Sunday, May 28, 2023

The principles of accounting: GAAP, IFRS & Other Standards

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What Are Accounting Principles?

The rules and regulations that businesses and other organizations must abide by when reporting financial data are known as accounting principles. The language and procedures that accountants must employ are standardized by these guidelines, making it simpler to analyze financial data.

With acceptance in 167 jurisdictions, the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) are the most commonly utilized set of accounting principles. General Accepted Accounting Principles are an alternative set of accounting standards used in the US (GAAP). If you are eager to learn more about a particular accounting standard in detail then refer to multiple resources available, including the Free Accounting textbooks that offer great in-depth knowledge.

The Purpose of Accounting Principles

The ultimate goal of any set of accounting standards is to guarantee that a company’s financial statements are thorough, uniform, and comparable.

As a result, it is simpler for investors to examine and glean valuable information from the company’s financial statements, such as historical trend data. It also makes it simpler to compare financial information between different organizations. By increasing transparency and making it simpler to identify red flags, accounting principles also help to decrease accounting fraud. 


The ability to compare financial statements from different firms side by side with the assurance that accounting principles have adhered to the same set of standards is known as comparability.

Standards are created to reduce the negative impacts of conflicting data as accounting information is neither absolute nor solid. Without these guidelines, comparing financial statements between businesses—even those in the same industry—would be very challenging. Errors and inconsistencies would likewise be more difficult to detect.

What Are the Basic Accounting Principles?

Some of the most fundamental accounting principles include the following:

  • Accrual principle
  • Conservatism principle
  • Consistency principle
  • Cost principle
  • Economic entity principle
  • Full disclosure principle
  • Going concern principle
  • Matching principle
  • Materiality principle
  • Monetary unit principle
  • Reliability principle
  • Revenue recognition principle
  • Time period principle

The income recognition principle, matching principle, materiality principle, and consistency principle are among the more significant ones. The materiality principle ensures completeness since all significant transactions must be disclosed in the financial statements. A company’s implementation of accounting standards throughout time is considered consistent.

When accounting rules let a corporation choose between several ways, it should stick with that approach throughout time or indicate its change in the footnotes to the financial statements.

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)

In the United States, commercial businesses and NGOs must adhere to the same accounting standards known as generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), a comparable entity, is in charge of establishing the GAAP requirements for municipal and state governments. The Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB), a third organization, also provides accounting guidelines for federal entities.

While privately owned businesses are exempt from GAAP compliance requirements, publicly traded businesses are obliged to provide GAAP-compliant financial statements in order to be listed on the stock market.

The independent auditors of publicly listed corporations and their chief executives must attest that GAAP was followed in the preparation of the financial statements and accompanying notes.

Lenders or investors may also demand that nonprofit organizations and privately held businesses submit financial statements that comply with GAAP. For instance, most banking institutions need annual audited GAAP financial statements as a typical loan requirement. Therefore, even though GAAP is not mandated by law, the majority of American businesses and organizations follow them.

International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS)

International Financial Reporting Standards are issued by the IASB – International Accounting Standards Board. More than 120 nations, including those in the European Union, utilize these standards (EU).

The U.S. government agency Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which is in charge of safeguarding investors and upholding order in the securities markets, has indicated an interest in implementing IFRS. However, the U.S. is unlikely to transition in the near future due to the discrepancies between the two standards.

However, when accounting challenges develop, the FASB and IASB collaborate to produce equivalent laws on specific subjects.

Investors should use caution when comparing the financial statements of firms from various nations since international accounting standards vary. In more developed markets, the issue of varying accounting rules is less of a concern. However, due to the fact that many sets of accounting rules still allow for the possibility of number distortion, vigilance should be exercised.

Who sets accounting principles and standards?

Setting accounting standards is the responsibility of several organizations. In the United States, generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) are governed by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) (FASB). International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) are developed by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) for use in Europe and other regions (IASB).

How does IFRS differ from GAAP?

While GAAP is predominantly employed in the United States, IFRS is a standards-based methodology applied globally. In contrast to GAAP, which is more static, IFRS is viewed as a more dynamic framework that is continuously updated to reflect an ever-changing financial landscape.

There are some methodological variations between the two methods. In terms of inventory costing, for instance, GAAP permits businesses to utilize either first in, first out (FIFO) or last in, first out (LIFO). However, LIFO is prohibited under IFRS.

The Bottom Line

Accounting principles are a set of rules and regulations that businesses must follow when disclosing financial information. The main objective of these principles, whether they are known as GAAP in the United States or IFRS elsewhere, is to increase transparency and essentially make it simpler for investors to compare the financial statements of various firms.

Without these guidelines, publicly listed corporations would probably exaggeratedly report their financial data, making their trading performance appear better than it actually was. Investors would have a nightmare if firms had the freedom to decide what information to reveal and how to share it.


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