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Terminology A-Z

Accounting - Provides information used to assess the financial well-being of businesses and other economic entities, including government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Accounting specialties include financial accounting, which prepares company financial reports for external use, and management accounting, which provides reports to help the management of a company evaluate production costs and efficiency.

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) - The AICPA is the national, professional organization for all Certified Public Accountants. Its mission is to provide members with the resources, information, and leadership that enable them to provide valuable services in the highest professional manner to benefit the public as well as employers and clients. Website:

Audit - An unbiased examination and evaluation of the financial statements of an organization. It can be done internally (by employees of the organization) or externally (by an outside firm). An audit can also be an IRS examination of a taxpayer's return or other transactions. The IRS performs this examination to verify the correctness of these filings.

Cost Accounting Standards Board (CASB) - The CASB is an independent legislatively-established board that has the exclusive authority to make, promulgate, and amend cost accounting standards and interpretations designed to achieve uniformity and consistency in the cost accounting practices governing the measurement, assignment, and allocation of costs to contracts with the United States.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA) – The CPA is an accountant who has met certain standards, including experience, age, and licensing, and passed exams in a particular state. All CPAs must pass the Uniform CPA Examination, which is created and graded by the AICPA. The AICPA recommends that a candidate have a university or college degree, and at least 150 semester hours of classes. Many states require some previous accounting work experience as well.

Emerging Issues Task Force (EITF) - The EITF is a task force within FASB that identifies new accounting and reporting issues and distributes reports for timely dissemination. Website:

Exposure Draft - Outlines and discusses the proposed standards of financial accounting and reporting, which are precursors to the SFAS.

XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language) - open international standard in XML for digital business reporting. Preparers using GAAP for publicly traded companies are required not only to create financial statements, but also to assign an XBRL tag to every number, table, accounting policy, statement, and note. FASB currently manages the GAAP taxonomy (history and details).

Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) - FASB is best known as an organization that creates the accounting standards that guide the practices of accountants and auditors in the U.S.. The FASB web site includes information on the Board, its activities and publications. As of July 1, 2009, the only authoritative source for FASB standards is the FASB Accounting Standards Codification (FASB Codification). In August 2009 as part of its educational mission, the Financial Accounting Foundation (FAF), in a joint initiative with the American Accounting Association (AAA), began providing the online FASB Accounting Standards Codification® Professional View (the Codification) to faculty and students in accounting programs at post-secondary academic institutions. As of 2013, the subscription includes at no additional cost  access to the Governmental Accounting Research System™ (GARS Online). GARS Online provides efficient, effective, and easy access to all U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and related literature for state and local governments. Website:

FASB Interpretations (FIN) - Clarification and elaboration of existing FASB standards.

FASB Technical Bulletins (FTB) - Bulletin updates on the application of FASB statements or interpretations.

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) - Generally regarded as the common set of accounting principles, standards and procedures. GAAP is a combination of authoritative standards (set by policy boards) and the accepted ways of doing accounting.

Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) - Sets standards for financial accounting and reporting by state and local governmental units. Website:

Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (GAAS) – Auditors use GAAS, a set of guidelines, while conducting audits on a company's finances. GAAS has created a systematic guideline for auditors to follow, ensuring the accuracy, consistency and verifiability of auditors' actions and reports.

International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) - Effective April 1, 2001, the IASB assumed accounting standard setting responsibilities from its predecessor body, the International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC). Standards issued by the IASB are now designated "International Financial Reporting Standards" (IFRS). Website:

International Accounting Standards Committee (IASC) - An organization founded in June 1973 and restructured to the International Accounting Standards Board on April 1, 2001. It was responsible for setting the International accounting standards (IAS), a set of standards used from 1973-2001 stating how particular types of transactions and other events should be reflected in financial statements.

Industry Audit Guides and Accounting Guides - Prepared by the AICPA committee and task forces that include descriptions of specialized accounting and reporting principles and practices for the particular industry they cover. In addition, the Industry Audit Guides and Accounting Guides contain recommendations of the application of accounting principles and practices described.

Public Accountant - A person who offers independent professional accounting assistance to the public and consists of three main services: auditing, management services, and tax services for companies or clients.

Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) - the nonprofit that oversees audits of public companies, brokers & dealers registered with the SEC. It creates auditing and attestation standards, quality-control, ethics and independence for auditors, and registers and tracks the quality of the public accounting firms doing this work.

Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) - U.S. federal legislation designed to protect investors from fraudulent financial reporting by corporations by making rules about accuracy in financial reports, disclosures, auditing and risk management.

Statement of Auditing Standards (SAS) - Official pronouncements issued by the AICPA and used by public accountants for external audits.

Statements of Financial Standards (SFAS) - FASB statements are the standards governing the preparation of financial reports.


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