Break Even and Target Profit Analysis:Calculate the revenue required to meet income target after tax (profit) (10 points to fully meet requirements) 5. First decision: Raise price? Calculate the price per un

Break Even and Target Profit Analysis:Calculate the revenue required to meet income target after tax (profit) (10 points to fully meet requirements) 5. First decision: Raise price? Calculate the price per un.

Break Even and Target Profit Analysis

Management accounting (vs financial accounting) forecasts future expected performance, and reports  internally to management, in order to drive management decisions about where  to invest the organizaton’s capital  (such as new product development, new market entry, new systems development,

changes in pricing or production processes). The goal this week is to understand the accounting methods used to forecast when, and at what sales level, a potential management investment decision  will pay back its investment..

Week 4 Break Even and Target Profit AnalysisAssignment Due October 7 at 11:59 PM

Required Multimedia: * How to create a Breakeven Analysis and a Target Contribution:

1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y22_AC6BN9Y

2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLOo2mY6FIw&feature=related

Required Readings:

* Capital budgeting:http://www.teachmefinance.com/capitalbudgeting.html

* Simon, Herman.  Confessions of the Pricing Man, Springer International Publishing, 2015. Chapter one.  ISBN:  978-3-319-20399-7 (e-reserves)

Assignment (8%):

In this assignment, you are to  answer all questions in the below Jewelry Case study, in which you will act as a consultant making data supported recommendations to a client who desires to meet a specific profit goal (income after tax). You will :

1. Create your own original  EXCEL file with price and cost  data from the case, separately showing all variable cost items  all fixed cost items, and the client’s current  price per UNIT  and number of UNITS sold. (10 points to fully meet requirements)

2.  In the same Excel file, create a contribution income statement, using the format in the case, (i.e., showing price x units sold (revenue), variable costs x units sold (total variable costs), contribution per unit and total contribution; total  fixed costs.  income before and after tax. (10 points to fully meet requirements)

3. Calculate break even units at current price (10 points to fully meet requirements)

4. Calculate the revenue required to meet income target after tax (profit) (10 points to fully meet requirements)

5.  First decision:  Raise price? Calculate the price per unit needed to reach the required income target (keeping the current volume of units sold). Explain why this might or might not be a good choice.  (10 points to fully meet requirements; 2 extra points possible for exceptional quality of explanation/rationale/format)

6. Second decision: Increase volume? Calculate the units to be sold (volume) under current pricing in order to reach target income.  Explain why this might or might not be a good choice. (10 points to fully meet requirements; 2 extra points possible only for exceptional quality of explanation/rationale/format)

7. Determine whether it is best to adjust price or  volume in order to reach the client’s  target income Compare the options and explain the rationale for your choice (10 points to fully meet requirements; 3 extra points possible only for exceptional quality of explanation/rationale/format)

8.  Prepare a narrated Powerpoint presentation to your client, summarizing your findings, your comparative analysis and your recommendations.  The narration should thoroughly reflect the logic of your analysis. (See the below  instructions on how to prepare a narrated Powerpoint presentation. (19  points to fully meet requirements; 4 extra points possible only for exceptional quality of the presentation)

Refer  to the below powerpoint, “Jewelry Case Hints”  for specific guidance through your analysis.

Submit your  Excel file in  your assignment folder: that contains  the above analyses. Be sure to proofread. Title your file, “Excel case week 4.”

Submit your Powerpoint presentation in your assignment folder  and title it “Presentation to Client, week 4”

all final answers should be in RED.

Grading Requirements

1. Show all your calculations.

2. Use Excel in order to accomplish item 1 above.

3. Describe and justify each assumption you have made,

4. Explain, support and justify every statement you make.

5. Support your conclusions with evidence (such as facts and statistics from reliable sources, quotes from the readings, or a well-reasoned logical argument).  Examples from your own experience are also helpful.

Please bear in mind that analyses and conclusions are only as good as the data and assumptions that they are based on;

So ALWAYS support all of your numbers or calculations with reasoning and explanations, and be sure to provide sources for all of your data.

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Break Even and Target Profit Analysis:Calculate the revenue required to meet income target after tax (profit) (10 points to fully meet requirements) 5. First decision: Raise price? Calculate the price per un

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Explain the theoretical principles and development processes that influence the development of International Accounting Standards

Explain the theoretical principles and development processes that influence the development of International Accounting Standards.This assignment is designed to develop students’ knowledge and critical analysis and problemsolving skills around two course objectives:CO3. recognise and explain the theoretical principles and development processes that influence the development of International Accounting StandardsCO4. communicate in a professional manner in writing to both an accounting and non-accountingaudienceAs the aim of Financial Accounting 3 is to develop your ability to use accounting standards generally,and not to just be able to apply the ones covered in the course, this assignment is extremelyrelevant to the course. It aims to develop your awareness of the process by which accountingstandards are produced and changed so that in your future career you are able to follow the debatesabout the accounting standards and to determine how these will impact on the organisations forwhich you work, or your clients. Some students may want the assignment to just be based on theaccounting standards covered in concept videos. This suggests they have missed the main aim ofFinancial Accounting 3 and have a very narrow understanding of the education process. Anassignment is an opportunity for you to develop deeper research, knowledge, critical analysis andproblem solving skills, and judgement skills that will serve you well in your future career. CourseObjectives 3 and 4 are only assessed in this assignment and not in the exam. We hope youappreciate the opportunities this assignment affords you and that by the time you submit it you willfeel more empowered to research and explore future accounting standard issues.Importantly assignments are an opportunity for students to develop the Threshold LearningOutcomes (TLO) of the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) that are essential for graduates togain employment. As well as developing your understanding of the accounting setting processthrough the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) that apply internationally and thatyou will need to use when you are an accountant, this assignment is designed to develop skills highlysought after by employers.Specifically this assignment aims to develop the AQF TLOs of:• Knowledge, Judgement and Critical analysis and Problem solving skills• Written communication skills: Hence the high weighting on spelling and grammar in thecriteria• Self-management skills. These will be developed through working on the assignmentthroughout the study period as guided by the learnonline site and by keeping a diary as youdevelop the assignment.This assignment is also designed to develop the Program Learning Outcome of:• Written communication skills.You will progressively develop your report throughout the study period. Time will be allocated inworkshops /virtual classes to discuss any questions that you may have regarding writing, knowledge,analytical and judgement skills. The course discussion forum will also be used to develop these skills.1Please make the most of this feedback to identify and action learning opportunities and self-improvements.Useful Website• Al-Maskari, K 2012, A Practical Guide To Business Writing Writing in English for Non-NativeSpeakers, Wiley, New York e-bookAlthough it would not be normal to reference in business memos or letters to clients, in thisassignment it must be remembered that this is also an academic exercise and hence the use ofreferencing is essential. You are required to use the Harvard Referencing style in this assignment.Use of headings in the memo and letter is encouraged. Headings are effective to organise text bydividing a document into manageable sections. Headings are also important sign-posts which guidethe reader. They need to be brief and descriptive, in bold font, and not used excessively.Self-Management SkillsBeginning assignments sooner rather than later tends to lead to better learning outcomes and lessacademic integrity issues. The assignment will be covered at various stages throughout the studyperiod in workshops and virtual classrooms. Planning early and setting short term goals with a pieceof assessment rather than just the due date results in higher learning outcomes (Zimmerman,Bandura & Martinez-Pons 1992, p. 664). By developing the assignment over time, rather than in arush in the last day or two, provides students with the opportunity to develop the TLO forAccounting in the AQF of Self-Management: Reflect on performance feedback to identify and actionlearning opportunities and self-improvements. At the end of the assignment Template is a diary thathas to be filled in by students. You have to do more than just put the dates in the left hand column.You are expected to explain fully what you have done in each step and when. Students who simplyput the dates in the left hand column will be considered to have not completed the diary as a diary isa record of what has been done and not simply dates.Note: falsely completing the assignment diary would constitute a form of academic misconductunder paragraph 9.2.1 (c) and (f) of the Academic Assessment and Procedures Manual and will bereferred to an Academic Integrity Officer with a view to imposing a penalty of at least zero for theassignment.Assignment TaskCurrently, Accounting Standards do not specify how to account for combinations of companies orbusinesses that are controlled by the same party. As a result, companies account for suchtransactions in different ways, which makes it difficult for investors and regulators to compare theeffects of those transactions on companies’ financial positions and performances.The International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) is discussing whether it can developrequirements that would improve the comparability and transparency of accounting for businesscombinations under common control to help investors compare and better understand informationthat companies provide in financial statements about such transactions.One of the key issues concerning the accounting for business combinations under common control isthe Acquisition Analysis. The IASB has proposed different methods of Acquisition Analysis includingthe Acquisition Method (IFRS 3/AASB 3), Full Fair Value Approach, Ceiling Approach and RevisedCeiling Approach. Although the project covers various aspects of business combinations undercommon control, the scope of this assignment is limited to Acquisition Analysis, in particular, to theAcquisition Method and Ceiling Approach.This assignment comprises two tasks: (1) Memo (2) Short letter. The detailed instructions are asbelow:1) MemoIn your own words write a memo to your colleagues at the accounting firm for which you work(this is just pretend, most students are not currently working for an accounting firm, use yourimagination to make up a name and letterhead for your accounting firm) explaining the issues raisedin the IFRS’s “Business Combinations under Common Control” project (this is relevant to Topic 1 Part2, Topic 2 and Topic 3) and advise which approach to Acquisition Analysis for business combinationsunder common control the firm should support.Important reminder: Although the project covers various aspects of business combinations undercommon control, your memo should include critical analysis (including the relative merits) of theAcquisition Method and Ceiling Approach only.2) LetterIn your own words draft a short letter to one of the firm’s clients who may be impacted by theIFRS project. The client acquired a 15% Non-Controlling Interest in a company that was a whollyowned subsidiary of the client’s parent company. (Use your imagination for the client’s industry andname).The details of this acquisition are as below:Purchase consideration: $1 272 000Fair value of business acquired: $1 258 000Fair value of net identifiable assets: $1 235 000Use the above information to explain the impact of the proposed IFRS’s developments on the client.Resources• www.ifrs.org > Projects > Work Plan > Research Projects > Business Combinations underCommon Control.• Look at all tabs but in particular the “Project History” tab to develop your arguments. Referto Agenda Paper 23 (as well as related audio recordings) published in April, May and June2018.• FA3 Assignment Rubric SP5 2018 (this provides the key criteria against which your memoand letter will be assessed and hence provide a possible structure for these two documents.)• How to set out a business memo and a letter to a client. You can either use templatesprovided in Microsoft Word or you can find many examples on the Internet. Remember toreference any Internet site you use. The following is also an excellent resource availableelectronically via the online library:Al-Maskari, K 2012, A Practical Guide To Business Writing Writing in English for Non-NativeSpeakers, Wiley, New York e-book• Written communication skills: see earlier section for references and links.Guidance• The memo to your colleagues in the accounting firm should be no more than about 1,000 to1,100 words and should use technical language that accountants could reasonably beexpected to understand. The letter to the client should be about 500 to 600 words and innon-technical language and written specifically for their needs. The Course Outline suggeststhe assignment can be up to 1,500 words. There is no minimum word limit. Anything after1,700 words will not be marked.• There is a lot of material in the suggested resources to answer the question. The bestapproach is to read the information, think about it and then summarise it in your ownwords. If you simply list many of the points from the suggested resources you will be heavilypenalised and fail this objective of the assignment. Your colleagues at the accounting firmhave the same access as you to the IFRS site so simply copying their papers is a waste oreveryone’s time. A list of all the points in the IFRS papers would be beyond theunderstanding of the client. Succinctly summarising the main issues for the readers is ofvalue and will be rewarded.• Referencing is essential. Remember that changing a few words does not make a quote aparaphrase or “in your own words”. It is still a quote and must have quotation marks ‘ ‘around it and an in-text reference. If you do manage to summarise or paraphrase ideas fromsomewhere it does not need quotation marks but it must still have an in-text reference as itis not your idea. Copying and pasting is never okay.• Copying and pasting text into your assignment and then altering it gradually by replacingwords, rearranging words, using the synonym function in Word to replace words etc. is notparaphrasing and any sections of assignments deemed to have been created this way willreceive no marks. This is not an appropriate method of writing and suggests that the writeris not capable of writing something original for themselves. Putting your work through atranslation or paraphrasing tool is considered a breach of the Academic Integrity policy andwill be referred to an Academic Integrity Officer with an expected minimum outcome of zerofor the assignment.• As the memo and letter are to be in your own words it is not appropriate to havequotes of more than a line, and no more than a couple of those. Lack of writing in students’own words will be heavily penalised as you need to develop this skill. Anyone can cut andpaste, but a professional can produce original work. As the markers will have read the5original documents we have suggested as resources, copying from them would add no valueand hence not be worth marks. What students can provide, that no-one else can, is theiroriginal writing of what they understand about the issue. That is worth marks.• Note that it is intended that assignments in this course will be checked, using textcomparison software, for instances of plagiarism or collusion.• Seek help early and from appropriate sources. Asking your friends, ‘seniors’ or otherstudents for assistance with this assignment is not appropriate. You may seek assistancefrom the Learnonline Student Forum, your tutor and the course coordinator.• Read the feedback rubric provided as this shows you the breakdown of the marks and anypenalties that apply.• Make sure you plan well so that when you submit your assignment it is a piece ofassessment on which you are very proud to have your name.For a custom paper on the above topic or related questions. Place an order with us.What We Offer: 25% Discount on New Clients • On-time delivery guarantee • PhD-level professionals • Automatic plagiarism check • 100% money-back guarantee • 100% Privacy and Confidentiality • High Quality custom-written papers

