Journal of Accounting and Management Information Systems (JAMIS)

The reality of intangibles: a semiotic approach

Supp/2006 ,   p622..630

Mihaela IONA┼×CU

Keywords:   intangible assets, ontology of accounting information, intangibility

“Intangibility” is a concept that might say much about accountants’ understanding of reality. Tangibility might turn out to be a test used by accountants to determine the reality of an asset. The purpose of this paper is to provide an insight on the ontology of accounting information by means of analyzing the tangible-intangible dichotomy. Our study draws on Napier and Power (1992), Power (2001), and Schuetze (2001), and deploys textual analysis of relevant accounting standards in order to investigate the necessity and utility of the notion of intangibles.
The results exposed conceptual contradictions inside US GAAP regarding the definition of assets, on the one hand, and the definition and recognition criteria of intangible assets, on the other. However, the paper will join Napier and Power (1992) in concluding that although the tangible-intangible paradigm is obsolete and “intellectually fragile” it will maintain its hold on accounting theory and practice as accountants as well as users of accounting information have a very strong opinion about what reality is, which will be very hard to alter towards a more abstract ontological conception.