Definition of GAAP
See generally accepted accounting principles.
A technical accounting term that encompasses the
conventions, rules, and procedures necessary to define accepted accounting practice at a particular time.
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.
Procedures for preparing financial statements.
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
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.
Financial means having to do with
money and economic wealth. Statement means a formal presentation.
Financial reports are printed and a copy is sent to each owner and each
major lender of the business. Most public corporations make their financial
reports available on a web site, so all or part of the financial report
can be downloaded by anyone. Businesses prepare three primary financial
statements: the statement of financial condition, or balance sheet;
the statement of cash flows; and the income statement. These three key
financial statements constitute the core of the periodic financial reports
that are distributed outside a business to its shareowners and lenders.
Financial reports also include footnotes to the financial statements and
much other information. Financial statements are prepared according to
generally accepted accounting principles (gaap), which are the authoritative
rules that govern the measurement of net income and the reporting
of profit-making activities, financial condition, and cash flows.
Internal financial statements, although based on the same profit
accounting methods, report more information to managers for decision
making and control. Sometimes, financial statements are called simply
Using the flexibility inherent in gaap to alter earnings so as to achieve desired outcomes.
The general term profit is not precisely defined; it may refer to net
gains over a period of time, or cash inflows less cash outflows for an
investment, or earnings before or after certain costs and expenses are
deducted from income or revenue. In the world of business, profit is
measured by the application of generally accepted accounting principles
(gaap). In the income statement, the final, bottom-line profit is generally
labeled net income and equals revenue (plus any extraordinary gains)
less all expenses (and less any extraordinary losses) for the period. Inter-
nal management profit reports include several profit lines: gross margin,
contribution margin, operating profit (earnings before interest and
income tax), and earnings before income tax. External income statements
report gross margin (also called gross profit) and often report one
or more other profit lines, although practice varies from business to
business in this regard.
The federal agency that
oversees the issuance of and trading in securities of public businesses.
The SEC has broad powers and can suspend the trading in securities of a
business. The SEC also has primary jurisdiction in making accounting
and financial reporting rules, but over the years it has largely deferred to
the private sector for the development of generally accepted accounting
This depreciation method allocates a uniform
amount of the cost of long-lived operating assets (fixed assets) to each
year of use. It is the basic alternative to the accelerated depreciation
method. When using the straight-line method, a business may estimate a
longer life for a fixed asset than when using the accelerated method
(though not necessarily in every case). Both methods are allowed for
income tax and under generally accepted accounting principles (gaap).
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