IFRS 17 Insurance Contracts

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Standard 2021 Issued
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IFRS 17 is effective for annual reporting periods beginning on or after 1 January 2023 with earlier application permitted as long as IFRS 9 is also applied.

Insurance contracts combine features of both a financial instrument and a service contract. In addition, many insurance contracts generate cash flows with substantial variability over a long period. To provide useful information about these features, IFRS 17:

  • combines current measurement of the future cash flows with the recognition of profit over the period that services are provided under the contract;
  • presents insurance service results (including presentation of insurance revenue) separately from insurance finance income or expenses; and
  • requires an entity to make an accounting policy choice of whether to recognise all insurance finance income or expenses in profit or loss or to recognise some of that income or expenses in other comprehensive income.

The key principles in IFRS 17 are that an entity:

  • identifies as insurance contracts those contracts under which the entity accepts significant insurance risk from another party (the policyholder) by agreeing to compensate the policyholder if a specified uncertain future event (the insured event) adversely affects the policyholder;
  • separates specified embedded derivatives, distinct investment components and distinct performance obligations from the insurance contracts;
  • divides the contracts into groups that it will recognise and measure;
  • recognises and measures groups of insurance contracts at:
    1. a risk-adjusted present value of the future cash flows (the fulfilment cash flows) that incorporates all of the available information about the fulfilment cash flows in a way that is consistent with observable market information; plus (if this value is a liability) or minus (if this value is an asset)
    2. an amount representing the unearned profit in the group of contracts (the contractual service margin);
  • recognises the profit from a group of insurance contracts over the period the entity provides insurance contract services, and as the entity is released from risk. If a group of contracts is or becomes loss-making, an entity recognises the loss immediately;
  • presents separately insurance revenue (that excludes the receipt of any investment component), insurance service expenses (that excludes the repayment of any investment components) and insurance finance income or expenses; and
  • discloses information to enable users of financial statements to assess the effect that contracts within the scope of IFRS 17 have on the financial position, financial performance and cash flows of an entity.

IFRS 17 includes an optional simplified measurement approach, or premium allocation approach, for simpler insurance contracts.

Standard history

In March 2004 the International Accounting Standards Board (Board) issued IFRS 4 Insurance Contracts. IFRS 4 was an interim standard which was meant to be in place until the Board completed its project on insurance contracts. IFRS 4 permitted entities to use a wide variety of accounting practices for insurance contracts, reflecting national accounting requirements and variations of those requirements, subject to limited improvements and specified disclosures.

In May 2017, the Board completed its project on insurance contracts with the issuance of IFRS 17 Insurance Contracts. IFRS 17 replaces IFRS 4 and sets out principles for the recognition, measurement, presentation and disclosure of insurance contracts within the scope of IFRS 17.

In June 2020, the Board issued Amendments to IFRS 17. The objective of the amendments is to assist entities implementing the Standard, while not unduly disrupting implementation or diminishing the usefulness of the information provided by applying IFRS 17.

Other Standards have made minor consequential amendments to IFRS 17, including Amendments to References to the Conceptual Framework in IFRS Standards (issued March 2018) and Definition of Material (Amendments to IAS 1 and IAS 8) (issued October 2018).

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