The Political Economy of International Standard Setting in Financial Reporting: How the United States Led the Adoption of IFRS Across the World

Zehra G. Kavame Eroglu | January 1, 2017

Abstract: Historically, every country had its own accounting standards, each merging to some extent with its local corporate, labor, and tax laws. No matter how undesirable, it was natural to expect differences among nations. Globalization made these differences so impractical that from corporate leaders to accountants to government officials, many pushed for harmonized accounting standards.

Pursuing this goal, a private international organization was created to set standards for the world. Currently around 120 countries require or permit International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), however, the United States is yet to make a decision to adopt these international standards.

The adoption of IFRS in the United States would, in theory, be easier compared to the experience of the European Union. The EU mandated that all publicly traded firms use IFRS in their consolidated financial statements from 2005 onwards. Several issues are yet to be resolved, but Europe managed to achieve what was once thought to be an insuperable task in coordinating a common standard for its Member States.

If the adoption of IFRS in the United States would be easier than the EU experience, why has the United States not adopted IFRS? With this paper, I argue that IFRS are a set of U.S. supported Anglo-American accounting standards. Further, that the reason for creating IFRS was not necessarily for the United States to adopt them but to convert the patchwork of accounting standards around the world into a single system that is similar to U.S. GAAP.