Over a third of U.S. CPAs said they want to become more familiar with international accounting standards, but most of them don’t know how much the standards will cost their companies to implement.

In a recent online poll by the American Institute of CPAs, 36 percent of the 917 respondents indicated that they wanted advanced or expert knowledge of International Financial Reporting Standards, a six-percentage-point increase in demand for advanced IFRS knowledge compared to six months ago.

The SEC had issued a proposed roadmap for transitioning to IFRS from U.S. GAAP under its prior chairman, Christopher Cox, but the current chair, Mary Schapiro, has expressed reservations about rushing to adopt the standards.

According to the AICPA poll, 24 percent see a need for some knowledge, or familiarity with specifics, and 21 percent require basic knowledge, or familiarity with high-level concepts.

“CPAs are still evaluating their business and client needs as they assess what international accounting standards are and whether and when the U.S. will move to a uniform international standard,” said AICPA senior vice president for member competency and development Arleen Thomas (pictured). “Our readiness survey shows it is still early in what is likely to be a long-term process of IFRS adoption in the U.S.”

CPAs gained greater basic familiarity with IFRS over the past six months, according to the survey. Only 22 percent said they had “no knowledge” of IFRS, an eight-percentage-point drop from the 30 percent who had no knowledge in September. Forty-three percent said they already have basic knowledge, and 24 percent have some knowledge of IFRS.

Schapiro indicated during her Senate confirmation hearing that she intended to revisit the SEC’s consideration of the IFRS-adoption “roadmap” proposed by her predecessor. Asked whether they think the timeline should be changed, 47 percent of CPA respondents said it should be delayed. Twenty-two percent said the proposed timeline is a good one. Six percent said it should be accelerated.

A 73 percent majority of CPAs working in companies don’t know what the transition costs will be. The SEC estimated the cost would be 0.125 percent of revenue for U.S. issuers. Thirteen percent of respondents think that estimate is too low, while 8 percent said it was too high. The benefits of switching to IFRS remain lightly defined for most U.S. CPAs.

Twenty-five percent of those surveyed foresee improved comparability of companies within industries as the most significant benefit. Simplified financial accounting and reporting was cited by 11 percent, and improved financial reporting and transparency by 9 percent. Forty-four percent don’t yet perceive benefits.

Familiarity with IFRS and recognition of a need to learn advanced principles of international accounting were higher among those CPAs working for foreign-owned companies, with 65 percent saying they need advanced or expert knowledge and 28 percent already possessing it. Within this group, 37 percent said their organizations are ready to adopt IFRS now and 13 percent said they are actively preparing to adopt IFRS.

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