Accounting Standards in the United States of America

Accounting in the USA

The following report will describe and discuss the major elements of accounting in the USA. It will show that the US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) are set by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), where as the International Accounting Standards (IAS) are set by the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). This report will also state the similarities and differences between these standards. In addition, the following report will use relevant examples to evaluate current accounting problems and issues in the USA related to international convergence of accounting standards.

Fargher et al. (2008, page. 67) pointed out that FASB’s conceptual framework (CFW) for financial reporting is generally consistent with that of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB). However the FASB provides more detail with six statements of financial accounting concepts (SFACs). The first level in the CFW explains the main purposes of financial reports are to provide useful information for investors and creditors, to estimate future cash flows and to claim venture resources. The second level consists of qualitative characteristics and elements of the CFW. The qualitative characteristics of the USA CFW are relevance, reliability, comparability and consistency. The main components include assets, liabilities, equity, investment by owners, distributions to owners, comprehensive income, revenues, expenses, gains and losses. The third level of CFW indicates how the firm executes the events based on assumptions, principles and constraints. There are four assumptions: economic equity, going concern, monetary unit and periodicity. The four principles include historical cost, revenue recognition, matching and full disclosure. The constraints consist of cost-benefit, materiality, industry practice and conservatism.

Fargher (2008, p. 229) mentioned that USA uses FASB 95 Statement of Cash Flows, plus FASB 102 and 104. The format is the same as the international one which includes operating, investing and financial activities. However, it is encouraged to report cash flows using the direct method even though the indirect method is usually used. Interest paid and received and dividends received are classified as operating activities. Non cash transactions are excluded from the cash flow statement.

Fargher (2008, p. 189) stated that the income statement format under US GAAP involves a range of steps but the subtotals are listed before the unusual and rare items. Changes in retained earnings are included in the retained earnings statement and comprehensive income that reports changes in fair value and similar items after the operating income. Note disclosure is based on particular standards plus SEC and other sources under the US GAAP hierarchy.

IFRS and US GAAP have some similarities but there are also several differences. The main similarities and differences are in the areas of revenue recognition and inventory valuation.  A similarity between US GAAP and IFRS is that revenue is not recognised until the revenue is actually earned. Under the US GAAP, a large amount of guidance provided usually only applies to specific industries. For example, there are specific rules for the recognition of software revenue and sales of real estate under US GAAP, while comparable guidance does not exist under IFRS (Ernst & Young 2010).

Also, both systems define inventory as assets held for sale in the ordinary course of business. A significant difference between using US GAAP and IFRS is the inventory costing method is that US uses LIFO, whereas LIFO is prohibited by the IFRS. Also, inventory valuation is measured under the IFRS at lower of cost and net realizable value. However, under the US GAAP, inventory valuation is carried at the lower of cost and market, where the market is the current replacement cost (Ernst & Young 2010).

According to (Todd M. Hines 2007, p1) IFRSs are becoming...
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