Explain the theoretical principles and development processes that influence the development of International Accounting Standards

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Financial Questions

Assignment:

Please note this assignment consists of two separate parts.

The first part gives the cash flows for two mutually exclusive projects and is not related to the second part.

The second part is a capital budgeting scenario

Part 1

Calculate the payback period, IRR, MIRR, NPV, and PI for the following two mutually exclusive projects. The required rate of return is 15% and the target payback is 4 years. Explain which project is preferable under each of the four capital budgeting methods mentioned above:

Table 1

Cash flows for two mutually exclusive projects

YearInvestment AInvestment B
0-$5,000,000-5,000,000
1$1,500,000$1,250,000
2$1,500,000$1,250,000
3$1,500,000$1,250,000
4$1,500,000$1,250,000
5$1,500,000$1,250,000
6$1,500,000$1,250,000
7$2,000,000$1,250,000
80$1,600,000

Part 2

Study the following capital budgeting project and then provide explanations for the questions outlined below:

You have been hired as a consultant for Pristine Urban-Tech Zither, Inc. (PUTZ), manufacturers of fine zithers (stringed instruments). The market for zithers is growing quickly. The company bought some land three years ago for $2.1 million in anticipation of using it as a toxic waste dump site but has recently hired another company to handle all toxic materials. Based on a recent appraisal, the company believes it could sell the land for $2.3 million after-tax. In four years, the land could be sold for $2.4 million after taxes. The company also hired a marketing firm to analyze the zither market, at a cost of $125,000. An excerpt of the marketing report is as follows:

The zither industry will have a rapid expansion in the next four years. With the brand name recognition that PUTZ brings to bear, we feel that the company will be able to sell 3,600, 4,300, 5,200, and 3,900 units each year for the next four years, respectively. Again, capitalizing on the name recognition of PUTZ, we feel that a premium price of $750 can be charged for each zither. Because zithers appear to be a fad, we feel at the end of the four-year period, sales should be discontinued. PUTZ believes that fixed costs for the project will be $415,000 per year, and variable costs are 15% of sales. The equipment necessary for production will cost $3.5 million and will be depreciated according to a three-year MACRS schedule. At the end of the project, the equipment can be scrapped for $350,000. Networking capital of $125,000 will be required immediately. PUTZ has a 38% tax rate, and the required rate of return on the project is 13%.

Now provide detailed explanations for the following:

  • Explain how you determine the initial cash flows.
  • Discuss the notion of sunk costs and identify the sunk cost in this project.
  • Verify how you determine the annual operating cash flows.
  • Explain how you determine the terminal cash flows at the end of the project’s life.
  • Calculate the NPV and IRR of the project and decide if the project is acceptable.
  • If the company that is implementing this project is a publicly traded company, explain and justify how this project will impact the market price of the company’s stock.

Provide detailed and precise explanations and definitions. Comment on your findings and provide references for content when necessary. Explain everything in your own words use APA 7th Format, references cited needs to be peer-review articles.

 Turnitin report’s similarity must be less than 20%!!!

[ Don’t use too many tables and numbers which will increase the similarity, focus is not on the calculation process, focus is the detailed explanations and definitions, you must write enough text explanations, which is your original analysis.

Rubric:

Criteria  Performance Indicators  (Observation descriptors indicating extent to which criterion is met.)
  Exemplary 109  Proficient 876  Needs Improvement 54  Unsatisfactory 321  No Submission
Depth   30% of overall gradeContent indicates synthesis of ideas, in depth analysis, and evidence of original thought and support for the topic. Content indicates  original thinking and develops ideas with sufficient and firm evidence. Content indicates thinking and reasoning applied with original thought on a few ideas.Content indicates some thinking and reasoning but most ideas are unoriginal or underdeveloped. 0 points
Resources   25% of overall gradeAll evidence supports arguments and is relevant to the topic. The student uses the required number and type of resources identified in the syllabus to support his/her argument. Most evidence supports arguments and is relevant to the topic. The student uses 75% of the required number and type of resources identified in the syllabus to support his/her argument. Some evidence supports arguments and is relevant to the topic. The student uses 50% of the required number of sources.Limited evidence to support arguments, with few sources relevant to the topic. The student uses less than 50% of the required number of sources.0 points
Organization   15% of overall gradePaper has a high degree of attention to logic and reasoning of points. Paper clearly leads the reader to the conclusion and stirs thought regarding the topic. 

Paper is coherent and logically organized with transitions used between ideas and paragraphs to create coherence. Overall unity of ideas is present. Paper is somewhat structured and logically organized. Some points remain misplaced and stray from the topic. Transitions evident but not used throughout. Paper is limited in logical organization with major errors. 0 points
Mechanics   15% of overall gradeFew errors in spelling, punctuation, capitalization, sentence structure, and grammar.Occasional errors in spelling, punctuation, capitalization, sentence structure and grammar, but meaning is not obscured.Frequent errors of spelling, punctuation, capitalization, sentence structure and grammar; meaning confused or obscured.Dominated by errors in spelling, punctuation, capitalization, sentence structure and grammar; meaning at times unidentifiable.0 points
Formatting   15% of overall gradePaper meets all formatting guidelines and assignment requirements, including page-length and APA formatting requirements.  Paper is correctly assembled with a professional look. The paper follows most formatting guidelines, including page-length and APA formatting requirements.Paper is correctly assembled.  Paper generally follows formatting guidelines and assignment requirements, including page-length and APA formatting requirements. Paper has some assembly errorsPaper does not follow formatting guidelines and assignment requirements, including page -length and APA format requirements. Paper has major assembly errors0 points

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Income and Balance Sheets

The income and balance and sheets are important statements in the financial realm, citing that they give into detail the financial accounting of any given company within a certain accounting period either quarterly, monthly, yearly, or within the two halves of a company’s accounting period.

Beginning with the balance sheet, a balance sheet’s role is for detailing the liabilities and assets of a company, and hence the shareholder’s equity borne out of the difference between the value of an asset and the subsequent liability that it is attached with, within any specified period of time. Acclimatized by the above, poor performance of a company, as may be evidenced within the balance sheet, results in low asset valuation, high liability for shareholders, and a representation of low equity or low value of the company based on the differences between asset and liability value. This represents a negative connotation to the investor. On the other hand, high asset valuation, low liability of shareholders, and consequent high equity of the company is a positive articulation for the shareholder.

On the other hand, an income statement details the number of expenses and income over a certain period of time. It also details the amount of revenue that the organization is amassing from its operations. In this light, an increase in the amount of income, and a consequent increase in the amount of revenue raised by an organization is a positive connotation from the stakeholder’s perspective. Nevertheless, an increase in the amount of income, and a consequent decreased in the amount of revenue raised, and then it has a negative connotation from the stakeholder’s perspective. On the other hand, a decrease in the amount of income and amount of revenue raised also augurs negativity from stakeholders. However, a decrease in the amount of revenue and an increase in the amount of fo revenue is a positive connotation for stakeholders. 

 

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Major Tax Structure

Major Tax Structure

Quantifying Property Tax

To compute the property tax liability for a property owner within a given municipality, a number of factors are considered. The first step in determining the percentage of a tax element paid by an individual entity about total property tax for a given municipality is to get the working figure for the total tax revenues for the entire municipality and identify the property tax obligation of the entity under consideration. In determining the working figure, calculations can be based on historic revenues for a past income period for the tax authority or projections for an anticipated income period may also be applied. Alternatively, a particular class of property tax may be considered for every tax units that the entity under consideration may be having across the entire municipality. Consideration of property tax classes will be important due to the fact that there may be different properties in different localities which imply that they will be subjected to different taxation regulations (Abhijit, 1992). Factoring in heterogeneous tax liability aspects of an individual property owner is important in quantifying the property tax since tax regimes are usually diversified for a number of reasons such as nature of properties and the locality factors.

To determine the percentage of tax element for a municipality due from Habitat for Humanity houses, I would first identify the municipality, types and the number of houses owned within the municipality. It will also involve valuation of the other tax allowances as well as other tax related charges for the respective properties applicable within the municipality that have an impact on Habitat for Humanity houses tax obligations. Municipal rates will be applied during the computation of the actual tax obligation owed by Habitat for Humanity with respect to the various houses owned. Final percentage property tax computation for the Habitat for Humanity with respect to the entire municipal property tax revenues will be performed after consideration of the applicable property tax rates, allowable deductions as well as other charges on each of the houses owned by Habitat for Humanity within the municipality. This procedure will be conducted based on the updated assessment of the actual housing units owned for anticipated incomes, in case there are disposals from the previous ownership. In addition, projections will be dependent on the currency of applicable rates in case there are adjustments from the tax authority in the municipality (Peppit, 2009).   

There are a number of difficulties expected to be encountered in the actual computation of property tax obligation on a particular entity for consideration in the computation of percentage tax for the entire municipality. One of these challenges will touch on the overall tax obligation for all the houses owned by the Habitat for Human. Various house classes and their allowable deductions as well as charges will be used to determine the actual tax liability for comparison with the total municipal property tax revenue (Cordes, Ebe and Gravelle, 2005).. In light of the computation of all houses owned by Habitat for Human, it will be a complicated procedure to ascertain the actual position of the tax obligation under the regulations’ circumstances. The collection of individual tax obligations for every house owned would require a lot of resources to be deployed in order to ensure that the available information is accurate and updated. If information is available for the same computations, reliance on the data will require an assessment to ascertain their accuracy and validity.

