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Recognising human capital as an asset : the potential influence on decision making
Human capital is a major resource controlled by a company, but is not recognised as an asset by traditional accounting practices. An alternative accounting treatment of human capital, using the human resources scorecard as a guide, is suggested in this study. The study comprises a literature review as well as an empirical study to that end. The empirical research of this study focuses on how human capital affects important financial figures and ratios of a company when employee-related costs are recognised as an asset rather than as an expense. A corresponding liability was recognised to make provision for an annual cash outflow relating to employee related costs. The annual financial statements of ten companies listed on the JSE were examined in order to determine the impact on the reported results, had human capital been treated as an asset. A methodology whereby asset values for human capital can be calculated was introduced. The influence on several core financial ratios of a company is analysed. A large increase in assets and liabilities was noted in both 2010 and 2011 when human capital was recognised as an asset rather than as an expense on a company’s financial statements. Assets for the companies analysed increased on average between 58.62% and 414.78% and liabilities increased between 204.84% and 748.26%. Due to the large increase in assets and liabilities, the recognition of human capital as an asset had a significant impact on the financial ratios of the companies analysed. This is directly linked to the decision making of company stakeholders. Throughout this study, it becomes evident that there are some general inadvertencies and inconsistencies regarding the human capital and employee costs recognition and reporting on companies’ financial statements. The way in which human capital is reported varies from company to company. The capitalisation of human capital has an impact on the financial performance of a company that cannot be ignored. There are several advantages to comprehensive human capital reporting which includes workforce motivation as well as an enhanced reputation of a company. Whether human capital is treated as an asset or as an expense, companies should invest in broad, comprehensive human capital reporting in their financial statements. The study concludes with recommended human capital disclosure in financial statements.