With so many accounting standards, it can be hard to keep up with them all.

The move to International Financial Reporting Standards may simplify matters, by reducing the number of rules and making the standards more principles-based.

There has been a great deal of controversy lately about fair market value, and mark-to-market accounting. But fair value accounting isn’t really a new concept, even though some of the rules, such as FAS 157, governing it are. A recent article on the Financial Accountant Standards Board site points out that fair value accounting has actually been around for decades.

Then there are the changing applications of standards. Several banks, including Merrill Lynch and Citigroup, have been recording gains this quarter as the value of their long-term debt has been declining, applying mark-to-market rules. But at least one financial analyst, Meredith Whitney of Oppenheimer & Co., believes those gains may need to be reversed in the second quarter as the spreads on the credit default swaps have narrowed. That could mean substantial losses for the banks, as Merrill has booked $2.1 billion in gains and Citigroup $1.3 billion, if they need to reverse those entries.

It’s all a matter of timing, and there will surely be many adjustments along the way as accountants adapt their figures to the changing rules and try to anticipate what will happen as IFRS holds more sway in the U.S. The AICPA is trying to help accountants make the adjustment with a proposal to add IFRS to the CPA Exam for the first time, meaning more aspiring CPAs will need to familiarize themselves with the international standards as those standards undergo an evolution of their own.


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