Accounting Principles Explained: How They Work, GAAP, IFRS

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As an accountant, you know that accounting principles are rules for reporting financial information. But you also know that these principles aren’t just arbitrary checklists. They’ve been developed over centuries as part of a system of checks and balances designed to provide investors with trustworthy information about companies. Another important argument in favor of the basic accounting concepts is for company cohesion. Depending on the size of your organization, you could have different employees in charge of each of the five principles.


The Financial Accounting Standards Board is the authoritative source of guidance for private companies, non-profit organizations and other industry groups when it comes to setting accounting principles. The FASB and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board developed Generally Accepted Accounting Principles . However, the FASB is responsible for the standard set of guidelines that all publicly traded companies must follow when they report their financial statements. These accounting standards are implemented to improve the quality of financial information reported by companies. It’s essential for any business to have basic accounting principles in mind to ensure the most accurate financial position. Your clients and stakeholders maintain trust within your company, so recording reliable and certified information is key.

What is the Purpose of Accounting Principles?

This code helps to set boundaries for accounting professionals’ interactions with the public, their clients, and also their colleagues (AICPA, 2014, p. 5). All business resources acquired should be valued and recorded based on the actual cash equivalent or original cost of acquisition, not the prevailing market value or future value. The exception to the rule is when the business is in the process of closure and liquidation. This concept is basically an accrual concept since it disregards the timing and the amount of actual cash inflow or cash outflow and concentrates on the occurrence (i.e. accrual) of revenue and expenses. GAAP is not the international accounting standard, which is a developing challenge as businesses become more globalized.

How many principles are in accounting?

What Are the Basic Principles of Accounting? GAAP incorporates three components that eliminate misleading accounting and financial reporting practices: 10 accounting principles, FASB rules and standards, and generally accepted industry practices.

Bear in mind any overhead costs you might be forgetting when factoring in this accounting term. Financial InformationFinancial Information refers to the summarized data of monetary transactions that is helpful to investors in understanding company’s profitability, their assets, and growth prospects. Financial Data about individuals like past Months Bank Statement, Tax return receipts helps banks to understand customer’s credit quality, repayment capacity etc. Conservatism PrincipleThe conservatism principle of accounting guides the accounting, according to which there is any uncertainty.

Going Concern Principle:

Even though the FASB and IASB the Norwalk Agreement in 2002, which promised to merge their unique set of accounting standards, they have made minimal progress. In an effort to move towards unification, the FASB aids in the development of IFRS. Many companies support non-GAAP reporting because it provides an in-depth look at their financial performance.

  • For example, if the company issues shares of common stock, your software would credit that amount to the owner’s equity account.
  • Since the U.S. does not fully comply with IFRS, global companies face challenges when creating financial statements.
  • This principle requires recorded business transactions should have some form of impartial supporting evidence or documentation.
  • The accountants should enter all transactions and prepare all financial reports consistently throughout the financial reporting process.
  • However, businesses should recognize expenses sooner, when there’s even a reasonable possibility that they will be incurred.
  • This is the concept that you should record expenses and liabilities as soon as possible, but to record revenues and assets only when you are sure that they will occur.

There are 10 Generally Accepted Accounting Principles as set by the Financial Accounting Standards Board. These includes the principles of regularity, consistency, sincerity, permanence of methods, non-compensation, prudence, continuity, periodicity, materiality, and utmost good faith. The United States uses an accounting system known as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles , which is established and overseen by the Financial Accounting Standards Board . On an international scale, the standards and rules, known as the International Financial Reporting Standards , are set by the International Accounting Standards Board . Even though the U.S. federal government requires public companies to abide by GAAP, the government takes no part in developing these principles.

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This is the concept that a business should only record its assets, liabilities, and equity investments at their original purchase costs. This principle is becoming less valid, as a host of accounting standards are heading in the direction of adjusting assets and liabilities to their fair values. Since accounting principles differ around the world, investors should take caution when comparing the financial statements of companies from different countries. The issue of differing accounting principles is less of a concern in more mature markets. Still, caution should be used, as there is still leeway for number distortion under many sets of accounting principles.

In contrast, the second step records the revenues, transactions, and assets when they happen and become a real profit in your budget. However, choosing to follow the basic accounting principles is your option, yet, they are necessary if you aim to build a successful business that thrives for years with a unique entity. This is the concept that a business should report the results of its operations over a standard period of time. This may qualify as the most glaringly obvious of all accounting principles, but is intended to create a standard set of comparable periods, which is useful for trend analysis. This is the concept that you should include in or alongside the financial statements of a business all of the information that may impact a reader’s understanding of those statements. The accounting standards have greatly amplified upon this concept in specifying an enormous number of informational disclosures.

The major accounting principles that guide accounting practices are endorsed on the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles . This is an international guidelines that all the companies and organizations are expected to apply in their operations. These principles are further classified into assumption and constraints.

Understanding these concepts is essential for anyone who wants to work in finance, be an effective business owner or manage a company. While each of the five accounting principles seems justified for good practice, following basic accounting principles is a good foundation for your business’s financial planning and budgeting. For example, without the revenue principle, you may be depending on future payments to pay your bills. The accrual basis of accounting recognizes revenues and expenses in the period incurred, regardless of when cash is received or paid.

The Finest 7 Basic Accounting Principles:

Using basic accounting principles makes your business financials more consistent, accurate and reliable. Matching Principle – states that all expenses must be matched and recorded with their respective revenues in the period that they were incurred instead of when they are paid. This principle works with the revenue recognition principle ensuring all revenue and expenses are recorded on the accrual basis. The monetary unit assumption means that only transactions in U.S. dollar amounts can be included in accounting records. It’s important to note that accountants ignore the effects of inflation on the recorded dollar amounts. Not all companies have to follow generally accepted accounting principles.

  • These standards form the groundwork on which more comprehensive, complex, and legalistic accounting rules are based.
  • The articles and research support materials available on this site are educational and are not intended to be investment or tax advice.
  • Even though the FASB and IASB created the Norwalk Agreement in 2002, which promised to merge their unique set of accounting standards, they have made minimal progress.
  • For example, a supplier invoice is solid evidence that an expense has been recorded.
  • This concept prevents accounting fraud and ensures that financial statements are comparable across historical periods.
  • This means that we must assume the company isn’t going to be dissolved or declare bankruptcy unless we have evidence to the contrary.

These alternatives are known as “other comprehensive basis of accounting” methods, and they include cash basis accounting, modified cash basis, income tax basis, and regulatory basis. If you want to keep your financial records accurate and organized, it’s important to follow basic accounting principles. You could own any type of business and you’d still be operating using the same accounting principles. That’s why as a business owner, understanding these basic accounting terms and concepts is an important aspect of running your business properly. Read on to learn how to follow the basic accounting principles and maintain your business’s financial integrity. GAAP is a common set of generally accepted accounting principles, standards, and procedures.