Income Tax Memorandum 10/18/2012 Over the past few years, there has been a push to adopt a single international accounting standard in order to simplify commerce in the global economy we live in today. However, this is more easily said than done because of some very notable differences between U. S. GAAP and IFRS standards. One of the most significant differences between GAAP and IFRS arises when accounting for income taxes.
The first issue that arises when accounting for income taxes is determining the tax basis of an asset or liability. Under IFRS standards, tax basis is based on the expected manner of recovery. These standards define the tax base of an asset as the amount that will be deductible for tax purposes against any taxable economic benefits that will be received in the future. Similarly, the tax base of a liability is defined as its carrying amount, less any amount that will be deductible for tax purposes in the future.
Under U. S. GAAP standards, tax basis is a question of fact under the tax law, which means the tax basis of an asset or liability is the amount used for tax purposes. For example, in the case of an asset, tax basis includes the amounts that are deductible for deprecation, as well as any amounts that would be deductible upon sale or liquidation of the asset under tax law. Another key difference between IFRS and GAAP is how income tax expense (benefit) is allocated to financial statement components.
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IFRS allows for a full “backwards tracing” approach to be used. In this approach, income tax expense is recognized in the income statement regardless of the period in which the tax expense or benefit is recognized. Under GAAP standards, “backwards tracing” is prohibited, and income tax is allocated to the financial statement category where the pre-tax item was recorded. A further difference between IFRS and GAAP arises when dealing with Deferred Tax Assets (DTA’s) and Deferred Tax Liabilities (DTL’s).
The first difference between the two standards is how DTA’s and DTL’s are classified. Under IFRS, DTA’s and DTL’s are always classified as noncurrent on the balance sheet. GAAP requires that DTA’s and DTL’s be classified as either current or noncurrent, based on the classification of the asset or liability generating the temporary difference. IFRS and GAAP also differ on how a Deferred Tax Asset is recognized. IFRS uses the Net Approach, where assets are not recognized unless it is probable (greater than 50%) that they will be realized.
Whereas GAAP calls for the Gross Approach, in which the full DTA is recorded and then reduced by a valuation allowance if it is not likely to be realized. One of the last key differences between IFRS and GAAP in accounting for income taxes is each standard’s guidance for uncertain tax positions. Under IFRS, there is no specific guidance given, and a company can record the liability as either a single best estimate, or a weighted-average probability of the possible outcomes. GAAP however, gives clear guidance on how to account for uncertain tax positions.
Under these standards, if an uncertain tax position meets the “more likely than not” recognition threshold, the benefit is measured at the largest amount of tax benefit that has a greater than 50% likelihood of being realized. In summary, the differences between IFRS and GAAP accounting standards are vast, and each difference has a real effect on a company’s financial statements. IFRS tends to have less strict guidelines, and each individual company is allowed to use their own judgment on certain matters. GAAP takes a stricter approach, and most accounting issues have set guidelines and standards that a company must adhere to.
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