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Research Shows Progress Towards Global Accounting Language, but Hurdles Remain

While an overwhelming majority of countries intend to converge with International Financial Reporting Standards, hurdles to adopting the standards remain, according to research by a group of accounting firms.

More than 90 percent of countries surveyed plan to adopt international standards, and 72 percent of those countries have a formal policy in place to achieve it, in most cases aimed initially at listed companies, according to GAAP Convergence 2002 research. The firms involved in the GAAP Convergence 2002 project are BDO, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young, Grant Thornton, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Despite greater moves towards convergence, obstacles remain to achieving full and consistent adoption of the standards, results showed. More than half the countries (51 percent) cited the complexity of some standards — in particular, those relating to financial instruments and fair value accounting — as a barrier to convergence. In addition, 47 percent of the countries surveyed cited the tax-driven nature of their national accounting regime as a hurdle. As a result, many countries are initially limiting implementation of IFRS to listed companies.

Survey respondents also stressed the importance of getting better and more timely access to national language translations of the new standards and interpretations. While translations were available in 70 percent of the countries covered, in many cases the translations weren’t sanctioned by the IASB. In addition, in nearly one-third of the countries where IFRS are available in the national language, the translations weren’t considered to be available quickly enough.

Another challenge identified was the availability of IFRS training. While the survey found that in 80 percent of the countries, IFRS training is part of the university curriculum, over one-third of those countries expressed concern that coverage was still limited or offered by only a few universities. A copy of the report is available at http://www.ifad.net.

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