Definition: What is GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles)?
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GAAP (pronounced "gap") stands for "generally accepted accounting principles," a collection of commonly followed accounting rules and standards for financial reporting.
GAAP specifications include definitions of concepts and principles, as well as industry-specific rules. The purpose of GAAP is to ensure that financial reporting is transparent and consistent from one organization to another.
There is no universal GAAP standard and the specifics vary from one geographic location or industry to another. In the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) mandates that financial reports adhere to GAAP requirements. The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) stipulates GAAP overall and the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) stipulates GAAP for state and local government. Publicly traded companies must comply with both SEC and GAAP requirements.
Many countries around the world have adopted the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). The SEC has released a proposed roadmap for conversion from GAAP to IFRS by 2014.
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Harold Haverkamp explains GAAP in this explanation of financial statements.
Register on the FASB website to access U.S. GAAP details.
Linda Tucci explains how the switch from GAAP to IFRS will affect accounting systems.