What's the Difference?

GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) and IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) are two sets of accounting standards used globally. While both aim to provide a framework for financial reporting, there are some key differences between them. GAAP is primarily used in the United States, while IFRS is used in many other countries. GAAP is more rules-based, providing specific guidelines and detailed requirements for various accounting transactions, whereas IFRS is more principles-based, focusing on the underlying principles and concepts of accounting. Additionally, GAAP allows for more industry-specific guidance, while IFRS aims for a more consistent approach across industries. Despite these differences, both GAAP and IFRS strive to ensure transparency, comparability, and reliability in financial reporting.


Standard-setting bodyFinancial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)International Accounting Standards Board (IASB)
ScopePrimarily used in the United StatesUsed globally in many countries
Hierarchy of principlesRule-basedPrinciple-based
Measurement of assets and liabilitiesHistorical cost and fair valueHistorical cost and fair value
Revenue recognitionMultiple specific guidelinesPrinciple-based approach
Research and development costsExpensed as incurredMay be capitalized under certain conditions
Inventory valuationLower of cost or marketLower of cost or net realizable value
Lease accountingOperating and finance leasesOperating and finance leases
Financial statement presentationSeparate income statement and statement of comprehensive incomeSingle statement of comprehensive income
Disclosure requirementsExtensive and detailedPrinciple-based with emphasis on relevance and materiality

Further Detail


Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) are two sets of accounting standards used by companies around the world to prepare and present their financial statements. While both frameworks aim to provide reliable and transparent financial information, they have several differences in terms of their origin, scope, and application.

Origin and Adoption

GAAP is a set of accounting principles, standards, and procedures developed by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) in the United States. It has been widely adopted by companies in the U.S. and is considered the primary accounting framework in the country. On the other hand, IFRS is developed and maintained by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), an independent organization based in London. IFRS is used by more than 120 countries, including many European nations and countries in Asia and Africa.

Scope and Application

GAAP is primarily used by companies operating in the United States, while IFRS has a global reach. GAAP covers a wide range of topics, including revenue recognition, inventory valuation, and financial statement presentation. It provides detailed guidance on various accounting issues and is often considered more rule-based. In contrast, IFRS focuses on principles rather than specific rules, allowing for more judgment and interpretation in financial reporting. IFRS also covers a broader range of topics, including financial instruments, leases, and income taxes.

Financial Statement Presentation

Both GAAP and IFRS require companies to prepare financial statements, including the balance sheet, income statement, and cash flow statement. However, there are some differences in the presentation and terminology used. For example, under GAAP, the income statement is divided into operating, investing, and financing activities, while IFRS requires the presentation of either a single statement of comprehensive income or a separate income statement and statement of comprehensive income. Additionally, GAAP uses the term "retained earnings" to represent accumulated profits, while IFRS uses "reserves."

Revenue Recognition

One of the key differences between GAAP and IFRS is the approach to revenue recognition. GAAP follows a detailed set of rules known as the revenue recognition principle, which provides specific criteria for recognizing revenue from different types of transactions. In contrast, IFRS has a more principles-based approach, focusing on the transfer of control over goods or services to customers. This difference has led to variations in revenue recognition practices, particularly in industries such as software and real estate.

Inventory Valuation

Another area of divergence between GAAP and IFRS is the valuation of inventory. GAAP allows for the use of various methods, such as First-In, First-Out (FIFO) and Last-In, First-Out (LIFO), to determine the cost of inventory. In contrast, IFRS generally requires the use of the weighted average cost method. This difference can result in variations in reported inventory values and cost of goods sold between companies following GAAP and IFRS.

Financial Instruments

Both GAAP and IFRS provide guidance on the accounting for financial instruments, such as derivatives and investments. However, there are differences in the classification and measurement of these instruments. GAAP uses a complex classification system based on specific criteria, resulting in various categories such as held-to-maturity, available-for-sale, and trading securities. IFRS, on the other hand, has a simpler classification system, primarily distinguishing between financial assets and financial liabilities. This disparity can lead to differences in the reported values of financial instruments.


Lease accounting is another area where GAAP and IFRS differ. Under GAAP, leases are classified as either operating leases or capital leases, with different accounting treatments for each. IFRS, however, introduced a new standard known as IFRS 16, which requires lessees to recognize most leases on the balance sheet as right-of-use assets and lease liabilities. This change has a significant impact on the financial statements of companies following IFRS, as it increases both assets and liabilities.


In conclusion, while both GAAP and IFRS aim to provide reliable and transparent financial information, they have several differences in terms of their origin, scope, and application. GAAP is primarily used in the United States, while IFRS has a global reach. GAAP is more rule-based, while IFRS is principles-based. Differences also exist in areas such as revenue recognition, inventory valuation, financial instruments, and lease accounting. It is important for companies to understand these differences and choose the appropriate accounting framework based on their geographical location and reporting requirements.

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