Read this article to learn about the concept, meaning, nature and objectives of accounting standards.
Concept of Accounting Standards:
We know that Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) aims at bringing uniformity and comparability in the financial statements. It can be seen that at many places, GAAP permits a variety of alternative accounting treatments for the same item. For example, different methods for valuation of stock give different results in financial statements.
Such practices sometimes can misguide intended users in taking decision relating to their field. Keeping in view the problems faced by many users of accounting, a need for the development of common accounting standards was aroused.
For this purpose, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), which is also a member of International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC), had constituted Accounting Standard Board (ASB) in the year 1977. ASB identified the areas in which uniformity in accounting was required. After detailed research and discussions, it prepared and submitted a draft to the ICAI. After proper examination, ICAI finalized them and notified for its use in financial statements.
Meaning of Accounting Standards:
Accounting standards are the written statements consisting of rules and guidelines, issued by the accounting institutions, for the preparation of uniform and consistent financial statements and also for other disclosures affecting the different users of accounting information.
Accounting standards lay down the terms and conditions of accounting policies and practices by way of codes, guidelines and adjustments for making the interpretation of the items appearing in the financial statements easy and even their treatment in the books of account.
Nature of Accounting Standards:
On the basis of forgoing discussion we can say that accounting standards are guide, dictator, service provider and harmonizer in the field of accounting process.
(i) Serve as a guide to the accountants:
Accounting standards serve the accountants as a guide in the accounting process. They provide basis on which accounts are prepared. For example, they provide the method of valuation of inventories.
(ii) Act as a dictator:
Accounting standards act as a dictator in the field of accounting. Like a dictator, in some areas accountants have no choice of their own but to opt for practices other than those stated in the accounting standards. For example, Cash Flow Statement should be prepared in the format prescribed by accounting standard.
(iii) Serve as a service provider:
Accounting standards comprise the scope of accounting by defining certain terms, presenting the accounting issues, specifying standards, explaining numerous disclosures and implementation date. Thus, accounting standards are descriptive in nature and serve as a service provider.
(iv) Act as a harmonizer:
Accounting standards are not biased and bring uniformity in accounting methods. They remove the effect of diverse accounting practices and policies. On many occasions, accounting standards develop and provide solutions to specific accounting issues. It is thus clear that whenever there is any conflict on accounting issues, accounting standards act as harmonizer and facilitate solutions for accountants.
Objectives of Accounting Standards:
In earlier days, accounting was just used for recording business transactions of financial nature. Its main emphasis now lies on providing accounting information in the process of decision making.
For the following purposes, accounting standards are needed:
(i) For bringing uniformity in accounting methods:
Accounting standards are required to bring uniformity in accounting methods by proposing standard treatments to the accounting issue. For example, AS-6(Revised) states the methods for depreciation accounting.
(ii) For improving the reliability of the financial statements:
Accounting is a language of business. There are many users of the information provided by accountants who take various decisions relating to their field just on the basis of information contained in financial statements. In this connection, it is necessary that the financial statements should show true and fair view of the business concern. Accounting standards when used give a sense of faith and reliability to various users.
They also help the potential users of the information contained in the financial statements by disclosure norms which make it easy even for a layman to interpret the data. Accounting standards provide a concrete theory base to the process of accounting. They provide uniformity in accounting which makes the financial statements of different business units, for different years comparable and again facilitate decision making.
(iii) Simplify the accounting information:
Accounting standards prevent the users from reaching any misleading conclusions and make the financial data simpler for everyone. For example, AS-3 (Revised) clearly classifies the flows of cash in terms of ‘operating activities’, ‘investing activities’ and ‘financing activities’.
(iv) Prevents frauds and manipulations:
Accounting standards prevent manipulation of data by the management and others. By codifying the accounting methods, frauds and manipulations can be minimized.
(v) Helps auditors:
Accounting standards lay down the terms and conditions for accounting policies and practices by way of codes, guidelines and adjustments for making and interpreting the items appearing in the financial statements. Thus, these terms, policies and guidelines etc. become the basis for auditing the books of accounts.