Knowledge guide to International Accounting Standards
An overview of the history and development of International Accounting Standards and information on how you can obtain the current IAS, IFRS, interpretations and IPSAS.
Looking for information about a specific IAS or IFRS? Check our list of International Financial Reporting Standards to find standards by number or title for technical summaries, updates and guides.
Contents of this guide
What are International Accounting Standards?
International Accounting Standards are accounting standards issued by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and its predecessor, the International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC).
Listed companies, and sometimes unlisted companies, are required to use the standards in their financial statements in those countries which have adopted them.
The EU regulation 1606/2002 on the application of international accounting standards made this a requirement for listed companies in the European Union. For other jurisdictions, please see our page on the worldwide adoption of IFRS.
History and development
Our timeline highlights some of the most significant dates in the history of international accounting standards. It covers the period from the 1960s to 2005 when listed companies in the UK were required to present their financial statements using international standards. Please note it is not intended to be a comprehensive list of developments between these dates.
The history of International Accounting Standards really began in 1966, with the proposal to establish an International Study Group comprising:
In February 1967 this resulted in the foundation of the Accountants International Study Group (AISG), which began to publish papers on important topics every few months and created an appetite for change. Many of these papers led the way for the standards that followed, when in March 1973 it was finally agreed to establish an international body writing accounting standards for international use.
In June 1973 the IASC came into existence, with the stated intent that the new international standards it released must ‘be capable of rapid acceptance and implementation world-wide’. The IASC survived for 27 years, until 2001, when the organisation was restructured and the IASC was replaced by the IASB.
One of the most comprehensive accounts of this early history of international accounting standards is contained in Lord Benson's article ‘The story of international accounting standards’ which was published in Accountancy magazine in July 1976 (Volume 87, Number 995) on pages 34-39. A further source of information is Lord Benson's biography ‘Accounting for life’ which was published by Kogan Page, with ICAEW, in 1989.
Between 1973 and 2000 the IASC released a series of standards called International Accounting Standards (IAS) in a numerical sequence that began with IAS 1 and ended with IAS 41 Agriculture, which was published in December 2000.
The Standing Interpretations Committee (SIC) was established in 1997 to consider contentious accounting issues that needed authoritative guidance to stop widespread variation in practice.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a concept release on 24 February 2000 on the acceptability of International Accounting Standards. The ICAEW response was published in a technical release (TECH 16/00). In the press release issued on 19 May 2000, Graham Ward, Deputy President of the ICAEW, commented:
We have long looked forward to the time when financial statements prepared in accordance with international accounting standards are recognised by stock exchanges throughout the world.
The International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) endorses IAS for use in connection with cross-border listings, as announced in a press releaseissued by the organisation on 17 May 2000.
The ICAEW issued a policy statement (TECH 23/00) on the endorsement and enforcement of IAS within the EU.
The IASC restructured its organisation at the end of the twentieth century, which resulted in the formation of the IASB. These changes came into effect on 1 April 2001.
At the time, the IASB stated that it would adopt the body of standards issued by the Board of the International Accounting Standards Committee (which would continue to be designated ‘International Accounting Standards’ ), but any new standards would be published in a series called International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) .
 The IASB approved the ‘IASB Resolution on IASC Standards’ at its meeting in April 2001 which confirmed the status of all IASC Standards and SIC Interpretations in effect as of 1 April 2001.
 The IASB announced that the IASC Foundation Trustees had agreed that accounting standards issued by IASB would be designated ‘International Financial Reporting Standards’ in a statement dated 23 April 2001.
At the 23 July 2001 meeting of the Standards Advisory Council the IASB submitted a proposal to rename the Standing Interpretations Committee (SIC) as the International Financial Reporting Issues Committee (IFRIC) which was subsequently accepted.
Following this change, releases from IFRIC were categorized as abstracts rather than interpretations. In December 2001 the Standing Interpretations Committee (SIC) was reconstituted as the International Financial Reporting Interpretations Committee (IFRIC).
The IASB issued published a press release on 23 May 2002 announcing the publication of the Preface to International Financial Reporting Standards which Sir David Tweedie, IASB Chairman, said provided
a brief description of the purpose and function of the main structures of the new arrangements for setting global standards. As such, it is a short but essential introduction to the context within which the Board will frame its standards.
