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Current Major Differences Between IFRS and US GAAP

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At last year's meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, representatives of the G-20 renewed their commitment to complete convergence in accounting standards by June 2011—less than two years away. While the group did not explicitly propose worldwide adoption of IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards), that is the implication, because it hardly seems likely that the rest of the world will drop IFRS in favor of GAAP (US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles). The following table offers a side-by-side comparison of the two standards. 

Inventory Valuation Permits LIFO, FIFO, weighted average cost, or specific identification. Inventory carried at lower of cost or market. Permits FIFO or weighted average cost; LIFO not permitted. Inventory carried at lower of cost or net realizable value. Companies that use LIFO must revalue inventory, which could result in major tax liabilities due to the IRS’s LIFO conformity rule.
Asset Impairment Two-step impairment. Single-step impairment. Write-downs are more likely under IFRS.
Asset Valuation Assets can be written down, but not written up. PP&E is valued at historical cost. Allows upward revaluation when an active market exists for intangibles; allows revaluation of PP&E to fair value. Book values are likely to increase under IFRS.
Revenue Recognition Provides very specific general and industry guidance about what constitutes revenue, how revenue should be measured, and the effect of timing on recognition. Not specific about the timing and measurement of recognition; lacks industry-specific guidance. Revenues are likely to increase with less detailed guidance.
Contingencies Contingent liabilities must be disclosed. Can limit disclosure of contingent liabilities if severely prejudicial to an entity’s position. May result in fewer disclosures.
Debt Covenants Permits curing debt covenant violations after fiscal year end. Debt covenant violations must be cured by fiscal year end. Debt covenants may need to be amended, resulting in related transaction costs.
Research & Development R&D costs must be expensed. Allows capitalization of R&D costs. Development costs will be deferred and amortized.
Entity Consolidation Consolidation is based on who has the controlling financial interest. Consolidation is based on which entity has the power to control. Companies are likely to consolidate more entities.
Securitization Allows certain securitized assets and liabilities to remain off a corporation’s books. IFRS requires most securitized assets and liabilities to be placed on the balance sheet. May result in very different balance sheet values.
Financial Instrument Valuation Fair value based on a negotiated price between a willing buyer and seller; not based on entry price. Several fair value measurements. Fair value generally seen as the price at which an asset could be exchanged. Financial assets and liabilities will be measured differently.
Depreciation Methods allowed: straight-line, units of production, or accelerated methods (sum of digits or declining balance). Component depreciation allowed but not commonly used. Allows straight-line, units of production, and both accelerated methods. Component depreciation required when asset components have different benefit patterns. Assets with different components will have differing depreciation schedules, which may increase or decrease assets and revenue.
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