Best of 2009: Accounting

The year was dominated by hot debates over fair-value accounting and a potential move to IFRS. Still simmering are new ideas about revenue recognition, lease accounting, and contingent liabilities.

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At this time next year we may be bidding a fond farewell to U.S. generally accepted accounting principles — or we may not. Regulators are still undecided about whether to require U.S. companies to abandon U.S. GAAP in favor of international financial reporting standards. But advocates and opponents of the switch came up with forceful arguments for their positions in 2009, as reported in several of the accounting stories listed below.

Meanwhile, a rancorous debate continued over fair-value accounting rules, with standard-setters eventually delivering new guidance and new rules to settle a scorching issue. There were important developments in other areas, too, including revenue recognition, lease accounting, financial-statement presentation, auditing, and a big “dirty” secret about contingent liabilities. All of these developments and more were covered in our best accounting and auditing stories of 2009, presented here.


Herz: U.S. Convergence Ball Is in SEC’s Court

The decision about whether the nation’s corporations should report under international accounting standards has foundered amid a change of Presidents and a corresponding change of leadership at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

IFRS: Jekyll or Hyde?

U.S. adoption of global accounting standards would be intended to create a level global playing field, but within U.S. borders, its benefits would differ dramatically from company to company.

Private Companies Get IFRS Made Easy

At a mere 230 pages, a new version of the international accounting standards for nonpublic entities may win a big following, sooner or later.

Goodbye GAAP

It’s time to start preparing for the arrival of international accounting standards.

Dirty Secrets

Companies may be burying billions more in environmental liabilities than their financial statements show.

Critics Pan New Financial Statements

A long-planned overhaul of financial statements gets a rough reception from preparers at its initial unveiling, particularly from banks. Meanwhile, a survey says a large majority of CFOs don’t even know about the proposal.

When Is a Lease a Lease?

The answer will prove pivotal to companies’ balance sheets when a new lease accounting standard comes out.

Revenue Recognition: Will a Single Model Fly?

Elements unique to long-term contracts pose a challenge for FASB and IASB in their bid to create one standard covering all customer relationships.


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