As Treasurer for Bellevue Kindergarten, tonight (late) I am working through invoices.We have one from Telsra.

I like to pay by EFT: quick and easy. Usually.

Teltra provides no BPAY or EFT information on the invoice. Amazing, but true. There is a link to a web page where I can advise of my payment details, but visiting the website shows me a page letting me know that the site is down until "July 21". And all links to graphics are broken (or perhaps I am being punished for using Firefox).  No year is mentioned, but today is October. Is Telstra three months late, or do I wait until July 2011? Anyway, I don't want to advise of my payment details, I want to learn how I can pay.

The same section of the invoice invites me to "Pay Online" where I can use "Online Bill to establish up to 1 of 6 Direct Debit payment options". I don't know what Online Bill means: there is no URL, except for the one above where I can advise of my payment details (the one that is down until July 21).



This is a fairly technical article, but written for a non-accounting audience. I hope to give insight into foreign currency entries you see on the P&L, when to rely on them for useful insights and I also give some ideas about understanding real foreign currency risk and how to deal with it.

Are you interested in knowing when you should hedge currency risk, and when you should manage it as a profit-making business risk?

If so, please see my article here: When hedging currency risk is shooting yourself in the foot

A “real” currency effect is one which affects cash available for the business and for the shareholders. I'm going to assume that the reporting currency is AUD.

“Accounting foreign currency effects” are the effects that foreign currency has on the financial reports. These are not a reliable measure of real foreign currency effects. Instead, they are determined by accounting requirements to balance entries, and to report assets at ‘fair value’. The accounting entries have important differences to real currency results:

  • All foreign currency results are reported in the accounts as AUD (since this is the reporting currency), even though the real currency results may be driven by EURO vs USD effects, or some other combination

  • The realised gain/loss results are only designed to allow accounting entries to balance.

  • In particular, gain/loss entries only happen when there are accrual accounting entries. Businesses like online retail have cash transactions for sales but purchases on credit: they will not get representative foreign currency entries. I refer to this as an asymmetric effect.

Big retailers have started a campaign against the five-year-old $1000 personal import allowance. The model for the campaign is the mining industry's campaign against the resource tax proposal of the Rudd cabinet. The miners convinced Australians that a tax increase would harm jobs and investments. The retailers are now trying to convince us of the opposite: that the only way to save jobs is a tax increase. This is an economic fallacy simply wrong.