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.
Current UK GAAP
The acronym GAAP stands for 'Generally Accepted Accounting Practice' — or, alternatively, ‘Generally Accepted Accounting Principles’ or ‘Generally Accepted Accounting Policies’. GAAP is a term used to describe the rules generally accepted as being applicable to accounting practices as laid down by standards, legislation or upheld by the accounting profession.
The current Generally Accepted Accounting Practice in the UK (UK GAAP) is set out in the body of Financial Reporting Standards (FRSs) published by the UK’s Financial Reporting Council (FRC). Where appropriate, these are applied in conjunction with Statements of Recommended Practice (SORPs), which apply to certain specialised industries and sectors.
Financial Reporting Standards (FRSs)
There are six current FRSs. More information on each of these, plus additional guidance and resources, can be accessed via ICAEW's UK GAAP hub page.
The full text of each edition of the current standards can be accessed on the FRC website.
FRSs, and amendments to them, are usually first issued for consultation in the form of Financial Reporting Exposure Drafts (FREDs). The FRC website includes information on open and closed consultations (including on FREDs), and offers users the option of signing up for email news alerts to keep up with developments.
Statements of Recommended Practice (SORPs)
SORPs are issued by a number of industry and sector bodies which are recognised by the FRC as SORP-making bodies. For example, a SORP on investment trusts is issued by the Association of Investment Companies (AIC). Bodies must meet criteria set by the FRC and develop and maintain SORPs in accordance with the FRC's policy.
We maintain a dedicated research guide on SORPs, which provides an overview of SORPs and their history, together with information on how to obtain current and withdrawn SORPs. Information on SORPs and where to find them can also be accessed via our 'Accounting for specific sectors' page, as well as on the FRC website.
SORPs are usually first issued for consultation as Exposure Drafts. A SORP must carry a Statement by the FRC 'confirming, as appropriate, that the SORP does not appear to contain any fundamental points of principle that are unacceptable in the context of current financial reporting practice, auditing practice or actuarial practice, nor does it conflict with an FRC standard or undermine the FRC’s broader objectives.’
Over the years, UK accounting standards have existed in various different forms and iterations, issued by a number of bodies. This section gives some general information on the different kinds of superseded standards, and how they may be accessed.
Withdrawn FRSs and historical FREDs
A number of Financial Reporting Standards (FRSs) are no longer in force. Most of these superseded FRSs were withdrawn for reporting periods starting on or after 1 January 2015, with the exception of the Financial Reporting Standard for Smaller Entities (FRSSE), which was withdrawn as of 1 January 2016.
Information and guidance on each superseded standard — browsable by number and title — can be accessed via our Old UK GAAP page.
The original, unconsolidated versions of many of these standards, plus any amendments (as first issued), can be downloaded in full from the FRC website. Consolidated versions of these standards, which include amendments, are not freely available online. However, the Library can provide ICAEW members with copies of individual consolidated standards by email. Contact us by phone on +44 (0)20 7920 8620 or by email at email@example.com for more information.
Superseded FRSs, along with related guidance and commentary, can also be found in editions of the annual Croner-i 'Accounting Standards' volumes, published in print until 2021. The Library holds a print copy of every edition from 1977 to 2019/20. Each edition includes the complete texts of all Financial Reporting Standards and Statements of Standard Accounting Practice extant at 30 April in the year of publication.
Historical Financial Reporting Exposure Drafts (FREDs) going back to 2005 are available online in the 'Consultations' section of the FRC website. The pages for more recent FREDs also include links to responses from other organisations.
Copies of older FREDs, and other discussion papers, are held in the Library collection and can be viewed by arrangement.
Responses received for older discussion papers and exposure drafts were deposited with the ICAEW Library and the ICAS Library by the standard setters, to put them on the public record. These papers are available for public inspection in the ICAEW Library by arrangement.
Statements of Standard Accounting Practice (SSAPs)
Statements of Standard Accounting Practice (SSAPs) were the previous generation of accounting standards, prior to FRSs. Originally approved and issued by ICAEW and other accountancy bodies following recommendations from the Accounting Standards Committee (ASC), a number of SSAPs were later adopted by the Accounting Standards Board (ASB) after the latter's creation in 1990. See the timeline below for more information on the history of these standards.
All SSAPs have been withdrawn for reporting periods starting on or after 1 January 2015.
The Library maintains a separate research guide on SSAPs, which gives information on particular SSAPs and how they may be accessed.
A number of individual SSAPs are held in the Library collection; a list of our holdings of SSAPs can be found on LibCat. SSAPs, along with related guidance and commentary, are also collated in editions of the annual Croner-i 'Accounting Standards' volumes, published in print until 2021. The Library holds a print copy of every edition from 1977 to 2019/20. Each edition includes the complete texts of all FRSs and SSAPs extant at 30 April in the year of publication.
