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Frequently Asked Questions About IFRS

Q1.What is IFRS? 

International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) are a set of accounting standards developed by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) that is becoming the global standard for the preparation of public company financial statements. 

Q2.What is the IASB? 

The IASB is an independent accounting standard-setting body, based in London. It consists of 15 members from nine countries, including the United States. The IASB began operations in 2001 when it succeeded the International Accounting Standards Committee. It is funded by contributions from major accounting firms, private financial institutions and industrial companies, central and development banks, national funding regimes, and other international and professional organizations throughout the world. While the AICPA was a founding member of the International Accounting Standards Committee, the IASB's predecessor organization, it is not affiliated with the IASB. 

Q3.How widespread is the adoption of IFRS around the world? 

Approximately 120 nations and reporting jurisdictions permit or require IFRS for domestic listed companies, although approximately 90 countries have fully conformed with IFRS as promulgated by the IASB and include a statement acknowledging such conformity in audit reports. Europe, Australia, Canada, Korea, have transitioned to IFRS and India is in the transition stage. U.S. has released a roadmap for convergence.

Q4.Who are the key players in the United States regarding the development and adoption of IFRS? 

The key players are the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is responsible for the supervision and regulation of the securities industry and has oversight responsibility for the FASB; the Financial Accounting Standards Board, an independent body that establishes and interprets U.S. GAAP; and the IASB, which is working with the FASB on the convergence of U.S. GAAP and IFRS. The AICPA has provided thought leadership to the IASB and the FASB on financial reporting topics. 

Q5.Have any major U.S. companies begun transitioning to IFRS? 

Until the Securities and Exchange Commission issues a rule allowing or requiring U.S. public companies to adopt IFRS, they must continue to prepare their financial statements under U.S. GAAP. Several large multinational corporations, however, have started using IFRS for their foreign subsidiaries where allowed by local law. Also, some U.S. subsidiaries of foreign-owned companies are also using IFRS. 

Q6.When comparing IFRS and GAAP, what are some overall key differences I should be aware of? 

The biggest difference between U.S. GAAP and IFRS is that IFRS provides much less overall detail. Its guidance regarding revenue recognition, for example, is significantly less extensive than U.S. GAAP. IFRS also contains relatively little industry-specific instructions.  

Q7.What are some of the most important specific differences between IFRS and U.S. GAAP? 

Because of longstanding convergence projects between the IASB and the FASB, the extent of the specific differences between IFRS and GAAP has been shrinking. Yet significant differences do remain, most any one of which can result in significantly different reported results, depending on a company's industry and individual facts and circumstances. For example:

 IFRS does not permit Last In, First Out (LIFO).
IFRS uses a single-step method for impairment write-downs rather than the two-step method used in U.S.
GAAP, making write-downs more likely.
IFRS does not permit debt for which a covenant violation has occurred to be classified as non-current unless a lender waiver is obtained before the balance sheet date.  

Q8.What should I do now? 

The bottom line is that CPAs need to begin to prepare for the day in the not-so-distant future when the Securities and Exchange Commission could designate a date for voluntary, or even mandatory, adoption of IFRS by all U.S. public companies. Also, be aware that the way financial statements are prepared differs based on whether a company is using IFRS, U.S. GAAP, or another country's GAAP. Keep abreast of SEC developments regarding IFRS and its potential adoption by U.S. companies, and of the various efforts to allow nonpublic companies to use IFRS as well. Two good sources of information are the AICPA's Web site at www.ifrs.com, and the SEC Web site at www.sec.gov. 

Q9.Will IFRS be incorporated into the Uniform CPA/CMA Exam? 

Yes. The AICPA Board of Examiners in May 2009 announced that exam content updates have been developed and, for the first time, IFRS will be eligible for testing on the Uniform CPA Exam starting in 2011. CMA examination has already started testing basic understanding of IFRS in Part 2.