Definition of accounting
A broad, all-inclusive term that refers to the methods and procedures
of financial record keeping by a business (or any entity); it also
refers to the main functions and purposes of record keeping, which are
to assist in the operations of the entity, to provide necessary information
to managers for making decisions and exercising control, to measure
profit, to comply with income and other tax laws, and to prepare financial
A collection of systems and processes used to record, report and interpret business transactions.
Administrative proceedings or litigation releases that entail an accounting or auditing-related violation of the securities laws.
An alteration in the accounting methodology or estimates used in
the reporting of financial statements, usually requiring discussion in a footnote
attached to the financial statements.
Earnings of a firm as reported on its income statement.
A business for which a separate set of accounting records is being
The representation of the double-entry system of accounting such that assets are equal to liabilities plus capital.
The formula Assets = Liabilities + Equity.
An equation that reflects the two-sided nature of a
business entity, assets on the one side and the sources of assets on the
other side (assets = liabilities + owners’ equity). The assets of a business
entity are subject to two types of claims that arise from its two basic
sources of capital—liabilities and owners’ equity. The accounting equation
is the foundation for double-entry bookkeeping, which uses a
scheme for recording changes in these basic types of accounts as either
debits or credits such that the total of accounts with debit balances
equals the total of accounts with credit balances. The accounting equation
also serves as the framework for the statement of financial condition,
or balance sheet, which is one of the three fundamental financial
statements reported by a business.
Unintentional mistakes in financial statements. Accounted for by restating
the prior-year financial statements that are in error.
The change in the value of a firm's foreign currency denominated accounts due to a
change in exchange rates.
Total liabilities exceed total assets. A firm with a negative net worth is insolvent on
Intentional misstatements or omissions of amounts or disclosures in
financial statements done to deceive financial statement users. The term is used interchangeably with fraudulent financial reporting.
The ease and quickness with which assets can be converted to cash.
The period of time for which financial statements are produced – see also financial year.
The principles, bases, conventions, rules and procedures adopted by management in preparing and presenting financial statements.
A method of investment appraisal that measures
the profit generated as a percentage of the
investment – see return on investment.
accounting rate of return (ARR)
the rate of earnings obtained on the average capital investment over the life of a capital project; computed as average annual profits divided by average investment; not based on cash flow
A set of accounts that summarize the transactions of a business that have been recorded on source documents.
The recording of revenue when earned and expenses when
incurred, irrespective of the dates on which the associated cash flows occur.
Well, frankly, accrual is not a good descriptive
term. Perhaps the best way to begin is to mention that accrual-basis
accounting is much more than cash-basis accounting. Recording only the
cash receipts and cash disbursement of a business would be grossly
inadequate. A business has many assets other than cash, as well as
many liabilities, that must be recorded. Measuring profit for a period as
the difference between cash inflows from sales and cash outflows for
expenses would be wrong, and in fact is not allowed for most businesses
by the income tax law. For management, income tax, and financial
reporting purposes, a business needs a comprehensive record-keeping
system—one that recognizes, records, and reports all the assets and liabilities
of a business. This all-inclusive scope of financial record keeping
is referred to as accrual-basis accounting. Accrual-basis accounting
records sales revenue when sales are made (though cash is received
before or after the sales) and records expenses when costs are incurred
(though cash is paid before or after expenses are recorded). Established
financial reporting standards require that profit for a period
must be recorded using accrual-basis accounting methods. Also, these
authoritative standards require that in reporting its financial condition a
business must use accrual-basis accounting.
A method of accounting in which profit is calculated as the difference between income when it is earned and expenses when they are incurred.
A forceful and intentional choice and application of accounting principles
done in an effort to achieve desired results, typically higher current earnings, whether the practices followed are in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles or not. Aggressive
accounting practices are not alleged to be fraudulent until an administrative, civil, or criminal proceeding takes that step and alleges, in particular, that an intentional, material misstatement
has taken place in an effort to deceive financial statement readers.
Average accounting return
The average project earnings after taxes and depreciation divided by the average
book value of the investment during its life.
A method of accounting in which profit is calculated as the difference between income
when it is received and expenses when they are paid.
Change in Accounting Estimate
A change in accounting that occurs as the result of new information
or as additional experience is acquired—for example, a change in the residual values
or useful lives of fixed assets. A change in accounting estimate is accounted for prospectively,
over the current and future accounting periods affected by the change.
Change in Accounting Estimate
A change in the implementation of an existing accounting
policy. A common example would be extending the useful life or changing the expected residual
value of a fixed asset. Another would be making any necessary adjustments to allowances for
uncollectible accounts, warranty obligations, and reserves for inventory obsolescense.
Change in Accounting Principle
A change from one generally accepted accounting principle to another generally accepted accounting principle—for example, a change from capitalizing expenditures
to expensing them. A change in accounting principle is accounted for in most instances
as a cumulative-effect–type adjustment.