On 6 June 2002 the European Council of Ministers approved the regulation that would require all EU companies listed on a regulated market to prepare accounts in accordance with International Accounting Standards for accounting periods beginning on or after 1 January 2005.
ICAEW welcomed the formal approval of the regulation as a landmark development in the creation of a single European capital market. Ian D Wright, Chairman of the ICAEW Financial Reporting Committee, said:
The Institute has supported the European Commission through a lengthy political process to see this Regulation come into effect because we believe passionately in the benefits to business of truly international accounting standards.
The Regulation (EC) No 1606/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the application of international accounting standards was adopted on 19 July 2002 by the European Parliament and the Council, requiring listed companies to use International Accounting Standards by 2005.
ICAEW issued a memorandum on November 7 2002 to the Accounting Standards Board (replaced by the Accounting Council in July 2012) entitled The Transition to IAS: The role of the ASB (TECH 20/02), in which the institute highlighted its support for aligning UK accounting standards progressively with IAS, stressing the importance of minimising differences between UK GAAP and IAS
in order to maintain comparability between the accounts of listed and larger unlisted companies, avoid unnecessary complexity and prevent practical problems for companies seeking listed status.
The first IFRS was published in June 2003 – IFRS 1: First-time Adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) issued the press release ‘UK extends use of International Accounting Standards’ on 17 July 2003 announcing that publicly traded companies in the UK would be permitted to use international accounting standards in their individual accounts from 2005 and that
other companies and limited liability partnerships in the UK will be permitted to use IAS in both their individual and consolidated accounts from the same date.
ICAEW issued a press release in support entitled ‘ICAEW welcomes announcement that unlisted companies can opt to use IAS from 2005’.
The European Commission adopted a Regulation endorsing International Accounting Standards (IASs) on 29 September 2003, thereby confirming the requirement for their compulsory use from 2005.
At the time, Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein said that:
Adoption by the Commission of this Regulation, endorsing most of the existing International Accounting Standards and publishing them in the EU's official languages, will help the 7000 or so listed EU companies affected to get ready for 2005, when their consolidated accounts will have to be in line with IAS. That will put an end to the current Tower of Babel in financial reporting, improve competition and transparency and make the free movement of capital much easier.
The full text of the regulation Adopting certain international accounting standards in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1606/2002 is available online.
In Chancellor Gordon Brown's Pre-Budget Report 2003 speech on 10 December 2003, the Chancellor announced that
firms applying international accounting standards will not have to submit a second and separate set of accounts to the Inland Revenue.
On 24 February 2004 the Inland Revenue published Accounting Standards – the UK tax implications on its website. At the time the website stated that the Finance Bill 2004 would
include measures to ensure that companies choosing to adopt International Accounting Standards (IAS) to draw up their accounts will receive broadly equivalent tax treatment to companies that continue to use UK GAAP.
The DTI published a consultation document on the implementation of the accounting modernisation directive and arrangements for the use of IAS for companies and building societies, Modernisation of Accounting Directives/IAS Infrastructure.
On 12 November 2004 the Accounts Modernisation and Fair Value Directives came into force with The Companies Act 1985 (International Accounting Standards and Other Accounting Amendments) Regulations 2004 (SI 2947).
Listed companies in the UK were required to present their financial statements using the international accounting standards adopted by the EU for periods commencing on or after 1 January 2005.
Sources for standards and interpretations
From 1973 until 2000 the International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC) released a series of International Accounting Standards (IAS). In 2001 the International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC) was replaced by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) and all new standards published since then have been issued as International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).
The text of unaccompanied standards (which are the current year's consolidated standards, excluding additional content such as illustrative examples and basis for conclusions) are freely available from the IASB website. Registration is required.
In the ICAEW Library we have printed editions of the individual standards (as published) and annual sets which provide consolidated versions of the standards.
At the time of writing the IASB publishes three sets of consolidated standards each year, which are generally referred to as the red, blue and green books (although each set is actually published as two books).
The Red Book
The original set of standards, now known as the Red Book, is still published and follows the practice of previous years by consolidating all IFRSs issued at 1 January, including those with an effective date later than 1 January. It excludes IFRSs that are being replaced or superseded (which remain applicable if the reporting entity chooses not to adopt the newer versions early). Part A contains IFRSs, IASs, IFRICs and SICs and Part B the accompanying documents
The Blue Book
‘IFRS: Consolidated without early application’, also known as the Blue Book, was first launched in 2010. This publication consolidates those standards with an effective date no later than 1 January, so excludes any standards effective after this date which are available to early adopters. Part A contains IFRSs, IASs, IFRICs and SICs and Part B the accompanying documents.
