Why Do Countries Adopt International Financial Reporting Standards?

by Karthik Ramanna & Ewa Sletten

Overview — Why do some countries adopt the European Union (EU)-based International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) when others do not? To expand our understanding of the determinants and consequences of IFRS adoption on a global sample, HBS professor Karthik Ramanna and MIT Sloan School of Management coauthor Ewa Sletten studied variations over time in the decision to adopt these standards in more than a hundred non-EU countries. Understanding countries' adoption decisions can provide insights into the benefits and costs of IFRS adoption. Key concepts include:

  • Countries with high quality corporate governance systems and more powerful countries are less likely to adopt IFRS.
  • There are network benefits to IFRS adoption, i.e., the likelihood of IFRS adoption for a given country increases with the number of IFRS adopters in its geographical region and with IFRS adoption among its trade partners.
  • As more countries adopt the international standards, the relative import of network benefits from IFRS adoption (over direct economic benefits) are likely to increase. Similar effects might be seen in the adoption of accounting methods and standards, and of corporate governance best practices by firms and jurisdictions.

Author Abstract

In a sample of 102 non-European Union countries, we study variations in the decision to adopt International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). There is evidence that more powerful countries are less likely to adopt IFRS, consistent with more powerful countries being less willing to surrender standard-setting authority to an international body. There is also evidence that the likelihood of IFRS adoption at first increases and then decreases in the quality of countries' domestic governance institutions, consistent with IFRS being adopted when governments are capable of timely decision making and when the opportunity and switching cost of domestic standards are relatively low. We do not find evidence that levels of and expected changes in foreign trade and investment flows in a country affect its adoption decision: thus, we cannot confirm that IFRS lowers information costs in more globalized economies. Consistent with the presence of network effects in IFRS adoption, we find that a country is more likely to adopt IFRS if its trade partners or countries within in its geographical region are IFRS adopters. 48 pages.

Paper Information