Key theoretical aspects of adopting IFRS 17


Key theoretical aspects of adopting IFRS 17

After nearly 20 years of discussion, the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) published IFRS 17 on Thursday 18 May 2017. Designed to achieve the goal of a consistent, principle-based accounting for insurance contracts, the new Standard requires insurance liabilities to be measured at a current fulfilment value and provides a more uniform measurement and presentation approach for all insurance contracts.

IFRS 17 supersedes IFRS 4 Insurance Contracts and related interpretations and is effective for periods beginning on or after 1 January 2021, with earlier adoption permitted if both IFRS 15 Revenue from Contracts with Customers and IFRS 9 Financial instruments have also been applied.


An entity shall apply IFRS 17 Insurance Contracts to:

  • Insurance and reinsurance contracts that it issues;
  • Reinsurance contracts it holds; and
  • Investment contracts with discretionary participation features (DPF) it issues, provided it also issues insurance contracts. 


Scope changes from IFRS 4

  • The requirement, that in order to apply the insurance standard to investment contracts with DPF, an entity has to also issue insurance contracts.
  • An option to apply IFRS 15 Revenue from Contracts with Customers to fixed-fee contracts, provided certain criteria are met. 

Level of aggregation

IFRS 17 requires entities to identify portfolios of insurance contracts, which comprise contracts that are subject to similar risks and are managed together.  Each portfolio of insurance contracts issued shall be divided into a minimum of three groups:

  • A group of contracts that are onerous at initial recognition, if any;
  • A group of contracts that at initial recognition have no significant possibility of becoming onerous subsequently, if any; and
  • A group of the remaining contracts in the portfolio, if any.

An entity is not permitted to include contracts issued more than one year apart in the same group. Furthermore, if a portfolio would fall into different groups only because law or regulation constrains the entity's practical ability to set a different price or level of benefits for policyholders with different characteristics, the entity may include those contracts in the same group. 

Overview of the new accounting model

The Standard measures insurance contracts either under the general model or a simplified version of this called the Premium Allocation Approach.  The general model is defined such that at initial recognition an entity shall measure a group of contracts at the total of (a) the amount of fulfilment cash flows (FCF), which comprise probability-weighted estimates of future cash flows, an adjustment to reflect the time value of money (TVM) and the financial risks associated with those future cash flows and a risk adjustment for non-financial risk; and (b) the contractual service margin (CSM).

On subsequent measurement, the carrying amount of a group of insurance contracts at the end of each reporting period shall be the sum of the liability for remaining coverage and the liability for incurred claims.  The liability for remaining coverage comprises the FCF related to future services and the CSM of the group at that date. The liability for incurred claims is measured as the FCF related to past services allocated to the group at that date.

An entity may simplify the measurement of the liability for remaining coverage of a group of insurance contracts using the premium allocation approach on the condition that, at initial recognition, the entity reasonably expects that doing so would produce a reasonable approximation of the general model, or the coverage period of each contract in the group is one year or less. 

Presentation in the statement of financial performance

An entity shall disaggregate the amounts recognised in the statement(s) of financial performance into an insurance service result, comprising insurance revenue and insurance service expenses, and insurance finance income or expenses.  Income or expenses from reinsurance contracts held shall be presented separately from the expenses or income from insurance contracts issued.

An entity shall present in profit or loss revenue arising from the groups of insurance contracts issued, and insurance service expenses arising from a group of insurance contracts it issues, comprising incurred claims and other incurred insurance service expenses.  Revenue and insurance service expenses shall exclude any investment components. 


An entity shall apply the Standard retrospectively unless impracticable, in which case entities have the option of using either the modified retrospective approach or the fair value approach

At the date of initial application of the Standard, those entities already applying IFRS 9 may retrospectively re-designate and reclassify financial assets held in respect of activities connected with contracts within the scope of the Standard. 

The implications of IFRS 17 adoption for your business 

  • To apply the new standard, many companies will need to have more information at their disposal than they currently possess.
  • In addition, adopting the standard may require significant resources and improvements to the company’s business processes and IT systems. 
  • New requirements are now in place, particularly in terms of disclosure requirements. Onerous contracts will be immediately recognized in the profit and loss statement. 
  • The complexity and sophistication of actuarial models will increase significantly after IFRS 17 adoption, while existing models will require serious revision.
  • The selected transition method will impact the costs of adoption and financial performance of the company.
  • A special focus is needed on inter-departmental collaboration, particularly between financial and actuarial functions.