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ComparabilityinInternationalAccountingStandards—An

COMPARABILITY IN INTERNATIONAL ACCOUNTING STANDARDS— AN OVERVIEW

IN INTERNATIONAL ACCOUNTING STANDARDS— AN OVERVIEW WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE MORE COMPARABLE GLOBAL

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE MORE COMPARABLE GLOBAL ACCOUNTING STANDARDS? HOW DOES THAT EFFORT FIT WITH THE FASB’S MISSION?

ThefirstpriorityoftheFinancialAccountingStandardsBoard(FASB)istoimprovefinancialreporting

forthebenefitofinvestorsandotherusersoffinancialinformationinU.S.capitalmarkets.Wedothat

bystrivingtosetthehighest­qualitystandards,whichcollectivelyareknownasGenerallyAccepted

AccountingPrinciples(GAAP).Byhighestquality,wemeanstandardsthatprovideusersoffinancial

statementswithinformationthatisclear,useful,andrelevanttotheirneeds,whileconsideringwhether

theexpectedbenefitsofthatinformationjustifythecostsofprovidingandusingit.

TheFASBbelievesthatseekingmorecomparableglobalaccountingstandards—improvingthequality

ofaccountingstandardsusedaroundtheworldwhilereducingdifferencesamongthosestandards—is

consistentwithitscoremission.Investors,companies,auditors,andotherparticipantsintheU.S.

financialreportingsystembenefitfromtheincreasedcomparabilitythatcanresultfromthecloser

alignmentofstandardsusedinternationally.Morecomparablestandardshavethepotentialtoreduce

costsforbothusersandpreparersoffinancialstatementsandmakeworldwidecapitalmarketsmore

efficient.TheSecuritiesandExchangeCommission(SEC)expectstheFASBtoconsider,indeveloping

standards,theextenttowhichinternationalcomparabilityisnecessaryorappropriateinthepublic

interestandfortheprotectionofinvestors.

HOW DOES THE FASB SEEK GREATER COMPARABILITY?

Asweconcludethebilateralconvergenceprogrambegunin2002bytheFASBandtheInternational

AccountingStandardsBoard(IASB),theFASBhasimplementedathree­partstrategyforseeking

greatercomparabilityinaccountingstandardsinternationally:

1.DevelopinghighqualityGAAPstandards

2.ActivelyparticipatinginthedevelopmentofInternationalFinancialReportingStandards(IFRS)

3.Enhancingrelationshipsandcommunicationswithothernationalstandardssetters.

Developing High Quality GAAP Standards

TheFASBcontinuallystrivestomeettheneedsofinvestorsandotherusersofGAAP­basedfinancial reports,bothwithinandoutsidetheUnitedStates,byimprovingthequalityofGAAP.TheFASB believesthatthehigh­qualitystandardsitdevelopswillcontinuetoinfluencetheshapeandfuture

directionofinternationalstandards,astheyhaveformorethan40years.Bycreatinghigh­quality

standardsthroughabest­in­classstandard­settingprocess,theFASBservesasareferencepointand

benchmarkforothers.Inotherwords,wewillcontinuetoleadbysettinganexampleofexcellence.

Asitundertakesstandard­settingprojects,theFASBcarefullyevaluateswhetherU.S.financial

reportingwouldbeimprovedbyimplementingapproachesconsistentwithparticularIFRSstandards.

Thisalsowouldenhanceinternationalcomparabilityforthebenefitofinvestorsandothercapital

marketparticipants.Thisevaluationhappensonastandardbystandardbasis.

Actively Participating in the Development of IFRS

TheFASBparticipatesactivelyinthedevelopmentofIFRS,providinginputonIASBprojectsthrough

theIASB’sAccountingStandardsAdvisoryForum(ASAF)andthroughothermeans.TheFASB

contributestothedevelopmentofIFRSbysharingviewsbasedonitspastexperienceordeveloped

throughtheFASB’sdueprocess,stakeholderoutreach,analysis,anddeliberations.Webelieveour

effortstoimproveGAAPbenefitfromtheinternationalperspectivesgainedthroughourinteractions

withtheIASB.

Enhancing Relationships and Communications with Other National Standard Setters

TheFASBworkstomaintainandstrengthenitsexistingcooperativerelationshipswithothernational

standardsetters.Thebroaderflowofinformationandideasresultingfromtheserelationshipsmutually

informseachorganization’sthinkingandcontributestothesharedunderstandingofperspectivesand

circumstancesthatcanreduceoravoidunnecessarydifferencesamongstandardsusedinternationally.

Insomecases,however,theFASB(orothernationalstandardsetters)mayconcludethatthebest

interestsofitsowncapitalmarketsoutweighthegoalofcompletelyconvergedaccountingstandards.

ARE THERE PRACTICAL CHALLENGES TO ACHIEVING GREATER COMPARABILITY?

