The Securities and Exchange Commission is considering a recommendation to amend its rules in a way that would provide U.S. companies with an option to provide financial information under International Financial Reporting Standards.
Speaking at the annual national conference of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants on accounting and auditing issues, SEC Chief Accountant Jim Schnurr said the staff will be discussing with the full commission “certain regulatory changes that would facilitate the ability of domestic issuers to provide IFRS-based information as a supplement to U.S. GAAP financial statements.” Current rules would treat such information as non-GAAP, which requires reconciliation, said Schnurr, so the proposal is to amend rules in a way that would facilitate optional reporting without treating it as non-GAAP information.
At the same conference, SEC Chair Mary Joe White said the proposal “has the potential to be a useful next step” in the consideration of possible further use of IFRS in the United States. “The staff has now developed a recommendation for the commission’s consideration, which staff will be discussing with all of the commissioners so that we can determine the path forward.”
Schnurr said late in 2014 he hoped to take a proposal to the commission in “two to three months” that would enable greater use of IFRS in the United States. At that time, he said he wanted to “create a dialogue” on whether U.S. issuers filing financial statements under GAAP could be allowed to voluntarily provide supplemental IFRS financial information, or perhaps even allowed to file under IFRS without a reconciliation to GAAP.
Earlier this year, however, Schnurr retreated somewhat from those ideas when he said that staff outreach had revealed “virtually no support” to have the SEC mandate the use of IFRS for all registrations, and “little support” for providing an option for domestic companies to prepare financial statements under IFRS. That outreach involved preparers, investors, auditors, regulators, and standard-setters, he said.
Now Schnurr says while he doesn’t see strong interest today in providing IFRS information optionally, that could change as certain accounting standards go into effect, especially the different requirements being developed by the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the International Accounting Standards Board around credit impairment.
“I can see investors, users, regulators being very interested -- if you have a large foreign bank filing under IFRS -- wanting to know what the loan loss provision would be under US GAAP,” said Schnurr. “I think of that more as a market-based approach, where users would start demanding the information.”
Meanwhile Schnurr says he’s encouraging FASB and IASB to continue to work toward converging accounting standards. “In my view, continued collaboration is the only realistic path to further the objective of a single set of high-quality, global accounting standards,” he said. The SEC as a whole has not publicly said anything about the possible further use of IFRS in the United States since 2010, said White. “I believe it is important for the commission, as a commission, to make a further statement about its general views on the goal of a single set of high-quality global accounting standards,” she said.