The International Financial Reporting Standard Accounting Essay

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First and foremost, the main benefits of US converting the over 100 years GAAPs into IFRS is to promote the consistency in financial reporting, together harmonize US accounting standards, reduce country-by-country differences in financial, and improve financial reporting within the U.S. and for the global financial markets (AICPA 2010). Nowadays, globalization allows organizations to integrate their business operations within markets across the world. Corporations with operations in other countries have to prepare financial statements that fulfill the disparities accounting standards of the country in which it is operating. So, problems are being generated when come to evaluate and compare the financial statements across the countries. Accountants, auditors and investors have to spend more time and energy in converting the financial statement into the format that they wish to be to compare with other financial statement. To solve this problem, IFRS promotes consistency in financial reporting by helping the organisations with global operations to meet specifications of each separate country to have one set of accounting standards to be used and understood internationally. Rather than providing the added benefit of comparability to businesses and investors, IFRS also increased confidence and trust of stakeholders in financial reporting (Paul & Mark 2011) as it creates cost efficiencies for global companies, to help them reducing the complexity and the risk of errors with fewer rules and exceptions (PWC 2008). In conclusion, financial statements across the world will be able to be compared and evaluated others with much less trouble, and have the sufficient resources to efficiently analyze investment opportunities and make knowledgeable decisions. [8]

Next, converting GAAP into IFRS also creates benefits to the stakeholders, including corporate management, investors and stock markets. Corporate management will benefit from simpler, restructured standards, practices and rules that apply to all countries and are followed universal as they can access global investment opportunities without difficulty, potentially reduce their cost of capital and risk, and save the costs of conforming to different requirements and obligations in different fields (OECD n.d.). For example, in foreign country, a businessman can present its financial statements on the same basis as its foreign competitors to make comparisons easier, as well as facilitate him in raising capital abroad. Besides, investors will have the ability to analyze and compare corporate performance in different areas (Sue 2006, pp.17-19). IFRS financing report provide for more credible and reliable information without the requirement for transfering to the standards of the country (Greiss & Sharp 2008, p26). In addition, stock markets will identify a drop in the costs that come with entering foreign exchanges as all markets sticking to the same rules and standards. Thus, it will further allow markets to compete internationally for global investment opportunities, as Turley stated a common set of standards will "provide a foundation for capital market activity that promotes investment and strengthens economies" (Heffes 2008, pp185-188). To conclude, by providing a consistent accounting system, IFRS also brings a lot of benefits to stakeholders. [13]

In moving more and more towards fair value accounting, IFRS reflects the economic reality of transactions and shows more visible image of a company's financial health. However, according to the UK Financial Services Authority, the costs of convergence between US GAAP and IFRS may outweigh the benefits as the new accounting standard contains several limitations (James 2007). The SEC Staff Report stated that IFRS lacks of broad guidance for particular topical areas, such as accounting for certain common recapitalization transactions, control transactions, reorganizations, acquisitions of minority shares will not alter control and the push down of a new accounting foundation in an entity's separate financial statements; particular industries, such as those related to effectiveness, insurance investment companies and extractive activities (IFRS 2012). The reason of lacking of broad guidance on several topic areas and industry within IFRS is due to reduce avoidable complexity and IASB's preference for industry-neutral principles. As a result, IFRS's guidance becoming less detailed and prescriptive than US GAAP. In my opinion, broad guidance on specific industry and topic areas should be provided until the IASB has the ability to evaluate fully such guidance and to address any cancellation in IFRS. [5]

Next, cost of convergence has also become one of the main problems. Based on CFO Magazine, the SEC estimates a cost about $32 million will be needed to make the initial conversion from IFRS to GAAP reporting. These costs are including accounting changes, update contracts, make adjustments to information technology (IT) systems, taxes, the need to educate and train employees and recruit external auditors (Wright & Hobbs 2010). Besides, the last in, first out (LIFO) method used to report inventory under GAAP, is forbidden under IFRS. So under this new method, IT systems would need to be switched to first in, first out (FIFO) or average cost method to accurately account for inventory. In addition, when preparing an inventory account, many US organizations use LIFO for income tax purposes under Sec. 471 of the Revenue Act of 1939 (Hoffman & McKenzie 2009, pp156-161) to lower taxable income and minimize taxes. If IFRS does not permit LIFO for tax purposes, those organizations operating under LIFO will suffer a robust tax bill in addition to other expenses. Furthermore, additional costs will arise due to the SEC's desire to view three years comparative statements (SEC 2008). For instance, a company applying IFRS starting from 2014 has to submit audited IFRS financial statements for end of years 2011, 2012 and 2013 in addition to filing GAAP statements separately. Also, the change to IFRS will also require broad changes in accounting education among U.S. universities and colleges that are still teaching GAAP (Alan 2010), as a result it will cause a lot to the education industry. Alternatively, international convergence also sacrifices a lot of time of a corporation in doing business. According to David Grubb, Certified Public Accountant (CPA), a researcher panelist and partner at accounting firm Plante & Moran stated that by applying cost benefit analyses prolonged implementation of IFRS can cause the staff to spend less time on the core business purpose and more time on an implementation (Jacob 2011). In general, international convergence has brought bunch of benefits to the society, but i do agree that it will really cost us lot. [35]

Last but not least, the main difference between the GAAP and the IFRS is the method each takes to the standards. The GAAP is rules-based while the IFRS is a principle-based methodology. The GAAP consists of a complicated set of plans to establish rules and criteria for any unforeseen situation, while the IFRS initiates with the mission of high-quality reporting by providing guidance on how the specific objective relates to a specified situation, thereby IFRS allowing for more flexibility in the application of accounting standards, and creating more variability and use of individual judgment. In contrast, although GAAP lies on a conceptual framework, it provides far greater detail in terms of rules and standards in respect to different types of transactions (Alan 2010). Besides, IFRS contains a risk that management and the major audit firms may default to a narrower, more rules-based interpretation, which may not necessarily show their best judgment on the economic reality of the business. As a result, accounts may only be fully understood by technical experts, leaving investors having the problems in terms of interpreting the financial report of a company (James 2007). On the other hand, we also should note that IFRS may not in fact improve international comparability if firms and regulators apply principles-based standards differently. This is because there is no single enforcement body to ensure IFRS are interpreted and applied in a standardized manner. In brief, in order to bring IFRS to success, a more detailed and specified plan should be produced and stakeholders should be educated to interpret the financial report. [4]

In a nutshell, it is possible for the conversion to IFRS from U.S. GAAP. However, conversion to IFRS is pretty much more than an accounting exercise. It will influence many aspects of a how US company's operate, from internal reporting and key performance metrics, to information technology systems, tax reporting requirements and the tracking of stock-based compensation. Hopefully, the conversion to IFRS will be effectively coordinated and facilitated by the appropriate authorities. Importantly, there must be support from the public in order to achieve an effective implementation.