- Information is material if its omission or misstatement could influence the economic decisions of users taken on the basis of the financial statements (IASB Framework).
Materiality therefore relates to the significance of transactions, balances and errors contained in the financial statements. Materiality defines the threshold or cutoff point after which financial information becomes relevant to the decision making needs of the users. Information contained in the financial statements must therefore be complete in all material respects in order for them to present a true and fair view of the affairs of the entity.
Materiality is relative to the size and particular circumstances of individual companies.
Example - Size
A default by a customer who owes only $1000 to a company having net assets of worth $10 million is immaterial to the financial statements of the company.
However, if the amount of default was, say, $2 million, the information would have been material to the financial statements omission of which could cause users to make incorrect business decisions.
Example - Nature
If a company is planning to curtail its operations in a geographic segment which has traditionally been a major source of revenue for the company in the past, then this information should be disclosed in the financial statements as it is by its nature material to understanding the entity's scope of operations in the future.
Materiality is also linked closely to other accounting concepts and principles:
- Relevance: Material information influences the economic decisions of the users and is therefore relevant to their needs.
- Reliability: Omission or mistatement of an important piece of information impairs users' ability to make correct decisions taken on the basis of financial statements thereby affecting the reliability of information.
- Completeness: Information contained in the financial statements must be complete in all material respects in order to present a true and fair view of the affairs of the company.