In financial reports I'm formatting international currency amounts like USD 12.99 or AUD 9.99, etc. What is the accepted formatting in regions where negative currency amounts are typically put in parenthesis? Balance: (USD 12.99) or Balance: USD (12.99) or something different? In other words, should the parenthesis go around the whole value including the currency code or just the number when displaying negative values with an ISO currency code?

I can't seem to find any information on generally accepted formatting of negative values together with ISO currency codes.

  • 1
    Care to explain the downvote? A comment would be helpful... Mar 7, 2019 at 21:00

2 Answers 2


USD (12.99)

I’ve never seen the currency code inside parentheses. Outside the parentheses is more practical because it allows you to separate the currency from the value.

  • Tables usually have a column for currency and a column for value, so the currency codes align vertically. If the table supports sorting, resizing, rearranging or hiding columns, two separate columns give the user more control.
  • You can display multiple values attached to a single currency, e.g. “Balance Range: USD (12.34) - (9.99)”
  • Graphic designers have flexibility to play with the font and placement of the currency code.
  • 1
    Those are interesting points. I went with (USD 9.99) and haven't gotten any complaints but you make good points and I might change it after your answer. If it was in a table that had dedicated columns for each value I would definitely do that. The problem is this one report has a single column that could contain 1 to 4 different currency values in the same cell - each one isn't broken into separate columns or rows and rearranging/sorting/filtering/etc doesn't make sense in this particular case. Aug 14, 2019 at 4:33

There doesn't seem to be a universal standard, so consider the national / cultural context of your users.

You might look at Microsofts docs, which deal with Locale and cultural awareness

From the Microsoft docs:

enter image description here

IBMs Knowledge Center also confirms there are no universal standards:

Negative number representation does not have a universal form. Some countries use a leading hyphen to denote negative non-monetary numbers. Some place the hyphen after the number, and some use another symbol altogether.

  • I have taken into account the formatting of the number, but I'm specifically looking for what would look most "correct" to an accountant in regions where the standard negative currency format is in parenthesis. If the regional negative currency format is set to something like ($1234.00), I've gone with (USD 1235.00) as that seems most logical but I wanted to make sure that seemed okay as I'm not an accountant. Formats that use a non-parenthesized negative format just retain that for the number portion, so it gets formatted USD -1234.00 or USD 1234.00 -, etc. Mar 8, 2019 at 2:49
  • Like say, how should ISO currency code prefixed negative currencies be displayed in the US? Mar 8, 2019 at 2:56
  • Microsoft recommends the ($127.74) method. I imagine since their products are ubiquitous, you could probably go with that. If you have users to test with, that will help. Do you have accountants you can reach out to? That will give you your answer...
    – Mike M
    Mar 8, 2019 at 3:47
  • Haha, I can't tell if we quite understand each other or not. I know the format Microsoft recommends when using the currency symbol, but I'm not entirely sure of the exact format to use when using the 3 letter ISO currency code instead of the currency symbol in these areas. I need the currency code because I'm displaying many different currencies next to each other on the same page. To be honest I'm not sure it makes a huge difference but I wanted to do it properly. Mar 8, 2019 at 5:45
  • 1
    Ah I see...Don't know if i'm much help in this. It's a fair question though...I have no idea why someone downvoted. Good luck.
    – Mike M
    Mar 8, 2019 at 5:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.