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South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences

On-line version ISSN 2222-3436


BUYS, Pieter. Ontology and epistemology: a transcendental reflection on decision-usefulness as an accounting objective. S. Afr. j. econ. manag. sci. (Online) [online]. 2011, vol.14, n.1, pp. 109-121. ISSN 2222-3436.

As key global accounting regulators, the FASB and the IASB have accorded much importance to the concept of decision-usefulness, especially in the context of the capital providers as a specific user group. However, a vague reference to the usefulness of accounting information means nothing unless the utility being sought is properly defined. This paper reflects on the relevancy of decision-usefulness as a key financial reporting objective from two perspectives. Firstly, the ontology of accountancy with specific reference to decision-usefulness and utility versus ophelimity are considered. Secondly, epistemological issues around the quantification of accounting data and its predictive abilities are discussed. The article does not deny the importance of the usefulness criterion, but rather argues against a vacuous concept of decision-usefulness, which, as a key accounting and financial reporting objective, is devoid of any substantive meaning. Instead, a more realistic key objective of accounting should be to provide factual economic and financial information, which, since it presents any user with information in a unique company-specific context, can be considered judgement-useful, rather than decision-useful.

Keywords : accountancy; accounting ethics; decision-usefulness; financial reporting; stewardship.

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