The Conceptual Framework

What Is the Conceptual Framework?

The Conceptual Framework (or “Concepts Statements”) is a body of interrelated objectives and fundamentals. The objectives identify the goals and purposes of financial reporting and the fundamentals are the underlying concepts that help achieve those objectives. Those concepts provide guidance in selecting transactions, events and circumstances to be accounted for, how they should be recognized and measured, and how they should be summarized and reported.

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How Does the Framework Affect the Application of Accounting Standards?

Concepts Statements do not affect practice directly. They do not change existing generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). Certain aspects of existing GAAP conflict with the framework. For example, museum collections meet the Concepts Statements definition of an asset, but existing GAAP does not require those assets to be recognized in the financial statements. The framework affects practice over time because of its influence in the development of new accounting standards.
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Who Benefits from a Framework and Why Is It Needed?

The FASB is the most direct beneficiary of the framework. The framework provides the FASB with a foundation for setting standards and concepts to use as tools for resolving accounting and reporting questions. The FASB staff is guided by pertinent concepts that might provide guidance in developing its analysis of issues for consideration by the FASB, as well as in making its recommendations to the FASB when developing accounting standards. Consequently, those concepts are an important aspect of the FASB’s discussions of issues and for making its decisions about a specific standard.

The framework provides a basic reasoning on which to consider the merits of alternative solutions to complex financial accounting or reporting problems. Although it does not provide all the answers, the framework narrows the range of alternative solutions by eliminating some that are inconsistent with it. It thereby contributes to greater efficiency and consistency in the standard-setting process by avoiding the necessity of having to redebate fundamental issues such as “what is an asset?” time and time again.

A guiding principle of the Board is to be objective in its decision making and to ensure, insofar as possible, the neutrality of information resulting from its standards. The use of an agreed-upon framework reduces the influence of personal bias on standard-setting decisions. Without the guidance provided by an agreed-upon conceptual framework, standard-setting would be quite different because it would be based on the personal frameworks of individual members of the Board. A framework also should reduce political pressures in making accounting judgments.

The FASB is not the only beneficiary of the framework. The credibility of financial reporting is enhanced when objectives and concepts are used to provide direction and structure to financial accounting and reporting. The framework helps by leading to the development of standards that are not only internally consistent but also consistent with each other. As a result, both preparers and users of financial statements benefit from financial statements that are based on a body of accounting requirements that are more internally consistent.

The framework further helps users of financial reporting information to better understand that information and its limitations. It also provides a frame of reference for understanding the resulting standards. That frame of reference is useful to preparers who apply those standards and to auditors who examine the resulting reports, as well as to students who study accounting and the faculty who teach it.
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