The following accounting policies have been applied consistently in dealing with items which are considered material in relation to the Group’s financial statements.
1. Basis of Preparation
The financial statements are prepared under the historical cost convention and in accordance with applicable law and Irish Generally Accepted Accounting Practice which includes compliance with the financial reporting standards of the Accounting Standards Board promulgated in Ireland by The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland.
2. Basis of Consolidation
The consolidated financial statements include the financial statements of the Company and its subsidiary undertakings (except An Post National Lottery Company) made up to the end of the financial year. The results of subsidiary undertakings acquired or disposed of during the year are included in the consolidated profit and loss account from the date of acquisition or up to date of disposal. Upon the acquisition of a business, fair values are attributed to the identifiable net assets acquired. Goodwill arising on acquisitions is dealt with as set out below.
The sole activity of An Post National Lottery Company is the operation of the National Lottery under licence from the Minister for Finance in accordance with the provisions of the National Lottery Act, 1986 and the surplus generated each year is entirely attributable to the National Lottery Fund which is managed and controlled by the Minister. Accordingly, An Post does not participate in the surplus generated by An Post National Lottery Company and neither is it entitled to exercise any rights over the assets of that company. On this basis, in accordance with the provisions of Financial Reporting Standard No. 2 ‘Accounting for Subsidiary Undertakings’ and the European Communities (Companies: Group Accounts) Regulations, 1992, the consolidated financial statements do not incorporate the financial statements of An Post National Lottery Company. Separate financial statements of An Post National Lottery Company will be published on 24 March, 2009.
Joint venture undertakings (joint ventures) are those undertakings in which the Group has a long term interest and over which it exercises control jointly with another party.
Associated undertakings (associates) are those undertakings in which the Group has a participating interest in the equity capital and over which it is able to exercise significant influence.
Joint ventures and associates are accounted for using the gross equity method and equity method respectively. The Group’s share of profits less losses of joint ventures and associates is included in the consolidated profit and loss account and its interests in their net assets or liabilities, other than goodwill, are included as fixed asset investments in the consolidated balance sheet.
The amounts included in the consolidated financial statements in respect of the post acquisition profits of joint ventures and associates are taken from their latest audited financial statements made up to the balance sheet date.
Investment in joint ventures and associates are shown in the company balance sheet as financial fixed assets and are valued at cost less provisions for impairments in value.
Turnover is recognised as services are provided and consist of income from postage, agency services, poundage from remittance services, courier and logistic services, consultancy services, financial services, rents and interest income. Income from agency services is in respect of services performed for Government Departments, the National Treasury Management Agency, An Post National Lottery Company, Postbank Ireland Limited and other bodies. Amounts held in the performance of these agency services are included in amounts held in trust in cash at bank and at hand.
Postage income is recognised in the profit and loss account as sales are made with an adjustment to deferred revenue for stamps sold and unused and balances in postage meter machines unused at the year end.
4. Saving Services
The Company operates, on an agency basis and for an agreed remuneration, the Post Office Savings Bank and other savings services for the National Treasury Management Agency, which acts on behalf of the Minister for Finance.
The funds are remitted regularly to the National Treasury Management Agency. The assets and liabilities of such savings services vest in the Minister for Finance and, accordingly, are not included in these financial statements.
Revenue based grants are credited to the profit and loss account to offset the matching expenditure.
Capital grants received and receivable under EU assisted schemes are recognised when received or when their receipt can be foreseen with virtual certainty.
Capital grants are treated as deferred income and amortised to the profit and loss account on a basis consistent with the depreciation policy of the related tangible fixed assets.
6. Tangible Fixed Assets
Tangible fixed assets are stated at cost less accumulated depreciation.
The cost of certain security equipment in sub-post offices and furniture and fittings, together with other minor items, is charged to the profit and loss account in the year in which the expenditure is incurred. All other purchases of tangible fixed assets are capitalised.
Freehold and long leasehold land is not depreciated. Depreciation on other tangible fixed assets is charged to the profit and loss account on a straight line basis so as to write off those assets, adjusted for estimated residual value, over the expected useful life of each category. The remaining useful lives of the assets and their residual values are reviewed on a regular basis.
