from the recognition and measurement of deferred tax assets. Companies must assess the probability of future taxable profits against which the deferred tax assets can be utilised. This assessment involves significant judgment and estimates, considering factors such as historical performance, future business plans, and the timing of the reversal of temporary differences.

For instance, a company with a history of tax losses must carefully evaluate the likelihood of generating sufficient future taxable profits to justify the recognition of deferred tax assets. Overestimating the recoverability of these assets can lead to an overstatement of net income and equity in the financial statements.


Tax effect accounting is an integral part of financial reporting, enabling companies to present a comprehensive and accurate picture of their financial position. By understanding and applying the principles of tax effect accounting, companies can enhance the transparency and reliability of their financial statements, comply with accounting standards, and make informed strategic decisions.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the difference between accounting income and taxable income?

Accounting income is determined based on the accounting principles and standards, while taxable income is calculated according to the tax laws and regulations. Temporary and permanent differences between the two give rise to the need for tax effect accounting.

What are the disclosure requirements for tax effect accounting?

Companies are required to disclose information related to tax effect accounting in their financial statements. This includes the components of deferred tax assets and liabilities, the reconciliation of the effective tax rate to the statutory tax rate, and the amount of unrecognized deferred tax assets, among others.