Over the years, economies have suffered many currency crises, soaring interest rates and hyper-inflation. Luckily, in my time as an accountant I have not had to deal with financial statements or other accounting information where the value of money became, well worthless. Runaway inflation for example occurred in Germany in the 1920’s and today it is still present in countries like Zimbabwe. In times of hyper-inflation, accounting standards do give us some guidance. IAS 29 suggests hyperinflation may have several characteristics
1) the general population prefers to keep its wealth in non-monetary assets or in a relatively stable foreign currency. Amounts of local currency held are immediately invested to maintain purchasing power;
2) the general population regards monetary amounts not in terms of the local
currency but in terms of a relatively stable foreign currency. Prices may be quoted in that currency;
3) sales and purchases on credit take place at prices that compensate for the expected loss of purchasing power during the credit period, even if the period is short;
4) interest rates, wages and prices are linked to a price index; and
5) the cumulative inflation rate over three years is approaching, or exceeds, 100%.
Without going into too much detail on IAS 29, when such hyperinflation exists, the financial statements have to be restated to a monetary value using some form of price index.
I recently had the good luck to see real financial statements prepared during a hyperinflation period. The accounts were if a German brewery and dated back to 31/12/1923 – long before IAS 29 was even thought about. The inventory figure had 18 digits, which I think is called a quintillion. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to deal with figures like this. Mind you the kinds of figures being thrown around nowadays on sovereign debt are getting close to these kind of numbers. Just out of interest the accounts on 1/1/1924, showed a figure of about 2 million marks – a new mark was issued and pegged to gold I think.