‘Tipping point’ arrives for private co. standards

Streets After hitting a few roadblocks, potholes and caution signs earlier this year, IFRS is back in the express lane.

In the last few weeks alone, we've seen SEC Chief Accountant James Kroeker promise additional clarity on the SECs IFRS roadmap, the IASB and FASB renew their commitment to hitting their convergence target of 2011, and new AICPA Chair Robert Harris cite IFRS as one of his top priorities for the coming year. All the big players, it seems, are ready for action.

But that doesn't mean the little guys are just sitting around twiddling their thumbs.

On the contrary, thanks largely to momentum overseas and the IASB's "IFRS for Small and Mid-Size Entities" (a self-contained set of IFRS specifically for smaller companies), the age-old debate of whether private companies should operate under a different set of reporting standards is raging once again.

"That subject has been around for as long as I've been in the profession, which is going on 40 years," Private Company Financial Reporting Committee Chair Judy O'Dell said in this MAPCA podcast. "It waxes and wanes, but now I think the situation is different. We're at a real tipping point in this conversation."

What's fueling that momentum? Several factors, according to O'Dell, the first being "IFRS for SMEs," which is being adopted in several countries around the world.

Equally important, though, is the impact the economic crisis is having on generally accepted accounting principles. Specifically, it has made GAAP more complex. The changes being demanded by investors and analysts are trickling down to private companies, who have had enough. A recent Deloitte survey found that more than half private-company officials now favor a separate set of standards.

"This is really unprecedented turf," O'Dell said. "It will be interesting to see how things play out."

Listen to our interview with O'Dell in its entirety, then tell us: Should there be a separate set of reporting standards for private companies?

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Bill Sheridan