Constant dollar accounting
A method for restating financial statements by reducing or
increasing reported revenues and expenses by changes in the consumer price index,
thereby achieving greater comparability between accounting periods.
Method of accounting for sales or service agreements where completion
requires an extended period.
a discipline that focuses on techniques or
methods for determining the cost of a project, process, or
thing through direct measurement, arbitrary assignment, or
systematic and rational allocation
Cost Accounting Standards Board (CASB)
a body established by Congress in 1970 to promulgate cost accounting
standards for defense contractors and federal agencies; disbanded
in 1980 and reestablished in 1988; it previously issued
pronouncements still carry the weight of law for those
organizations within its jurisdiction
Creative Accounting Practices
Any and all steps used to play the financial numbers game, including
the aggressive choice and application of accounting principles, both within and beyond
the boundaries of generally accepted accounting principles, and fraudulent financial reporting.
Also included are steps taken toward earnings management and income smoothing. See Financial
Creative Acquisition Accounting
The allocation to expense of a greater portion of the price
paid for another company in an acquisition in an effort to reduce acquisition-year earnings and
boost future-year earnings. Acquisition-year expense charges include purchased in-process research
and development and an overly aggressive accrual of costs required to effect the acquisition.
Cumulative Effect of a Change in Accounting Principle
The change in earnings of previous years
based on the assumption that a newly adopted accounting principle had previously been in use.
Cumulative Effect of Accounting Change
The change in earnings of previous years assuming
that the newly adopted accounting principle had previously been in use.
See accrual-basis accounting.
The production of financial statements, primarily for those interested parties who are external to the business.
a discipline in which historical, monetary
transactions are analyzed and recorded for use in the
preparation of the financial statements (balance sheet, income
statement, statement of owners’/stockholders’ equity,
and statement of cash flows); it focuses primarily on the
needs of external users (stockholders, creditors, and regulatory
Up-front gain recognized from the securitization and sale of a pool
of loans. Profit is recorded for the excess of the sales price and the present value of the estimated
interest income that is expected to be received on the loans above the amounts funded on the loans
and the present value of the interest agreed to be paid to the buyers of the loan-backed securities.
Generally Accepted Accounting Principals (GAAP)
A technical accounting term that encompasses the
conventions, rules, and procedures necessary to define accepted accounting practice at a particular time.
Generally accepted accounting principles
The rules that accountants follow when processing accounting transactions and creating financial reports. The rules are primarily
derived from regulations promulgated by the various branches of the AICPA Council.
generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)
This important term
refers to the body of authoritative rules for measuring profit and preparing
financial statements that are included in financial reports by a business
to its outside shareowners and lenders. The development of these
guidelines has been evolving for more than 70 years. Congress passed a
law in 1934 that bestowed primary jurisdiction over financial reporting
by publicly owned businesses to the Securities and Exchange Commission
(SEC). But the SEC has largely left the development of GAAP to the
private sector. Presently, the Financial accounting Standards Board is
the primary (but not the only) authoritative body that makes pronouncements
on GAAP. One caution: GAAP are like a movable feast. New rules
are issued fairly frequently, old rules are amended from time to time,
and some rules established years ago are discarded on occasion. Professional
accountants have a heck of time keeping up with GAAP, that’s for
sure. Also, new GAAP rules sometimes have the effect of closing the barn
door after the horse has left. accounting abuses occur, and only then,
after the damage has been done, are new rules issued to prevent such
abuses in the future.
generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)
Procedures for preparing financial statements.
Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)
A common set of standards and procedures
for the preparation of general-purpose financial statements that either have been established
by an authoritative accounting rule-making body, such as the Financial accounting
Standards Board (FASB), or over time have become accepted practice because of their universal
Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)
GAAP is the term used to describe the underlying rules basis on which financial statements are normally prepared. This is codified in the Handbook of The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants.
internal accounting controls
Refers to forms used and procedures
established by a business—beyond what would be required for the
record-keeping function of accounting—that are designed to prevent
errors and fraud. Two examples of internal controls are (1) requiring a
second signature by someone higher in the organization to approve a
transaction in excess of a certain dollar amount and (2) giving customers
printed receipts as proof of sale. Other examples of internal
control procedures are restricting entry and exit routes of employees,
requiring all employees to take their vacations and assigning another
person to do their jobs while they are away, surveillance cameras, surprise
counts of cash and inventory, and rotation of duties. Internal controls
should be cost-effective; the cost of a control should be less than
the potential loss that is prevented. The guiding principle for designing
internal accounting controls is to deter and detect errors and dishonesty.
