What's the Difference?

GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) and IASB (International Accounting Standards Board) are two sets of accounting standards used by companies around the world. GAAP is primarily used in the United States, while IASB is used in many other countries. One key difference between the two is that GAAP is rule-based, meaning it provides specific guidelines and procedures for accounting treatments, while IASB is principle-based, focusing on the underlying principles and concepts of accounting. This makes IASB more flexible and adaptable to different business environments. Additionally, GAAP is more detailed and prescriptive, while IASB allows for more judgment and interpretation by accountants. Despite these differences, both GAAP and IASB aim to provide reliable and transparent financial information to users of financial statements.


Standard-setting bodyFinancial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)International Accounting Standards Board (IASB)
Geographical ScopePrimarily used in the United StatesUsed globally, with some exceptions
Legal AuthorityGenerally legally enforceable in the United StatesNot legally enforceable, but widely adopted by many countries
Financial Statement PresentationSeparate presentation of income statement, balance sheet, and statement of cash flowsAllows for a single statement of comprehensive income
Revenue RecognitionMultiple revenue recognition models based on specific transactionsPrinciple-based approach with a focus on control and performance obligations
Inventory ValuationAllows for various methods such as FIFO, LIFO, and weighted average costRequires the use of the weighted average cost method
Research and Development CostsAllows for capitalization of certain development costsGenerally requires expensing of all research and development costs
Lease AccountingOperating leases and finance leases are treated differentlyRequires recognition of all leases on the balance sheet
Financial InstrumentsComplex classification and measurement modelsFocuses on fair value measurement and simplification of classification
Consolidation of Financial StatementsUses a control-based model for determining consolidationUses a control-based model, but with additional guidance on assessing control

Further Detail


When it comes to financial reporting, two major frameworks are widely used around the world: Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) standards. GAAP is primarily used in the United States, while IASB standards, also known as International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), are adopted by many countries globally. While both frameworks aim to provide reliable and transparent financial information, they have distinct differences in their attributes and approaches.

Scope and Applicability

GAAP is a set of accounting principles, standards, and procedures established by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) in the United States. It is primarily applicable to companies operating within the United States and is mandatory for publicly traded companies. On the other hand, IASB standards are developed by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and are used by companies in over 140 countries. IASB standards are often adopted by countries seeking to enhance their financial reporting practices and attract international investment.

Standard Setting Process

The process of setting accounting standards differs between GAAP and IASB. GAAP standards are primarily developed by the FASB, which follows a rule-based approach. The FASB sets specific rules and guidelines that companies must follow when preparing their financial statements. In contrast, IASB standards are principle-based, focusing on providing a conceptual framework that guides the preparation and presentation of financial statements. IASB standards allow for more flexibility and judgment in applying the principles to specific situations.

Financial Statement Presentation

Both GAAP and IASB require companies to prepare financial statements, including the balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement. However, there are differences in the presentation and terminology used. GAAP typically uses the terms "balance sheet" and "income statement," while IASB uses "statement of financial position" and "statement of comprehensive income." Additionally, GAAP allows for more detailed presentation requirements, while IASB provides more flexibility in the format and presentation of financial statements.

Revenue Recognition

One area where GAAP and IASB standards significantly differ is revenue recognition. GAAP follows a detailed and prescriptive approach, with specific rules for different industries and transactions. In contrast, IASB standards, particularly IFRS 15, adopt a principles-based approach that focuses on recognizing revenue when control of goods or services is transferred to the customer. IASB's principles-based approach allows for more judgment and interpretation, which can lead to differences in revenue recognition practices between companies.

Inventory Valuation

Another area of divergence between GAAP and IASB is the valuation of inventory. GAAP allows for different methods of inventory valuation, including First-In, First-Out (FIFO), Last-In, First-Out (LIFO), and weighted average cost. In contrast, IASB standards only permit the use of the weighted average cost method. This difference can lead to variations in reported inventory values and cost of goods sold between companies following GAAP and IASB standards.

Financial Instruments

Both GAAP and IASB have specific standards for the recognition, measurement, and disclosure of financial instruments. However, there are differences in the classification and subsequent measurement of financial instruments. GAAP uses a complex classification system, categorizing financial instruments into various categories such as held-to-maturity, available-for-sale, and trading. IASB standards, on the other hand, adopt a simpler classification system, primarily distinguishing between financial assets and financial liabilities. This difference in classification can result in variations in the reported values of financial instruments.

Consolidation of Financial Statements

Consolidation of financial statements refers to the process of combining the financial statements of a parent company and its subsidiaries. GAAP and IASB have different approaches to consolidation. GAAP follows a detailed and rules-based approach, focusing on control and ownership percentages to determine whether consolidation is required. IASB standards, on the other hand, adopt a more principles-based approach, considering the concept of control and the power to govern financial and operating policies. This difference can lead to variations in the consolidation practices of companies following GAAP and IASB standards.


In conclusion, while both GAAP and IASB aim to provide reliable and transparent financial information, they have distinct attributes and approaches. GAAP is primarily used in the United States, while IASB standards are adopted by many countries globally. GAAP follows a rule-based approach, while IASB standards are principle-based. There are differences in financial statement presentation, revenue recognition, inventory valuation, financial instruments, and consolidation of financial statements between the two frameworks. Understanding these differences is crucial for companies operating in multiple jurisdictions and investors seeking to compare financial information across different countries.

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