Accountability and stewardship of family business entities
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This chapter explores whether current accounting technology fulfils the stewardship and accountability information needs of family business owners. As the influences on contemporary accounting are both conceptual and contextual we frame our discussion in terms of both the knowledge foundations of accounting, as informed by various conceptions of the firm, and stakeholder theory. We posit that if prevailing conceptions of the firm impact the knowledge foundations of accounting, and subsequently the nature and form of accounting practice, then it is the conceptions of influential stakeholders that can define the accounting change agenda and affect contemporary accounting practice. We use extant research and practice to identify what conceptions of the firm prevail and whether these are consistent with conceptions of family firms. We identify two streams of literature relevant to our review. The conceptual stream focuses on conceptions of the firm and the extent to which particular conceptions are encapsulated within accounting regulation and practice. We find that recent international accounting regulation evidences a shift in conceptions of the firm that aligns better with the stewardship orientation of family business owners. The empirical stream largely focuses on financial reporting quality and performance differences between publicly listed family and non-family firms. As the majority of family firms are private, this literature sheds limited light on accountability issues pertinent to family firms. Accordingly we identify opportunities for further empirical research connecting financial reporting quality and performance issues with alternative conceptions of the firm.
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