Continuing the Normative Dialog: Illuminating the Asset/Liability Theory

Document Type


Publication Date




This paper responds to the call in Dichev (2008) for rekindling the public discussion of normative accounting theories and analyses. Our goal is to enable and encourage members of the accounting academy to participate productively in dialogs with policy makers and to bring normative theory and analysis into their classrooms to help prepare students for more productive careers as practitioners or educators. Toward that end, we begin by explaining our position on the functional role for normativism. Next we offer up five guidelines to be applied in constructing and analyzing normative accounting theories. The guidelines are then used to frame a discussion of our version of the normative asset/liability theory of income measurement and financial position, especially its advantage of basing accounting measures on observed empirical data without relying on assumptions, predictions, and allocations. This theory is similar to and yet distinct from the one described in the Financial Accounting Standards Board's Conceptual Framework and is quite different from the “balance sheet approach” criticized by Dichev. In the final section of the paper we use the guidelines to address several points in Dichev's article and to suggest ways his analysis could be improved.