Understanding Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)

Categories: AccountingBusiness

Generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) form the backbone of the accounting profession, providing a recognized structure for problem-solving, enhancing financial statement understanding and confidence, and fostering contrast among companies' financial statements. The term "generally accepted" signifies adherence to standards developed by a reputable accounting organization, universally applicable across the board1.

The Pillars of GAAP: SEC, AICPA, FASB, and GASB

In the United States, four key organizations play a pivotal role in GAAP development and authoritative support: the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), and the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB)1.

SEC: Catalyst for Standardization

The SEC, a linchpin in GAAP development, not only develops but also standardizes financial information submitted to shareholders. Its encouragement of private sector standards development by entities like AICPA, FASB, and GASB further solidifies its role1.

AICPA: Shaping the Accounting Landscape

The AICPA, the national professional organization for practicing accountants, played a crucial role in GAAP evolution.

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Its Committee on Accounting Procedure (CAP) and subsequent creation of the Accounting Principles Board (APB) mark significant milestones in shaping the accounting landscape1.

The Rise and Fall of APB

The CAP's inability to provide a structured accounting framework led to the birth of the APB. However, criticism from the Wheat Committee prompted the APB's downfall, paving the way for the Financial Accounting Foundation (FAF), FASB, and Financial Accounting Standards Advisory Council (FASAC) to take charge1.

FASB: Guiding Financial Accounting Standards

The FASB's mission revolves around establishing and improving financial accounting and reporting standards, emphasizing responsiveness to economic community needs and operating transparently.

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It issues various pronouncements, including Standards, Interpretations, and staff positions, to guide the public and ensure due process1.

GASB: Tailoring Standards for Government Entities

Recognizing the differences between government and private business financial statements, the GASB was created to ensure that government financial statements are appropriately tailored. With its advisory council and technical staff, GASB operates parallel to FASB1.

The Hierarchy of GAAP: Unveiling the Framework

FASB's ongoing work on The Hierarchy of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles aims to identify the basis of accounting principles and the structure for their use in financial statement preparation. Major sources include FASB Standards, Interpretations, and staff positions, APB opinions, and AICPA Accounting Research Bulletins1.

Qualitative Characteristics of Accounting Information

Understanding the quality of accounting information is pivotal for decision-makers. FASB identifies four key qualities—relevance, reliability, comparability, and consistency. Among these, relevance and reliability take center stage in decision-making processes1.

Relevance and Reliability: The Dynamic Duo

In decision-making, relevance and reliability emerge as primary qualities. Relevant information holds predictive and feedback value, while reliable information is verifiable and free from bias and error1.

Comparability and Consistency: Secondary But Crucial

Secondary qualities, comparability, and consistency play a crucial role. Comparability aids in identifying similarities and differences between companies, while consistency ensures that a company applies the same accounting standards over time1.

Accrual Basis vs. Cash Basis Accounting

While accrual basis accounting records transactions when they occur, recognizing revenues when earned, cash basis accounting records revenues only when cash is received. The latter is prohibited under GAAP1.

Business Structures: From Sole Proprietorship to Corporation

GAAP applies to various business structures, including sole proprietorship, partnership, and corporation. Sole proprietorship, the simplest form, grants total control, while partnerships and corporations offer different advantages, often evolving from simpler structures1.

Sole Proprietorship: Simplicity and Control

Owned by one person, a sole proprietorship is the easiest to establish, providing complete control over the business1.

Partnership: Pooling Resources for Growth

Partnerships, formed by two or more individuals, often arise from the need for combined economic resources. This structure facilitates business initiation and expansion1.

Corporation: Mobilizing Investments for Growth

Corporations, comprising investors who receive shares in return for funding, ease the process of acquiring funds. Many businesses begin as sole proprietorships or partnerships before transitioning into corporations1.

The Importance of GAAP in Decision-Making

GAAP's significance extends beyond providing a framework for financial reporting. It serves as a cornerstone for decision-makers, ensuring that information is not only accurate but also relevant and reliable. In the ever-evolving business landscape, where decisions can shape the future of a company, having a standardized set of principles becomes imperative1.

Adaptability and Flexibility

One of the strengths of GAAP lies in its adaptability and flexibility. As the business environment changes, GAAP evolves to address emerging complexities. The ongoing work on The Hierarchy of GAAP exemplifies the commitment to refining and adapting accounting principles to meet the needs of a dynamic economic landscape1.

Ensuring Transparency and Trust

Transparency and trust are integral components of any

Updated: Jan 11, 2024
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Understanding Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/basic-accounting-concepts-new-essay

Understanding Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) essay
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