IAS 21, titled “The Effects of Changes in Foreign Exchange Rates,” is a significant accounting standard that provides guidance on how to account for foreign currency transactions and foreign operations in the financial statements. Here’s a detailed explanation tailored for accounting and finance professionals:

  1. Objective of IAS 21: The primary goal of IAS 21 is to establish how to include foreign currency transactions and foreign operations in the financial statements of an entity. It also provides guidance on how to translate financial statements into a presentation currency.


  1. Key Definitions:

Foreign Currency Transaction: A transaction that is denominated or requires settlement in a foreign currency.

Functional Currency: The currency of the primary economic environment in which the entity operates.

Presentation Currency: The currency in which the financial statements are presented.


  1. Recording Foreign Currency Transactions: Initial recognition of foreign currency transactions should be at the spot exchange rate (the exchange rate at the date of the transaction). Subsequent measurement depends on whether the item is monetary or non-monetary:

Monetary Items: These include cash, receivables, and payables. They must be translated using the closing rate at each reporting date.

Non-Monetary Items: These are not retranslated. They remain at the historical rate (the rate at the date of the transaction).


  1. Exchange Differences: Resulting from the settlement of monetary items or the retranslation of an entity’s monetary items at rates different from those at which they were initially recorded. These differences must be recognized in profit or loss in the period in which they arise.


  1. Translation of Foreign Operations: When an entity has foreign operations, such as foreign subsidiaries, the financial statements of these foreign operations must be translated into the entity’s presentation currency. The process involves:

Assets and Liabilities: Translated at the closing rate.

Income and Expenses: Translated at the exchange rates at the dates of the transactions (or an average rate).

Exchange Differences: Recognized in other comprehensive income and accumulated in a separate component of equity (translation reserve) until the disposal of the foreign operation.


  1. Use of a Presentation Currency Other than the Functional Currency: If the presentation currency differs from the functional currency, the entity needs to translate its results and financial position into the presentation currency. The same principles apply as for translating a foreign operation.


  1. Disclosures: IAS 21 requires disclosures that enable users of the financial statements to evaluate the effects of foreign exchange rates on the entity’s financial position and performance.


For accounting and finance professionals, understanding IAS 21 is crucial for accurate financial reporting, especially for businesses operating in multiple currencies. It ensures consistency and comparability of financial statements across different entities operating in various economic environments.

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