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Have changes in pension accounting changed pension provision? A review of the evidence


  • Paraskevi Kiosse
  • Ken Peasnell


The present paper reviews the research evidence on the impact of changes in pension accounting methods on pension provision. We show that decisions to freeze, terminate or convert defined benefit (DB) plans have been driven primarily by a desire to limit contributions, though financial reporting has played a part as well. The introduction of accrual accounting requirements for post‐retirement health care benefits in the US similar in character to those required for DB pension liabilities appear to have motivated some firms to curtail health care provision. Changes in accounting for DB schemes have affected how firms allocate pension plan assets. We conclude that accounting matters, though perhaps not as much as is sometimes claimed. Increased costs of providing DB pensions, coupled with the greater volatility of employers’ cash contributions, have undoubtedly played the major part in the decline of DB schemes.

Suggested Citation

  • Paraskevi Kiosse & Ken Peasnell, 2009. "Have changes in pension accounting changed pension provision? A review of the evidence," Accounting and Business Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 39(3), pages 255-267.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:acctbr:v:39:y:2009:i:3:p:255-267
    DOI: 10.1080/00014788.2009.9663365

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Coronado, Julia & Mitchell, Olivia S. & Sharpe, Steven A. & Blake Nesbitt, S., 2008. "Footnotes aren't enough: the impact of pension accounting on stock values," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 7(3), pages 257-276, November.
    2. Barr, Nicholas & Diamond, Peter, 2008. "Reforming Pensions: Principles and Policy Choices," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195311303.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael Power, 2010. "Fair value accounting, financial economics and the transformation of reliability," Accounting and Business Research, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(3), pages 197-210.
    2. Armitage, Seth & Gallagher, Ronan, 2019. "Are pension contributions a threat to shareholder payouts?," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 27-42.

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