QBE Insurance Group - Accounting for Income Tax

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Introduction

The report will attempt to examine the various tax values reported in the consolidated financial statements of the QBE Insurance Group. The report will begin with some basic understanding of the terms that would be used going forward in the analysis. It will then attempt to make sense of the existence of deferred tax asset and liability in the balance sheet as well as attempt to explain why there is a difference in the amount of tax liability and the tax expense recorded in the income statement. The report will further dwell on temporary and permanent differences before delving into the oddities specific to the tax structure of this particular company. The report will then finally end with a conclusion regarding the findings of the report.

Basic Terminologies

  • Accounting Profit: Profit, in accounting, is the portion of the income earned in a profitable marketing/production process, which is distributable to the owners the said process. This is calculated according to the principles laid down by the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and International Accounting Standards (IAS). As opposed to economic profit, accounting profit does not take into account implicit cost of the production process, such as opportunity cost.
  • Taxable Profit: While accounting profit is calculated for reporting purposes, taxable profit is calculated solely for the purpose of finding out the tax payable on income. For various reasons, referred to as temporary differences, the accounting profit and taxable profit may differ. So, for example if the company depreciates motor vehicles at 25% per annum using reducing balance method (RBM), arriving at a depreciation expense of US$ 250 but tax rules state that motor vehicles ought to be depreciated at 20% per annum using RBM, the tax depreciation would be US$ 200, instead of US$ 250. Consequently, the profit according to tax authorities would be US$ 50 higher than the accounting one.
  • Temporary Differences: These differences arise due to the carrying amount of an asset/liability being different from its tax base. Tax base refers to the value of an asset/liability assessed that is subject to taxation. These differences aren’t due to actual differences in the value of the asset/liability, but rather due to a difference in timing. The differences are settled when the carrying amount of the asset or liability is recovered or settled. In the above-mentioned example, the difference of US$ 50 income will result in a temporary difference in the tax amount being calculated.
  • Taxable Temporary Difference: A taxable temporary difference is when there will be some taxable amount in the future. This timing difference means that the current year taxable income would be lower leading to a difference in the amount of tax assessed according to accounting profit and taxable profit. Since the temporary difference caused the current year income to go up, the temporary difference in our example was not that of a taxable temporary difference.
  • Deductible Temporary Difference: A deductible temporary difference is when there might be an amount that is deductible in the future arises. This timing difference causes the taxable income and hence income tax payable in current period to be higher than the accrual income tax. Hence, the excess income (and thus excess income tax) in the current year would be a deductible temporary difference, in our example.
  • Deferred Tax Asset: This balance sheet item reduces future taxable income. A business may overpay tax in a certain year which would eventually be returned to them in the form of tax relief in the future. As such, that overpayment may be considered as an asset by the company. In our little example, a lower charge for depreciation in this year simply means that the charge for depreciation in the future would be higher. This means that in our example, there would be creation of a deferred tax asset in the current year for the company.

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