SYNOPSIS: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently issued a call for comment on a proposal to accept financial statements prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) without reconciliation to U.S. GAAP. Accounting researchers have attempted to assess the quality of IFRS using different methods and criteria. While we are skeptical of drawing direct conclusions about the SEC’s proposal based on this research, there is adequate evidence that both IFRS and U.S. GAAP provide useful information to investors and other users of financial statements. Moreover, we see no conclusive research evidence that financial reports prepared using U.S. GAAP are better than reports prepared using IFRS. The prudent approach when faced with alternatives with no clear difference in quality is to promote competition among them, which supports adopting the SEC’s proposal to permit foreign private issuers a choice between IFRS and U.S. GAAP. Furthermore, to help improve U.S. and international GAAP through standards-setting competition, we recommend that the Commission extend the choice of IFRS to U.S. companies, and require all companies to indicate clearly whether they are filing under U.S. GAAP or IFRS. Finally, we recommend that the Commission and its staff investigate and seek feedback on the educational consequences of its proposed actions. This attention will help educators to better prepare future professionals to implement these proposed regulatory changes.

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