Withdrawn and superseded SORPs
As noted above, SORPs provide guidance on the application of accounting standards to specific industries and sectors. The first SORPs were developed by the ASC; today the FRC recognises other bodies' power to develop SORPs. Whilst a number of SORPs are still in force, others have been withdrawn or superseded.
Some withdrawn and superseded SORPs are publicly available online — the Charities SORP website, for example, includes an archive of previous digital editions. In addition, the Library holds an extensive collection of past and present SORPs. If you require a historical SORP that you are unable to access online, please contact the Library on +44 (0)20 7920 8620, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For detailed information on withdrawn and superseded SORPs and where to find them, see our dedicated guide to researching SORPs.
Urgent Issues Task Force (UITF) Abstracts
The Urgent Issues Task Force (UITF) was part of the previous standard-setting regime. It assisted the ASB by investigating areas where conflicting or unsatisfactory interpretations of accounting standards or Companies Act provisions existed, or had the potential to arise.
From 1991 until it was disbanded on 2 July 2012, the UITF issued a number of Abstracts, which provided interpretations of accounting issues arising from the application of FRSs and SSAPs. Following the UITF's dissolution — which came about as a result of reforms to the FRC — its role and responsibilities were transferred to the Accounting Council.
UITF Abstracts formed part of the old UK GAAP, being effective for accounting periods beginning before 1 January 2015.
Though they have now been removed from the FRC website, archived copies of many UITF Abstracts are available via the Wayback Machine internet archive. Information on specific Abstracts, and where to find them, can be found in the ICAEW guide to Old UK GAAP accounting standards. If you are unable to access a particular UITF Abstract or information sheet, please request a copy from the Library on +44 (0)20 7920 8620, or via email at email@example.com.
Recommendations on Accounting Principles
The Recommendations on Accounting Principles were the UK's first authoritative guidance on accounting questions, issued by ICAEW between 1942 and 1969. The recommendations were non-mandatory, and were superseded from the 1970s onwards by accounting standards, initially in the form of SSAPs. For some time, SSAPs sat alongside the recommendations, though most of the latter had been withdrawn by the time Technical Release 391 was published in 1980.
At first, the recommendations were published in The Accountant. The first collected edition of the recommendations was published in book form by Gee & Co. in 1944, and the recommendations later appeared in the Members' Handbook.
More information on the recommendations can be found in the ICAEW publication 'Principles before standards: The ICAEW's 'N Series' of Recommendations on Accounting Principles 1942-1969', edited by Professor Stephen Zeff.
A list of the Recommendations on Accounting Principles held in the Library collection can be accessed via LibCat.
History and development of UK accounting standards
The Taxation and Financial Relations (T&FR) Committee of the ICAEW was established in 1942 and was asked by the council of the ICAEW to ‘consider and make recommendations to [the council] on certain aspects of the accounts of companies’ and to publish ‘approved recommendations for the information of members’ (The Accountant, 12 December 1942).
The first ‘Recommendations on Accounting Principles’ were published in December 1942 on the subjects of Tax Reserve Certificates and War Damage Contributions, Premiums and Claims. These recommendations, and those that followed, provided members of ICAEW with early guidance on accounting practice.
The ICAEW established the Accounting Standards Steering Committee (ASSC) in January 1970 with ‘the object of developing definitive standards for financial reporting’ (‘History of the Accounting Standards Committee’, Accounting Standards).
The Irish and Scottish institutes became members of the ASSC in the same year, followed by the Association of Certified Accountants (now the ACCA) and the Institute of Cost and Management Accountants (now CIMA) in 1971.
On 29 April 1970 the ICAEW published the Survey of Published Accounts, 1968-69, which highlighted the continuing degree of variation in accounting treatments in use at this time.
The President used this opportunity to re-state the ICAEW's aim to implement the aforementioned Statement of Intent. This was reported in The Accountant (‘Precept and Practice’, 30 April 1970 and ‘Institute's Approach to Accounting Standards’, 7 May 1970).
The first Statement of Standard Accounting Practice (SSAP), on 'Accounting for the results of associated companies' (SSAP 1) was issued in January 1971. A total of 34 statements (or revised statements) went on to be released between 1971 and 1990.
Initially the SSAPs sat alongside the ‘Recommendations on Accounting Principles’ issued by the ICAEW. The explanatory foreword to the 1977 edition of Accounting Standards states:
In so far as they are not replaced by Statements of Standard Accounting Practice, the Council's ‘Recommendations on Accounting Principles’ will continue in effect as guidance statements and indicators of best practice. They are persuasive in intent and departures from them do not necessarily require disclosure as do departures from accounting standards.
