Most U.S. CPAs Support Giving U.S. Public Companies Option to Adopt IFRS, Survey Finds

Accounting profession continues to take wait-and-see approach on International Financial Reporting Standards

October 18, 2011

Phoenix (Oct. 18) -- A majority of CPAs support optional adoption of the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), the emerging set of globally accepted accounting rules, according to a recent survey by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.


Optional adoption would let publicly traded U.S companies use IFRS while the Securities and Exchange Commission decides whether to incorporate the standards into U.S. reporting requirements. The choice also would apply during the implementation phase, if the SEC accepts the standards.


Support for IFRS remains high among AICPA members. But the survey found that, in the absence of a clear regulatory timetable, U.S. firms and organizations continue to delay planning and preparation for the global standards.


“It’s clear the profession is looking for more guidance from the Securities and Exchange Commission,” said Susan Coffey, AICPA senior vice president, public practice and global alliances. “But whether or not the SEC decides to incorporate IFRS into the U.S. financial reporting system through an endorsement approach, CPAs support giving U.S. issuers an option to adopt IFRS as issued by the International Accounting Standards Board.”


The SEC continues to execute a work plan, published in 2010, to help frame a determination as to whether, when, and how the current financial reporting system for U.S. issuers should be transitioned to a system incorporating IFRS. Some 120 countries either use or permit the standards, which would streamline financial reporting for companies with international interests and provide more clarity for global investors.


Among other findings of AICPA’s latest IFRS Readiness Survey:


    •             Almost 54 percent of members support optional adoption of IFRS standards, in line with an AICPA recommendation this August. Only 18 percent said the SEC should not allow an option to use IFRS, while the rest were unsure. This was the first time this question was asked on the survey.


    •          Some 44 percent of respondents said they were delaying IFRS preparations until an SEC decision is reached.


    •          Some 36 percent of survey takers said they were aware of the concept of “condorsement,” outlined in the SEC’s staff paper in May on potential adoption of IFRS, an improvement over the 16 percent who answered that way in the last survey this spring. The term “condorsement” refers to a hybrid approach of endorsement and convergence on a standard by standard basis. 


The IFRS Readiness Survey was conducted via Internet poll between September 7 and September 27 with 1,241 respondents and a margin of error of less than plus-or-minus 3 percentage points. The survey shows that 79 percent of CPAs already have at least basic knowledge of IFRS, a level that has remained virtually unchanged since May 2010. The level of familiarity ranges from rudimentary understanding of high-level concepts to sufficient expertise to train others.

The IFRS tracking survey results were announced at the AICPA’s fall meeting of its governing Council. More information on IFRS is available on the AICPA’s Web site