July 5, 2013

Private Company Accounting Standards Released

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) recently released the anticipated Financial Reporting Framework ( FRF”) for Small- and Medium-Sized Entities ( SMEs ). This framework represents another chapter in the evolution of accounting standards in the United States.

This FRF for SMEs is not considered generally accepted accounting principles ( GAAP ), nor is it authoritative. Rather, according to the AICPA, it is an excellent, new accounting option for preparing streamlined, relevant financial statements for privately-held, owner-managed businesses that are not required to use GAAP. The FRF offers consistently measured, relevant financial information to assist users in assessing an entity s performance. In effect, it is another comprehensive basis of accounting–much like the income tax basis and cash basis–designed to provide a cost-beneficial solution for owner-managers and others who need financial statements prepared in a consistent and reliable manner, in accordance with a framework that has undergone public comment and professional scrutiny.

Compared to the thousands of pages in the GAAP Accounting Standards Codification ( ASC ), the FRF is only slightly more than 200 pages. The following summarizes answers to many frequently asked questions about the FRF for SMEs and its applications. More details may be found on the AICPA website.

While there is no standard definition of an SME, the term is widely recognized and encompasses an estimated 20 million U.S. businesses, which are vital to the economy and active in all industries. The AICPA purposely did not quantify size criteria for SMEs with respect to application of the FRF. The following list, which is not all-inclusive, highlights some SME characteristics:

  • The entities have no regulatory reporting requirements for GAAP-based financial statements.
  • The entities may be owner-managed or closely-held, where controlling ownership interest and management are essentially the same.
  • Users of the financial statements have direct access to management.
  • Creditors, and particularly banks, do not base credit or lending decisions solely on financial statements, but consider collateral or other evaluation mechanisms.
  • The entities are for-profit with no intention of going public, are not in an industry with highly specialized accounting guidance, and do not engage in overly complicated financial transactions.

The FRF is composed of familiar, traditional accounting and accrual accounting principles, but includes only pertinent financial reporting topics most meaningful to SMEs and their financial statement users. Considered more principles-based than GAAP, the FRF uses historical cost as the measurement basis and steers away from complicated fair-value measurements. Further, there is no industry-specific guidance included. The AICPA expects the FRF will be stable with proposed amendments every three to four years, based on input from stakeholders, as well as relevant accounting and reporting developments.

The new framework is not without some controversy, however. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy ( NASBA ) has pushed back against the AICPA and is advising private companies not to use the FRF. NASBA supports a separate initiative by the Private Company Council of the Financial Accounting Standards Board ( FASB ) which is modifying GAAP to meet the needs of private companies.

Also, an important consideration is whether lenders and financial institutions will accept financial statements prepared under the FRF for SMEs. Owner-managers will need to consult their lenders and other key external stakeholders. Since the FRF consists of traditional accrual accounting principles and methods and focuses on consistent and reliable financial position, operations, and cash flow measurements, the AICPA believes lenders will be accepting. The lending community was involved in the development of the FRF and recognizes its relevance, simplicity, and cost effectiveness.

The AICPA believes the FRF for SMEs is a viable option for certain businesses. PYA will keep you apprised of its overall acceptance given the position of NASBA and others.

We are prepared to assist you and your stakeholders with consideration of the FRF for financial statement preparation and reporting. For more information, contact the expert listed below at PYA, (800) 270-9629.

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