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Bob Pozen of Harvard Business School discusses the controversial accounting rules and where we should go from here. 17 Nov 2009
Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (United States)
In the U.S., generally accepted accounting principles, commonly abbreviated as US GAAP or simply GAAP, are accounting rules used to prepare, present, and report financial statements for a wide variety of entities, including publicly-traded and privately-held companies, non-profit organizations, and governments. Generally GAAP includes local applicable Accounting Framework, related accounting law, rules and Accounting Standard.
Similar to many other countries practicing under the common law system, the United States government does not directly set accounting standards, in the belief that the private sector has better knowledge and resources. US GAAP is not written in law, although the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires that it be followed in financial reporting by publicly-traded companies. Currently, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) is the highest authority in establishing generally accepted accounting principles for public and private companies, as well as non-profit entities. For local and state governments, GAAP is determined by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), which operates under a set of assumptions, principles, and constraints, different from those of standard private-sector GAAP. Financial reporting in federal government entities is regulated by the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB).
The US GAAP provisions differ somewhat from International Financial Reporting Standards, though former SEC Chairman Chris Cox set out a timetable for all U.S. companies to drop GAAP by 2016, with the largest companies switching to IFRS as early as next year.
Mark-to-market accounting / fair value accounting
Mark-to-market or fair value accounting refers to the accounting standards of assigning a value to a position held in a financial instrument based on the current fair market price for the instrument or similar instruments. Fair value accounting has been a part of US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) since the early 1990s, and investor demand for the use of fair value when estimating the value of assets and liabilities has increased steadily since then as investors desire a more realistic appraisal of an institution's or company's current financial situation. Mark-to-market is a measure of the fair value of accounts that can change over time, such as assets and liabilities. It is the act of recording the price or value of a security, portfolio or account to reflect its current market value rather than its book value. For example, mutual funds are marked to market on a daily basis at the market close so that investors have an idea of the fund's net asset value (NAV).