There is another concern in terms of collection of data to constitute the overall property tax value for the entire municipality for computation of the relevant percentage. While it is necessary to have the total tax value for the entire municipality, it would appear an enormous task to compute the tax obligation on all the houses or properties in the municipality merely for the Habitat for Humanity houses. It would therefore increase the need to rely on available information on the same raising reliance issues on the credibility of the data.   

Advantages of Property Tax Break

Tax breaks and allowances for special types of properties are made available to the property owners as facilitated by tax regulations. The tax authority needs to extend preferential treatment to different entities based on their operations in order to act as an incentive or a deterrent regarding the regulation under consideration. In light of the operations of the Housing for Humanity organization, tax breaks would firstly be extended to exempt it of certain tax burden in order to facilitate certain positive impacts in the housing sector by the authorities. It is therefore an advantage on the part of the organization since the waivered tax element is directed to other housing projects and reduces operation costs when compared with other entities.

Secondly, tax breaks acts as a development catalyst for the municipality since the incentive element will attract more investments in the housing industry. Through provision of preferential treatments in tax breaks to organizations such Housing for Humanity, the residents are guaranteed housing services as an integral social service provision agenda. By ensuring such benefits to roll back to the residents, it is possible to spur economic growth in the municipality.   

Disadvantages of Property Tax Break

Discriminating against tax entities may be negatively perceived among the taxpayers since every taxpayer would want an equitable treatment before the law (Peppit, 2009). It is possible to derive disadvantageous impacts of tax breaks extended to certain property owners form such a perspective in a tax jurisdiction. First, it is detrimental for the tax authorities to introduce tax breaks to certain sections of the taxable population while treating the rest differently. It may appear punitive to the category of property tax payers who do not qualify to the tax break, which may result in negative perceptions about tax obligations. Such perceptions may provoke tax evasion attempts which results in reductions in revenues.

Secondly, the breaks results in reduced revenues and the process implies that special treatments are in form of cuts on the tax element. It can be argued that by allowing the private sector to offer services at a reduced cost is a measure of how the authorities avoid their mandate to directly serve the people. Collecting the revenues and taking charge of the amenities would make the authorities to be more answerable and protected from the insensitive private sector. However, for no-profit making entities, the correct categorization of tax rates would not be questionable.   

Resolving the Case Problem

In order to quantify the percentage tax owed by an entity with regard to the total tax revenues, it is important that the tax structure has mechanisms of identifying the updated tax liability for every property owner (Cordes, Ebe and Gravelle, 2005). By having a comprehensive database for the properties owned by the various property owners, it would be easy to compute the actual tax obligation for all tax payers. It is therefore an important tax structure policy to have the entire tax system based on an updated database from which the actual tax obligation can be followed. Most tax systems have their databases completely automated and integrated into a central monitoring position from where they are followed up. In a comprehensive tax system, the creation of various tax classes must be publicized in order for the tax payers to understand the mechanism of the tax system (City of Ottawa, 2011). Through such information, it will be easy for the computation of tax liability by individual tax payers on the various pieces of property that they have. Alternatively, publicizing the applicable tax rates for the various property categories will facilitate an easy computation of the tax obligation thereby raising reliability confidence.

References

Abhijit, D. (1992) “Local Government Finances: Trends, Issues and Reforms,” in Amaresh, B.. et al. (Eds.), State Finances in India, New Delhi, India: Vikas Publishing House

Carter, C. (2006) Tax breaks, they don’t want you to know about: what you don’t know will hurt you. Retrieved from: Lulu.com

City of Ottawa (2011) “Ontario’s Property Tax System,” Retrieved from: http://www.ottawa.ca/residents/proptaxes/general_info/on_tax_system_en.html

Cordes, J., Ebel, R. & Gravelle, J. (2005) Encyclopedia of taxation and tax policy. Washington DC: The Urban Institute

 Peppit, M. (2009) Tax due diligence. London, UK: Spiramus Press Ltd.,

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Management Accounting calculations

Management Accounting       
   

Question 1:

12345
Selling Price per Unit250250250250250
Variable Cost-86-86-86-86-86
Contribution164164164164164
Units Sold70000800001000008500075000
Total Contribution1148000013120000164000001394000012300000
lessFixed Costs24000002400000240000024000002400000
lessDepreciation42000004200000420000042000004200000
EBIT48800006520000980000073400005700000
lessTax @ 40%0.419520002608000392000029360002280000
EAT29280003912000588000044040003420000
AddDepreciation42000004200000420000042000004200000
Net Cashflow712800081120001008000086040007620000

Question 2

Calculation of Depreciation
(total cost of machine – salvage value)/number of years
(21000000-0)/5=4200000

Question 3

The payback technique overlooks the time estimation of cash. The money inflows from a venture may be sporadic, with the vast majority of the return not happening until well into what’s to come. A venture could have a satisfactory rate of return yet at the same time not meet the organization’s obliged least payback period. The payback model does not consider money inflows from the extent that may happen after the starting venture has been recuperated. Most real capital consumptions have a long life compass and keep on providing pay long after the payback period. Since the payback technique concentrates on fleeting benefit, an alluring task could be ignored if the payback period is the main thought (Horngren, 2012).

Question 4: Accounting rate of Return

EBIT48800006520000980000073400005700000
lessTax @ 40%0.419520002608000392000029360002280000
EAT29280003912000588000044040003420000
AddDepreciation42000004200000420000042000004200000
Net Cashflow712800081120001008000086040007620000

Question 5:

Accounting Rate of Return

The accounting rate of return is ascertained by subtracting deterioration from the aggregate money stream, then isolating the consequence of that count by the beginning speculation. The result is the rate of the introductory venture you can hope to acquire for the period. The result is utilized to land at the normal bookkeeping return rate; the bookkeeping rate of return for every year is included then partitioned by the quantity of years included in the computation.

Pros

Calculating the average rate of return is easy. Managers can rapidly see whether a venture opportunity may be sufficiently lucrative to legitimize doing further assessment. Come back to the illustration of buying new hardware to expand gainfulness. On the off chance that the introductory computation demonstrates the buy will just earn a 2 percent expansion in benefits however putting resources into trucks to convey items to the clients will lessen the transportation costs by 10 percent, then administration ought to choose the diminished delivering expenses is a finer speculation.

Cons

The biggest drawback in using the average accounting return method doesn’t take into record the time estimation of cash. This is the idea that cash is worth a known sum today, however there is no assurance what the same measure of cash will be worth later on. As such, you recognize what you can purchase today with a given measure of cash. You don’t realize what you can purchase for the same measure of cash tomorrow, and the more drawn out it takes you to win back your speculation, the more noteworthy the danger included with supporting the obtaining influence of that future cash esteem.

Question 6:

NPV=Discounted Cashflows-Initial Outlay
Discounted Cashflows
yrCashflowsDiscounting Rate @ 8%present value
171280000.92596599815.2
281120000.85736954417.6
3100800000.79388001504
486040000.7356323940
576200000.68065186172
Total Present value33065848.8
lessInitial Outlay21000000
Net Present Value12065848.8

Question 7

Based on the Net Present Value the company should continue pursuing its PDA projects as the NPV value indicates future prospect of the project. The means that the project will be profitable.

Reference

Garrison, R. H., Noreen, E. W., Brewer, P. C., & McGowan, A. (2010). Managerial          accounting. Issues in Accounting Education25(4), 792-793.

Horngren, C. T. (2012). Cost Accounting: A Managerial Emphasis, 13/e. Pearson Education        India.

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Manage budgets and financial plans

BSBFIM501

Manage budgets and financial plans

Case Study Learner Workbook

Table of Contents Instructions to Learner 3 Assessment instructions 3 Assessment requirements 6 Candidate Details 7 Assessment – BSBFIM501: Manage budgets and financial plans 7 Activities 8 Activity 1A 8 Activity 1B 9 Activity 1A-1B checklist – for assessor 10 Activity 2A 11 Activity 2B 12 Activity 2C 13 Activity 2A-2C checklist – for assessor 14 Activity 3A 15 Activity 3B 16 Activity 3C 17 Activity 3D 18 Activity 3A-3D checklist – for assessor 19 Activity 4A 20 Activity 4B 21 Activity 4C 22 Activity 4A-4C checklist – for assessor 23 Summative Assessments 24 Section A: Skills Activity 25 Summative Assessments: Section A checklist 26 Section B: Knowledge Activity (Q & A) 27 Summative Assessments: Section B checklist 28 Section C: Performance Activity 29 Summative Assessments: Section C checklist 30 Competency record to be completed by assessor 31

Instructions to Learner

Assessment instructions

Overview

Prior to commencing the assessments, your trainer/assessor will explain each assessment task and the terms and conditions relating to the submission of your assessment task. Please consult with your trainer/assessor if you are unsure of any questions. It is important that you understand and adhere to the terms and conditions, and fully address each assessment task. If any assessment task is not fully addressed, then your assessment task will be returned to you for resubmission. Your trainer/assessor will remain available to support you throughout the assessment process.

Written work

Assessment tasks are used to measure your understanding and underpinning skills and knowledge of the overall unit of competency. When undertaking any written assessment tasks, please ensure that you address the following criteria:

· Address each question including any sub-points

· Demonstrate that you have researched the topic thoroughly

· Cover the topic in a logical, structured manner

· Your assessment tasks are well presented, well referenced and word processed

· Your assessment tasks include your full legal name on each and every page.

Active participation

It is a condition of enrolment that you actively participate in your studies. Active participation is completing all the assessment tasks on time.

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is taking and using someone else’s thoughts, writings or inventions and representing them as your own. Plagiarism is a serious act and may result in a learner’s exclusion from a course. When you have any doubts about including the work of other authors in your assessment, please consult your trainer/assessor. The following list outlines some of the activities for which a learner can be accused of plagiarism:

· Presenting any work by another individual as one’s own unintentionally

· Handing in assessments markedly similar to or copied from another learner

· Presenting the work of another individual or group as their own work

· Handing in assessments without the adequate acknowledgement of sources used, including assessments taken totally or in part from the internet.

If it is identified that you have plagiarised within your assessment, then a meeting will be organised to discuss this with you, and further action may be taken accordingly.

Collusion

Collusion is the presentation by a learner of an assignment as their own that is, in fact, the result in whole or in part of unauthorised collaboration with another person or persons. Collusion involves the cooperation of two or more learners in plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct and, as such, both parties are subject to disciplinary action. Collusion or copying from other learners is not permitted and will result in a “0” grade and NYC.

Assessments must be typed using document software such as (or similar to) MS Office. Handwritten assessments will not be accepted (unless, prior written confirmation is provided by the trainer/assessor to confirm).

Competency outcome

There are two outcomes of assessments: S = Satisfactory and NS = Not Satisfactory (requires more training and experience).

Once the learner has satisfactorily completed all the tasks for this module the learner will be awarded “Competent” (C) or “Not yet Competent” (NYC) for the relevant unit of competency.

If you are deemed “Not Yet Competent” you will be provided with feedback from your assessor and will be given another chance to resubmit your assessment task(s). If you are still deemed as “Not Yet Competent” you will be required to re-enrol in the unit of competency.

Additional evidence

If we, at our sole discretion, determine that we require additional or alternative information/evidence in order to determine competency, you must provide us with such information/evidence, subject to privacy and confidentiality issues. We retain this right at any time, including after submission of your assessments.

Confidentiality

We will treat anything, including information about your job, workplace, employer, with strict confidence, in accordance with the law. However, you are responsible for ensuring that you do not provide us with anything regarding any third party including your employer, colleagues and others, that they do not consent to the disclosure of. While we may ask you to provide information or details about aspects of your employer and workplace, you are responsible for obtaining necessary consents and ensuring that privacy rights and confidentiality obligations are not breached by you in supplying us with such information.

