IFRS 17 Insurance Contracts is a new accounting standard currently expected to come into force on 1 January 2023. It supersedes IFRS 4 Insurance Contracts. IFRS 17 establishes key principles that entities must apply in all aspects of the accounting of insurance contracts. In doing so, the Standard aims to increase the usefulness, comparability, transparency and quality of financial statements.
A fundamental concept introduced by IFRS 17 is the contractual service margin (CSM). This represents the unearned profit that an entity expects to earn as it provides services. However, as a principles-based standard, IFRS 17 results in entities having to apply significant judgement when determining the inputs, assumptions and techniques it uses to determine the CSM at each reporting period.
In general, the Standard resolves broad categories of mismatches which arise under IFRS 4. Notable examples include mismatches between assets recorded at current market value and liabilities calculated using fixed discount rates as well as inconsistencies in the timing of profit recognition over the duration of an insurance contract. However, there are requirements of IFRS 17 that may create economic or accounting mismatches of its own. For example, new mismatches could arise between the measurement of underlying contracts and the corresponding reinsurance held. Additionally, mismatches can still arise between the measurement of liabilities and the assets that support the liabilities.
This paper explores the technical, operational and commercial issues that arise across these and other areas focusing on the CSM. As a standard that is still very much in its infancy, and for which wider consensus on topics is yet to be achieved, this paper aims to provide readers with a deeper understanding of the issues and opportunities that accompany it.