Accounting principles are the basic norms and assumptions developed and established as the basis for accounting system. These principles are adopted by the accountants universally. These accounting principles provide uniformity and consistency in the accounting methods and process. Such accounting principles are known as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).
Accounting principles provide the basic framework within which the accounting records and accounting reports are to be prepared. Accounting standards have been issued by national and international regulatory authorities to ensure uniformity of accounting procedure and accounting results. These accounting standards and GAAPs provide the theoretical base of accounting. Accounting principles may be accounting concepts or accounting conventions. Accounting concepts are the basic assumptions whereas conventions are the guidelines based upon practice or usage.
Accounting concepts are the basic assumptions or conditions upon which accounting has been laid. Accounting concepts are the results of broad consensus. The word concept means a notion or abstraction which is generally accepted. Accounting concepts provide unifying structure to the accounting process and accounting reports.
The word convention refers to traditions or usage. The accounting conventions are the usage or practices which are followed as a guide to the preparation of accounting statements.
The utility of these accounting conventions have been recognised by regulatory authorities of accountancy in making financial statements more realistic, reliable, and useful to all concerned parties.
The important accounting concepts and conventions are discussed below:
This concept implies that a business unit is separate and distinct from the owner or owners, that is, the persons who supply capital to it.
Based on this concept, accounts are prepared from the point of view of the business and not from the owner’s point of view. Hence, the business is liable to the owner for the capital contributed by him/her.
According to this concept, only business transactions are recorded in the books of accounts. Personal transactions of the owners are not recorded. But, their transactions with the business such as capital contributed to the business or cash withdrawn from the business for the personal use will be recorded in the books of accounts. It implies that the business itself owns assets and owes liabilities.
This concept implies that only those transactions, which can be expressed in terms of money, are recorded in the accounts. Since, money serves as the medium of exchange transactions expressed in money are recorded and the ruling currency of a country is the measuring unit for accounting.
Transactions which do not involve money will not be recorded in the books of accounts. For example, working conditions in the work place, strike by employees, efficiency of the management, etc. will not be recorded in the books, as they cannot be expressed in terms of money.
It helps in understanding of the state of affairs of the business as money serves as a common measure by means of which heterogeneous facts about the business are recorded. For example, if a business has 5 computers, 2 tables and 3 chairs, the assets cannot be added to give useful information, unless, they are expressed in monetary terms Rs.1,00,000 for computers, Rs. 10,000 for tables and Rs. 1,500 for chairs.
It is the basic assumption that business is a going concern and will continue its operations for a foreseeable future. Going concern concept influences accounting practices in relation to valuation of assets and liabilities, depreciation of the fixed assets, treatment of outstanding and prepaid expenses and accrued and unearned revenues. For example, assets are generally valued at historical cost. Any increase or decrease in the value of assets in the short period is ignored.
An asset is recorded in the books on the basis of the historical cost, that is, the acquisition cost. Cost of acquisition will be the base for all further accounting. It does not mean that the asset will always be shown at cost. It is recorded at cost at the time of its purchase, but is systematically reduced in its book value by charging depreciation.
The cost concept has the following limitations:
a. In an inflationary situation, when prices of commodities increase, valuing the assets at historical cost may not represent the true position of the business.
b. The results of business units established at different dates are not comparable if assets are recorded on historical basis.
c. Assets which do not have acquisition cost such as human resources are not recognised under this concept.
According to this concept, every transaction or event has two aspects, i.e., dual effect.
For example, when Arun starts a business with cash Rs. 5,00,000, on the one hand, the business gets cash of Rs. 5,00,000 and on the other hand, a liability arises, that is, the business has to pay Arun a sum of Rs. 5,00,000.
This is the concept which recognises the fact that for every debit, there is a corresponding and equal credit. This is the basis of the entire system of double entry book-keeping.
From this concept arises the basic accounting equation, that is,
Capital + Liabilities = Assets
(vi) Periodicity concept
This concept deals with preparing accounts for a particular period. As the proprietors, investors, creditors, employees and the government are interested in knowing the performance of the business unit periodically, it becomes necessary to select a particular period, normally one year for measuring performance. Hence, financial statements are prepared after every accounting period and not at the end of its life.
This concept helps the business in distribution of income to the owners and comparing and evaluating performance of different periods.
According to this concept, revenues during an accounting period are matched with expenses incurred during that period to earn the revenue during that period. This concept is based on accrual concept and periodicity concept. Periodicity concept fixes the time frame for measuring performance and determining financial status.
All expenses paid during the period are not considered, but only the expenses related to the accounting period are considered.
On the basis of this concept, adjustments are made for outstanding and prepaid expenses and accrued and unearned revenues. Also due provisions are made for depreciation of the fixed assets, bad debt, etc., relating to the accounting period. Thus, it matches the revenues earned during an accounting period with the expenses incurred during that period to earn the revenues before sharing any profit or loss.
According to realisation concept, any change in value of an asset is to be recorded only when the business realises it. When assets are recorded at historical value, any change in value is to be accounted only when it realises.
Objective evidence concept requires that all accounting transactions recorded should be based on objective evidence. The objective evidence includes documentary evidence like cash receipts, invoices, etc. It ensures authenticity, accuracy and reliability of transactions entered in the books of accounts.
According to accrual concept, the effects of the transactions are recognised on mercantile basis, i.e., when they occur and not when cash is paid or received. Revenue is recognised when it is earned and expenses are recognised when they are incurred. All expenses and revenues related to the accounting period are to be considered irrespective of the fact that whether revenues are received in cash or not and whether expenses are paid in cash or not. For example, i) Credit sale is recognised as sale though the amount has not been received immediately. ii) Rent for the month of March-2018 has not been paid and if the accounting period is 1.4.2017 to 31.3.2018, it will still be recorded as an expense for the accounting year 2017-2018 because it had become due.
The consistency convention implies that the accounting policies must be followed consistently from one accounting period to another. The results of different years will be comparable only when same accounting policies are followed from year to year. For example, if a firm follows the straight line method of charging depreciation since its purchase or construction, the method should be followed without any change. However, it does not mean that changes are not possible.Change in accounting policy can be incorporated in the following circumstances:
a. To comply with the provision of law
b. To comply with accounting standards issued and
c. To reflect true and fair view of state of affairs of the business.
It implies that the accounts must be prepared honestly and all material information should be disclosed in the accounting statement. This is important because the management is different from the owners in most of the organisations.
The disclosure should be full, fair and adequate so that the users of the financial statements can make correct assessment about the financial position and performance of the business unit.
According to this convention, financial statements should disclose all material items which might influence the decisions of the users of financial statements. Hence, any item which is not significant and is not relevant to the users need not be disclosed in the financial statements.
This principle is basically an exception to the full disclosure principle. The term materiality is subjective in nature. Materiality depends on the amount involved in the transaction, size of the business, nature of information, requirements of the person making decision, etc. An item material to one person may be immaterial to another person.
It is a policy of caution or playing safe. While recording the business transactions one has to anticipate no income but provide for all possible losses.
For example, the closing stock in the factory is valued at Rs. 35,000 at cost price and Rs. 25,000 at its realisable price. But while recording in the books the value of Rs. 25,000 will be considered being the lower of the two. According to realisation concept, any increase in value is not to be accounted unless it has materialised. The conservatism convention puts further restriction on it. Any unrealised gain is not to be anticipated but provision can be made against all possible losses.