Assessment appeals process

If you feel that you have been unfairly treated during your assessment, and you are not happy with your assessment and/or the outcome as a result of that treatment, you have the right to lodge an appeal. You must first discuss the issue with your trainer/assessor. If you would like to proceed further with the request after discussions with your trainer/assessor, you need to lodge your appeal to the course coordinator, in writing, outlining the reason(s) for the appeal.

Recognised prior learning

Candidates will be able to have their previous experience or expertise recognised on request.

Special needs

Candidates with special needs should notify their trainer/assessor to request any required adjustments as soon as possible. This will enable the trainer/assessor to address the identified needs immediately .

Assessment requirements

The assessment activities in this workbook assess aspects of all the elements, performance criteria, skills and knowledge and performance requirements of the unit of competency.

To demonstrate competence in this unit you must undertake all activities (formative and summative) in this workbook and have them deemed satisfactory by the assessor. If you do not answer some questions or perform certain tasks, and therefore you are deemed to be Not Yet Competent, your trainer/assessor may ask you supplementary questions to determine your competence. Once you have demonstrated the required level of performance, you will be deemed competent in this unit.

Should you still be deemed Not Yet Competent, you will have the opportunity to resubmit your assessments or appeal the result.

As part of the assessment process, all learners must abide by any relevant assessment policies as provided during induction.

If you feel you are not yet ready to be assessed or that this assessment is unfair, please contact your assessor to discuss your options. You have the right to formally appeal any outcome and, if you wish to do so, discuss this with your trainer/assessor.

Candidate Details

Assessment – BSBFIM501: Manage budgets and financial plans

Please complete the following activities and hand in to your trainer/assessor for marking. This forms part of your assessment for BSBFIM501: Manage budgets and financial plans.

Name: _____________________________________________________________

Address: _____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

Email: _____________________________________________________________

Employer: _____________________________________________________________

Declaration

I declare that no part of this assessment has been copied from another person’s work with the exception of where I have listed or referenced documents or work and that no part of this assessment has been written for me by another person. I also understand the assessment instructions and requirements and consent to being assessed.

Signed: ____________________________________________________________

Date: ____________________________________________________________

If activities have been completed as part of a small group or in pairs, details of the learners involved should be provided below:

This activity workbook has been completed by the following persons and we acknowledge that it was a fair team effort where everyone contributed equally to the work completed. We declare that no part of this assessment has been copied from another person’s work with the exception of where we have listed or referenced documents or work and that no part of this assessment has been written for us by another person.

Learner 1: ____________________________________________________________

Signed: ____________________________________________________________

Learner 2: ____________________________________________________________

Signed: ____________________________________________________________

Learner 3: ____________________________________________________________

Signed: ____________________________________________________________

Activities

Activity 1A

Estimated Time40 Minutes
ObjectiveTo provide you with an opportunity to access budgetfinancial plans for the work team; clarify budget/financial plans with relevant personnel within the organisation to ensure that documented outcomes are achievable, accurate and comprehensible; negotiate any changes required to be made to budget/financial plans with relevant personnel within the organisation.
ActivityCreate a one-page guide for a hypothetical organisation outlining how to access budget and financial plans. You should also note which personnel you would need to consult and what issues might need to be addressed, e.g. any changes to be made.Your assessor should have existing procedures and documentation for reference.Attach your guide to your workbook.

Activity 1B

Estimated Time40 Minutes
ObjectiveTo provide you with an opportunity to prepare contingency plans in the event that initial plans need to be varied.
Activity1. What is the purpose of a contingency plan? Note five possible contingencies that an organisation could implement.2. Refer to Case Study A.Highlight at least four guidelines that are relevant and helpful in your line of work, start to prepare them as much as possible now and attach your notes to your workbook.

Activity 1A-1B checklist – for assessor

This should be used by the trainer/assessor to document the learner’s skills, knowledge and performance as relevant to the unit activity. Indicate in the table below if the learner is deemed satisfactory (S) or not satisfactory (NS) for the activity or if reassessment is required.

Marking Checklist
Has the activity been answered and performed fully, as required to assess the competency of the learner?Yes No(Please circle)
Has sufficient evidence and information been provided by the learner for the activity?Yes No(Please circle)
Comments
Provide your comments here:
The learner’s performance was:Not yet satisfactorySatisfactory

Activity 2A

Estimated Time25 Minutes
ObjectiveTo provide you with an opportunity to disseminate relevant details of the agreed budget/financial plans to team members.
ActivityWho might you need to inform about budget/financial plans in an organisation? What information would the respective people need to know?

Activity 2B

Estimated Time45 Minutes
ObjectiveTo provide you with an opportunity to provide support to ensure that team members can competently perform required roles associated with the management of finances.
ActivityRefer to Case Study B.This is a roleplay activity to be conducted in pairs. Using the information, speak with the team member (Sam/your partner) and identify what support they may require to improve their performance. Plan how you would implement this.This activity will need to be observed and a signed observation documented.

Activity 2C

Estimated Time30 Minutes
ObjectiveTo provide you with an opportunity to determine and access resources and systems to manage financial management processes within the work team.
ActivityOutline how the following resources and systems can help to manage financial management processes in your line of work (maximum one page):· Hardware and software· Human, physical or financial resources· Record keeping systems (electronic and paper-based)· Specialist advice or support.

Activity 2A-2C checklist – for assessor

This should be used by the trainer/assessor to document the learner’s skills, knowledge and performance as relevant to the unit activity. Indicate in the table below if the learner is deemed satisfactory (S) or not satisfactory (NS) for the activity or if reassessment is required.

Marking Checklist
Has the activity been answered and performed fully, as required to assess the competency of the learner?Yes No(Please circle)
Has sufficient evidence and information been provided by the learner for the activity?Yes No(Please circle)
Comments
Provide your comments here:
The learner’s performance was:Not yet satisfactorySatisfactory

Activity 3A

Estimated Time30 Minutes
ObjectiveTo provide you with an opportunity to implement processes to monitor actual expenditure and to control costs across the work team.
ActivityRefer to Case Study C.Analyse the general ledger and summarise your main findings. For example, where are most of the costs coming from? Are there any issues arising from the information?

Activity 3B

Estimated Time40 Minutes
ObjectiveTo provide you with an opportunity to monitor expenditure and costs on an agreed cyclical basis to identify cost variations and expenditure overruns.
Activity1. List three causes of cost variation.2. Outline how cost expenditure meetings can be undertaken, list possible participants and what would be discussed in each one.

Activity 3C

Estimated Time20 Minutes
ObjectiveTo provide you with an opportunity to implement, monitor and modify contingency plans as required to maintain financial objectives.
ActivityWhat processes are involved in the monitoring of a contingency plan?

Activity 3D

Estimated Time60 Minutes
ObjectiveTo provide you with an opportunity to report on budget and expenditure in accordance with organisational protocols.
ActivityPrepare a template Business Activity Statement, complying with Australian Tax Office regulations and broad organisational protocols. Attach the template to your workbook.

Activity 3A-3D checklist – for assessor

This should be used by the trainer/assessor to document the learner’s skills, knowledge and performance as relevant to the unit activity. Indicate in the table below if the learner is deemed satisfactory (S) or not satisfactory (NS) for the activity or if reassessment is required.

Marking Checklist
Has the activity been answered and performed fully, as required to assess the competency of the learner?Yes No(Please circle)
Has sufficient evidence and information been provided by the learner for the activity?Yes No(Please circle)
Comments
Provide your comments here:
The learner’s performance was:Not yet satisfactorySatisfactory

Activity 4A

Estimated Time20 Minutes
ObjectiveTo provide you with an opportunity to collect and collate for analysis, data and information on the effectiveness of financial management processes within the work team.
ActivityWhat financial records could be kept by an organisation and what methods of storage/organisation do they need? Give at least ten examples.

Activity 4B

Estimated Time25 Minutes
ObjectiveTo provide you with an opportunity to analyse data and information on the effectiveness of financial management processes within the work team and identify, document and recommend any improvements to existing processes.
Activity1. Briefly outline the following terms:· Earnings growth· Earnings stability· Return on equity.2. How might you determine a company’s performance regarding the above? Give at least three methods.

Activity 4C

Estimated Time45 Minutes
ObjectiveTo provide you with an opportunity to implement and monitor agreed improvements in line with financial objectives of the work team and the organisation.
ActivityIdentify an improvement that needs to be made in your organisation and implement it.(If this isn’t possible, imagine a common workplace improvement and plan in detail how you would implement and monitor it).

Activity 4A-4C checklist – for assessor

This should be used by the trainer/assessor to document the learner’s skills, knowledge and performance as relevant to the unit activity. Indicate in the table below if the learner is deemed satisfactory (S) or not satisfactory (NS) for the activity or if reassessment is required.

Marking Checklist
Has the activity been answered and performed fully, as required to assess the competency of the learner?Yes No(Please circle)
Has sufficient evidence and information been provided by the learner for the activity?Yes No(Please circle)
Comments
Provide your comments here:
The learner’s performance was:Not yet satisfactorySatisfactory

Summative Assessments

The summative assessments are the major activities designed to assess the learner’s skills, knowledge and performance, as required to show competency in this unit. These activities should be completed after finishing the Learner Guide. These should be completed as stated under the trainer/assessor instructions.

Skills, knowledge and performance may be termed as:

· Skills – skill requirements, required skills, essential skills, foundation skills

· Knowledge – knowledge requirements, required knowledge, essential knowledge, knowledge evidence

· Performance – evidence requirements, critical aspects of assessment, performance evidence.

Section A: Skills Activity

The Skills Activity is designed is designed to address the foundation skills of the unit through a case studies, with a series of applicable questions to address the skills criteria.

Section B: Knowledge Activity (Q & A)

The Knowledge Activity is designed to be a questionnaire where the assessor asks the learner a series of questions to confirm their competency for all of the required knowledge in the unit of competency.

Section C: Performance Activity

The Performance Activity is designed to address the performance evidence of the unit through case studies, with a series of applicable questions to address the skills criteria.

If necessary for the activities, you should attach completed written answers, portfolios or any evidence of competency to this workbook.

Section A: Skills Activity

Objective: To provide you with an opportunity to show you have the required skills for this unit.

A signed observation by either an approved third party or the assessor will need to be included in this activity as proof of completion.

This activity will enable you to demonstrate your knowledge of the following foundation skills:

· Reading

· Writing

· Oral communication

· Numeracy

· Navigate the world of work

· Interacts with others

· Get the work done.

1. Read a financial document provided by your assessor and interpret the information written on it. Write a short report explaining the contents of it.

2. Give a short presentation about the contents of the document to members of your group in a style and structure which suit the audience. Ask questions to test their understanding and clarify any information that wasn’t clear.

3. Complete a task relevant to a budget or financial plan that will be provided by your assessor, you should use a range of mathematical calculations. Attach the relevant document(s) and a record of your calculations to your workbook with a brief written summary of the task you undertook.

4. You will be provided with an example copy of a Financial Procedures Manual or equivalent document. Using this document as reference:

· Identify five organisational requirements that relate to your intended job role

· Perform two tasks that will allow you to demonstrate your adherence to at least three of these requirements

· Write a brief 250 word summary of each task you completed, describing the ways in which you demonstrated your adherence to organisational requirements.

This activity will need to be observed and a signed observation documented.

5. Assist a member of your group or team member on a task which requires collaborative effort.

6. For a task you have been given by your assessor, plan how you will complete it including timescales. If the situation changes, adapt your plan.