In 1976, CIPFA joined the Accounting Standards Steering Committee.
The same year, the Accounting Standards Steering Committee (ASSC) was renamed the Accounting Standards Committee (ASC), and its constitution was revised. The ASC became a ‘joint committee of the six member bodies who then acted collectively through the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies’ (Introduction, Accounting Standards 2006/07), before subsequently becoming a committee of the CCAB in 1985.
In 1990, the Government announced the establishment of a new Financial Reporting Council (FRC). The FRC was charged with promoting good financial reporting through two subsidiary bodies: the Accounting Standards Board, which replaced the ASC on 1 August 1990, and the Financial Reporting Review Panel (FRRP).
On its creation, the Accounting Standards Board (ASB) adopted a number of SSAPs that had been issued by the ASC, so that they were brought within the legal definition of accounting standards according to the Companies Act 1985. All accounting standards developed by the ASB from 1990 were issued as Financial Reporting Standards (FRSs).
The new ASB was assisted by an Urgent Issues Task Force (UITF), which held its first meeting in 1991. It was established to investigate areas where conflicting or unsatisfactory interpretations of accounting standards or Companies Act provisions existed, or had the potential to develop.
The UITF issued its first abstract on 24 July 1991, titled ‘Convertible bonds – supplemental interest/premium’.
In 2004, the Government took the decision to strengthen the regulatory system in the UK following the major corporate collapses in the US. This led to the FRC's role being extended, with the Council becoming the single independent regulator of the accounting and auditing profession, as well as being responsible for issuing accounting standards and dealing with their enforcement.
The present FRC and its subsidiary bodies are funded jointly by the accountancy profession, the financial community and the Government.
Reforms were carried out in July 2012 to enable the FRC to operate as a unified regulatory body with enhanced independence. A new structure was implemented to ensure effective governance of all of the FRC's regulatory activities under ultimate responsibility of the FRC Board.
As part of the reforms, the Codes and Standards Committee was established to advise the FRC Board on maintaining an effective framework of UK codes and standards. The Accounting Council also replaced the Accounting Standards Board (ASB), assuming an advisory role to the Codes & Standards Committee and the FRC Board. The UITF was also disbanded as a result of the reforms.
Whereas accounting standards were previously set by the ASB, this became the responsibility of the FRC Board on 2 July 2012.
In November 2012, the FRC issued the following new standards as part of a new UK GAAP framework:
- FRS 100: Application of Financial Reporting Requirements;
- FRS 101: Reduced disclosure framework.
The FRC published a further standard in March 2013 setting out new accounting and reporting requirements for unlisted entities:
- FRS 102: The Financial Reporting Standard applicable in the UK and Republic of Ireland.
The FRC issued another standard in March 2014, to form part of the new UK GAAP:
- FRS 103: Insurance contracts.
The Financial Reporting Standards FRS 100, 101, 102 and 103 (known as new UK GAAP) are effective from 1 January 2015. These FRSs replace previous standards, for reporting periods starting on or after 1 January 2015.
During 2015, the FRC issued two more standards:
- FRS 104: Interim financial reporting (March 2015);
- FRS 105: The Financial Reporting Standard applicable to the micro-entities regime (July 2015).
Following an Independent Review of the FRC led by Sir John Kingman, the Business Secretary Greg Clark announced in March 2019 that the FRC will be replaced with a new regulator called the Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority (ARGA).
Upon its establishment, ARGA will inherit responsibility for setting and maintaining UK accounting standards.
Comparisons with other sets of accounting standards
There are a number of publications which outline the similarities and differences between UK GAAP 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 UK GAAP and other sets of accounting standards, please contact the Library for assistance — either by telephone on +44 (0)20 7920 8620, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taxation and Financial Relations (T&FR) Committee
The Taxation and Financial Relations (T&FR) Committee was renamed the Taxation and Research (T&R) Committee in 1949 and the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) in 1964. The committee's powers were transferred to other Institute Committees in May 1967.
Various minute books for the Committee (and its sub-committees) are held in the London Metropolitan Archives.
Accounting Standards Committee
The book ‘Financial Reporting in the UK: A History of the Accounting Standards Committee, 1969-1990’ is available to ICAEW members, students and other entitled users online, through our collection of eBooks.
In addition, the ICAEW Library holds a number of publications from and relating to the ASC, including comments received on discussion papers and exposure drafts. Details are available through the Library catalogue:
The John Rylands University Library in Manchester also holds a special collection of ASC and ASSC papers (1952–1990) in its Accounting Standards Committee Archive.
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