Chapter 2—Qualitative characteristics of useful financial information

Introduction | Qualitative characteristics of useful financial information | Fundamental qualitative characteristics | Relevance | Materiality | Faithful representation | Applying the fundamental qualitative characteristics | Enhancing qualitative characteristics | Comparability | Verifiability | Timeliness | Understandability | Applying the enhancing qualitative characteristics | The cost constraint on useful financial reporting


The qualitative characteristics of useful financial information[5] apply to financial information provided in financial statements, as well as to financial information provided in other ways. Cost, which is a pervasive constraint on the reporting entity’s ability to provide useful financial information, applies similarly. However, the considerations in applying the qualitative characteristics and the cost constraint may be different for different types of information. For example, applying them to forward-looking information may be different from applying them to information about existing economic resources and claims and to changes in those resources and claims.


Throughout the Conceptual Framework, the terms ‘qualitative characteristics’ and ‘cost constraint’ refer to the qualitative characteristics of, and the cost constraint on, useful financial information.

Fundamental qualitative characteristics


The fundamental qualitative characteristics are relevance and faithful representation.



Information is material if omitting, misstating or obscuring it could reasonably be expected to influence decisions that the primary users of general purpose financial reports (see paragraph 1.5) make on the basis of those reports, which provide financial information about a specific reporting entity. In other words, materiality is an entity-specific aspect of relevance based on the nature or magnitude, or both, of the items to which the information relates in the context of an individual entity’s financial report. Consequently, the Board cannot specify a uniform quantitative threshold for materiality or predetermine what could be material in a particular situation.

Faithful representation


Financial reports represent economic phenomena in words and numbers. To be useful, financial information must not only represent relevant phenomena, but it must also faithfully represent the substance of the phenomena that it purports to represent. In many circumstances, the substance of an economic phenomenon and its legal form are the same. If they are not the same, providing information only about the legal form would not faithfully represent the economic phenomenon (see paragraphs 4.59–4.62).


Neutrality is supported by the exercise of prudence. Prudence is the exercise of caution when making judgements under conditions of uncertainty. The exercise of prudence means that assets and income are not overstated and liabilities and expenses are not understated.[6] Equally, the exercise of prudence does not allow for the understatement of assets or income or the overstatement of liabilities or expenses. Such misstatements can lead to the overstatement or understatement of income or expenses in future periods.


Assets, liabilities, income and expenses are defined in Table 4.1. They are the elements of financial statements.


When monetary amounts in financial reports cannot be observed directly and must instead be estimated, measurement uncertainty arises. The use of reasonable estimates is an essential part of the preparation of financial information and does not undermine the usefulness of the information if the estimates are clearly and accurately described and explained. Even a high level of measurement uncertainty does not necessarily prevent such an estimate from providing useful information (see paragraph 2.22).