Summative Assessments: Section A checklist

This should be used by the trainer/assessor to document the learner’s skills, knowledge and performance as relevant to the summative assessment. Indicate in the table below if the learner is deemed satisfactory (S) or not satisfactory (NS) for the activity or if reassessment is required.

Learner’s name
Assessor’s name
Unit of Competence(Code and Title)
Date(s) of assessment
Has the activity been answered and performed fully, as required to assess the competency of the learner?Yes No(Please circle)
Has sufficient evidence and information been provided by the learner for the activity?Yes No(Please circle)
Comments
Provide your comments here:
The learner’s performance was:Not yet satisfactorySatisfactory

Section B: Knowledge Activity (Q & A)

Objective: To provide you with an opportunity to show you have the required knowledge for this unit.

The answers to the following questions will enable you to:

· Describe basic accounting principles

· Identify and explain the relevant legislation and current requirements of the Australian Taxation Office, including the Goods and Services Tax (GST)

· Explain the key requirements for financial record keeping and auditing

· Describe the principles and techniques involved in managing:

· budgeting

· cash flows

· electronic spreadsheets

· GST

· ledgers and financial statements

· profit and loss statements.

1. Choose and explain in detail three aspects of basic accounting principles.

2. What information may you be required to report to the Australian Taxation Office?

3. Explain the key requirements for financial record keeping and auditing

4. Describe the techniques involved in managing budgets.

Summative Assessments: Section B checklist

This should be used by the trainer/assessor to document the learner’s skills, knowledge and performance as relevant to the summative assessment. Indicate in the table below if the learner is deemed satisfactory (S) or not satisfactory (NS) for the activity or if reassessment is required.

Learner’s name
Assessor’s name
Unit of Competence(Code and Title)
Date(s) of assessment
Has the activity been answered and performed fully, as required to assess the competency of the learner?Yes No(Please circle)
Has sufficient evidence and information been provided by the learner for the activity?Yes No(Please circle)
Comments
Provide your comments here:
The learner’s performance was:Not yet satisfactorySatisfactory

Section C: Performance Activity

Objective: To provide you with an opportunity to demonstrate the required performance elements for this unit.

A signed observation by either an approved third party or the assessor will need to be included in this activity as proof of completion.

This activity will enable you to demonstrate your knowledge of the following performance evidence:

· Use financial skills to work with and interpret budgets, ageing summaries, cash flow, petty cash, Goods and Services Tax (GST), and profit and loss statements

· Communicate with relevant people to clarify budget/financial plans, negotiate changes and disseminate information

· Prepare, implement and modify financial contingency plans

· Monitor expenditure and control costs

· Support and monitor team members

· Report on budget and expenditure

· Review and make recommendations for improvements to financial processes

· Meet record keeping requirements for the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and for auditing purposes.

1. In a simulated workplace environment, review and make recommendations to improve a budget or financial plan. Negotiate these changes and implement them.

Ensure that you:

· Monitor relevant financial factors such as expenditure and controls of costs

· Prepare, implement and modify financial contingency plans as necessary

· Meet record keeping requirements for the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and for auditing purposes

· Monitor and support any team members that you are working with.

When this is completed, prepare a report on how the budget/financial plan has been improved.

Summative Assessments: Section C checklist

This should be used by the trainer/assessor to document the learner’s skills, knowledge and performance as relevant to the summative assessment. Indicate in the table below if the learner is deemed satisfactory (S) or not satisfactory (NS) for the activity or if reassessment is required.

Learner’s name
Assessor’s name
Unit of Competence(Code and Title)
Date(s) of assessment
Has the activity been answered and performed fully, as required to assess the competency of the learner?Yes No(Please circle)
Has sufficient evidence and information been provided by the learner for the activity?Yes No(Please circle)
Comments
Provide your comments here:
The learner’s performance was:Not yet satisfactorySatisfactory

Competency record to be completed by assessor

This should be used by the trainer/assessor to document the learner’s skills, knowledge and performance as relevant to the overall unit. Indicate in the table below if the learner is deemed competent or not yet competent for the unit or if reassessment is required.

Learner’s name
Assessor’s name
Unit of Competence(Code and Title)
Date
Has the learner completed all required assessments in this workbook to a satisfactory standard?Yes No(Please circle)
Comments from trainer/assessor:
Learner is deemedNot competentCompetent
Assessor’s signature

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Teaching in Higher Education Critical Perspectives

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Just Google it! Digital literacy and the epistemology of ignorance

Ibrar Bhatt & Alison MacKenzie

To cite this article: Ibrar Bhatt & Alison MacKenzie (2019) Just Google it! Digital literacy and the epistemology of ignorance, Teaching in Higher Education, 24:3, 302-317, DOI: 10.1080/13562517.2018.1547276

To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/13562517.2018.1547276

Published online: 20 Feb 2019.

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Just Google it! Digital literacy and the epistemology of ignorance Ibrar Bhatt and Alison MacKenzie

School of Social Sciences, Education & Social Work, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland

ABSTRACT In this paper we examine digital literacy and explicate how it relates to the philosophical study of ignorance. Using data from a study which explores the knowledge-producing work of undergraduate students as they wrote course assignments, we argue that a social practice approach to digital literacy can help explain how epistemologies of ignorance may be sustained. If students are restricted in what they can know because they are unaware of exogenous actors (e.g. algorithms), and how they guide choices and shape experiences online, then a key issue with which theorists of digital literacy should contend is how to educate students to be critically aware of how power operates in online spaces. The challenge for Higher Education is twofold: to understand how particular digital literacy practices pave the way for the construction of ignorance, and to develop approaches to counter it.

ARTICLE HISTORY Received 18 May 2018 Accepted 8 November 2018

KEYWORDS Digital literacy; epistemology of ignorance; literacy studies; ignorance; higher education

Introduction: literacy, knowledge creation and ignorance

Over the last 15 years, the broad and interdisciplinary field of Literacy Studies has turned its attention to digital literacies and language online (e.g. Barton and Lee 2013; Gillen 2014). This growing body of work has explored what digital literacy looks like in particular localised contexts such as college classrooms (Bhatt 2017a), gaming environments (Gee 2014), and university student experience (Gourlay and Oliver 2018). And while there has been some notable research which has examined writing in Higher Education and its role in the work of knowledge creation (e.g. Tusting et al 2019) there has, as yet, been little that has examined specifically the relationship between practices of student digital literacy and the social production of ignorance – a field of inquiry that is outlined in detail below.

In this paper we argue that Literacy Studies, through its empirical work and ethno- graphic commitment, should engage with epistemologies of ignorance in understanding how ignorance can be maintained, produced and re-produced through practices of digital literacy in the everyday lives of individual users of technologies within their various networks and institutions. Our focus here is on Higher Education, and our data is drawn from a study of digital literacy in university campus sites. Using ethnographic

© 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

CONTACT Ibrar Bhatt i.bhatt@qub.ac.uk School of Social Sciences, Education & Social Work, Queen’s University Belfast, 20 College Green, Belfast BT7 1LN, Northern Ireland

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interviews alongside a detailed videography of the writing process, the study examines how students in different disciplines (STEM, Computer Sciences, Arts & Humanities and Business courses) attempt to make sense of the plethora of information they encoun- ter online. This includes how they search for information, engage with it critically (or not), and make evaluative judgements about its credibility and relevance to curricular work and assignments. We explore how students appear to engage in digital literacy practices which demonstrate forms of non-culpable and strategic ignorance. But first, we orient the general reader to our twin theoretical bases: first, a ‘social practice’ approach to digital literacy, and second, epistemologies of ignorance, particularly in relation to the power of algorithms to determine, produce and maintain knowledge.

Literacy and knowledge production

Literacy Studies emerged through a series of seminal works (e.g. Street 1984; Baynham 1995; Barton and Hamilton 2012) which collectively presented a social theory of literacy. This theory foregrounds the idea that literacy is always associated with, and realised through, ‘social practices’ rather than a purely formally-schooled understanding of correct language. This means that literacy is always embedded within social activities, is socially situated, and mediated by material artefacts and networks. Germane to its methods is to focus on what people actually do with texts and technologies, and how lit- eracy practices are connected to getting things done in everyday life. Literacy research, therefore, invites careful and ethnographic attention to social acts of meaning ascribed to everyday practices of reading and writing.

Literacy Studies begins with the local and everyday experience of literacy in particular communities. It is rooted in people’s intimate experience with text and this is not always predictable from one person to another. There are also different literacy practices in different domains of people’s lives, whether through, for example, formal learning, reli- gious activity, or family life. Literacy is, therefore, to be understood in a pluralistic sense: ‘literacies’ to which, in addition, digital media also adds plurality; and how students use digital technology will vary across different social, age, and subject groups. Students are faced with an increasing range of digital platforms with which to work, and an often unpredictable set of social and material resources which shape their writing and knowl- edge production. This is particularly salient in institutional environments where there is often an attempt to standardise curricular work by organising it around a virtual learning environment (VLE) that all are mandated to use, and large computer suites.

Researchers working within Literacy Studies have examined, in various ways, the cul- tural connections between the nature of knowledge (how it is produced, valued, and bequeathed), and the literacy practices of particular communities. Through Literacy Studies, we have come to know how literacy is intrinsically connected to how societies operate and are organised, how institutions, groups and individuals organise their lives and make sense of the world, and how these realities are produced and re-produced in and through practices of literacy.

Literacy, therefore, cannot be seen outside of the powerful interests and agencies which seek to define it in particular ways (Tett, Hamilton, and Crowther 2012): literacy is a profi- table and fertile resource which can be sponsored, bought and sold, and regulated, sup- pressed or withheld (Brandt 1998). As Brandt defines it, the ‘sponsors’ of literacy are

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‘any agents, local or distant, concrete or abstract, who enable, support, teach, model, as well as recruit, regulate, suppress, or withhold literacy – and gain advantage by it in some way’ (1998, 166). Whether they are community leaders, academic institutions, or technology companies, they ultimately control ‘the ideological freight that must be borne for access to what they have’ (168).

Sponsors also shift over time, and where the chief sponsors of literacy were once reli- gious institutions who controlled how and where literacy was taught (and still do in many parts of the world), they have since been eclipsed by new sets of sponsors in the guise of businesses and the digital technology industries. These new actors have shaped current lit- eracy demands in ways which are relevant to this research, as we will discuss below.

Brandt’s ideas are relevant in today’s digitally infused world where information is organised and made accessible to those who seek it online through search engines such as Google. Companies such as Google, through their computer code and artificial intelli- gence systems, are among today’s highly influential ‘sponsors of literacy’. Their digital platforms are conduits of economic and political forces which regulate and establish the value and agentive potential of people’s digital literacies as they use those platforms (Noble 2018).

Drawing from a social practice approach to literacy, this study examines digital litera- cies as ‘the constantly changing practices through which people make traceable meanings using digital technologies’ (Gillen and Barton 2010, 1). A social practice approach to digital literacy does not, therefore, assume a deterministic and predictive relationship between digital media and students’ writing and study practices. As Gillen and Barton (2010, 1) caution ‘many mistakes – at the design, commercial and indeed theoretical levels – are made through assuming that there is a straightforward relationship between what a new technology can do and how – or even whether – it will then be used’. Instead, a social practice approach to digital literacy begins with detailed exploration of digital literacy in the lives of those who use technologies over and above an a priori notion of ‘what works’. In this respect, a social practice approach to digital literacy is set apart from related perspectives (e.g. ‘information literacy’ and ‘media literacy’) which conceptualise literacy as a metaphor for autonomous skills which can be acquired and transferred from one domain to another. A social practice approach is important in institutions, such as universities, where large-scale investments are made in new digital technologies, and where there seems to be little or no examination of what digital literacy actually looks like in practice for students and staff. The ways in which learners embrace a suite of institutional technology is not always reflected in the intentions of investors or pol- icymakers who will likely evaluate its use exclusively within broad instructional frame- works which tend to define digital literacy through a categorical classification of something which students have (or have not), rather than something which they do (see Gourlay and Oliver 2018).

