This paper provides empirical evidence on the materiality thresholds adopted in “change in accounting estimate” (CAE) disclosures. We also investigate the characteristics of the disclosing firms and their auditors, as well as the characteristics of the CAEs, such as the effect on income, the accounts affected, and disclosure venue. U.S. GAAP requires firms to disclose a CAE if its effect on the financial statements is deemed to be “material” (ASC 250-50-4). We analyze 4,335 CAE disclosures from 2006 to 2016 and provide the first descriptive evidence of the actual materiality thresholds used for CAE disclosures in practice. Our main finding is that quantitative materiality thresholds for CAE disclosures are significantly lower than conventional materiality thresholds, such as 5 percent of pretax income, and that firms may not only apply quantitative materiality thresholds more conservatively, but that other qualitative considerations play an important role in determining CAE materiality. Our results also show that there exists considerable variation in CAE disclosure across firm size, industry membership, auditor, financial statement account effected and the direction of the effect on income.

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Copyright © 2021, American Accounting Association

DOI: 10.2308/HORIZONS-19-114

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