FASB-IASB might just find common ground on financial instruments

Welcome to my first post. In this little patch of web real-estate you’ll find a few insights I’ve gleaned from my own investigation and reports on accounting issues. Specifically, I’m interested in the ongoing progress (and sometimes lack of progress) towards global accounting convergence, but I also keep my ear to the ground in the audit world and try to keep on top of happenings at the Financial Reporting Council.

I regularly speak with staff at the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) who seem to be putting in some punishing hours trying to meet a convergence deadline with US standards of June 2011.

By their own admission the boards’, biggest hurdle ahead seems to be financial instruments (along with insurance). Next month the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) should be putting the finishing touches on its fair value standard, which seems to take, what many perceive, as a purist accounting approach – full fair value.

It seems a long way from the IASB’s mixed measurement model which allows some assets to be measured at amortised cost, and others at fair value.

In the end they may end up closer than many suspect. When the IASB put out their proposal they were sent a deluge of responses (often from financial institutions) objecting to an excessive use of fair value.

“For those instruments which are not managed on a fair value basis and have a defined maturity, the amortized cost category is the most appropriate measurement basis as it reflects the expected cash flows”. Deutsche Bank said in their submission letter.

There’s no reason to believe the FASB won’t be hit with similar objections which might bring it closer to the IASB approach.

Short of this there is some talk of creating a common net-income figure under US GAAP and IASB rules. This works on the assumption that the net income figure is the primary performance metric used to measure performance. However the treatment of fair value gains or losses will differ in OCI and on the balance sheet.

This seems to me all a bit complex, but it does demonstrate that a bridge between the two standards might just be possible.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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