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Temporal Method


The temporal method is a currency conversion technique in international accounting that translates all of a foreign subsidiary’s assets and liabilities into the parent company’s domestic currency. This method is used when the subsidiary’s functional currency is different from the parent company’s currency. The temporal method affects the parent company’s consolidated financial statements, especially if the foreign currency is highly volatile.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Temporal Method” would be: /ˈtɛmpərəl ˈmɛθəd/

Key Takeaways

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  1. The Temporal Method is an exchange rate system that translates all income statement items at the average exchange rate for the accounting period. Revenue and expense items that are affected by changes in exchange rates are translated at the rate in effect when the transaction occurred.
  2. Under Temporal Method, balance sheet items are translated based on the type of accounts: monetary items such as cash, receivables, and liabilities are translated at the current exchange rate, non-monetary items such as inventory and fixed assets are translated at historical rates, and equity accounts are translated at historical rates.
  3. Temporal Method is used when the functional currency is the parent company’s currency, not the foreign operation’s local currency. Any translation gain or loss under Temporal Method is reflected in net income, which might lead to more volatility in reported earnings.



The Temporal Method is an important finance term as it relates to the translation of foreign currency financial statements. This method is crucial in accurately evaluating a company’s economic performance and financial position when it operates in multiple currencies. It refers to the conversion process whereby monetary assets and liabilities are translated at the current exchange rate, non-monetary items are converted at historical rates, and revenue and expense items are translated based on the exchange rate prevailing at the time of the transaction. The Temporal Method can substantially influence the reported figures in the company’s financial statements and affect key metrics and ratios utilized by investors, shareholders, and other stakeholders for decision-making processes. Hence, understanding the Temporal Method is imperative in financial analysis, reporting and international business operations.


The Temporal Method is utilized in finance primarily for translating currency and accounting purposes, particularly when dealing with international subsidiaries and their financial statements. This method is vital for multinational corporations or businesses with foreign operations as they are required to translate the financial statements of foreign subsidiaries into the parent company’s currency. Any discrepancies due to fluctuating foreign exchange rates can significantly influence a firm’s reported earnings, financial ratios, and ultimately, its stock price. When consolidating financial statements, the Temporal Method helps to ensure accuracy and compliance with regulatory standards, thereby reflecting a truly representative picture of a company’s financial health.Another crucial purpose of the Temporal Method is to assist in analyzing the impact of foreign exchange rates on the company’s financial operations. It provides detailed insights into how changes in exchange rates affect a company’s profits and losses and the stated value of its assets. Under this method, monetary items such as cash, receivables, and liabilities are translated at the current exchange rate, while non-monetary items like inventory and equipment are translated using historical exchange rates. Revenue and expense items are also usually translated at the exchange rate when they were recognized. As such, the Temporal Method is a useful tool for risk assessment and management, helping firms to better understand and potentially mitigate the financial risks involved with international operations.


The temporal method is an exchange rate used to convert a foreign subsidiary’s balance sheet and income statement from the subsidiary’s functional currency to the parent company’s functional currency. Here are three real-world examples:1. Multinational Corporations: A brand like Unilever, which is based in the UK but operates in various countries across the globe, would use the temporal method. For instance, if they have a subsidiary in Japan, they would convert the Japanese yen balances of the subsidiary into British pounds for consolidated financial reporting purposes.2. Export/Import businesses: A U.S. company importing goods from China would use the temporal method to convert its Chinese yuan payables into U.S. dollars. Importantly, the cost of the goods sold on their profit and loss statement will reflect the exchange rate on the date of the transaction, not the current rate.3. Multinational Retail Chains: Retail chains like Walmart, which operates stores in different parts of the world, would also use the temporal method. Walmart Canada’s financial statements would be recorded in Canadian dollars, for instance, and then converted into U.S. dollars for reporting on Walmart’s global consolidated financial statements.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is the Temporal Method?

The Temporal Method is a currency translation method used in financial accounting to calculate the financial statements of a foreign subsidiary before they are translated and consolidated with the parent company.

When is the Temporal Method used?

The Temporal Method is typically used when the subsidiary’s functional currency is the same as the reporting currency of the parent company. It’s often used in hyperinflationary economies or when the parent company has a high level of operational control over the subsidiary.

How does the Temporal Method work?

With the Temporal Method, monetary assets and liabilities (like cash, accounts receivable, and accounts payable) are translated using the exchange rate at the balance sheet date, while non-monetary items are translated using historical exchange rates.

What is the main difference between the Temporal Method and the Current Rate Method?

The key difference is the treatment of non-monetary items. In the Temporal Method, non-monetary items are translated at their historical rates, while in the Current Rate Method, they are translated using the current exchange rate.

What are the effects of exchange rate fluctuations in the Temporal Method?

Exchange rate fluctuations can lead to translation gains or losses under the Temporal Method. These gains or losses are reflected in the income statement, impacting the net income figure of the consolidated company.

Can you provide an example of when the Temporal Method would be used?

An example might be a U.S. multinational company with a subsidiary in Argentina. If the company mainly transacts in U.S. dollars in the subsidiary’s local operations, it would typically use the Temporal Method to translate its financial statements.

How do I decide whether to use the Temporal Method or another translation method?

The choice often depends on the functional currency of the foreign operation, the level of control the parent company has, and whether the subsidiary operates in a hyperinflationary economy. It’s advisable to consult with a financial advisor or accountant to make the right decision for your specific situation

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