Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Accessing FASB-FARS literature for accounting students #2

  • One of the reasons that the accounting students have the "FARS" assignment is that the new, online CPA exam has several questions in which students need to demonstrate the ability to search official accounting literature and, hopefully, find the correct answer to the questions. (In the exam, I am told that there is a "correct answer"; however, as we know "standards" can be interpreted in different ways. Last year I found that many students did not recognize the difference between the word "may" (which is permissive) and "should"or "shall" (meaning required.) Of course, the CPA exam is just the start of their careers and these generally accepted accounting standards will be used throughout their careers, and are revised as conditions change.

For the assignments, the students will most likely need to search the following:
  • the Original Pronouncements, as amended, arranged by date issued or by subject.
  • the Current Text, which has general standards applicable to all companies, and industry standards applicable to specific industries, which incorporates the applicable sections of pronoucements as amended. In the current text, the original source of the information is cited, to the paragraph, such as (FAS 132R).
  • EITF Abstracts are the work of the Emerging Issues Task Force.
  • Topical Index--searches all other parts of the database. If a student doesn't know the issue or statement needed, the topical index is the place I would start. Keyword searching is how to start.

The Implementation Guides may be needed and the Derivative Instruments and Hedging Activities probably are not going to be needed.

If one searches the Original Pronouncements, the Original Pronouncements as amended will need to be searched.

Here is how the students may access the FARS literature, which is the same as the FASB literature:

  • New this year --Students with the latest edition (summer 2005) of the Intermediate Accounting book by Kieso will have a password in the book to access supplemental material including online access to FARS by Wiley. I have done a two part Powerpoint presentation on how to search this version and I will a print out of it at the reference desk. Not all students have this version. The copies on reserve do not have password access. In addition to the Powerpoint explanation, there is a 22 page guide which I have printed out and placed in the folder in the reference desk.

Other means of accessing this literature. (I have listed them in what I think is the easiest to use and best to use.)

  • RIA Checkpoint--available in Information Resources. The default needs to be changed from Federal Tax to WG&L Financial Reporting. The easiest way to access the FASB literature is to go to the Table of Contents, then drill down in the WG&L Financial Resources Library, to the FRM Source Materials, then to FASB. This will result in a list including the Original Pronouncements, EITF, Topical Index, the same materials as FARS by Wiley. (If you search from the initial opening screen of the database, it just says FASB and you don't know what you are searching. So, going through the Table of Contents is a good way to start, especially for newcomers.) Search by keyword.
  • Advantages of this database: Remote access and many internal hyperlinks, which reduce the number of searches that a student may need to make. Results may be e-mailed, printed or saved.
  • CCH Business & Finance. Click on Securities tab. Scroll down to SEC Accountants' Module and then click on Financial Accounting Standards Board. This will bring up a list of documents, just like in RIA, and FARS by Wiley. Search by keyword or by citation, if known. Results may be e-mailed (new feature), printed or saved. Advantage of this database: remote access and ability to e-mail. Disadvantage: Lacks the internal hyperlinks of RIA, so students will need to do new searches to get to referenced documents.
  • FARS discs--available at Reference desk and Reserve. Unfortunately, the 2005 disc is back ordered from Wiley. (We aren't the only ones.) The 2005 disc is current as of June 2005. The 2004 discs, which we have, are current as of June 2004. So, if students use these discs, they need to check the FASB web site,, or use RIA or CCH to see if there is any more current information. There is a print out how to search the FARS disc from last year in the reference desk drawer.
  • FASB website, Advantages: It's free. It's where the information is updated most rapidly as it is FASB official site. You can set up an e-mail alert for any announcements, etc.
  • Disadvantages: can't search through the documents easily if you don't know what document you need. Another disadvantage: the current text is not available so if there have been revisions of any sort one would need to consult the individual documents and incorporate the changes. My advice: use this for checking to see if you are dealing with the most current information and search using any of the other options.

Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks, Rita

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