Accounting Principles Explained: How They Work, GAAP, IFRS

She has worked in the private industry as an accountant for law firms and ITOCHU Corporation, an international conglomerate that manages over 20 subsidiaries and affiliates. Lizzette stays up to date on changes in the accounting industry through educational courses. With such a prominent difference in approach, dozens of other discrepancies surface throughout the standards. The chart below includes only a couple of the variations that may affect how a business reports its financial information.

Although chapters 1-5 must be presented in sequential order since we are discussing a sequence of events in an accounting cycle, the others can easily be moved around in terms of order presented. There is much consistency between the chapters in terms of how they are structured. The life examples are drawn from companies which are relevant and understandable to students today. There is also a second book, Principles of Accounting 2, which concentrates on management accounting. As an OpenStax book, it has gone through QA procedures and reviews and it also appears to me to be accurate and error-free.

This principle works with the revenue recognition principle ensuring all revenue and expenses are recorded on the accrual basis. Revenue Recognition Principle – requires companies to record revenue when it is earned instead of when it is collected. This accrual basis of accounting gives a more accurate picture of financial events during the period. The procedures used in financial reporting should be consistent, allowing a comparison of the company’s financial information.

It’s easy to start wandering into speculation when you talk about finance—especially when thinking about the future of the company—and this principle makes sure to keep accountants firmly grounded in reality. Businesses can still engage in speculation and forecasting, of course, but they cannot add this information to formal financial statements. The consistency accounting principle says that once you choose an accounting method (accrual or cash), you should stick with it for all future financial records. This allows you to accurately compare performance in different accounting periods.

What’s the Difference Between IFRS and U.S. GAAP?

It needs to be explain now even though the tools are evolving quickly to be cloud based and app based. These principles are incorporated into a number of accounting frameworks, from which accounting standards govern the treatment and reporting of business transactions. Conservatism Principle – accountants should always error on the most conservative side possible in any situation. This prevents accountants from over estimating future revenues and underestimated future expenses that could mislead financial statement users. GAAP is guided by ten key tenets and is a rules-based set of standards.

  • Materiality Concept – anything that would change a financial statement user’s mind or decision about the company should be recorded or noted in the financial statements.
  • Similarly, these items go on the right side of your general ledger.
  • These components create consistent accounting and reporting standards, which provide prospective and existing investors with reliable methods of evaluating an organization’s financial standing.
  • For instance, large companies usually have a policy of immediately expensing the cost of inexpensive equipment instead of depreciating it over its useful life of perhaps 5 years.
  • With respect to comprehensiveness- the text book is very comprehensive.

If customers pay in advance, the revenues will be recognized (reported) after the money was received. Some of the accounting principles in the Accounting Research Bulletins remain in effect today and are included in the Accounting Standards Codification. However, due to the complexities and sophistication of today’s global business activities and financing, GAAP has become more extensive and more detailed.

Consistency and comparability

These rules or standards allow lenders, investors, and others to make comparisons between companies’ financial statements. The accounting equation is the backbone of the accounting and reporting system. It is central to understanding a key financial statement known as the balance sheet (sometimes called the statement of financial position). The following illustration for Edelweiss Corporation shows a variety of assets that are reported at a total of $895,000. Creditors are owed $175,000, leaving $720,000 of stockholders’ equity. Accountants are responsible for using the same standards and practices for all accounting periods.

Whether or not the two systems will ever truly integrate or converge remains to be seen, though efforts were made by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission from 2010 to 2012 to come up with an official plan for convergence. GAAP is a set of detailed accounting guidelines and standards meant to ensure publicly traded U.S. companies are compiling and reporting clear and consistent financial information.

What are some critiques of accounting principles?

Without GAAP, comparing financial statements of different companies would be extremely difficult, even within the same industry, making an apples-to-apples comparison hard. Some companies may report both GAAP and non-GAAP measures when reporting their financial results. GAAP regulations require that non-GAAP measures be identified in financial statements and other public disclosures, such as press releases. Accountants commit to applying the same standards throughout the reporting process, from one period to the next, to ensure financial comparability between periods. Accountants are expected to fully disclose and explain the reasons behind any changed or updated standards in the footnotes to the financial statements. GAAP helps govern the world of accounting according to general rules and guidelines.

For example, a chapter on Fraud, Internal Controls, and Cash has seven subsections; one on Petty Cash and another one on Bank Reconciliations. If you want to concentrate on one or more of these topics rather than the entire chapter, it is very easy to do. This also makes the reading more comprehensive and easier for the students who cannot finish the reading assignment at one time. This book is specifically designed for both accounting and non-accounting majors, explaining the core concepts of accounting in familiar ways to students. Each chapter opens with a relatable real-life scenario for today’s college student to build a strong foundation that is applicable across many aspects of business. With respect to comprehensiveness- the text book is very comprehensive.


To learn more about how debits and credits work, see this explainer on double-entry accounting. Under the conservatism concept, revenue and expenses are treated differently. Businesses should record revenue only when there’s reasonable certainty that it will be recognized, for example by a purchase order or signed invoice. We believe everyone modular home floor plans and designs should be able to make financial decisions with confidence. Visit the bookstore for printed or e-book versions of our textbooks, practice sets, problem solutions, and more. On the recommendation of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), the FASB was formed as an independent board in 1973 to take over GAAP determinations and updates.

Cost Benefit Principle – limits the required amount of research and time to record or report financial information if the cost outweighs the benefit. Thus, if recording an immaterial event would cost the company a material amount of money, it should be forgone. GAAP is important because it helps maintain trust in the financial markets. If not for GAAP, investors would be more reluctant to trust the information presented to them by companies because they would have less confidence in its integrity.

What Is IFRS?

Although it is not required for non-publicly traded companies, GAAP is viewed favorably by lenders and creditors. Most financial institutions will require annual GAAP-compliant financial statements as a part of their debt covenants when issuing business loans. If a corporation’s stock is publicly traded, its financial statements must adhere to rules established by the U.S.

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