The impairment test of goodwill is a hotly debated issue in the international arena owing to the intrinsic degrees of subjectivity present in the evaluation criteria of IAS 36 and the risk that these assumptions could be used opportunistically by managers. The paper examines a sample of Italian and British consolidated financial statements, referring to the years from 2005 to 2008 particularly with indications of likely impairment, in order to check the accounting treatment of goodwill and its related disclosure. The analysis focuses on the relationship between the magnitude of goodwill writeoffs, market capitalization and disclosure quality. It is suggested that corporate disclosure could act as a yardstick against which the reliability of IAS 36 implementation by management can be measured. It follows, therefore, that no write-offs represents an insufficient level of mandatory disclosure about goodwill impairment.
Keywords: Goodwill, IAS 36, impairment test, earnings management, write-offs, disclosure