Case Study The FASB and IASB began a joint agenda project to revisit their conceptual frameworks for financial accounting and reporting in 2002. Each board bases its accounting standards decisions in large part on the foundation of objectives, characteristics, definitions, and criteria set forth in their existing conceptual frameworks. The goals of the new project are to build on the two boards' existing frameworks by refining, updating, completing, and converging them into a common framework that both Boards can use in developing new and revised accounting standards. A common goal of the FASB and IASB, shared by their constituents, is for their standards to be 'principles-based'. To be principlesbased, standards cannot be a collection of conventions but rather must be rooted in fundamental concepts. For standards on various issues to result in coherent financial accounting and reporting, the fundamental concepts need to constitute a framework that is sound, comprehensive, and internally consistent.
Without the guidance provided by an agreed-upon framework, standard setting ends up being based on the individual concepts developed by each member of the standardsetting body. Standard setting that is based on the personal conceptual frameworks of individual standard setters can produce agreement on specific standard-setting issues onf y when enough of those personal frameworks happen to intersect on that issue. However, even those agreements may prove transitory because, as the membership of the standard-setting body changes over time, the mix of personal conceptual frameworks changes as well. As a result, that standard-setting body may reach significantly different conclusions about similar (or even identical) issues than it did previously, with standards not being consistent with one another and past decisions not being indicative of future ones. That concern is not merely hypothetical: substantial difficulties in reaching agreement in its first standards projects was a major reason that the original FASB members decided to devote substantial effort to develop a conceptual framework.
The IASB Framework is intended to assist not only standard setters but also preparers of financial statements (in applying international financial reporting standards and in dealing with topics on which standards have not yet been developed), auditors (in forming opinions about financial statements), and users (in interpreting information contained in financial statements). Those purposes also are better served by concepts that are sound, comprehensive, and internally consistent. (In contrast, the FASB Concepts Statements state that they do not justify changing generally accepted accounting and reporting practices or interpreting existing standards based on personal interpretations of the concepts, one of a number of differences between the two frameworks.)
Another common goal of the FASB and IASB is to converge their standards. The Boards have been pursuing a number of projects that are aimed at achieving short-term convergence on specific issues, as well as several major projects that are being conducted jointly or in tandem. Moreover, the Boards have aligned their agendas more closely to achieve convergence in future standards. The Boards will encounter difficulties converging their standards if they base their decisions on different frameworks.
The FASB's current Concepts Statements and the IASB's Framework, developed mainly during the 1970s and 1980s, articulate concepts that go a long way toward being an adequate foundation for principles-based standards. Some constituents accept those concepts, but others do not. Although the current concepts have been helpful, the IASB and FASS will not be able to realise fully their goal of issuing a common set of principles-based standards if those standards are based on the current FASS Concepts Statements and IASB Framework. That is because those documents are in need of refinement, updating, completion, and convergence.
The planned approach in the joint project will identify troublesome issues that seem to reappear time and time again in a variety of standard-setting projects and often in a variety of guises. That is, the focus will be on issues that cut across a number of different projects. Because it is not possible to address those cross-cutting issues comprehensively in the context of any one standards-level project, the conceptual framework project provides a better way to consider their broader implications, thereby assisting the boards in developing standards-level guidance.
As noted in the chapter, the boards have issued and received comments on an exposure draft relating to Phase A Objectives and Qualitative Characteristics. A discussion paper relating to Phase D Reporting Entity had been issued and work is continuing on Phase B Elements and Recognition and Phase C Measurement.
Source: Excerpts from Halsey G. Bullen and Kimberley Crook, 'Revisiting the concepts: A new conceptual framework project', M<1y 200'), FASB and 11\SB, www.fasb.org or www.idsh.org.
1. Explain why principles-based standards require a conceptual framework.
2. Why is it important that the IASB and FASB share a common conceptual framework?
3. It is suggested that several parties can benefit from a conceptual framework. Do you consider that a conceptual framework is more important for some parties than others? Explain your reasoning.
4. What is meant by a 'cross-cutting' issue? Suggest some possible examples of crosscutting issues.