1 Significant accounting principles
Basis of presentation
On 1 January 2013, new Swiss accounting and financial reporting legislation entered into force based on partial revision of the Swiss Code of Obligations which required implementation in 2015. Swiss Re Ltd adopted the new regulation for the financial statements 2015 and chose to adopt the presentation of the 2014 financial statements to be comparable with 2015. This resulted in changes to the presentation of the balance sheet and the notes as well as a reclassification of own shares from assets to shareholders’ equity. This reclassification reduced the 2014 previously reported total non-current assets, total assets, total shareholders’ equity and total liabilities and shareholders’ equity by CHF 956 million.
The financial year 2015 comprises the accounting period from 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2015.
Use of estimates in the preparation of annual accounts
The preparation of the annual accounts requires management to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets, liabilities, revenues and expenses as well as the related disclosures. Actual results could differ from these estimates.
Foreign currency translation
Assets and liabilities denominated in foreign currencies are converted into Swiss francs at year-end exchange rates with the exception of participations, which are maintained in Swiss francs at historical exchange rates. Income and expenses in foreign currencies are converted into Swiss francs at average exchange rates for the reporting year.
Cash and cash equivalents
Cash and cash equivalents include cash at bank, short-term deposits and certain investments in money market funds with an original maturity of three months or less. Such current assets are held at nominal value.
Short-term investments contain investments with an original maturity between three months and one year. Such investments are carried at cost, less necessary and legally permissible depreciation.
Receivables from subsidiaries and affiliated companies/Other receivables
These assets are carried at nominal value. Value adjustments are recorded where the expected recovery value is lower than the nominal value.
Accrued income consists of both other expenditures incurred during the financial year but relating to a subsequent financial year, and revenues relating to the current financial year but receivable in a subsequent financial year.
Loans to subsidiaries and affiliated companies
Loans to subsidiaries and affiliated companies are carried at nominal value. Value adjustments are recorded where the expected recovery value is lower than the nominal value.
Investments in subsidiaries and affiliated companies
These assets are carried at cost, less necessary and legally permissible depreciation.
Payables to subsidiaries and affiliated companies/Other liabilities
These liabilities are carried at nominal value.
Accrued expenses consist of both income received before the balance sheet date but relating to a subsequent financial year, and charges relating to the current financial year but payable in a subsequent financial year.
Provisions contain provision for currency fluctuation and provision for taxation.
The provision for currency fluctuation comprises the net effect of foreign exchange gains and losses arising from the yearly revaluation of the opening balance sheet and the translation adjustment of the income statement from average to closing exchange rates at year-end. These net impacts are recognised in the income statement over a period of up to three years. Where the provision for currency fluctuation is insufficient to absorb net foreign exchange losses for the financial year, the provision for currency fluctuation is reduced to zero and the excess foreign exchange loss is recognised in the income statement.
The provision for taxation represents an estimate of taxes payable in respect of the reporting year.
Other legal capital reserves
Other legal capital reserves reflect gains and losses from sale of own shares (directly held by the Company).
Reserve for own shares (indirectly held by subsidiaries)
Reserve for own shares is accounted for at the book value of those shares in the statutory financial statements of the respective subsidiary.
Own shares (directly held by the Company)
Own shares are carried at cost and presented as a deduction in shareholders’ equity.
Foreign exchange transaction gains and losses
Foreign exchange gains and losses arising from foreign exchange transactions are recognised in the income statement and reported in other expenses or other revenues, respectively.
Dividends from subsidiaries and affiliated companies
Dividends from subsidiaries and affiliated companies are recognised as investment income in the year in which they are declared.
Trademark licence fees
Trademark licence fees are charged by the Company to its direct and indirect subsidiaries and their branches that benefit from the use of the Swiss Re brand.
Capital and indirect taxes
Capital and indirect taxes related to the financial year are included in other expenses. Value-added taxes are included in the respective expense lines in the income statement.
Income tax expense
As a holding company incorporated in Switzerland, Swiss Re Ltd is exempt from income taxation at cantonal/communal level. On the federal level, dividends from subsidiaries and affiliated companies are indirectly exempt from income taxation (participation relief). However, income tax is payable on trademark licence fees charged to certain subsidiaries and affiliated companies.
Subsequent events for the current reporting period have been evaluated up to 15 March 2016. This is the date on which the financial statements are available to be issued.