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A summary of IAS 21 on Changes in Foreign Exchange Rates

Prabhat Nigam

| Updated: Apr 19, 2022 | Category: Finance & Accounting

A summary of IAS 21 on Changes in Foreign Exchange Rates

Foreign currency transactions, foreign activities, and translation to presentation currency are all covered by IAS 21. Foreign currency transactions and operations are prevalent these days, and it’s critical to employ accurate exchange rates to recognize and translate these transactions and activities.

Need for IAS 21

One might come across foreign currency purchase and sale operations. In the books of accounts, these transactions must be recorded in the entity’s own currency. One may also have come across enterprises in a foreign country, such as subsidiaries, that recognize transactions in a different currency. For consolidation, the financial statements of businesses in a foreign nation must be translated into the entity’s currency.

To establish consistency between entities, whether it’s foreign currency transactions or translation of overseas operations, an appropriate exchange rate must be employed. This rate might be the current rate at the time of reporting or a previous rate from when the transaction occurred. IAS 21 contains regulations that specify the exchange rate to apply for foreign currency transactions, translation of foreign activities, and the translation to presentation currency in an entity’s financial statements.

The standard requires disclosures in financial statements to help users know the implications of changes in foreign exchange rates, in addition to maintaining uniformity in the use of foreign exchange rates.

Functional currency and presentation currency

It’s crucial to know the distinction between functional and presentation currency before getting into the key concepts of IAS 21.

A currency of the principal economic environment in which the company operates is referred to as functional currency. This may or may not be the currency of the nation where the headquarters are situated. For example, UK oil businesses use the US dollar as their functional currency since the US dollar determines oil pricing. Once the functional currency has been established, it is rarely modified unless there are strong reasons to do so. The presentation currency, on the other hand, is the currency in which the financial statements are displayed. The financial statements of a business may be presented in a currency other than the functioning currency.

Many aspects should be considered while determining the functional currency. This is the currency in which the entity typically produces and spends cash, as well as the currency in which transactions are typically denominated. All transactions conducted in currencies other than the functioning currency are classified as foreign currency transactions.

The entity’s functional currency represents the transactions, events, and circumstances in which it operates. The functional currency of a company does not change after it is chosen until the fundamental nature of the transactions, as well as related conditions and events, change.

Reporting of foreign currency transactions  

Foreign currency transactions should be documented at the current spot rate at the time of the transaction. It’s possible to utilize a rough estimate. Following that, foreign currency monetary amounts should be recorded using the closing rate at each balance sheet date. Non-monetary things measured at a historical cost must be recorded using the exchange rate in effect at the time of the transaction. Non-monetary items held at fair value, on the other hand, should be reported at the rate in effect when the fair values were calculated.

With one exception, exchange rate differences on monetary things are recorded in profit or loss for the period. The exception would be that exchange rate differences on monetary items that are part of the reporting entity’s net investment in a foreign business are recorded in the group financial statements as a distinct component of equity. They are accounted for in the profit/loss on the sale of the net investment. If a gain or loss on a non-monetary asset (for example, property, plant, and equipment revalued under IAS 16) is recognized in equity, any foreign currency gain or loss is likewise recognized in equity.

Translation/conversion of a foreign operation into the presentation currency

The Standard (i.e., IAS 21) allows an organization to present its financial statements in whichever currency it chooses (or currencies). A standalone company, a parent generating consolidated financial statements, or a parent, an investor, or a venturer generating separate financial statements in line with IAS 27 Consolidated and Separate Financial Statements might all be considered for this purpose.

If the entity’s functional currency differs from the presentation currency, it converts its results and financial position into the presentation currency. When a group incorporates distinct entities with various functional currencies, for example, each entity’s results and financial position are stated in a common currency so that consolidated financial statements may be presented.

A reporting enterprise should convert its incomes and financial position from its functional currency into a presentation currency (or currencies) by using the procedure necessary for translating a foreign operation for inclusion in the financial statements of the reporting company.

As per this Accounting Standard[1], the results and financial position of a company whose functional currency is not really the currency of a highly inflationary economy must be converted into a different presentation currency in accordance with the following procedures:

  • The business’s assets or liabilities within every statement of financial position (which includes comparatives) must be translated at the closing rate on the date of the statement of financial position.
  • Income and costs for every statement of comprehensive income or separate income statement provided (i.e., including comparatives) must be translated at the currency rates in effect at the time the transactions were completed.
  • All currency differences that result must be recorded in other comprehensive income.

The goodwill resulting from the purchase of a foreign operation, as well as any fair value adjustments made to the carrying amounts of assets and liabilities resulting from the acquisition of that foreign business, are considered as assets and liabilities of the foreign operation. A foreign operation is an entity that is a subsidiary, affiliate, joint venture, or branch of a reporting business, and whose activities are located or performed in a nation or currency other than that of the reporting company.

Dividends paid by a subsidiary to its parent company in a foreign currency may result in exchange disparities in the parent’s financial accounts. They will not be removed after consolidation, but will instead be recorded in profit or loss. When a foreign operation is sold, the whole amount of currency differences in equity pertaining to that foreign business is recognized in profit or loss along with the gain or loss on the sale.

Further, according to IAS 21, when an entity’s functional currency changes, the entity must use the translation procedures that apply to the new functional currency from the date of the change onwards. Also, the entity’s financial statements are restated in conformity with IAS 29 on “Financial Reporting in Hyperinflationary Economies” if the functional currency in the entity is the currency of a hyperinflationary economy.

Management should identify the entity’s functional currency based on the requirements of IAS 21 at the entity level. An entity has no option in terms of functional currency. Except for the functional currency, all currencies are classified as foreign currencies. The management of a business may pick a currency other than its functional currency – the presentation currency – in order to demonstrate its financial statements.

At the group level, separate entities within a multinational organization will frequently use several functional currencies. For each group entity, the functional currency is identified at the entity level. Each group entity converts its results and financial conditions into the presentation currency of the reporting company. After all of the consolidated businesses have prepared their financial information in the appropriate presentation currency, the consolidated financial statements are generated using standard consolidation processes.

Entities using IFRS should keep in mind that assessing functional currency is a critical step when contemplating any changes to the group structure or adopting any new hedging or tax strategies. Furthermore, if the entity’s activities within the group change for whatever reason, the assessment of that entity’s functional currency should be reassessed to identify the modifications necessary. Management must take care to document the strategy taken in determining functional currency for each entity within the group, employing a consistent process in all circumstances, especially where a judgement or decision is involved.


IAS 21 describes the procedure to account for foreign currency transactions and operations. The standard explains how to convert financial statements into a presentation currency, or the currency in which the financial statements are shown. The functional currency, on the other hand, is the money used in the entity’s principal economic context. The currency rates that should be utilized, as well as how the consequences of changes in exchange rates are documented in the financial statements, are important considerations in IAS 21.

Read Our Article:What does IAS 10 say about Events after the Reporting Period?

Prabhat Nigam

Prabhat has done his BA LLB (Hons) and has been writing research papers since his law school days. His interest in content writing made him pursue a career in legal research and content writing. His core areas of interest are indirect taxes, finance and real estate.

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