Generally Accepted Accounting Principles

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Accountants use generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) to guide them in recording and reporting financial information. GAAP comprises a broad set of principles that have been developed by the accounting profession and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Two laws, the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, give the SEC authority to establish reporting and disclosure requirements. However, the SEC usually operates in an oversight capacity, allowing the FASB and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) to establish these requirements. The GASB develops accounting standards for state and local governments.

The current set of principles that accountants use rests upon some underlying assumptions. The basic assumptions and principles presented on the next several pages are considered GAAP and apply to most financial statements. In addition to these concepts, there are other, more technical standards accountants must follow when preparing financial statements. Some of these are discussed later in this book, but other are left for more advanced study.

Economic entity assumption. Financial records must be separately maintained for each economic entity. Economic entities include businesses, governments, school districts, churches, and other social organizations. Although accounting information from many different entities may be combined for financial reporting purposes, every economic event must be associated with and recorded by a specific entity. In addition, business records must not include the personal assets or liabilities of the owners.

Monetary unit assumption. An economic entity's accounting records include only quantifiable transactions. Certain economic events that affect a company, such as hiring a new chief executive officer or introducing a new product, cannot be easily quantified in monetary units and, therefore, do not appear in the company's accounting records. Furthermore, accounting...
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