What is accounting for price level changes?

In 1979 the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued its Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 33 entitled Financial Reporting and Changing Prices. (You will find the original Statement No. 33 on www.FASB.org.) In short, Statement No. 33 required large companies to report supplementary information on the effects of changing prices on its inventory and its property, plant and equipment. (In the late 1970's the U.S. was experiencing double-digit inflation rates and the SEC was advocating the reporting of replacement cost.)

One disclosure required by Statement 33 was the reporting of the effects of general inflation as indicated by the change in the consumer price index. In other words, a large company had to disclose in the notes to its financial statements some key amounts after adjusting inventory and property, plant and equipment amounts for the changes in the purchasing power of the U.S. dollar. The second disclosure reported the effects of the changes in the specific prices of inventory and property, plant and equipment.

In 1986 the FASB issued its Statement No. 89 which no longer required the reporting of the information. As a result, most companies stopped the calculations and reporting. Two of the factors in deciding to stop the calculations was the lack of use by financial analysts and a decline in the rates of inflation in the U.S. In other words, the accounting for price level changes failed to pass the cost/benefit test.