European and U.S. accounting regulators have been working toward the convergence of U.S. Generally Acceptable Accounting Principles with International Financial Reporting Standards for years, but when and how it would actually happen has been rather amorphous. Until now.
Wednesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission proposed a specific timeline for the change. BusinessWeek reports the SEC tentatively adopted the timeline by unanimous vote, and the panel will vote again after 60 days of public comment on the matter. If the timeline is adopted, moving to IFRS will be mandatory in 2014, but the country's largest companies will be able to make the switch even sooner. (A Reuters piece published at Forbes indicates the earlier date could be as soon as 2010.)
SEC Chairman Christopher Cox views the move to international standards as essential for continuing to compete at global level, and industry organizations like the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants agree. So do Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, according to Reuters. The two have supported efforts to move toward international standards from the beginning.
Every proposal has its critics, however, and this is no exception. Some legislators see the move as a step closer to "outsourcing" the enforcement of U.S. accounting requirements to other countries whose requirements are not as strict.