Further, ignorance of how digital technologies work, how users’ online activities can be used to the advantage of the platform owners or sponsors without the users’ knowledge, and, indeed, how the internet appears to be structured so as to encourage people who enter it to confine their browsing to opinions they already accept, is not always well understood. Similarly, how people make sense of the voluminous amounts of information online is not straightforward. The sheer extent of online information necessitates its ‘pre-curation’ (Bhatt 2017a), or filtering, by algorithms before it is consumed by online users. Yet,

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ignorance of how digital technologies and online platforms do this has resulted in ritua- lised practices of digital literacy which must be examined critically and not taken for granted as mere everyday online practice. As we shall shortly demonstrate, some forms of ritualisation are necessary, and relate to how an online user accords epistemic trust to actors (e.g. teachers, search engines) as they seek information for learning and knowl- edge production. But an exploration of students’ ritualised practices with digital media can help uncover asymmetrical relations of power in moments of digital literacy and where, and how, epistemic trust is being granted.

Moreover, given that internet platforms are designed by corporations, they will be influenced by motivations, values, and intentions that are embedded in their architecture (Origgi 2012). However, because that design is often diffuse, it is difficult to know whom to query when these features become manifest or troublesome: there is little accountability or transparency, and it is difficult to exercise agency. As Eubanks (2018) observes ‘we have remarkably limited access to the equations, algorithms, and models that shape our life chances’. We have ceded much of the decision-making power to automated eligibility systems and ranking algorithms which control who has access to financial support and protection (insurance, mortgages, and welfare payments), and which particularly affects people of colour and low income communities, though no-one is immune.

Without knowing just how such platforms work, how to make sense of complex algor- ithms, or that data discrimination is a real social problem, students may not be the auton- omous and agential learners and pursuers of knowledge they believe themselves to be. As Noble (2018) argues, the monopoly status of a relatively small number of internet search engines, along with the paid promotion of certain sites, means that students engaged in seemingly benign online searches may actually be lacking in important knowledge prac- tices with respect to online learning and browsing: how knowledge is produced, spon- sored, valued – or withheld.

The study of ignorance

Epistemology is, very simply, the study of knowledge and justified belief. Ignorance, by contrast, is generally taken to mean the absence or lack of knowledge or awareness, and so it seems counterintuitive to talk about the epistemology of ignorance. How is it intelligibly possible to bring these two seemingly antonymic states together? However, ignorance is not mere lack of knowledge, a benign gap in knowledge or some epistemic oversight that needs only to be filled or rectified. Epistemologies of ignorance is, rather, an ‘examination of the complex phenomena of ignorance’ (Sullivan and Tuana 2007, 1): how it is actively constructed and sustained for the purposes of domination or exploita- tion, or for epistemic advantage; how it is sponsored and regulated (Brandt 1998); used wittingly or unwittingly to distort, suppress or withhold knowledge (O’Neil 2016); and as a substantive epistemic practice in itself in which ignorance is wilful and socially accep- table (Alcoff 2007). Frye (1983, 118), writing of racialised ignorance, has argued that ignorance ‘is not a simple lack, absence or emptiness, and it is not a passive state… [it] is a complex result of many acts and many negligences’. Ignorance is, therefore, something which is performed as a social practice, is often ritualised and, as we will show, it has a complex role to play in the writing and knowledge creating work of uni- versity students.

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Yet, epistemic ignorance also has value. For example, it is good epistemic practice to be strategically ignorant and highly selective in the things we know or seek to know in order to remain epistemically functional, particularly now that most of us are almost exclusively immersed in information-dense digital environments. We do not, for example, need to know how many blades of grass there are in a square metre (though a gardener might) and we rarely need to know the specific set of instructions that constitutes a given algor- ithm. It often makes sense to grant epistemic authority and trust to those with expertise and reputation, and who are known to be epistemically responsible. We often judge what to believe on whom to believe, and to make these judgments we rely on criteria of plausibility, consensus, relevance, and credibility, among other things. In digital informa- tional environments these criteria may also include online rankings, ratings, and the order of search results, such as those provided by Google. Google, the search engine that seems to be synonymous with the internet (Noble 2018), is judged by many users to be reliable and trustworthy, though we argue below that this is not always the case. The Pew Internet and American Life Project (Purcell, Brenner, and Rainie 2012) reported that 73% of search engine users say that most or all the information they find through search engines is ‘accu- rate and trustworthy’ and 66% of users regarded search engines are a ‘fair and unbiased source of information’ (3).

Reputation also helps when we are ignorant or uncertain. In information-dense online environments, information is useful, according to Origgi (2012), only in conjunction with reputation. It fashions collective processes of knowledge and is a ‘criterion’ (416) for extracting information from these online systems. Understandably, given our pervasive epistemic interdependence, and finite time, ‘good epistemic conduct needs to be under- stood as the maintenance of appropriate balances of knowledge and ignorance, in oneself and also in relation to others’ (Fricker 2016, 160). Reputation, as an ‘essential epis- temological notion’ (Origgi 2012), may help keep that balance.

However, while it is not possible or practical to know everything, ignorance may rep- resent a culpable failure to put effort or skill into knowing something one ought to know (Fricker 2007). Asymmetries of power in the context of the digital environment influence attributions of epistemic authority: whom we afford credibility excess or deficit based on, for example, reputation, and finite time and resources. Following Anderson’s (2017) analysis, such attributions of authority can impact on general models of knowledge; the epistemic standing of knowers or producers of knowledge (the reputation or ranking of platforms such as Google); whose claims various epistemic communities, such as students, will accept, and ought to accept as credible; and how this affects the distribution of knowl- edge and ignorance in society by algorithms, or other sources of information, such as a journal, newspaper or a course lecturer.

Given recent revelations about Facebook, we should know by now that our data can be mined and used without our knowledge, and therefore consent. Epistemic practices may lack know-how (skills) and propositional knowledge (know-what), and, of course, motiv- ation. Many undergraduate students are often passive consumers of what they are taught or told, or have read. They grant, reasonably, epistemic credibility to their lecturers, as we will discuss below. Like many of us, they are also often passive consumers of online infor- mation and search results, again, as we will discuss below.

Online searches are conducted through a series of steps, algorithmically mediated, which are implemented by programme code (Noble 2018, 37). Regarded as neutral

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because they are algorithmic and scientific, these mathematical formulations are evaluated through procedural and mechanistic practices which include tracing hyperlinks among pages. This is defined as ‘voting’ which describes search results that move up or down in a ranked list of websites (Noble 2018, 37). Most are automated or happen through graphical user interfaces that allow people who are not programmers to engage in sharing links to and from websites (37).

Noble (2018), among others (e.g. O’Neil 2016; Eubanks 2018), has pointed out that, contrary to the belief that online platforms like Google are objective and neutral, or even infallible, discrimination is embedded within their very computer code and artifi- cial intelligence systems, and that these can mask and deepen inequality, as well as render the user less agential than she thought. The mathematical formulations that drive automated decisions are not ‘benign, neutral or objective’ (Noble 2018, 1). The designers themselves have values which may promote prejudice as Noble (2018) docu- ments with respect to persistent and widespread racial profiling, sexism and misogyny online.

Worryingly, institutions like schools, universities, and libraries are increasingly being displaced by, or are reliant on, web-based tools such as Google (Noble 2018) because users think of them as public resources that are free from commercial interest and bias – which they are not. Google is an advertising company, and search results produced through it reflect the values and norms of the company’s commercial partners and adver- tisers. Consequently, search results play a powerful role in granting or reinforcing beliefs in the epistemic authority of, as we argued above, general models of knowledge; the epis- temic standing of knowers, whose claims various epistemic communities accept (or not) as credible, and how this affects the distribution of knowledge and ignorance in society (Anderson 2017).

Why should this be a matter of concern? One reason is that algorithms are creating ‘new asymmetries of power’, and are perceived as being better knowers of ourselves than we are (Origgi and Ciranna 2017, 303). Data mining, is a useful example. The interpretation and processing of data, makes a number of correlations through which the interests of the users are individuated to anticipate future actions. These predictive profiles are the essential ingredient of online marketing strategies – and of which users may have no knowledge. At the time of writing, we have learned that our identities are virtual objects that companies can buy and sell without our knowing, or without our voices being heard or taken into account (Buttarelli 2018). The ways in which we search for, use and communicate information through the web, and the roles and effects of search engines, has been, and remains, largely unknown to most users. We are largely ignorant of the effects and uses of our cognitive outsourcing and online moni- toring, on our status as competent informants, or that we have online avatars (Origgi and Ciranna 2017, 305). Since algorithmic procedures are determined by the owners of the platforms according to their interests, a profile of a user can be created using personalisa- tion algorithms, by collecting and storing tracks based on browsing history, IP addresses, social network activity, email content, and key words in search engines (307). These avatars are potentially partial, and may not present what the person wants to be known about herself or represent who she fully is (Origgi and Ciranna 2017). Not only may users be ignorant of what is happening, but they may also not know what their rights are or the uses to which this passive mining of data is being used. As we are increasingly

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coming to understand, such ignorance is not a benign gap in knowledge. We should ques- tion how corporate ‘sponsors’ (Brandt 1998) of digital literacy, companies who dominate the internet such as Google and Facebook, are benefitting (economically and in other ways) through users’ ignorance of their platforms.

We have an hermeneutical gap about predictive online profiling and attributions of rights and duties which are not yet the subject of full debate since a significant number of users may not know, and therefore cannot name, the potential and actual harm being done to them. We currently lack hermeneutical resources to talk about these issues and develop awareness of our rights of our profile which are, at present, wholly in the hands of the platform, and this is the case even when users, such as students, are engaged in seemingly benign searches for information to write an essay.

Students who are novices within a particular knowledge-based community or academic discipline will understandably rely on the directions and guidance of other actors, such as lecturers, leading to an inevitable asymmetry of power. Academics often warn their stu- dents about the quality and veracity of information they obtain from the internet. Students are often told to undertake rigorous searches in subject-specific repositories and rely on refereed literature, rather than trust more accessible treatments of a topic available in Wikipedia or in alluring YouTube videos, both of which will likely appear at the top of students’ search results.

Despite the warnings, as we will see from the accounts below, students in varying ways trust and use a variety of strategies to manage the wealth of information they find online. How they come to trust and select those strategies, and how they manage information, can tell us much about their knowings, and how those epistemologies manifest in their prac- tices of digital literacy. Yet how university students actually go about writing their assign- ments, how they seek out and discern information as part of their study practices has remained remarkably under-explored. As we have all increasingly come to realise, and have argued above, the internet is not the infallible and neutral repository of information we recently believed it to be; so how do students learn whom or what to trust to help them navigate through the epistemic gaps in their curricular work? This is one of the key areas of investigation in a current study of digital literacy in Higher Education, as we will now discuss.

A research project on digital literacy in higher education

Methods

The research was situated across disciplinary sites (STEM, Computer Sciences, Arts and Humanities, and Business subjects) in two universities in Northern Ireland. The research aims to develop a critical understanding of university digital literacy policy versus actuality and for the purposes of this paper, four students’ case studies (from a total of ten) were selected for analysis and discussion. Students were recruited through lecturers known to the primary researcher, and student networks online, and selected to represent each of the faculties and disciplinary groups across both universities, and, as far as possible, gender, ethnicity and diversity of disciplinary subjects.

