History and Development of Accounting Standards

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Accounting has been around since the beginning of civilization. ¡§Accountants participated in the development of cities, trade, and the concepts of wealth and numbers.¡¨ (Giroux) The importance of accounting cannot be overemphasized. Equally important are the standards used to guild the application of accounting practice. Without principles and standards, financial reporting would not fairly present the financial position of a company. Accounting has changed and evolved vastly over time and continues to change. I will discuss the evolution and history of accounting, the Conceptual frame work of accounting, and the governing bodies which shape the standards and principles of accounting practice. The beginning of civilization occurred during the transition from hunter-gatherer to farmer. Farming led to crop surplus and therefore the need to trade and barter. Jericho, the oldest city known to historians was the first known trading center for surplus goods. Personal wealth created the need to keep track of inventories. Ancient bookkeepers used small clay balls called tokens to count and keep track of existing wealth. These tokens were used as evidence of transactions. Over time, the tokens were used to make impressions in clay along with pictures which represented the first attempts at accounting. These events took place around 5000 B.C. (Giroux) Evidence suggests that double entry bookkeeping developed in Italy around 1200 B.C. The first book written on double entry bookkeeping was written by Luca Pacioli in 1494. (Smith) Pacioli was referred to as the father of accounting, but he did not actually invent the system he described. He simply wrote about the business practices used by merchants in Venice at the time. Many of his writings were used for several centuries. With the development of technology, wealth, and trade came the need to adequately account for the complexity involved. Scribes became accountants and in the process invented numbers and writing. Accounting played a central role in the development of civilizations. Accountants invented writing, participated in the development of money and banking, invented double entry bookkeeping, and helped develop the confidence in capital markets. The industrial revolution started around 1750. As industry, mass transportation and capital markets were established, the role of accountants expanded. By the mid to late 19th century there was a strong need for professional accountants. The earliest of the big four accounting firms was started by William Deloitte in 1845. Today the firm still bears his name, Deloitte and Touche. Samuel Price and Edwin Waterhouse formed their partnership in 1849. William Cooper started his firm in 1854. By this time, the profession of accountants was firmly established. The United States took its lead from entrepreneurs in Europe. During the late 1800¡¦s cost accounting was developed to increase efficiencies in the factories. The expansion and development of big business, such as Standard Oil and U.S. Steel, created the need for more sophisticated accounting systems to keep track of expanding divisions within these large corporations. Around the turn of the century the United States overtook Britain as the leading industrial power in the world. This rapid growth created the need for greater regulation. Insiders benefited from price fixing, stock manipulation, and various schemes of questionable legality. Financial statements were audited, but the auditors usually worked for the company and did not have motivation to protect the interests of third party investors. World War I ended in 1919. (Library of Congress) After the War there was a surge of securities activity. ¡§During the 1920s, approximately 20 million large and small shareholders took advantage of post-war prosperity and set out to make their fortunes in the stock market. It is estimated that of the $50 billion in new securities offered during this period, half became worthless.¡¨ (SEC)...
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