The best internal controls in the world cannot prevent most fraud
by high-level managers who take advantage of their positions of trust
The production of financial and non-financial information used in planning for the future; making decisions about products, services, prices and what costs to incur; and ensuring that plans are implemented and achieved.
a discipline that includes almost
all manipulations of financial information for use by managers
in performing their organizational functions and in
assuring the proper use and handling of an entity’s resources;
it includes the discipline of cost accounting
Management Accounting Guidelines (MAGs)
pronouncements of the Society of Management Accountants of
Canada that advocate appropriate practices for specific
management accounting situations
Method of accounting for a merger in which the acquirer is treated as having purchased
the assets and assumed liabilities of the acquiree, which are all written up or down to their respective fair
market values, the difference between the purchase price and the net assets acquired being attributed to goodwill.
Regulatory accounting procedures
accounting principals required by the FHLB that allow S&Ls to elect
annually to defer gains and losses on the sale of assets and amortize these deferrals over the average life of the
responsibility accounting system
an accounting information system for successively higher-level managers about the performance of segments or subunits under the control
of each specific manager
Staff Accounting Bulletin (SAB)
Interpretations and practices followed by the staff of the Office of the Chief Accountant and the Division of Corporation Finance in administering the disclosure
requirements of the federal securities laws.
Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 52
This is the currency translation standard currently
used by U.S. firms. It mandates the use of the current rate method. See: Statement of Financial accounting
Standards No. 8.
Statement of Financial Accounting Standards No. 8
This is a currency translation standard previously in
use by U.S. accounting firms. See: Statement of accounting Standards No. 52.
Statement on Management Accounting (SMA)
a pronouncement developed and issued by the Management
accounting Practices Committee of the Institute of Management
Accountants; application of these statements is
through voluntary, not legal, compliance
Strategic management accounting
The provision and analysis of management accounting data about a business and its competitors, which is of use in the development and monitoring of strategy (Simmonds).
The process of satisfying stakeholders in the organization that managers have acted in the best interests of the stakeholders, a result of the stewardship function of managers, which takes place through accounting.
‘Buckets’ within the ledger, part of the accounting system. Each account contains similar transactions (line items) that are used for the production of financial statements. Or commonly used as an abbreviation for financial statements.
Accretion (of a discount)
In portfolio accounting, a straight-line accumulation of capital gains on discount
bond in anticipation of receipt of par at maturity.
A method of accounting in which you record expenses when you incur them and sales as you make them—not when you pay bills or receive checks in the mail.
activity-based costing (ABC)
a process using multiple cost drivers to predict and allocate costs to products and services;
an accounting system collecting financial and operational
data on the basis of the underlying nature and extent
of business activities; an accounting information and
costing system that identifies the various activities performed
in an organization, collects costs on the basis of
the underlying nature and extent of those activities, and
assigns costs to products and services based on consumption
of those activities by the products and services
The entries needed at the end of an accounting period to properly state certain account balances.
Aggressive Cost Capitalization
Cost capitalization that stretches the flexibility within generally
accepted accounting principles beyond its intended limits, resulting in reporting as assets
items that more reasonably should have been expensed. The purpose of this activity is likely to
alter financial results and financial position in order to create a potentially misleading impression
of a firm's business performance or financial position.
Reduction in value of an asset over some period for accounting
purposes. Generally used with intangible assets. Depreciation is the term used
with fixed or tangible assets.
Annual fund operating expenses
For investment companies, the management fee and "other expenses,"
including the expenses for maintaining shareholder records, providing shareholders with financial statements,
and providing custodial and accounting services. For 12b-1 funds, selling and marketing costs are included.
a streamlined cost accounting method that speeds up, simplifies, and reduces accounting effort in an environment that minimizes inventory balances, requires
few allocations, uses standard costs, and has minimal variances
A financial statement showing the financial position of a business – its assets, liabilities and
capital – at the end of an accounting period.
Balance sheet exposure
A street-smart term that refers to the practice by many businesses
of recording very large lump-sum write-offs of certain assets or
recording large amounts for pending liabilities triggered by business
restructurings, massive employee layoffs, disposals of major segments of
the business, and other major traumas in the life of a business. Businesses
have been known to use these occasions to record every conceivable
asset write-off and/or liability write-up that they can think of in
order to clear the decks for the future. In this way a business avoids
recording expenses in the future, and its profits in the coming years will
be higher. The term is derisive, but investors generally seem very forgiving
regarding the abuses of this accounting device. But you never
know—investors may cast a more wary eye on this practice in the future.
The amount of money invested in inventory, as per a company’s
accounting records. It is comprised of the beginning inventory balance, plus the
cost of any receipts, less the cost of sold or scrapped inventory. It may be significantly
different from the actual on-hand inventory, if the two are not periodically
book rate of return
accounting income divided by book value.
Also called accounting rate of return.
Book value per share
The ratio of stockholder equity to the average number of common shares. Book value
per share should not be thought of as an indicator of economic worth, since it reflects accounting valuation
(and not necessarily market valuation).
