The International Accounting Standard IAS 18 states
‘where the outcome of a transaction involving the rendering of services can be estimated reliably, associated revenue should be recognised by reference to the stage of completion of the transaction at the end of the reporting period’ . In other words, the revenue is recognised gradually, rather than all at one ‘critical point’, as is the case for revenue from the sale of goods. IAS 18 further states that the outcome of a transaction can be estimated reliably when all the following conditions are satisfied:
(a) The amount of revenue can be measured reliably.
(b) It is probable that the economic benefits associated with the transaction will flow to the seller.
(c) The stage of completion of the transaction at the end of the reporting period can be measured reliably.
(d) The costs incurred to date for the transaction and the costs to complete the transaction can be measured reliably.
IAS 18 does not prescribe one single method that should be used for determining the stage of completion of a service transaction. However the standard does provide some examples of suitable methods:
(a) Surveys of work performed.
(b) Services performed to date as a percentage of total services to be performed.
(c) The proportion that costs incurred to date bear to the estimated total costs of the transaction.
If it is not possible to reliably measure the outcome of a transaction involving the provision of services (perhaps because the transaction is in its very early stages) then revenue should be recognised only to the extent of costs incurred by the seller, assuming these costs are recoverable from the buyer.
In the UK UITF40 and SSAP9 defined the way we report revenue and profit in relation to Services, although accountants and lawyers were among the most high profile casualties of the new regime back in 2005, which forced them to re-catagorise WIP and Revenue, many other service providers also had to consider how they accounted for income. Professionals such as surveyors, architects, doctors and dentists all had to consider the impact of the new rules on their tax liabilities.
FRS102 has not changed the rules.