Principal Differences Between UK/US GAAP & IFRS



Understanding the principal differences between the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) in the UK and the US and the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) is crucial for finance and accounting professionals. These differences affect financial statements, disclosures, and compliance requirements, influencing how businesses operate and report their financials globally.


1. Framework and Principles

US GAAP is rules-based, providing detailed rules and guidance for various accounting scenarios. This specificity can lead to complexity but also provides clarity. In contrast, IFRS is principles-based, emphasizing the spirit of the standards over detailed rules. This approach encourages professional judgment but can result in varying interpretations.

2. Revenue Recognition

Under US GAAP, revenue recognition is governed by the Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) Topic 606, which provides a five-step model. IFRS 15, while similar, has subtle differences in how performance obligations are identified and satisfied. These distinctions can lead to different revenue recognition timings and amounts.

3. Inventory Valuation

US GAAP permits the Last-In, First-Out (LIFO) method, which can benefit tax purposes during inflationary periods. IFRS, however, prohibits LIFO, allowing only the First-In, First-Out (FIFO), and weighted-average cost methods. This difference impacts the cost of goods sold and inventory valuation.

4. Development Costs

IFRS allows the capitalization of development costs when specific criteria are met, treating them as an asset. In contrast, US GAAP generally requires these costs to be expensed as incurred, which can significantly affect reported earnings and asset values.


1. Financial Statements

UK GAAP financial statements are designed to meet the needs of UK users and often include additional disclosures specific to UK regulations. IFRS financial statements aim to provide valuable information globally to a wide range of users, resulting in differences in presentation and disclosure requirements.

2. Deferred Tax

UK GAAP and IFRS differ in their treatment of deferred tax. IFRS requires a comprehensive balance sheet approach, recognizing deferred tax on all temporary differences. UK GAAP has a narrower approach, leading to differences in the timing and amount of deferred tax recognized.

3. Lease Accounting

IFRS 16 requires all leases to be recorded on the balance sheet as right-of-use assets with corresponding lease liabilities. UK GAAP, on the other hand, allows operating leases to be kept off-balance sheet, which affects financial ratios and performance metrics.

Convergence of IFRS Standards with US GAAP

The convergence of IFRS and US GAAP has been an ongoing effort to harmonize global accounting standards. The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) have worked collaboratively on several key projects, including revenue recognition, leases, and financial instruments. Despite significant progress, differences remain due to regulatory, cultural, and economic factors in the US and other jurisdictions.

Convergence of IFRS Standards with UK GAAP

The convergence efforts between IFRS and UK GAAP have been more straightforward due to the UK’s adoption of IFRS for consolidated financial statements of listed companies since 2005. The UK Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has aligned UK GAAP (FRS 102) with IFRS principles where feasible. However, some differences persist due to the UK’s specific legal and regulatory requirements.

The Work Plan of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB®)

The IASB’s work plan outlines its priorities and ongoing projects to develop and enhance IFRS standards. Key areas of focus include:

1. Standard-Setting Projects

The IASB is involved in several significant projects, such as updating the Conceptual Framework, revising standards on insurance contracts (IFRS 17), and addressing financial instruments’ classification and measurement. These projects aim to improve the clarity, consistency, and relevance of financial reporting.

2. Post-Implementation Reviews

The IASB conducts post-implementation reviews of new standards to assess their effectiveness and address any issues identified by stakeholders. This feedback-driven process ensures that standards remain practical and useful.

3. Maintenance Projects

Maintenance projects involve minor amendments to existing standards to clarify guidance, correct inconsistencies, and enhance comparability. These projects are essential for keeping standards up-to-date with evolving business practices and economic conditions.


Understanding the principal differences between UK/US GAAP and IFRS and the ongoing convergence efforts is vital for accountants and financial professionals. The IASB’s work plan demonstrates a commitment to continuous improvement, ensuring that global financial reporting standards evolve to meet users’ needs and reflect the complexities of modern business.


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