Not always to their liking, publicly traded companies have gotten nearly all the attention for most of the last decade on issues ranging from compliance practices to accounting standards. But who's there to guide the privately held ones, which in many cases still must follow GAAP to satisfy bank lending and other commitments?
Sensing a need, FASB and the AICPA last year created the Private Company Financial Reporting Committee (PCFRC). The mission of the PCFRC is to recommend changes to GAAP to help make private company compliance less costly and more useful. The 12-member committee, which includes preparers of private company financial statements and CPAs from small and regional auditing firms, reaches out to privately held companies and their associates to shape its agenda and recommendations to FASB. "The cost of complying with many [GAAP] standards is disproportionate for private companies that prepare GAAP-based financial statements and users of these statements sometimes do not find the information useful in their decision-making," says Judy O'Dell, a founding member and chair of the PCFRC.
The group's biggest success so far involves a one-year delay in the effective date of FIN 48 (accounting for uncertainty in income taxes) for private companies. When the interpretation was originally issued last July, many private company financial statement users, preparers and CPA practitioners were unaware that FIN 48 applies to pass-through entities, a common type of private company for which owners pay the income tax. "Timing was also an issue," adds O'Dell, noting that FIN 48 was issued at a time when many CPA firms bury their heads for tax time, and since it was to take effect in January of this year, it was too late to include in CPE courses. FASB complied with the request and the effective date was bumped to January 2009.
Other issues loom. "The big issue is what will happen to private company accounting if and when the public companies move to IFRS," says O'Dell. Last month, PCFRC members agreed that private companies will probably be required to adopt a modified set of International Financial Reporting Standards. The committee also wants an active role in FASB's project with the International Accounting Standards Board to improve financial statement presentation. The project will have a huge impact, says O'Dell, so it should receive input "from deep within the private company world."