ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

Researching international accounting standards

Research guide

Updated: 14 Feb 2023 Update History

This guide provides an overview of the nature, history and development of international accounting standards, as well as information on their status, and how you can obtain them.
Looking for information about a specific IFRS, IAS, or IFRIC/SIC Interpretation? Check our list of IFRS accounting standards to find standards by number or title, and view associated technical summaries, updates and guides.

How the Library can help

The ICAEW Library has compiled this guide to help everyone to find the accounting standards they need.

The Library enquiry team can also help ICAEW members, ACA students and other authorised users with requests for accounting standards, and related information. Library staff can consult print sources held in our collection on your behalf, and we can loan books and supply documents from our collection by email or post.

If you would like to know more about the information we can offer, please call us on +44 (0)20 7920 8620, email library@icaew.com or contact us through webchat.

What are international accounting standards?

Understood in a general sense, the phrase ‘international accounting standards’ refers to any accounting standards which are intended for use across multiple jurisdictions, with the purpose of bringing about consistency in financial statements, and thus facilitating cross-border comparability and understandability.

Most commonly, however, the phrase is used to refer specifically to the standards and interpretations issued, endorsed or ratified by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), and its predecessor, the International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC). These pronouncements have been issued under various names (see below), but are often collectively referred to as International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRSs). Listed companies, and sometimes unlisted companies, are required to apply IFRSs in those countries which have adopted them.

Other international accounting standards are issued by the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board (IPSASB), for use by governments and other public sector entities. These are known as International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSASs).

International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRSs) and International Accounting Standards (IASs)

From 1973 until 2000 the International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC) released a series of International Accounting Standards (IASs).

In 2001 the International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC) was replaced by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), operating under the oversight of the IFRS Foundation. All new standards published since then have been issued as International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRSs), and it is now common for the entire body of IASB and IASC pronouncements — IFRSs, IASs, and the associated Interpretations (see below), to be collectively referred to as 'IFRSs'.

Several IASs have now been withdrawn or superseded by IFRSs. However, the IASB continues to endorse a number of IASs, amending and/or reissuing them where appropriate.

Information on particular IFRSs and IASs — plus a range of related practical resources such as factsheets, webinar recordings, model accounts and manuals — can be accessed via our IFRS hub page.

Interpretations (IFRIC/SIC)

To support the consistent application of IFRSs and IASs, a number of Interpretations have been issued, providing guidance on financial reporting issues that are not specifically addressed in the aforementioned standards.

SIC Interpretations — agreed by the Standing Interpretations Committee (SIC) and subsequently endorsed 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.

Some IFRIC and many SIC Interpretations have now been withdrawn or superseded, but a number of them remain in force. Information and guidance on particular Interpretations, including details of effective dates and recent amendments, can be accessed via the Corporate Reporting Faculty’s IFRS accounting standards page. The IAS Plus website from Deloitte also provides helpful summaries of IFRIC Interpretations and SIC Interpretations, including those which have been superseded.

An explanation of how the IFRS Interpretations Committee works to support the consistent application of IFRS accounting standards, as well as updates on the Committee's recent activity, can be found on the IFRS Foundation website.

International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSASs)

As mentioned above, the International Public Sector Accounting Standards Board (IPSASB) focuses on the accounting and financial reporting needs of public sector entities. It develops and issues International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSASs) for this audience.

Some IPSASs converge with IFRSs/IASs, adapting the IASB standards for the public sector context. However, there are some IPSASs for which there is no related IFRS or IAS, and/or which diverge significantly from IASB standards in their treatment of certain financial reporting issues.

In December 2017 IFAC published an article, 'Twenty Years of International Public Sector Standard Setting', that describes the history of the IPSASB from its beginnings as the IFAC Public Sector Committee.

Use, adoption and adaptation of international accounting standards

IFRSs, IASs and IFRIC/SIC Interpretations

In the UK

For financial years beginning on or after 1 January 2021, all UK companies which produce consolidated financial statements and whose transferable securities are admitted to trading on a UK regulated market are required to use 'UK-adopted international accounting standards'. Other UK companies, except for charities, may choose to apply either UK GAAP or UK-adopted international accounting standards, subject to certain constraints. Companies that are charities must apply UK GAAP.

UK-adopted international accounting standards are IFRSs, IASs, and IFRIC/SIC Interpretations which have been endorsed and adopted by the UK Endorsement Board (UKEB), with some limited modifications. UKEB is the body responsible for endorsing and adopting new or amended standards and interpretations issued by the IASB for use by UK companies. Information on the adoption status of particular standards, amendments and interpretations can be found in the adoption status reports which are published periodically by UKEB, all of which are made publicly available on its website.

All foreign companies trading on UK public markets have the option of applying IFRS accounting standards; some are required to do so.

More information on the status of IFRS accounting standards in the UK — including details of pre-Brexit arrangements, which differed from those currently in force — can be found in the IFRS Foundation's United Kingdom jurisdictional profile.