To capture the diversity and richness of digital literacy and writing practices of the stu- dents, a combination of the following methods was used:

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(i) Focussed interviews were conducted with each student participant. Initial interviews were a pre-assignment ‘walk-around’ interview of the student’s campus to examine how study habits are mediated by their material environment, particular campus technologies and official learning spaces.

(ii) After the initial interview, each participant conducted a screen recording of a course assignment task. Through this method we were able to record the iterative processes of writing and online practices (searching, composing and revising). This data collec- tion technique is substantiated in other research into digital literacy and writing (see Bhatt 2017b).

(iii) This was followed by a post-assignment discussion of the writing task and the stu- dents’ history of use with digital media over the course of their life. This follow up interview allowed us to ask the students to reflect on the assignment task they had just done, and also to examine how their confidence and practice with digital media and online behaviour evolved over time. The students were asked about how they sought information online; how they assessed the veracity and authen- ticity of search engine results; and how they judged the trustworthiness of the information.

(iv) Additionally, software which captures quantitative patterns of digital behaviour (e.g. time spent on tasks and sub-tasks like web searching) was also obtained from the par- ticipants during their assignment writing.

From these data we were then able to capture a detailed impression of the digital lit- eracy practices of the students, both during a specific session of assignment writing and in their academic and social practice more generally.

Ethical challenges

Ethical issues relating to this research were fully examined and approved through the insti- tutional ethical review process. Specific challenges emerged which relate to the use of digital data obtained from participant’s machines, namely points (ii) and (iv) above. Therefore, during the screen recording, participants were given the option to ‘pause’ the recording whenever they wished. Screenshots with identifiable information were also edited to protect participant identity, and no identifiable information was captured in the data logs of computer use. All software was uninstalled from a student’s machine immediately after a writing session was completed.

Preliminary findings

For the purposes of this paper, we will focus specifically on those features of the cases examined thus far that relate to how the students searched for information online while writing their assignment tasks, and how they discerned the quality of that information in their writing. Since ignorance, as argued above, can manifest in ritualised practices, in this section we will show how it emerges through practices of digital literacy and the complex role it plays in the writing and knowledge creating work of students. We will also explore the extent to which students were reliant on their lecturers’ judgements

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and decisions about what is acceptable and credible for their work. The student cases examined in this paper come from: ‘Kim’ (Cinematic Arts), ‘Rahat’ (Economics), ‘Nusrat’ (Medicine), and ‘Phil’ (Politics & Philosophy).

Kim (Cinematic Arts)

Kim is a first year student of Cinematic Arts. The assignments she receives for her course are varied and include such genres as script writing, visual story-telling, coding, and short essays.

When writing her assignments, Kim very rarely goes beyond the resources uploaded by her lecturer in the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). We can view this practice of the lecturer as a form of ‘curation’ (Bhatt 2017a), which is ‘when certain actors guide the assignment writing along a certain path and place boundaries around the task to regulate its outcome’ (144). These curated resources are the basis of the course content in the form of slides from lectures, pdf files and links to online readings. This curation is important for Kim, as it helps standardise, and in some ways ritualise, the writing practices necessary for assignment completion.

Throughout the interviews, and substantiated in the screen-recording of her assign- ment, Kim emphasised how reliant she was on the curation work of the lecturer, arguing that ‘If a teacher sends a reading to us, I’ll trust it. I don’t know why, but you just do’. She would even email the lecturer to request resources when she was not satisfied with what she was given. This is because, as she states, ‘If I am the one who found it myself, I would be sceptical about it’. Kim lacks epistemic trust and confidence in her own skills and knowledge, and so accords epistemic credibility to her lecturer.

But in the rare instance where she felt the need to go outside the framework of her lec- turer’s carefully curated resources, she attaches value to the results only if the searched item (a key word, concept, story, for example) appears at the top of search engine results. In terms of any epistemic judgements she makes, the greater the congruity between websites in what they report and rank, the more likely she is to accept that infor- mation and incorporate it into her assignment.

A kind of discernment did, however, emerge in her pre-assignment group task. The assignment that was screen recorded was on the subject of visual storytelling. A pre- assignment task involved a group discussion online where Kim was able to garner infor- mation from a group of fellow students about the topic. Much of the recording is spent with Kim writing and flicking back and forth from ideas she had collected in the group chat prior to the actual writing of the assignment (see Figure 1). This was a recording of an online group chat by which she could access a record of the group’s collective ideas. She had curated this information from the group members, her epistemic commu- nity, and was able to draw from it as she wrote the assignment rather than search for content online.

Kim values this kind of pre-assignment group interaction over and above information that she finds online. Her scepticism about seeking information online and her trust of the people around her, to whom she attributes epistemic authority, is well encapsulated in this quote from an interview: ‘There’s a lot that you read on the internet that’s not what you actually hear from other people outside of your computer’.

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Rahat (Economics)

The research was carried out in the early stages of Rahat’s degree in Economics, when his assignments usually consisted of short pieces on topics with a 1–2 weeks’ deadline. For example, at the time of screen-recording, he had completed a 600-word assignment on The Great Depression for which, as he told us in a pre-assignment interview, ‘All the resources that we needed were on one website that I used. I didn’t do much reading… it was all online’.

In this respect, Rahat’s approach to writing for assignments does not differ considerably from Kim’s. The lecturer gives him links to websites for each individual assignment, and sometimes this will be a single link with all the important readings on it. His lecturer would usually explain the readings in class and then double up by sending them via email to the students to make sure: ‘It’s all in the email’. Rahat also explained that he would rely on it a lot, arguing that ‘it’s the best guidance because the lecturer has read through it’. Understandably, and unsurprisingly, Rahat places epistemic trust in his lec- turer to guide him to the best reading. Rahat also applied the same level of trust to his lec- turer’s tweets, considering them to be on a par with thought leaders and public commentators in the field of Economics. He benefitted from his lecturers’ social media updates, and therefore reputation, because they provided a broader view of the subject than the lectures.

When asked if students should be wholly reliant on the information provided by their lecturers he said, ‘No, because I think that would be too much spoon feeding. I think that students need to do their own searches as well’. However, on this occasion, this was not borne out in Rahat’s actual practice.

Figure 1. Kim spends most of her time flicking back and forth from ideas she collects in the pre-assign- ment group chat.

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If further and more extensive reading is required for an assignment, Rahat will search via his preferred search engine, Google, by typing in the title of the assignment task and clicking on the results that immediately relate to this. This he explained as follows: ‘I would type in the main title of what the essay is about, and scroll down, and whatever I think that I can relate to and understand easily, I would go with that’. On the surface, Rahat uses few complex thought process and concepts in the search since he uses his essay title, and readily accepts results that closely match it.

Rahat was unable to describe other filtering processes. What seemed to matter was that the filtering of search results was related to the extent to which the information he received was relevant to his assignment rather than its academic credibility. As with Kim, he also favoured top search results and judged the credibility of these based on their popularity, and, hence, assumed reputation.

Nusrat (Medicine)

Nusrat is a second-year student of Medicine. The assignments he has to complete for his course are varied in nature, and include write-ups of scientific practicals and short essays which require prior reading and research. When he has to write an essay, he steadfastly limits himself to academic sources only. He told us that:

I wouldn’t be using Wikipedia. I’d be looking at papers from PubMed. Often I’ll just type in the subject matter on Google and it will give me links to different websites, which I know have academic papers on. So things like PubMed, things like Cell, things like ScienceDirect, those renowned websites.

He is fairly confident when it comes to independent study practices, including his ability to search for, and select information for his course. He explained that:

I know what I’m searching for. Even if the lecture might not be that detailed, I would still use that lecture as a guide of what I need to know. For instance, I was learning about female reproductive physiology and the PowerPoint for that wasn’t that detailed. But I found the relevant chapter in a physiology textbook and I was able to fill in the missing pieces and make sense of it.

Here, Nusrat emphasises his confidence in making sense of information that he feels is lacking in his lecturer’s course content. He also sees this as part of the practice of learning on his course: ‘The assignments we usually get will be stuff that they’ve touched upon in a lecture, but maybe the purpose of the assignment is to make us go into it further’.

His strategy is to target academic databases for information, like PubMed, a database of academic reports on life sciences and biomedical topics, for sources that may be lacking in his lecture notes. Most of Nusrat’s web searching is channelled through these databases and they are his primary source of information. His assignments will predictably relate directly or indirectly to this content. Another reason that explains his need to foster prac- tices of independent searching is given as follows: ‘In all honesty, sometimes PowerPoints are not that good’, in which case he describes himself as ‘able to adapt and find another way’.

We see examples of this during the screen recording of his assignment which was on the portrayal of mental illness in film (see Figure 2). As he began the task, Nusrat accessed the recommended readings from his lecturer’s notes. He then searched online for ‘movies and

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mental illness pubmed’ highlighting the desire to direct his results towards ‘pubmed’. The recording reveals that he did not read any report deeply at this point, but merely skimmed to see which films had been analysed for their portrayal of mental health issues. It is only after viewing multiple results of films such as ‘Beautiful Mind’, ‘Logan’, and ‘The Hours’ in academic articles that Nusrat decided to target these films for analysis in his own assign- ment. In a post assignment interview he clarifies his methods as follows:

It’s always hard finding that initial paper but once you do, that leads onto finding other papers. It’s like once you find that one paper, then it just becomes a lot easier from then on.

The question here is about trusting what has been analysed before in previous research. Nusrat outlines his trust in selected online materials as follows: ‘if you go onto a website and the article looks poorly produced, or informally written, or only one author has written it, that would make me turn away from it’.

Phil (Politics & Philosophy)

Due to the nature of his course, Politics & Philosophy, Phil, a first year student, recently joined Twitter in order to keep up to date with news and current events, as they inform his ongoing written work. Having used Twitter in the past, he stopped using it because of the amount of time it was taking up. He then began re-using it more strategically to keep up to date with political events and news for his course. After experiencing an overwhelming amount of variety of news through Twitter, Phil decided to subscribe to Guardian Online for the news relevant to his course. In this way, he felt able to manage the multiple sources of news he receives by relying on Guardian Online for, as he assesses it, journalistic quality, integrity and news that is consistent with his political inclinations.

Figure 2. Nusrat tries to target solely academic databases for information through Google searching.

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This management of his news information sources is essential for two reasons: it is information which will contribute to his development on his Politics & Philosophy course, and Phil currently has little interest in consuming information which is in direct conflict with his political views. Phil’s practices mean that he is engaged in a form of strategic ignorance: to be epistemically functional, there are things or views of the world that he does not want to, or cannot know. However, though Phil’s decision was strategic, relying only on one source of news information is not, perhaps, best practice. By deciding to channel all his news through Guardian Online, however reputable, he ritua- lises his practices and ensures non-exposure to views different to his own.

Discussion

Kim, Nusrat, Rahat, and Phil all offer interesting insights into the varied practices of digital literacy emerging in undergraduate work. They differed substantially in the way that they searched for, managed and discerned information for curricular work. Both their simi- larities and dissimilarities call for explanation. What do these practices of student digital literacy imply for our understanding of ignorance discussed earlier in the paper?

