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I understand that "accounting" questions are off-topic, and I can understand why since accounting rules are incredibly complex and contextual, but I see several questions (example) that I would instead classify as "Financial Statement Analysis", not what I would call "pure" accounting questions (e.g. "do I classify X as a asset or expense"), but rather how to understand and analyze financial statements.

So should we disambiguate "pure" accounting questions from "Financial Statement Analysis"? The latter often is used more as an investment tool (which certainly is de facto on topic).

I would still discourage questions about specific company's statements to seek investment advice, but I think general questions about interpreting financial statements could be helpful.

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I think we should allow questions about analysing financial statements, but they should be clearly worded to make it clear it's something being done from the perspective of an individual investor.

  • As a result of your answer, are you thinking about reopening the question in D Stanley’s example above? – Ben Miller Nov 23 '18 at 2:27
  • @BenMiller the current wording of that question was partly behind my point about them being clearly worded. Maybe it's a bit of an artificial exercise to draw the connection, but I think that question would make more sense from a personal finance perspective if it explained why the cost of debt is of interest. – Ganesh Sittampalam Nov 23 '18 at 9:07
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    We don't really need to know the OP's situation to answer the question. If the question is of interest to an individual investor, it should be on-topic. I have added an answer that says more. – Ben Miller Nov 24 '18 at 4:11
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Yes, we should allow questions about analyzing financial statements.

  • Investing is on-topic.
  • Looking at financial statements is important in analyzing stocks.
  • Therefore, questions about financial statements need to be on-topic.

When deciding whether or not a question is on-topic, we don't need to divine the motivations behind the question asker. If a question is at all of interest to an individual investor, it should be on-topic. If a question would be on-topic if an investor asked it, we don't really need to know why the OP has asked the question before deciding whether or not to leave it open.

  • While I agree in principle, it's often possible to form convoluted chains of reasoning about why anything is of interest. If it's made explicit it's much easier to judge a question. I've re-opened the original question, anyway. – Ganesh Sittampalam Nov 24 '18 at 9:53
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    @GaneshSittampalam True, it will often be a judgement call, and good-willed users will have different opinions about whether individual questions should be on- or off-topic. But unfortunately I think too often users look at a question touching on accounting and immediately think, “Accounting: Off-topic,” without considering whether it is useful to value investors trying to understand how companies operate. – Ben Miller Nov 24 '18 at 12:53

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