Since2000,significantprogresshasbeenmadetowardachievinggreatercomparabilityinaccounting

standardsonaninternationallevel.Theincreasingnumberofcountriesaroundtheworldthathave

decidedtorequire(orpermit)theuseofIFRShasincreasedthecomparabilityofreporting

internationally.ThebilateralFASBandIASBconvergenceprogramincreasedthequalityofreporting

standardsandenhancedthecomparabilityofthesestandardsinanumberofimportantareas,

includingtheaccountingforbusinesscombinations,share­basedpaymenttransactions,fairvalue

measurement,andrevenuerecognition.

Butincreasingthecomparabilityofstandardsisnoteasy.ItcannotbeaccomplishedbytheFASB

alone;itrequirescooperationandagreementamongstandardsettersaroundtheworld.Different

startingpoints,differentbusinesscultures,differentregulatoryenvironments,differentfinancial

reportingobjectives,anddifferentlegalsystemscanmakeitdifficultforstandardsettersaroundthe

worldtoagreeonthesameaccountingalternative.Moreover,analternativethatisperceivedasan

improvementinonecountrymaynotbeperceivedasanimprovementbyanothercountry.For

example:

TheFASBisdevelopingthecurrentexpectedcreditloss(CECL)approachtoaccountingforimpairment

offinancialinstrumentsinresponsetofeedbackthatthecomplex“three­bucketapproach”developed

withtheIASBwouldbedifficulttoapplyandwouldlikelyhavedecreasedloanlossreservesofU.S.

financialinstitutions.Thatresultiscounterintuitivetothelessonslearnedduringtherecentfinancial

crisis.

TheFASBhasmadeaninitialdecisiontoretainthestraight­lineapproachofexpenserecognitionfor

certainleasesowingtoadifferentconclusionaboutthebenefitsandcostsoftheIASB’sproposedfront­

loadedapproach.

Dramaticallydifferentstartingpointsaffectedtheapproachtotheinsurancecontractsproject.GAAP

longhashadstandardswhileIFRShasnot.Inresponsetofeedbackfrominvestorsandothersthat

GAAPwaslargelymeetingtheirneeds,theFASBabandonedthefundamentalrevisionsnecessaryfor

fullconvergencetofocusonmoretargetedimprovements.

Earlyintheirbi­lateralconvergenceprogram,theFASBandIASBconcludedthatinternational

comparabilitywouldbeenhancedifGAAPandIFRSusedthesamewordsandphrases.Recent

experiencesraisequestionsaboutthatconclusion.TheFASBisconsideringwhetherinternational

comparabilitymaysometimesrequiretheuseofdifferentwordsoradditionalguidancetailoredtothe

U.S.reportingenvironment.Forexample,theFASBhasbeentoldthatthedefinitionofabusinessin

thejointlydevelopedbusinesscombinationstandardisbeinginterpreteddifferentlyintheU.S.than

elsewhere,notwithstandingtheuseofidenticaldescriptions.TheFASBisconsideringwhetherchanges

totheGAAPdefinitionareneeded,includingpotentialchangestopromoteinternationalcomparability.

HOW DOES THE WORK OF THE SEC IMPACT THIS ISSUE?

TheSECformanyyearshasbeenconsideringapublicpolicydecisionontheappropriateuse,ifany,of

IFRSbyU.S.domesticissuers.InJuly2012,theSECstaffissueditsfinalstaffonthe“WorkPlanforthe

ConsiderationofIncorporatingInternationalFinancialReportingStandardsintotheFinancial ReportingSystemforU.S.Issuers.”Thereportwasthefinalphaseofaworkplan,initiatedinFebruary

2010,toconsiderspecificissuesrelevanttotheCommission’sdeterminationastowhetherthecurrent

financialreportingsystemforU.S.domesticissuerscouldorshouldbetransitionedtoasystem

incorporatingIFRS.Thereportsummarizedthestaff’sfindingsregardingkeyissuessurroundingthe

potentialincorporationofIFRSintoU.S.financialreporting,butdidnotmakeanyrecommendationto

theCommission.“Additionalanalysisandconsiderationofthisthresholdpolicyquestionisnecessary

beforeanydecisionbytheCommissionconcerningtheincorporationofIFRSintothefinancial

reportingsystemfortheU.S.issuerscanoccur,”thereportsaid.

Morerecently,SECChiefAccountantJamesSchnurrtouchedontheissueofIFRSuseintheUnited

Statesinremarksmadeatthe2014AICPANationalConferenceonCurrentSECandPCAOB

Developments.HesaidtheSECstaffiscontinuingtoevaluatepotentialpathsforwardand,aspartof

thateffort,islookingforfeedbackonotheralternativesthatmightbeexploredinadditiontofurther

incorporationoforalignmentwithIFRS.AllowingU.S.companiestoprovidevoluntary,supplemental

IFRS­basedfinancialinformation—inadditiontotherequiredGAAPfinancialstatements—wascited

anexampleofsuchanalternative.Underthisconcept,theIFRSinformationwouldnotbeconsidered

“non­GAAP”information.Asaresult,U.S.companieswouldnotberequiredtoreconciletheIFRS

informationwiththerequiredGAAPfinancialstatements.

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