OverviewFinancial accounting is information that must be assembled and reported objectively. Third-parties who must rely on such information have a right to be assured that the data are free from bias and inconsistency, whether deliberate or not. For this reason, financial accounting relies on certain standards or guides that are called "Generally Accepted Accounting Principles" (GAAP).
Principles derive from tradition, such as the concept of matching. In any report of financial statements (audit, compilation, review, etc.), the preparer/auditor must indicate to the reader whether or not the information contained within the statements complies with GAAP.
- Principle of regularity: Regularity can be defined as conformity to enforced rules and laws.
- Principle of consistency: This principle states that when a business has once fixed a method for the accounting treatment of an item, it will enter all similar items that follow in exactly the same way.
- Principle of sincerity: According to this principle, the accounting unit should reflect in good faith the reality of the company's financial status.
- Principle of the permanence of methods: This principle aims at allowing the coherence and comparison of the financial information published by the company.
- Principle of non-compensation: One should show the full details of the financial information and not seek to compensate a debt with an asset, a revenue with an expense, etc. (see convention of conservatism)
- Principle of prudence: This principle aims at showing the reality "as is" : one should not try to make things look prettier than they are. Typically, a revenue should be recorded only when it is certain and a provision should be entered for an expense which is probable.
- Principle of continuity: When stating financial information, one should assume that the business will not be interrupted. This principle mitigates the principle of prudence: assets do not have to be accounted at their disposable value, but it is accepted that they are at their historical value (see depreciation and going concern).
- Principle of periodicity: Each accounting entry should be allocated to a given period, and split accordingly if it covers several periods. If a client pre-pays a subscription (or lease, etc.), the given revenue should be split to the entire time-span and not counted for entirely on the date of the transaction.
- Principle of Full Disclosure/Materiality: All information and values pertaining to the financial position of a business must be disclosed in the records.
- Principle of Utmost Good Faith: All the information regarding to the firm should be disclosed to the insurer before the insurance policy is taken.