The International Accounting Standards Committee took the first step to establishing a set of worldwide accounting standards for Internet reporting with the publication of a discussion paper this week. Co-authored by academics from Birmingham, Singapore and California, and project managed by IASC international accounting fellow Paul Pacter, the paper includes a survey of current financial reporting on the Web and the paves the way for the IASC to develop standards on presentation of online reporting. Pacter said: 'We know that the medium of communicating with investors is changing to electronic, and accounting standards focus on paper reporting. The Internet offers more opportunities, and companies are putting all sorts of other financial data on the Web.' PricewaterhouseCoopers is already working with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants on how information can be extracted from the Internet to help investors find what they need through using codes. Mary Keegan, head of PwC's global corporate reporting group, said that in formulating standards, it was important to allow companies the flexibility to post the information that was appropriate for them. 'The key information for a pharmaceuticals company would be very different from that for a bank,' she said, stressing this must be kept in mind before any moves could be made towards standardisation. The paper includes a detailed analysis of the websites of the 30 largest companies in 22 countries and a proposed code of conduct for Web-based business reporting.
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