In other jurisdictions

Outside of the UK, the status of IFRS accounting standards and the prospects for convergence or harmonisation between national GAAP and IFRS differ widely by jurisdiction. For information on which countries require or permit companies to apply IFRSs, and which standards have been endorsed by the EU, see our page on IFRS adoption around the world and our resources on accounting by country or territory. In addition, there are a number of articles and books in the Library collection which focus on IFRS convergence and harmonisation.


At the time of writing, IPSASs are not applied in the UK, and have not been widely adopted worldwide. Some jurisdictions have implemented IPSASs — either in an unmodified state, or with modifications to suit the local context — but this is relatively uncommon. However, IPSASs are often used as a reference point by governments and other official bodies responsible for issuing and adapting accounting standards at a national level.

Further information on the status of IPSASs worldwide can be found in IFAC's periodic International Public Sector Financial Accountability Index reports. The 2021 report forecasts an increase in the direct and indirect implementation of IPSASs globally over time.

Finding international accounting standards

IFRSs, IASs and IFRIC/SIC Interpretations

The text of the current year’s consolidated IFRS Accounting Standards and Interpretations, which include all amendments issued up to and including the 1 January of that year, are freely available from the IFRS Foundation website. Registration is required. This free service does not provide access to additional material such as illustrative examples, implementation guidance and bases for conclusions.

In addition, the ICAEW Library holds print editions of the individual standards, amendments and interpretations (as published), as well as annual sets of print volumes, which provide consolidated versions of the standards and interpretations along with various accompanying materials.

Details of the Library's print holdings of individual standards, amendments and interpretations can be accessed via the following links:

Information on the annual sets of consolidated standards is set out below. At the time of writing, the IFRS Foundation publishes two sets of consolidated standards each year: Issued IFRS Standards (formerly known as the Red Book) and Required IFRS Standards (formerly known as the Blue Book). There are two versions of each of these sets — one which is 'annotated' with additional annotations and explanatory material, and one which is not. Between 2007 and 2017, a third set was published, titled ‘A Guide through IFRS Standards’ (commonly known as the Green Book). Full details of the Library's holdings of these sets can be found on LibCat.

Issued IFRS Standards (formerly known as the Red Book)

This annual set consolidates all IFRSs, IASs, IFRIC Interpretations and SIC Interpretations issued at 1 January, including those with an effective date after 1 January. It excludes standards that are being replaced or superseded (which remain applicable if the reporting entity chooses not to adopt the newer versions early).

As of 2023, the set consists of three volumes. Part A contains the text of all issued IFRSs, IASs, IFRIC Interpretations and SIC Interpretations, together with the Conceptual Framework for Financial Reporting. Part B contains the illustrative examples and implementation guidance that accompany the standards, together with IFRS Practice Statements. Part C contains the Bases for Conclusions.

As well as the 'core' version of the set, a version entitled ‘Annotated Issued IFRS Standards’ is also available, which includes extensive cross-references and notes, along with the standards themselves.

More information on the contents of each version of this set can be found in their respective Library catalogue records:

The forerunner to the annual Issued IFRS Standards set was titled 'International Accounting Standards: the full text of all International Accounting Standards and SIC Interpretations extant at 1 January', and was published yearly from 1981 to 2002. Details of the contents of this title, and the Library's holdings of it, can also be found on the catalogue.

Required IFRS Standards (formerly known as the Blue Book)

This annual set, first published in 2010, consolidates all IFRSs, IASs, IFRIC Interpretations and SIC Interpretations required at 1 January. It therefore excludes any standards with an effective date after 1 January which are available to early adopters.

As of 2023, this set consists of three volumes. Part A contains the text of all required IFRSs, IASs, IFRIC Interpretations and SIC Interpretations, together with the Conceptual Framework for Financial Reporting and a summary of changes since the previous edition. Part B contains the illustrative examples and implementation guidance that accompany the standards, together with IFRS Practice Statements. Part C contains the Bases for Conclusions.

As well as the 'core' version of the set, a version entitled ‘Annotated Required IFRS Standards’ is also available. This includes extensive cross-references, explanatory notes and IFRS Interpretations Committee agenda decisions, in addition to the standards themselves.

More information on the contents of each version of this set can be found in their respective Library catalogue records:

A Guide through IFRS Standards (The Green Book)

This set — which was launched in 2007 and ceased publication in 2018 — consolidated annotated versions of all IFRSs issued at 1 July, including those with an effective date later than 1 July. It excluded IFRSs that were being replaced or superseded (which remained applicable if the reporting entity had chosen not to adopt the newer versions early).

Part A contained IFRSs, IASs, IFRICs and SICs; Part B contained the accompanying documents. Fuller details of the contents of this set can be found in its Library catalogue record.

The Green Book was replaced by two separate publications: Annotated Issued IFRS Standards and Annotated Required IFRS Standards.

UK-adopted international accounting standards

The UK Endorsement Board (UKEB) publishes a consolidated text of all UK-adopted international accounting standards, as well as the full text of each individual standard, on its website.