Depreciation is provided on additions with effect from the first day of the month following
commissioning and on disposals up to the end of the month of retirement.
The estimated useful lives are as follows:
Freehold & long leasehold buildings
20 - 50
Interest in GPO
Computer & other equipment
3 - 10
7. Operating Leases
Operating lease rentals are charged to the profit and loss account on a straight line basis over the lease term.
Goodwill arising on acquisitions, representing the excess of the purchase price over the fair value of the net identifiable assets or liabilities acquired, is capitalised and amortised to the profit and loss account on a straight line basis over its expected useful life of ten years. The carrying value of goodwill is reviewed annually and provision is made for any impairment in value. On disposal of a business, any goodwill is included in determining the profit or loss on sale of the business.
9. Financial Fixed Assets
Financial fixed assets are shown at cost less provisions for impairments in value. Income from financial fixed assets, together with any related tax credit, is recognised in the profit and loss account in the year in which it is receivable.
Current tax, including Irish corporation tax and foreign tax(es), is provided on the Group’s taxable profits, at amounts expected to be paid (or recovered) using the tax rates and laws that have been enacted or substantively enacted by the balance sheet date.
Deferred tax is recognised in respect of all timing differences that have originated but not reversed at the balance sheet date. Provision is made at the rates expected to apply when the timing differences reverse. Timing differences are differences between the Group’s taxable profits and its results as stated in the financial statements that arise from the inclusion of gains and losses in taxable profits in periods different from those in which they are recognised in the financial statements.
A net deferred tax asset is regarded as recoverable and therefore recognised only when, on the basis of all available evidence, it can be regarded as more likely than not that there will be suitable taxable profits from which the future reversal of the underlying timing differences can be deducted.
Deferred tax is recognised in respect of the retained earnings of overseas subsidiaries, joint ventures and associates only to the extent that, at the balance sheet date, dividends have been accrued or receivable or a binding agreement to distribute past earnings in future has been entered into by the subsidiary, joint venture or associate.
The Group provides pensions to its employees under defined benefit superannuation schemes and a defined contribution scheme. It also provides retirement gratuities under normal circumstances to postmasters engaged as agents and to certain non-pensionable employees.
In relation to the defined contribution scheme, contributions are accrued and recognised in operating profit or loss in the period in which they are earned by the relevant employees.
For the defined benefit schemes, the difference between the market value of the schemes’ assets and the actuarially assessed present value of the schemes’ liabilities, calculated using the projected unit credit method, is disclosed as an asset/liability on the balance sheet, net of a deferred tax liability or asset (to the extent that it is recoverable).
The amount charged to operating profit is the actuarially determined cost of pension benefits promised to employees earned during the year plus any benefit improvements granted to members during the year.
The expected return on the pension scheme’s assets during the year and the increase in the scheme’s liabilities due to the unwinding of the discount rate during the year are shown as financing costs in the profit and loss account.
Any difference between the expected return on assets and that actually achieved and any changes to the liabilities due to changes in assumptions or because actual experience during the year was different to that assumed, are recognised as actuarial gains and losses in the statement of total recognised gains and losses.
In relation to the unfunded liability for retirement gratuities, the actuarially determined present value of the liability is recorded in full in the balance sheet and it is increased for the cost of additional benefits earned during the year which is charged to operating profit.
The unwinding of the discount on the liability is shown as a financing cost in the profit and loss account. Changes to the liability as a result of changes in measurement assumptions or because actual experience is different to that assumed are considered to be an actuarial gain or loss and are included in the statement of total recognised gains and losses.
12. Foreign Currencies
Transactions denominated in foreign currencies are translated into euro and recorded at the rates of exchange ruling at the dates of the transactions. Monetary assets and liabilities denominated in foreign currencies are translated into euro at the rates of exchange ruling at the balance sheet date or at forward purchase contract rates where such contracts exist. All such exchange differences are dealt with in the profit and loss account.
Results of overseas subsidiaries are translated into euro at the average exchange rate for the period. The assets and liabilities of overseas subsidiaries are translated into euro at rates of exchange ruling at the balance sheet date. Translation differences are reported as a movement on reserves.