Kim and Rahat typically follow the detailed guidance specified by their lecturers and both are careful to produce work which only draws from the resources provided as part of course materials. When each of them felt the need to search for information beyond what was provided, Kim and Rahat tended to rely on search results that appeared in mul- tiple locations as a criterion of authority. Nusrat, in contrast, casts a much smaller net in his searches for information. His self-reports and assignment recording revealed a much more focussed practice of information searching, and a certain amount of confidence in his ability to use other sources to ‘fill in the missing pieces’ from lecture notes. Nusrat attempts to understand the curricular task he is set. Clearly, most of what he produced in the course of writing his assignment was through this kind of self-discovery, with infor- mation filtered through his own assessment of its importance and credibility. For Kim and Rahat, the lecturers seemed to be the ultimate epistemic authority.

These and numerous similar observations led us to the conclusion that all the students’ writing and information seeking practices were ritualised – that is, motivated mainly by a need to adhere to the rules of the game. Building on the notion of curation described earlier, ritualised practices of assignment writing are about defining the sequence of events for task completion in such a way that the expectations (for students and lecturers) are clear and relatively habituated. Ritualised practices can be sustained through the common experience of the instructional practices of schooling prior to graduate study, and an examination of them can tell us much about how epistemic trust is accorded in online practice.

Ritualisation directs teaching and, rather than encouraging students to cultivate skills of discernment and trust in their own judgement, has the potential to restrict research prac- tices on account of high levels of epistemic trust in certain actors, be they lecturers, search engines, or news websites. This can constrain and restrict students’ practices of infor- mation gathering, and thereby sustain ignorance of alternatives. But can and should we expect anything more from undergraduate students? Would doing otherwise result in cog- nitive overload? Ritualisation can be an essential part of inducting a student into the forms of knowledge creation necessary within a given discipline. It is itself a form of non-culp- able strategic ignorance, and can help situate a student’s literacy practices as a novice

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within their discipline. But such habits could, conversely, create a tendency to be unreflec- tive and habituated in research practices, and leave students over-reliant on, and passive users of, the decisions of popular search engines, with all the dangers that entails, as we discussed earlier.

All four students felt obliged to complete their assignments through ritualised practices of digital literacy. Their assignment writing is an activity whose significance rests in its manner of performance, as much as in its end product. For example, Nusrat relied on cri- teria of journal ranking, number of authors, and quality of presentation to make judge- ments of plausibility, relevance, and credibility. Kim and Rahat viewed multiple citations of information as something which renders the results epistemically trustworthy. The idea that multiple sources which say the same thing equates to corroboration and vali- dation is an idea which has its origins within the academy, but cannot be assumed of online searches for the reasons we recount above.

Some kinds of ignorance or knowledge practices are not mere oversights. We have limited time and resources and it is rational to grant credibility to epistemic authorities, as these students clearly demonstrated, and to trust on the basis of reputation, expertise, and so on: epistemic dependence is necessary and unavoidable. Phil, for example, know- ingly channelled his news through the Guardian Online website, entering into a particular set of debates which delineate his belief formations in order to manage his finite time and resources. Yet, while Phil’s decision is strategic, even necessary, it entails a particular kind of epistemic dependence on a particular set of views – perhaps we could even think of this as invested, if strategic, ignorance of alternative world views.

The literate activity of students in digital environments is supported and shaped by powerful historical, social, and economic forces, or ‘sponsors’ of digital literacy who, through their digital platforms and technologies, offer users both opportunities and the potential to constrain and suppress. How students, therefore, make use of these opportunities, and how they come to make sense of the constraints and work through them (or not) is a challenge facing educators. As technology is an integral component of learning, students must be supported in developing a critical awareness of how power operates in online spaces, and how ways of thinking and being are cul- turally produced and re-produced, and sponsored. If students are restricted in what they can know because they are unaware of how exogenous actors (e.g. algorithms) actually work, and how they guide their choices and shape their experiences online, then it becomes important to educate them to be critically aware during their digital searches for information, research and critical argument, and to educate them to be reflective about their ritualised practices with digital literacy. The challenge for Higher Education is to understand how particular forms of digital literacy practices pave the way for the construction of ignorance, and to develop mechanisms that counter it. To do this requires critically examining student digital literacies in light of epistemologies of ignorance.

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by a grant from the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE). We would like to thank the following people for their commnents upon earlier drafts: Sadia Khan, Tess Maginess, Christine Bower, and Jennifer Rose.

TEACHING IN HIGHER EDUCATION 315

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.

Funding

This work was supported by The Society for Research into Higher Education.

ORCID

Ibrar Bhatt http://orcid.org/0000-0002-3577-1257

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http://orcid.org/0000-0002-3577-1257

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of Adult Continuing Education.

TEACHING IN HIGHER EDUCATION 317

  • Abstract
  • Introduction: literacy, knowledge creation and ignorance
    • Literacy and knowledge production
    • The study of ignorance
  • A research project on digital literacy in higher education
    • Methods
    • Ethical challenges
  • Preliminary findings
    • Kim (Cinematic Arts)
    • Rahat (Economics)
    • Nusrat (Medicine)
    • Phil (Politics Philosophy)
  • Discussion
  • Acknowledgements
  • Disclosure statement
  • ORCID
  • References

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What is the opinion of the auditors about the financial statements?

General Motors (GM) CEO: Mary T. Barra Inspect the 10-K 1. What is the opinion of the auditors about the financial statements? The opinion might be that the financial statements are ‘fairly presented.’ The opinion might be that the financial statements are not fairly presented. -The opinion of the auditors is that the financial statements are presented fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the company at Dec. 31, 2020 and 2019, and the results conform with US generally accepted accounting principles. (Page 47) 2. Who audits the financial statements? The Big 4 accounting firms are (1) Deloitte, (2) Ernst & Young, (3) KPMG, and (4) Price Waterhouse Coopers. They audit the most publicly available companies. State who audits your companies – Ernst & Young audited GM. Serving as the auditors since 2017. 3. Most, but not all companies evaluate their internal control over financial reporting. In the opinion of the management, does the company have good internal control? This is frequently described at Item 9A

Controls and Procedures.

-Management deemed their internal control over financial reporting effective as of Dec 31, 2020. These internal controls were also audited by Ernst & Young, and they concluded that GM maintained effective quality control. (Page 99) 4. What standard does the company use to evaluate whether the internal control is satisfactory? This is frequently COSO Internal Control –Integrated Framework (2013), but it might be another standard. – The assessment of the internal control utilized the criteria discussed in the “Internal Control – Integrated

Framework (2013) issued by the COSO. (Page 99)

Inspect the report on management compensation. Most of the time this is included in the proxy. It is in a form that starts DEF. It might be DEF 14A, titled “Other Definitive Proxy Statements,” or something similar. 1. Most companies have a Compensation Committee. How many of the members of the Compensation Committee are independent? -The compensation committee consisted of 4 members: Carol Stephenson (Chair), Wesley G. Bush, Joseph

Jimenez and Patricia F. Russo. (Page 68). The committee is composed of independent directors

determined by the board under NYSE guidelines. (Page 67)

2. Has the company ask for shareholder opinion on management compensation? This is a ‘say-on-pay’ vote.

-Yes, the company has an annual meeting for say-on-pay voting. The company views shareholder engagement as a continuous process and seeks shareholder feedback. 96.5% of shareholders voted in favor of the executive compensation programs. (Page 44) 3. Describe a little of how the Compensation Committee makes the pay decision. a. Do they use an outside consultant to help with the decision or is it based only on their own deliberations? If they use a consultant, who is it? b. Is there a set of peer companies that they use as a comparison? -The compensation uses recommendations from an outside independent compensation consultant. FW Cook was the independent consultant. (Page 67). The committee used Dow Jones Automobile & Parts Titans 30 Index members as an OEM peer group. (Page 46) They also used another peer group of 15 companies to inform 2020 target compensation consisting of 3M, Boeing, Caterpillar, Deere & Company, Ford Motors, GE, Honeywell, HP, IBM, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Proctor & Gamble, and United Technologies. (Page 47) 4. Describe how much the CEO makes. Include a breakdown of the components of the pay. Commonly, it is salary, bonus, and equity.

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Statement, or Statement of Cash Flows?

b. If the item is not drawn from the financial statements, what information does it seem to capture?

-STIP performance measures 50% -Earnings Before Interest and Taxes-adjusted (EBIT) ($12.9 B is the target) Focus on Operating Profit and driving strong profitability; 25% – Adjusted Automotive Free Cash Flow AFCF ($7.1 B is the target) Focus on driving strong cash flow for investments; 25% Strategic Goals (25 pts) Focus on performance that aligns to company vision and drives business results. (Page 51)

EBIT is from the income statement. Net Income is the accountant’s measure of profitability. Both Interest and Taxes are expenses to arrive at Net Income on the income statement. The measure, EBIT, uses profitability without the subtraction of Interest and Taxes. This suggests that management is incentivized to pay careful attention to aspects of profits other than interest and taxes. AFCF is from the statement of cash flow, and some detail in the computation is provided in the proxy’s Appendix A. I speculate that AFCF is used because the company’s core focus is automobiles.

LTIP performance measures

50% – Relative Return On Invested Capital-adjusted (ROIC) (20% or higher returns in vehicles and technology); 50% Relative Total Shareholder Return (TSR) (Shareholder returns outperform OEM peer group) (Page 52)

ROIC is EBIT/Average Net Assets. Net Assets is Shareholders’ Equity. This is profitability scaled by the level of shareholders’ equity, resulting in a percentage figure. A percentage figure can be compared across companies of different sizes. For example, profits of $100 may seem not as good as $200. However, if the profits of $100 are generated using assets of $500, that 20 percent profit figure may be superior to the $200 that required $2,000 of assets to generate a 10 percent return. Both EBIT and Average Net Assets are derived from accounting reports. EBIT uses the income statement as the starting point. Average Net Assets uses the balance sheet as the starting point. Relative TSR is not clearly defined in the proxy, so I looked it up. A shareholder return is the dividends plus the market price increase of a share. Scale the dividends plus the market price increase by the starting market price and the TSR is a percentage. To make the TRS a ‘Relative TRS,’ examine where the company’s TRS ranks among peers. A Relative TSR that ranks near the top of peers is superior to a Relative TSR that ranks at the bottom of the peers. Accounting does not play a role in computing Relative TSR. Market price are determined by the market, and not directly by accounting reports.

6. What does the committee have to say about whether the incentives in the compensation plan can be dysfunctional? -The committee completed an annual risk review and determined that the compensation program included

the following features to mitigate the risk (which the committee deemed as a low-risk program (page 66)):

Mix of pay elements, short-term and long-term programs, adjustments to compensation, compensation

committee oversight, multiple performance measures and stock ownership requirements. (Page 65)

7. If the measures turnout to be wrong, or misreported, does the company have a policy of trying to recover the pay. For example, suppose the bonus depends on net income, and perhaps a year later, the company discovers that the net income was incorrectly reported. Does the company have a policy of trying to recover the pay? -The company does have a clawback policy. The policy includes all executive officers and certain circumstances includes approximately 275 senior leaders. The committee is empowered to recoup compensation paid to executive officers. In the event of misconduct that causes damage to the reputation, material inaccuracy, or accounting restatement the committee may seek to clawback incentive compensation. The committee may also cancel any outstanding equity-based awards to the employee. (Page 66) the policy is publicly available here: investor.gm.com/resources 8. The tax code, Section 162(m), mostly limits deductions for management compensation to $1 million. Is the company seemingly influenced by the tax code limit on deductibility, or is the company mainly concerned with compensation and not the tax deductibility? -The committee choses to align itself to executive pay with performance, regardless of the performance-based exception being removed under IRS Section 162(m) (Page 67). The company pays executives according the compensation committee’s sense of incentivizing, and does not consider whether the pay will be deductible for tax purposes.

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Identify numerical or mathematical information that is relevant in a problem or situation.

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