GAAP Guide – Research tool for CPAs

You may recall the Miller GAAP Guide from days long past.  It’s now the CCH GAAP Guide.  The 2012 edition will be published 12-26-11.

You really should have a copy handy.  It is a superb research tool for CPAs having to deal with issues they haven’t delved into before.

I was honored to have been asked to look at the revisions for the current year.  Just finished that project this week.  It has been a few years since I looked at the book.  Looking at it again reminded me of what an incredible resource it is.

It provides a wonderful summary of everything in the Accounting Standards Codification. When you get to the place that the roadmap has given you the overview, there’s a massive numbers of references back to the actual standards. Everywhere you look in the text you see ASC XXX-xx-xx-xx, so you can find the technical comments.

Full disclosure: I was compensated for looking at the current year changes.

I really think CPAs doing attestation work (by the way, that’s the audience of this blog) should have a copy of this book in the office.

The codification is great.  It’s wonderful having everything in one place.  However… You saw that qualifier coming, didn’t you?  However, I find it is really hard to navigate the ASC, hard to understand something you don’t already know, and difficult to find out about a closely related idea that is 20 pages away.  Maybe it’s just me, but I find the ASC more difficult to work with than the old codification.

That is where the GAAP Guide comes in.  It can give you a roadmap to the ASC and an explanation of what you find there. Then you can dive into the ASC to get all the nitty-gritty details.

For example, think about transfers and servicing of financial assets.  Now found in ASC topic 860, this used to be FAS 140 in olden days.  In the ASC, the text runs about 350 pages.  Good luck getting your arms around that the first time you work with a client that gets into selling loans!  In the GAAP Guide, there is a 53 page summary, if you can call 53 pages a summary.  Obviously you will not get enough details from the Guide to audit a client that is actually selling and servicing loans. However, you can get enough info that you know what you’re dealing with so you can then dive into the ASC and actually grasp what you see there.

You need to figure out for yourself what resources you should have in the office but I think the GAAP Guide should be somewhere on the list of resources you update every few years. You can find it here.

Full disclosure: Remember, I was compensated for looking at the resource.  Don’t get paid any more based on volume of sales. Keep that in mind as you ponder my opinions.

2 thoughts on “GAAP Guide – Research tool for CPAs”

  1. It is good to read a positive review by a CPA who serves real clients without the benefit of a national office to explain everything. Years ago, when I worked in an ivory tower in New York, we looked down our noses at the GAAP Guide, because we frequently found inaccurate guidance in it. We cautioned our auditors to read the actual literature, rather than to rely on the GAAP Guide’s summaries.

    Boy, have things changed since then. I join Jim in finding the Codification really, really hard to follow. For my aging grey cells, the Codification is almost incomprehensible unless I have a solid understanding of the topic before diving into it.

    I will add the GAAP Guide to my holiday wish list. I can’t believe I just wrote that. An accounting book under the Christmas tree. Is that sick, or what?

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