A commonly used term that refers to the net income (profit)
reported by a business, which is the last, or bottom line, in its income
statement. As you undoubtedly know, the term has taken on a much
broader meaning in everyday use, referring to the ultimate or most important
effect or result of something. Not many accounting-based terms have
found their way into everyday language, but this is one that has.
In Finance: to find the present value of a stream of cash flows.
In accounting: to reflect costs of the balance sheet rather than charge them off through the income statement, as to capitalize major repairs to a fixed asset.
see Cost accounting Standards Board
cash flow from operating activities, or cash flow from profit
This equals the cash inflow from sales during the period minus the cash
outflow for expenses during the period. Keep in mind that to measure
net income, generally accepted accounting principles require the use of
accrual-basis accounting. Starting with the amount of accrual-basis net
income, adjustments are made for changes in accounts receivable,
inventories, prepaid expenses, and operating liabilities—and depreciation
expense is added back (as well as any other noncash outlay
expense)—to arrive at cash flow from profit, which is formally labeled
cash flow from operating activities in the externally reported statement
of cash flows.
Cash Flow statement
A financial report that shows the movement in cash for a business during an accounting period.
Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
a professional designation in the area of management accounting that
recognizes the successful completion of an examination,
acceptable work experience, and continuing education requirements
The representing of accounting information over multiple years as percentages
of amounts in an initial year.
Common-size analysis The representing of balance sheet items as percentages of assets and of income
statement items as percentages of sales.
A contract accounting method that recognizes contract revenue
only when the contract is completed. All contract costs are accumulated and reported as expense
when the contract revenue is recognized.
The corporate manager responsible for the firm's accounting activities.
Officer responsible for budgeting, accounting, and auditing.
Cost of goods sold
The charge to expense of the direct materials, direct labor, and
allocated overhead costs associated with products sold during a defined accounting
In the balance of payments, counterpart items are analogous to unrequited transfers in the
current account. They arise because the double-entry system in balance of payments accounting and refer to
adjustments in reserves owing to monetization or demonetization of gold, allocation or cancellation of SDRs,
and revaluation of the various components of total reserves.
The cumulative, after-tax, prior-year effect of a change in accounting
principle. It is reported as a single line item on the income statement in the year of the
change in accounting principle. The cumulative-effect-type adjustment is the most common accounting
treatment afforded changes in accounting principle.
Refers to the generally accepted accounting principle of allocating
the cost of a long-term operating asset over the estimated useful
life of the asset. Each year of use is allocated a part of the original cost of
the asset. Generally speaking, either the accelerated method or the
straight-line method of depreciation is used. (There are other methods,
but they are relatively rare.) Useful life estimates are heavily influenced
by the schedules allowed in the federal income tax law. Depreciation is
not a cash outlay in the period in which the expense is recorded—just
the opposite. The cash inflow from sales revenue during the period
includes an amount to reimburse the business for the use of its fixed
assets. In this respect, depreciation is a source of cash. So depreciation is
added back to net income in the statement of cash flows to arrive at cash
flow from operating activities.
Reduction in value of fixed or tangible assets over some period
for accounting purposes. See Amortization.
The payment of after-tax profits to shareholders as their share of the profits of the business for an accounting period.
Economic Value Added (EVA)
Operating profit, adjusted to remove distortions caused by certain accounting rules, less a charge
to cover the cost of capital invested in the business.
Emerging Issues Task Force (EITF)
A special committee of the Financial accounting Standards Board established to reach consensus of how to account for new and unusual financial transactions that have the potential for creating differing financial reporting practices.
Emerging Issues Task Force (EITF)
A separate committee within the Financial accounting Standards Board composed of 13 members representing CPA firms and preparers of financial statements
whose purpose is to reach a consensus on how to account for new and unusual financial transactions
that have the potential for creating differing financial reporting practices.
The dollar value or unit total of goods on hand at the end of an
The act of recording an accounting transaction in the accounting books.
accounting method for an equity security in cases where the investor has sufficient
voting interest to have significant influence over the operating and financial policies of an
Financial accounting Standards Board. Sets accounting standards for U.S. firms.
FASB No. 52
The U.S. accounting standard which was replaced by FASB No. 8. U.S. companies are required
to translate foreign accounts by the current rate and report the changes from currency fluctuations in a
cumulative translation adjustment account in the equity section of the balance sheet.
FASB No. 8
U.S. accounting standard that requires U.S. firms to translate their foreign affiliates' accounts by
the temporal method. Gains and losses from currency fluctuations were reported in current income. It was in
effect between 1975 and 1981 and became the most controversial accounting standard in the U.S. It was
replaced by FASB No. 52 in 1981.
Financial Numbers Game
The use of creative accounting practices to alter a financial statement
reader's impression of a firm's business performance.
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