The International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSASs) issued by the IPSASB are available in full within the annual Handbook of International Public Sector Accounting Pronouncements. Each edition of the Handbook includes the text of those standards in force at the time of publication.

Recent editions of the Handbook — including the current edition — are available to download from the IPSASB website free-of-charge. In addition, the ICAEW Library holds print copies — full holdings information is available on LibCat.

History and development of international accounting standards

The timeline below highlights some of the most significant dates in the history of international accounting standards, with a particular focus on the UK and the EU. Please note that it is not intended to be comprehensive in its coverage.


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.

February 2000

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.

May 2000

On 17 May 2000, the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) issued a press release announcing its endorsement of IAS for use in connection with cross-border listings.

August 2000

The ICAEW issued a policy statement (TECH 23/00) on the endorsement and enforcement of IAS within the EU.

April 2001

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’. 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.

However, in a statement dated 23 April 2001, the IASB announced that the IASC Foundation Trustees had agreed that any new accounting standards issued by the IASB would be designated ‘International Financial Reporting Standards’ (IFRS).

July 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).

May 2002

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.

June 2002

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.

July 2002

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 Council, requiring publicly traded companies governed by the law of an EU member state to use International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRSs) by 2005.

November 2002

On November 7 2002 ICAEW issued a memorandum 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 asserted 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.

June 2003

The first IFRS was published in June 2003 – IFRS 1: First-time Adoption of International Financial Reporting Standards.

July 2003

On 17 July 2003 the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) issued a press release entitled ‘UK extends use of International Accounting Standards’, 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 would 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’.

September 2003

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.

December 2003

In his pre-budget report statement to the House of Commons on 10 December 2003, Chancellor Gordon Brown announced that:

firms applying international accounting standards will not have to submit a second and separate set of accounts to the Inland Revenue.

February 2004

On 24 February 2004 the Inland Revenue published a page on its website entitled 'Accounting Standards – the UK tax implications'. 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.

March 2004

In March 2004, the DTI published a consultation document on the implementation of the accounting modernisation directives and the arrangements for the use of IAS by companies and building societies, entitled 'Modernisation of Accounting Directives/IAS Infrastructure'.

November 2004

On 12 November 2004 the Accounts Modernisation and Fair Value Directives came into force, with the introduction of 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.


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’.

On 3 October 2013, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills released a government response titled 'Accounting standards are part of legally binding corporate reporting framework', in which it stated:

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.

On the same day, the FRC issued a press release also entitled 'Accounting standards are part of legally binding corporate reporting framework', confirming that it had taken its own independent legal advice, and that this advice accorded with the Department’s view. The legal opinion in question, provided to the FRC by Martin Moore QC, is available on the FRC website.

Michael Izza, Chief Executive at ICAEW, commented on the debate in a blog post published on 9 October 2013: The IFRS legality debate: let’s now get on with the job of improving the standards.


The UK formally left the EU on 31 January 2020, but continued to be subject to EU rules on the use of international accounting standards until the end of the transition period on implementation period (IP) completion day — defined as 23:00 GMT on 31 December 2020.

From 1 January 2021, UK companies required or choosing to apply IFRS accounting standards must comply with 'UK-adopted international accounting standards', rather than IFRS as adopted by the EU. All IFRSs endorsed by the EU at IP completion day became UK-adopted international accounting standards. After IP completion day, any new IFRSs or amended IFRSs require independent endorsement by a new body — the UK Endorsement Board (UKEB) — in order to be part of the suite of UK-adopted international accounting standards that can be applied by UK companies. Therefore, whilst UK and EU-adopted IFRSs were identical on IP completion day, they may diverge over time. For more information, see our dedicated page on UK endorsement of IFRSs.

Comparisons between sets of accounting standards

There are a number of publications which outline the similarities and differences between IFRSs and other sets of accounting standards.

One such publication is the book ‘Comparative International Accounting’ by Christopher Nobes and Robert Parker, which is available to ICAEW members, students and other entitled users online, through our collection of eBooks.

If you are seeking comparisons between sets of accounting standards, please contact the Library for assistance — either by telephone on +44 (0)20 7920 8620, or by email at library@icaew.com.

Further reading

The ICAEW Library collection includes a growing number 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 or email through our document supply service.

Can't find what you're looking for?

The ICAEW Library can give you the right information from trustworthy, professional sources that aren't freely available online. Contact us for expert help with your enquiries and research.


Every effort has been made to ensure that the information given in this Research Guide is correct. However, the content of websites changes frequently and users should satisfy themselves that the information they contain is suitable for the purposes for which they wish to use it. We would be grateful to receive notification of any broken links at library@icaew.com.

ICAEW accepts no responsibility for the content on any site to which a hypertext link from this site exists. The links are provided ‘as is’ with no warranty, express or implied, for the information provided within them. Please see the full copyright and disclaimer notice.

Contact the library

Expert help for your enquiries and research.