Note 35 Assumptions and estimates used in the financial statements (critical accounting policies)
Alliander prepares its financial statements in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards that have been endorsed for use in the European Union by the European Commission. The preparation of financial statements and the measurement of items in the financial statements require the use of estimates and assumptions. These are mainly based on past experience and Alliander's management's best estimate of the specific circumstances that are, in the opinion of management, applicable in the given situation.
The assumptions and estimates used in the financial statements often relate to future developments. As a result, the actual outcome may differ significantly from the current measurement of a number of items in the financial statements. Consequently, the estimates and assumptions used may have a significant impact on equity and the results. The estimates and assumptions used are tested regularly and adjusted if necessary. This section sets out an analysis of the main areas where the measurement of assets, liabilities and the results is affected by the estimates and assumptions used.
Determination of the provision for employee benefits
The provision for post-employment benefits and other long-term employee benefits is determined on an actuarial basis, using assumptions on future salary levels, disability benefits (WAO/WIA), health insurance premiums, statistical assumptions on mortality rates, employee turnover and probability of disability. These assumptions, together with the discount rate used, influence the carrying amount of the provision for employee benefits and, consequently, the results. An increase in the discount rate of 1 percentage point, for example, has the effect of reducing the necessary carrying amount of the provision by €3 million.
Useful lives, residual values and impairment of property, plant and equipment
The measurement of the carrying amount of property, plant and equipment uses estimates regarding depreciation rates derived from the expected technical and economic lives of the assets concerned, and estimates of their residual value. Technological developments, altered market circumstances and changes in the actual usage of the items of property, plant and equipment involved may lead to changes in the expected technical and economic lives and the estimated residual value of the assets. The existing traditional meters used by retail customers will be replaced in an accelerated manner over the next few years through the large-scale installation of smart meters. The depreciation of meters due for replacement will be accelerated to 2020, leading to the depreciation charge being higher by €3.1 million each year compared with 2015.
These factors may also trigger recognition of impairment. In measuring the extent of the impairment, estimates are made of the fair value less costs to sell and the value in use. The fair value less costs to sell is derived from assumptions on the possible selling price of a particular item of property, plant and equipment. The actual sales proceeds in the case of a disposal may differ from the estimates used. The value in use is based on the present value of the expected future cash flows, which are derived from the business plans for the coming years relating to the assets concerned. Adverse developments affecting customers which could lead to the recognition of an impairment, such as court protection from creditors or bankruptcy/ insolvency, are also taken into account. It is possible that Alliander may be forced to recognise additional impairments in the future as a result of changes in market or other circumstances.
Impairment of goodwill and other assets
Goodwill is not amortised but impairment tests must be performed annually in order to ascertain whether the value of the goodwill has been impaired. Previously recognised impairments of goodwill are not reversed in future years if it is found that the impairment ceases to apply. Other assets are tested if events or changes have occurred that trigger an impairment test. The impairment tests use estimates and assumptions of the fair value less cost to sell and the value in use. The estimate of the fair value less costs to sell is derived from information on quoted prices on regulated markets and other market prices, recent transactions in comparable companies and bids and offers received. Actual proceeds and estimated costs to sell may differ from the estimates. Value in use is estimated using the present value of the expected future cash flows of the subsidiaries and associates involved. Actual cash flows may deviate from the cash flows in the business plans. The discount rates used also affect the ultimate value in use. It is possible that Alliander may be forced to recognise additional impairments in the future as a result of changes in market or other circumstances.
A characteristic of provisions is that the obligations are spread over several years and management has to make estimates and assumptions at the balance sheet date on the probability that an obligation will arise and the magnitude of the amount that will have to be paid. Future developments, such as changes in market circumstances, changes in legislation and court rulings, may cause the actual obligation to differ from the provision. In addition, Alliander is involved in a number of legal proceedings. Management assesses each individual case and decides whether a provision is necessary, based on the facts. This assessment includes the probability that a claim will be successful and the amount that is likely to be paid.
Network losses; allocation & reconciliation
The allocation process serves to determine estimates of the quantities of electricity and gas supplied and the associated network losses on a daily basis, particularly where standard annual consumption patterns are used for the consumer and SME market. These estimates are reviewed regularly, and quantities allocated to customers are adjusted for actual quantities ascertained through meter readings as part of this process (reconciliation). The legal requirements on reconciliation prescribe settlement within 21 months after the end of the month of supply. The expected results of reconciliation have been estimated and recognised in the financial statements as accurately as possible, but the final settlement may affect future results.
When preparing the financial statements, Alliander devotes considerable attention to assessing all significant tax risks and the current tax position is reflected in the financial statements to the best of its knowledge. Changing insights, for example as a result of final tax assessments for previous years, may lead to additional tax expense or income. New tax risks may also arise. In the measurement of deferred tax assets, particularly those relating to the differences between the carrying amount in the financial statements and the valuation for tax purposes of property, plant and equipment, assumptions are made on the extent to which such tax assets can be realised, and at what point in time. This is based in part on business plans. In addition, assumptions on the temporary and permanent differences between measurement for financial reporting purposes and for tax purposes are used in preparing the financial statements. The actual situation may differ from the assumptions used in determining deferred tax positions, due to differences of opinion, changes in tax rules and so on.
The assumptions with respect to risks and financial instruments are described in note . Estimates were used to value the networks in Friesland/Noordoostpolder and for the assets and liabilities of 450connect GmbH. The relevant disclosures are contained in note .