The Blue Book is a permitted text for the ICAEW ACA Professional Level exams in Financial Accounting and Reporting, Business Planning: Banking and Business Planning: Insurance. The Blue Book is also a permitted text for the ACA Advanced Level exams.
The Green Book
‘A guide through IFRS’, also known as the Green Book, was launched in 2007. The publication consolidates all IFRSs issued at 1 July, including those with an effective date later than 1 July. It excludes IFRSs that are being replaced or superseded (which remain applicable if the reporting entity chooses not to adopt the newer versions early). Part A contains IFRSs, IASs, IFRICs and SICs and Part B the accompanying documents.
See the links below for full details of the Library's holdings:
Our webpages on IFRS include links to guides, news updates and other online resources for each of the standards.
SIC Interpretations agreed by the Standing Interpretations Committee (SIC) and ratified by the IASB were published between 1997 and 2001.
IFRIC Interpretations agreed by the International Financial Reporting Interpretations Committee (IFRIC) and ratified by the IASB have been published since 2001. In 2010 the IFRIC was renamed the IFRS Interpretations Committee. An explanation of the process can be found on the IASB website under Development of Interpretations.
The text of unaccompanied standards (which are the current year's consolidated standards, excluding additional content such as illustrative examples and basis for conclusions) including SICs and IFRICs are freely available from the IASB website. Registration is required.
The full official text of the interpretations are included in the current bound volumes of IASB standards which are available from the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB).
We have printed copies in the ICAEW Library of the individual interpretations and the current volumes of standards, in addition to access to an online database with electronic versions of the interpretations.
See the links below for full details of the Library's holdings:
You can obtain information about recent IFRIC interpretations and draft IFRIC interpretations through the IASB website from the IFRS Interpretations Committee Activities section. The IAS Plus website from Deloitte also provides comprehensive summaries of IFRIC Interpretations and SIC Interpretations, including those interpretations which have been superseded.
Convergence with IAS/IFRS
We offer a number of resources focusing on convergence between national GAAP and IFRS across the world, including:
Legality of IFRS in the UK
In April 2013, George Bompas QC produced a legal opinion challenging the legal status of IFRS in the UK. The opinion was commissioned by an investment group including the Universities Superannuation Scheme, Threadneedle Asset Management, UK Shareholders Association and the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum.
An Economia article published on 21 June 2013 summarises Bompas’s report: IFRS renders banks' accounts ‘legally faulty’.
In October 2013, Martin Moore QC issued a legal opinion sponsored by the FRC stating its position:
The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills released a government response, Accounting standards are part of legally binding corporate reporting framework, on 3 October 2013 stating:
The Department for Business has given serious consideration to concerns raised by some stakeholders that accounts prepared over the past 30 years, in accordance with UK or international financial reporting standards, have not been properly prepared under UK and EU law.
However, it is entirely satisfied that the concerns expressed are misconceived and that the existing legal framework, including international financial reporting standards, is binding under European law.
The FRC issued a press release, Accounting standards are part of legally binding corporate reporting framework, on the same day confirming that it shares the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’s view.
Michael Izza commented on the debate with a blog post published on 9 October 2013, The IFRS legality debate: let’s now get on with the job of improving the standards.
Our collection includes a growing volume of books and articles on international accounting standards.
To find out how you can borrow books from the Library please see our guide to book loans. You can obtain copies of articles or extracts of books and reports by post, fax or email through our document supply service.
ICAEW guidance and support
Financial Reporting Faculty
The faculty offers assistance and support in IFRS, UK GAAP and other aspects of business reporting. It offers technical briefings and factsheets, IFRS and UK GAAP standards-trackers, plus practical advice from industry experts and working accountants.
Other international accounting standards
International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS)
The International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board (IPSASB) focuses on ‘the accounting and financial reporting needs of national, regional and local governments, related governmental agencies’.
The IPSASB issues International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) for this audience which are published in full text within the IFAC Handbook of International Public Sector Accounting Pronouncements. The Handbook is available to download from the IFAC website free of charge.
IFAC published an article Twenty Years of International Public Sector Standard Setting in December 2017 that describes the history of the IPSASB from its beginnings as the IFAC Public Sector Committee.
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