The call for differential accounting - separate sets of generally accepted accounting principles for public and private companies - has been heard for roughly three decades. Now, at last, something is happening - but just as the United States has decided to go in one direction, the rest of the world may go in another.The underlying problem is that GAAP is designed for public companies, which tend to be large enough to deal with the complexity of the standards.

But smaller, private companies often need to meet the same standards to satisfy either state statutes or interested parties, such as lenders and investors. Trouble is, GAAP for the larger concerns can crush the smaller companies under a burden of accountancy that many feel serves little or no purpose.

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