Index Principles of Accounting, Volume 1: Financial Accounting

Accounting principles differ around the world, meaning that it’s not always easy to compare the financial statements of companies from different countries. If any cost continuously changes, suppose due to a change in market prices, it will be difficult for the bookkeeper to show them in the books. Before implementing the different types of accounting principles in your accounting processes, it is important to know the characteristics of such principles. Clear and relevant exposition, engaging visuals and supporting examples, and valuable end-of-chapter materials work together to build students’ confidence and mastery of accounting concepts and skills. As we can see from this expanded accounting equation, Assets accounts increase on the debit side and decrease on the credit side. This becomes easier to understand as you become familiar with the normal balance of an account.

  1. These standards are used in more than 120 countries, including those in the European Union (EU).
  2. Accountants must, to the best of their abilities, fully and clearly disclose all the available financial data of the company.
  3. Here is a list of the four basic accounting concepts and constraints that make up the GAAP framework in the US.
  4. US securities law requires all publicly-traded companies, as well as any company that publicly releases financial statements, to follow the GAAP principles and procedures.

For instance, it cannot report on the changes in the business environment that a company operates in or other international and domestic happenings. Financial data needs to be classified and recorded in accordance with certain accounting principles, rules and regulations. Accounting concepts and principles are a set of rules and assumptions that are necessary to set a standard while recording financial transactions as well as maintaining books of accounts in the business.

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) Guide

These components create consistent accounting and reporting standards, which provide prospective and existing investors with reliable methods of evaluating an organization’s financial standing. Without GAAP, accountants could use misleading methods to paint a deceptive picture of a company or organization’s financial standing. GAAP is the set of accounting guidelines used for every publicly traded company in the United States. It is comparable to the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) that many non-U.S. While U.S. companies only need to follow GAAP domestically, if internationally traded or operating with a significant international presence, they often must adhere to the IFRS as well.

Many companies support non-GAAP reporting because it provides an in-depth look at their financial performance. However, the non-GAAP numbers include pro forma figures, which do not include one-time transactions. Companies can use this information to their advantage and present totals that predict how their businesses will perform in the future. The Great Depression in 1929, a financial catastrophe that caused years of hardship for millions of Americans, was primarily attributed to faulty and manipulative reporting practices among businesses. In response, the federal government, along with professional accounting groups, set out to create standards for the ethical and accurate reporting of financial information. All negative and positive values on a financial statement, regardless of how they reflect upon the company, must be clearly reported by the accounting team.

Hiring a professional accounting team trained in GAAP and having internal auditors track and check finances are two ways to ensure your company is meeting GAAP standards. Conservatism states that if there is uncertainty in a potential financial estimate, a company should err on the side of caution and report the most conservative amount. Accounting principles are the rules and procedures that businesses and other entities must adhere to when reporting financial data 5 accounting principles and information. Typically, accounting principles are based on underlying concepts and assumptions and provide a framework for classifying and interpreting financial data based on GAAP. This basic accounting principle identifies the point in time that a company can log a transaction as an expense. Also known as the expense recognition principle, the concept states that an expense occurs at the time that the business accepts the good or service from an entity.

These principles are the founding guidelines for preparing and recording financials for proper analysis. These accounting principles are also known as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles or GAAP. Another important argument in favor of the basic accounting concepts is for company cohesion. Depending on the size of your organization, you could have different employees in charge of each of the five principles. Without a plan in place, it would be nearly impossible to come to the same conclusions about your financial health at the end of every month. Therefore, these are just two of the reasons establishing the accounting principles at your business connects to your success.

Key Principles of GAAP

Investing in accounting software that lives on the cloud sets your business up to be healthy on the inside and out. Even if you’re not rebilling those expenses to clients, they’re valuable tax deductions. If there is no record, you can’t deduct it, which will cost you dollars in lost tax deductions.

The three most common components of a financial statement are the balance sheet, the income statement, and the statement of cash flows. In some jurisdictions, summary financial statements are available (or may be required) on a quarterly basis. These reports are usually sent to all investors and others outside the management group. The preparation of these reports falls within a branch of accounting known as financial accounting. The generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) are a set of accounting rules, standards, and procedures issued and frequently revised by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB).

The Expense Principle

For a full rundown of GAAP and what each concept means, see NerdWallet’s generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) explainer. You may follow generally accepted accounting principles or a different standard. Whichever you use, it’s important to understand the basics — even if you have small-business accounting software. That way, you can have productive conversations with your financial advisor or accountant. Although it is not required for non-publicly traded companies, GAAP is viewed favorably by lenders and creditors.


Even though the customer has not yet paid cash, there is a reasonable expectation that the customer will pay in the future. Since the company has provided the service, it would recognize the revenue as earned, even though cash has yet to be collected. The revenue principle states that revenue should be recorded at the time that it is earned, not at the time when payment is received. This prevents errors in accounting caused by delayed payments since any money still owed to the company is evident within the accounting ledger. The revenue principle also serves as the basis for the accrual accounting method, causing it to occasionally be referred to as the “accrual principle.”

Compliance With GAAP

Consistency Principle – all accounting principles and assumptions should be applied consistently from one period to the next. This ensures that financial statements are comparable between periods and throughout the company’s history. Comparability means that the user is able to compare the financial statements of one company to those of another company in the same industry. Comparability is enhanced by requiring the use of generally accepted accounting principles. Governments and public companies abide by these accounting principles to ensure all documents present consistent, accurate, and clear reports. GAAP results in straightforward and understandable financial reports that investors and regulators can easily use to assess a business’s financial standing.

Privately held companies and nonprofit organizations also may be required by lenders or investors to file GAAP-compliant financial statements. For example, annual audited GAAP financial statements are a common loan covenant required by most banking institutions. Therefore, most companies and organizations in the U.S. comply with GAAP, even though it is not a legal requirement. The reason for this can be the nature of business activities, management’s approach and more. Also, different accountants in the same industry may use different principles to interpret the same set of data.