Global Accounting Convergence and the Potential Adoption of IFRS by the United States: An Analysis of Economic and Policy Factors
104 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2009
Date Written: February 25, 2009
Drawing on the academic literature in accounting, finance and economics, we analyze economic and policy factors related to the potential adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) in the U.S. We highlight the unique institutional features of U.S. markets to assess the potential impact of IFRS adoption on the quality and comparability of U.S. reporting practices, the ensuing capital market effects, and the potential costs of switching from U.S. GAAP to IFRS. We discuss the compatibility of IFRS with the current U.S. regulatory and legal environment as well as the possible effects of IFRS adoption on the U.S. economy as a whole. We also consider how a switch to IFRS may affect worldwide competition among accounting standards and standard setters, and discuss the political ramifications of such a decision on the standard setting process and on the governance structure of the International Accounting Standards Board. Our analysis shows that the decision to adopt IFRS mainly involves a cost-benefit tradeoff between (1) recurring, albeit modest, comparability benefits for investors, (2) recurring future cost savings that will largely accrue to multinational companies, and (3) one-time transition costs borne by all firms and the U.S. economy as a whole, including those from adjustments to U.S. institutions. We conclude by outlining several possible scenarios for the future of U.S. accounting standards, ranging from maintaining U.S. GAAP, letting firms decide whether and when to adopt IFRS, to the creation of a competing U.S. GAAP-based set of global accounting standards that could serve as an alternative to IFRS.
Keywords: Accounting, Regulation, IFRS, U.S. GAAP, SEC, Standard setting, U.S. equity markets, Mandatory disclosure, Political economy
JEL Classification: G14, G15, G30, K22, M41, M44, M49
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation