Change in accounting principle

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FAS 154: Change in Principle, Change in Estimate, Error Corrections


  1. Retrospective Treatment: Applicable to all changes, unless a different treatment is specifically required. This is the normal treatment for changes in accounting principles, unless one of the exceptions noted below applies.


  1. All prior years' financial statements are restated as if the change had taken place at the earliest period reported.

  2. Statement of retained earnings: Cumulative effect of change shown as adjustment to beginning retained earnings.

  3. Footnote disclosure as described above (A)

Note: Current year's income will not include a cumulative effect. There is also no need for pro forma net income or EPS disclosure.
Special Case A: Company going public for the first time (IPO)
Regardless of type of change, complete restatement of financial statements is considered appropriate.

A footnote is required to disclose type(s) of change(s) and reason(s) for change(s).

Special Case B: Change in the Reporting Entity
Retroactive restatement of financial statements as above; must however disclose the following:

  1. Effect on net income before extraordinary items

  2. Net income and EPS

This disclosure is not required in following years.

  1. Current and Prospective Treatment only

This is permitted (required) IF not sufficient information exists to make a retrospective change. This should be a rare situation. As the board noted: “… [R]etrospective application is impracticable if an entity cannot apply it after making every reasonable effort to do so.” (FAS 154, par. B15)

Disclosure Requirements:

  1. Disclosure of the effect of change on current year's income

  2. Footnote disclosure as above. Additionally disclosure of reason for prospective rather than retrospective treatment (reason: data not available)


Always treated prospectively only, i.e., for current and future periods. The effect of the change is disclosed if it materially affects current and future period income, etc. No disclosure is required for normal, recurring types of changes in estimates (i.e., amount of bad debt expense)

If a change in estimate and a change in accounting principle overlap, treat it as a change in estimate unless a clear separation is possible (i.e., change in depreciation method and a change in estimated service life)

  1. ERROR CORRECTION (This includes a change from incorrect to correct principle) (No change from APB 20)


  1. Make appropriate correcting entries to affected accounts.

  2. Prior period adjustment is required. Reported in financial statements as an adjustment to beginning retained earnings.

  3. If comparative statements are presented, restate to reflect corrections.

  4. Disclosure of type of error, effect on net income before extraordinary item, net income and EPS in the period in which the error was detected subject to materiality constraint.


  1. Cumulative effect (net of tax) on beginning retained earnings is disclosed on income statement between extraordinary items and net income.

  2. Comparative financial statements for prior years shown as before change

  3. Pro forma net income and EPS for all years shown as if new method had been applied.

  4. Statement of Retained Earnings: Cumulative effect on beginning retained earnings is disclosed separately (Not as part of current year's net income).

  5. Appropriate adjustments must be made to the affected balance sheet accounts, (i.e., accumulated depreciation, deferred taxes)

  6. Footnote disclosure of the following:

  1. Fact of change

  2. Reason for change

  3. Class of assets affected

  4. Effect on current and prior years' income

Financial Accounting Standards Board: Statement of Financial Accounting Standard No. 154 “Accounting changes and Error Corrections”, FASB, Norwalk, Conn.

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